A Cry For Justice

Awakening the Evangelical Church to Domestic Violence and Abuse in its Midst

Home Sweet Home? — Abuse Robs Us of the Joy of Home

Joh 14:1-3  “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.  In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.”

When I was teaching an ESL class a couple of years ago, one of the Spanish-speaking students asked me about the English word “house” and how it was different from our word “home.” I thought for a moment and told her that “home” es mas sentimental — is more sentimental. She told me that the same is true of the Spanish words casa (house) and hogar (home). A house is not necessarily a home, as is evident when we speak in ways like “home sweet home” or “boy, it was so good to be home” or “this place feels like home to me.”  Home, in other words, is a place where we are loved and where we can feel that love. Home is a feeling, more than a place you might say.

Abusers then, necessarily destroy home. A house, which should be a home, becomes anything but. It is a place of suffering, a place of attack, a place that is anything but safe. No one is at ease in such a house. Everyone (except the abuser) is on guard against the next raging session. There is no rest in such a place. And that is tragic because our houses are meant to be homes. Families, husbands, wives, children, are meant to be blessed with a place called home. Home is a place we can run TO, not FROM, when troubles assail us.

Abuse victims begin their journey home when they leave such a place. Over time, hopefully, their new house or apartment – even if it is not nearly as luxurious as their old house – can become their home, their refuge. Why?  Because the abuser is not there! They are no longer sleeping with the enemy. This surely is one chief reason that abuse victims and their children are able to begin healing once they are out of that old place. This seems like common sense, but it appears that often that “sense” is not at all common in the family court system. So many “experts” today still cling to the notion that children are better off having a relationship with both mother and father, even if one parent is a terrorist!  Many of you can testify to the fact that your children just start to recover, and about that time they have to go back for a court-ordered visitation with the abuser. To a great degree they return having to start recovery all over again.

One of the greatest truths about heaven, about the New Heavens and the New Earth, is that it will be perfectly and finally our Home. Thirty years ago I resigned my career in the police department and our family headed out to the West-Central mountains of Montana to pastor our first church. Though this proved to be an extremely trying eight years (people who move to remote areas often get low marks in “plays well with others”), when it came to the mountain valley itself in which we lived, I was “home” very quickly. I loved that place. Deer, elk, moose, fish, firewood, snowmobiles, horses, mountain lakes, snow. It has been very, very difficult for me to get over Montana, and in fact I really never have. If I could somehow transport our present church congregation to that valley, it would be a bit of heaven on earth.

As I write this, I am sitting in our church building here in Tillamook. We have been here going on now, 21 years. We have a small but wonderful band of believers in Christ Reformation Church now, but this unity has not come without many battles. Over these past two decades, and to a degree in the first decade of our ministry, the Lord has allowed many classic abusers to work their deeds upon us. This place, this building, has been the scene of many battles and discouragement, especially in the years before we truly came to understand the mentality and tactics of abuse (of evil). As a result, it has not been a “home.” Many times it has been more of a place where we have felt like we were unwelcome guests.

Those feelings do not depart quickly, even when we have separated from the abusers. I am hoping that someday this building will have a different “feel” to it — that it will become a home. I suspect that it will as memories of abuse are replaced with those of kindness, loyalty, and Christlike love.

I hope the same for all of you. I hope that you can find a place free of abuse, where you feel that you have come home. This much I can be certain of. Every single one of Christ’s people will without fail come safely home. The Lord knows us intimately. He knows the kind of home we need, and He is building it for us right now. One of the things we are going to experience on the Day He comes for us is that we will see our custom-made mansion and we will gasp and say, “I’m home. I am finally home. THIS is my Father’s house, and it is mine too.”

30 Comments

  1. Brenda R

    Amen Pastor,

    I house is not necessarily a home, even in a House of God. I hope you will feel at home in your church and soon. My apartment that I now live in is the first that I have ever felt at home in. For 9 months out of my almost 57 years I have finally been learning what home is. I have to wonder if those who have always felt at home take it for granted.

  2. Happytobursting

    This resonates so strongly with me. When I left my abuser, the home I created for myself and my two small boys was my happiest place. I staunchly refused to ever allow him entrance, knowing that it would only poison the very spot he stood. When I remarried and my husband and I bought our first home, we maintained this position together. It is comforting to know that we live in a place he has never touched. This house… this home is our sacred haven.

  3. Nowfree

    Thank you, Jeff. Thanks be to God that I have finally found my home. It is over 2,300 miles away. I had to leave my “home” almost 2 and a half years ago to find it. At 70 years of age I have found a true haven and with people who really care. This home is over 1,000 times better than the place that I used to call “home”.

    As my abuser has not been helpful at ending this very long and very difficult time that was called “marriage”, I will need to return to the place I used to call “home” for unfinished business, but hope to return to my true earthly home very soon afterwards.

    Home. How I love this word. Now that I’m living a life that really exemplifies this word, I feel truly blessed.

    • Brenda R

      Amen, Nowfree. So glad you have found a home and peace.

    • I love your story, NowFree. What encouragement it will give to other women of similar ages to you; not that I’m that different — I’m in my late 50s.

  4. fiftyandfree

    Yes, so true. The process of my house becoming my home began when the abuser moved out, and it continues to become more of a home to me and the children the longer he is gone. It used to hold such crushing pain and so many sickening memories, but as we heal and time puts some distance between him and us, the house holds less negative power over me. It amazes me, but I really have a “home” now. My childhood house was not a home either, due to abuse, dysfunction, and neglect and the marital home was a place of torment.

    I thought it would be impossible for me to live in this house after the divorce and I prayed long and hard about selling it, but God made it clear that I was to stay. I used to call it “the house” and I wanted to get rid of it almost as much as I wanted to get rid of him. I hated “the house” because it was a constant reminder of him and what he did to me, but miraculously God has made it my home and I no longer hate it, nor do I associate it with him.

    This earth is a lot like a house. We live here but it’s not our home. Home is the place where we will spend eternity with our Savior.

  5. Psalm 37

    “Because the abuser is not there! This surely is one chief reason that abuse victims and their children are able to begin healing once they are out of that old place. This seems like common sense, but it appears that often that “sense” is not at all common in the family court system.”

    My new husband gave me and my two kids a beautiful home. Unfortunately, I have piles of poison on my work table in the form of yet another court motion whereby the abuser is still able to torment me. I have a great life now, and it just makes me sick how the sanctity of my home is violated by these letters in the mail. I pray God will make him leave me alone. This is the first time in my life I’ve had a stable family unit and a happy home, and I just want to live in peace.

    • Psalm 10:15
      Break the arm of the wicked and the evil man: seek out his wickedness till you find none.

  6. Valerie

    This really resonates with me also. For years I begged my husband to be more involved in our house to help make it a home. One of the ways he hurt me in our marriage was not allowing me to have our house be our home. He would frequently tell me he wanted to move somewhere else and for years he had me look at many new locations. These were all ones HE liked and never asked me how I felt about them. When nothing came of those visits I would tell him I wanted to do some small things to our house he would remind me that it didn’t make sense to invest money into this place because he had in mind we wouldn’t be staying there. Back and forth he would go telling me one moment he intended to move then the next be talking about planting trees.

    The last several weeks I have been thinking a lot about the fact that it has really always been just a house we’ve lived in for 20 years. It has never been a home. I came to realize that there was this dark cloud of doom that constantly lingered over the house, regardless if he was physically present. It wasn’t until I separated myself from him in the last few weeks that I realize how toxic the emotional mold was in that house. I would rather live out of a suitcase than live in that mold again. It had infected me deeply.

    In recent years it has comforted me greatly to know that this earth is not my home. I long to go to my true home when He calls me. Tucked safely in His wings I find my home, my rest, my peace.

    • fiftyandfree

      Amen, Valerie. Amen. We are home, safe and sound, in Him!!

      The way your husband went back and forth on moving or staying was part of his abuse. He wanted to keep you off kilter and dependent on him. I remember how that felt. The abuser would never invest a dime into our house preferring to spend every penny he earned on toys for himself while the house rotted around us. It was unnerving knowing that that house desperately needed maintenance but having no control over it. In the end he forced me to keep the house against my will (it’s a long story, divorce court is a nightmare), but God has been good and has provided ways for me to stay and to do much of the maintenance that needed to be done. I bet he regrets not keeping the house for himself.

    • “It wasn’t until I separated myself from him in the last few weeks that I realize how toxic the emotional mold was in that house.”

      I love that Valerie! toxic emotional mold . . .. that’s going in my sound bites file 🙂

  7. MeganC

    Jeff . . . It never ceases to amaze me . . . How much you understand of the victim’s plight. I always wished I could explain to people how awful it is to be unsafe in your own home. No haven; no security. When David and I married, I told him that all I wanted was to feel safe in my own home. Thank you for this.

    • MeganC

      PS — Also, I once told David that the safest I ever felt with my ex was at church because he would behave there. He would even put his arm around me and I wasn’t afraid he was going to be inappropriate because people were watching.

      • Brenda R

        Megan, X did that to me too. He wanted everyone to see the facade of the happily married couple. It was all I could do to not throw his arm off of me.

  8. Happy2bHere

    One day I hope for a place for my children and I to truly call home, a place of togetherness and peace. That day would come a lot sooner if my husband would get a life and leave us alone. Never ceases to amaze me how unsatisfied he is with us, as he criticizes and complains daily. Yet won’t leave to find a better life for himself. Then doing the loving husband/involved father act on top of being the perpetual victim. How tiring that must be.

    • Brenda R

      Happy, It makes you wonder how they can keep their personalities straight. Who am I for this person?

      • Happy2bHere

        Hi Brenda, yes! That is something I wonder often. Sometimes it’s so unreal, I actually laugh out of disbelief. Like being married to a cartoon character

      • Spot on, Brenda!

  9. Wow, thanks pastor Jeff, God is on time. A judge signed my papers today to get my house back and a divorce from my soon to be X.
    He has 24 hours to leave the house and then with God’s help it will be HOME . This blog has seen me through a lot of rough days and helped me see and avoid many snares of the enemy.
    I didn’t believe his lies that he had changed.
    I didn’t waste my time going to couples counseling.
    I saw the evil for what it was.
    Abuse is evil.
    I saw right through his false repentance.
    I came to realize he did not love me because of his actions, not what he said.
    I learned God loves me more than He hates divorce.
    I see writers on this blog on the other side of abuse and know there is hope.

    Thank you all. I wanted to let you know your work is not in vain, you helped someone.
    You helped me!!!!

    • Jeff Crippen

      justwakingup – that is great news. And we are very, very glad you found help here.

    • fiftyandfree

      Wow, justwakingup! Wonderful news!! I’m so glad this blog has been helpful to you. I didn’t find it until after the divorce, but it has helped me heal from the aftermath.

    • Wow, Just Waking, that is so encouraging for us to hear! If our work can save victims from wasting that extra energy and time in the fog of the abuser’s lying words, the mess and pain of couple counseling, and other snares of the enemy, we will be achieving one of our major goals. Saving victims from all those wasted months and years of extra effort on the treadmill that leads nowhere. . . to know we have been able to do that for you is a privilege and I praise God for it.

      Of course, our other major goal at this blog is to awaken the church at large to domestic abuse and its complexities so that Christians in general (not just survivors of abuse) make it much harder for abusers to carry out and get away with their abuse. But even if we don’t achieve that goal much, to know we have helped individual victims is so encouraging. 🙂

      • Brenda R

        Last night was the first night of a monthly Women’s Ministry Conference at my church. We gathered into tables and will be sitting with the same ladies for the next year getting to know one another. One of the ladies was talking to another Highly Recommending John Piper’s book This Momentary Marriage to give to a young couple who intend to marry, which I have said before would use for kindling. Not that every word in the book is wrong, but lead me to 3 extra years in the fog and abuse that I was in and also promotes unscriptural bondage for those who find themselves in abuse, adultery and abandonment. I kept quiet, wanting to get my ducks in a row before presenting my reasons for not recommending this book, but do feel conversation will take place over the next few weeks. Any input as to how to approach the subject and your prayers are appreciated.

        When it was my turn for prayer requests, I gave my unsaved children first as I always do, I asked for prayer for my mom who just got a pace maker and went back into the hospital with blood clots and is going through a lot of testing at this point. Then I was able to go on to tell that I wanted prayer for the blogs that I post on. I wanted prayer for the women (and men) who live through abuse and their needs for safety, sanity and need to know who they really are in Christ. I was asked questions like: “These are Christian women.” The questions were asked in a way as if to say. “Christian women are being abused? Seriously, this is a real thing?” I believe God opened a door and praise Him for it. My prayer is that God gives me the words to speak truth and gain ground of awareness for those in the church.

      • Brenda, a while ago I wrote a post called Converting Statements into Questions. It was aimed at bystanders who want to engage in conversation with victims of abuse in order to help and support them as they come out of the fog and make decisions for their own safety and wellbeing. But the principle of converting a statement that you might want to make into a question to put to someone you want to influence can be applied in all sorts of settings.

        For example, if you want to tell women in that group “Don’t recommend This Momentary Marriage! It’s a very bad book!” think for a moment and you can convert the same message into a few questions:
        “May I tell you my thoughts about that book?”
        “Would you like to know what I think about that book?”
        “If that book was causing harm to victims of domestic abuse, would you still recommend it?”
        “Have you ever considered how that book might be interpreted by a Christian who was being abused by her husband?”
        “Piper says that divorce is not permissible for ANY reason. But how can that be fair to people who are married to pedophiles, adulterers, abusers, criminals, etcetera? How does forbidding divorce for them show the justice of God?”
        “What if Piper’s view on divorce is wrong?”

        I’m sure you can think up many more questions. Whenever you want to make a statement you can almost always convert it into a question. People generally respond better to questions than to someone telling them what they ought to do or believe. Questions get people to think. Questions help keep the conversation going, they oil the waters of the social intercourse, they show that you respect the person you are conversing with, so that person is less likely to get their back up or write you off as a nutter.

      • Brenda R

        Thanks, Barb. That is helpful. I think I will practice on this a while. Even if I struck up a conversation and got to mentioning the book and overhearing her recommending it, I could ask “If you knew that abuse victims were being harmed by it, would you still recommend it?” Makes sense. It is practice in the mirror time!

  10. I heard a story from one woman, I think she was one of the women on the documentary Sin By Silence, who said that when she was put in jail for killing her abuser, she felt safer in that jail cell than she had ever felt for years. She was actually relieved to be in jail. It was a far better place than living with her abuser.

    [The original Not Under Bondage link to Sin By Silence is no longer available, though the link can be found on a number of ACFJ Resource pages, including here Editors.]

    • Brenda R

      I can sympathize with that reality. Although, I love my apartment and prefer it to a jail cell or the card board box that I often refer to rather living in than with X, the question was always there. “When will it happen? When will he completely loose control and kill me?” He always said that he would never “hurt me”. What a crock.

  11. I love this post. thanks! 🙂

  12. Anonymous

    What would my walk here on earth look like if I were aiming for the “homeless” section of heaven? I mean, it’s heaven, right? I’d be in heaven so really, sleeping on the sidewalk or one of the streets paved with gold, is still HEAVEN! But that’s not an option we are given, is it? Since we are promised a mansion–that’s exactly what God is preparing for us. Notice it doesn’t say a multiplex, duplex, semi-detached home, but a MANSION.

    In my frustration over abuse and evil I often call out to Jesus, “Lord, I don’t need a mansion in heaven, just a spot to sleep on and to be left alone by evil. Give me the easiest walk here on earth so that I still get to heaven, but you can cut out all the “extras.” This does not fly however, and I would imagine God just laughs and then continues on.

    What you’ve written here Pastor Crippen is so meaningful to me. I too have a place that I love but at this present time, I don’t live there. It’s actually strange that I should love this place so dearly because it’s also the place where God allowed me to see the truth about evil, but ultimately the truth about how much he loves me too. I love so much about this place–the way the sun shines there, the sky is so beautiful, and the smells and the sounds of the ocean–it’s on the water–and the joy I feel when I’m there. God allowed me to gain so much painful wisdom while He held me tightly and He also “encouraged” me to get out and enjoy the beauty that this place had to offer. (This encouragement was actually a strong desire that filled me with hope and love and when I submitted to this desire that God gave me, he rewarded me spiritually–He fulfilled me through this. It taught me to trust Him.)

    Thank you again Jeff for tweaking a thought that I had so that I can pour out what God has taught me–in the hope that others will see and be blessed and know that God loves them dearly and that He has a beautiful plan for their life.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Yes, home. And when we arrive ALL will be right. Thank you for these great thoughts and for sharing them.

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