Please Don’t Pray That My Marriage Will be Restored
3. a return of something to a former, original, normal, or unimpaired condition.
4. restitution of something taken away or lost.
6. a reconstruction or reproduction of an ancient building, extinct animal, or the like, showing it in its original state.
7. a putting back into a former position, dignity, etc.
I want to take a moment and share a pet peeve of mine about this “restoration” phrasing I see in many marriage ministry materials. I also hear it used often in churches when marriages are prayed for. Here it is in Piper’s Clarifying Words on Wife Abuse [Internet Archive link]:
This legitimate recourse to civil protection may be done in a spirit that does not contradict the spirit of love and submission to her husband, for a wife may take this recourse with a heavy and humble heart that longs for her husband’s repentance and the restoration of his nurturing leadership.
And here is the same terminology at Shepherd Press’s comments on God’s Answer to Domestic Violence [Internet Archive link]:
Shepblogger Titus03 • 6 days ago Niki, Titus03 raises an important thought. if there is physical violence being committed in the home, that is a criminal offense. Safety is paramount. In this case both the civil authorities and the church should be involved. Solid church leadership will recognize this and work for restoration if possible or for discipline if necessary.
I have extensive remodeling experience. I have watched a ridiculous amount of This Old House, DIY, and HGTV to get ideas and learn techniques as I remodeled my homes and helped with my friends’ homes. When I hear “restore” I go back to my DIY days and consider what it is to restore something; to go into an old house and put in original period hardware and decorative touches. Would you restore a mobile home after a tornado comes through? Of course not. So don’t pray that marriages to abusers will be restored.
People often tell me they are praying for my marriage to be restored. I stop them and tell them not to. I don’t want that thing back in its original condition. I don’t want to go back to the fake life, his false humility, the show he put on, the secrets I kept to make him look good, etc. Don’t pray that an abusive marriage will be restored. Pray that the Master Builder scrubs the lot, carries off the mold infested debris, and starts over (Lev. 14:33-45). I don’t need a McMansion. A cottage would do just fine. Just give me a life built on the True Foundation. Can you imagine going up to the foolish man who built his house upon the sand, you know the one from the song (and parable) The Wise Man Built His House Upon the Rock; the house that “went splat,” and telling him that you’re praying that his house would be restored? It would just go splat the next time it rained. Now build it and splat it for decades and you might have an idea of how silly it sounds to restore a house with a bad foundation instead of knocking it down and building on The Rock. I don’t want that marriage back. I want a house built on Christ, not the fragile ego of an abuser.
I understand people’s intentions and I don’t reply to them in a mean spirited way. Often the restoration prayer might’ve been from a friend whose house I had helped remodel. With a twinkle in my eye, I might have threatened to come to her house and “restore” it back to the way we found it. She knew what I meant and she began to observe that X wasn’t the man he previously pretended to be.
I believe using that “restored” kind of phrasing betrays an underlying problem in the Church; people assume abusers are having a bad day and they can learn coping skills and everything will be alright. Perhaps the pastor thinks he can hand him a men’s devotional and the abuser will become the godly man he’s masqueraded as for all these years. Maybe he’ll be “restored” because he reads Chicken Soup for the Abuser’s Soul… Abuse isn’t a coping skills issue. It’s a heart issue; an entitlement issue. That man sitting on the same pew as you all these years, the one who seems so pious but terrorizes his family when you aren’t around, that man doesn’t need to be restored to the good old days before the abuse was exposed. He needs to surrender to Christ and demolish his present belief system that makes him the center of his world. And the sooner the church learns to recognize that the pious pew sitter abuser is not who he claims to be and never was, the sooner the Church can make headway in rescuing the oppressed from him and abusers like him.
The LORD spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying, “When you come into the land of Canaan, which I give you for a possession, and I put a case of leprous disease in a house in the land of your possession, then he who owns the house shall come and tell the priest, ‘There seems to me to be some case of disease in my house.’
Then the priest shall command that they empty the house before the priest goes to examine the disease, lest all that is in the house be declared unclean. And afterward the priest shall go in to see the house. And he shall examine the disease. And if the disease is in the walls of the house with greenish or reddish spots, and if it appears to be deeper than the surface, then the priest shall go out of the house to the door of the house and shut up the house seven days.
And the priest shall come again on the seventh day, and look. If the disease has spread in the walls of the house, then the priest shall command that they take out the stones in which is the disease and throw them into an unclean place outside the city. And he shall have the inside of the house scraped all around, and the plaster that they scrape off they shall pour out in an unclean place outside the city. Then they shall take other stones and put them in the place of those stones, and he shall take other plaster and plaster the house. “If the disease breaks out again in the house, after he has taken out the stones and scraped the house and plastered it, then the priest shall go and look. And if the disease has spread in the house, it is a persistent leprous disease in the house; it is unclean. And he shall break down the house, its stones and timber and all the plaster of the house, and he shall carry them out of the city to an unclean place. Moreover, whoever enters the house while it is shut up shall be unclean until the evening, and whoever sleeps in the house shall wash his clothes, and whoever eats in the house shall wash his clothes. (Leviticus 14:33-47 ESV)