A Cry For Justice

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

What Change Looks Like

In Another Badger I promised to tell you a true story of repentance being walked out. Here it is.

This is a story about Rob and Roberta (names changed). They were married for over a decade and had a tolerable marriage. Then he ran off with her best friend. Every person in Rob’s life, his parents, pastor, friends, all of them begged him, warned him, not to do this thing. But he did. Within four months he realized what a terrible thing it was. It took longer for him to actually humble himself and call on Christ.

Roberta was hurt, angry, mean. Rob missed her but once he was truly following Christ he NEVER EVER pressured her, never asked to reconcile. When he saw their son he parented him well. He prayed. He helped as much as he could. He never once complained about Roberta’s lack of appreciation. Rob knew that given what he’d done Roberta couldn’t trust him. He didn’t ask for his efforts to be acknowledged. Five years later, that’s right, he did this for five years, Rob was at their son’s birthday party and a friend mentioned to Roberta that he looked happy and wondered if he loved Roberta. She asked him about it. He responded that he does love her, but he won’t ask for anything. If she’s ready to trust him one day, perhaps they could remarry. That was two years ago. Their wedding is set for this Spring.

Rob’s change had nothing to do with Roberta’s behavior. It wasn’t for her. It was because he honored Christ. I want our readers to know about that.

Fireproof shows the Hollywood time lapse photography version of this sort of true repentance. Seeing Fireproof reinforced to me the fact that X hasn’t changed. There are really beneficial things in Fireproof but we at ACFJ insist that it’s not a movie to be used by targets to try to get their abusers to change.

Here’s my question for folks who claim to be repentant. How long are you willing to bear fruit in keeping with repentance? A week? A year? A decade? A lifetime? What if no one ever notices, compliments, or even thanks you? Is it still worth it? If it’s for Christ, through Christ, by his power, it will be worth it. Will you show honor, respect, kindness to those you previously abused even if you could never come near them again? I’ve read of an ex-husband hearing that his ex-wife needed a new car and buying it. This wasn’t a bargaining chip. He just did it because it was the right thing to do. I know a man who paid child support long after the state required it because it was needed. Safe people do right because it’s right, not to gain an advantage over others, not to get repaid or thanked, and not to be better than others.

X hasn’t changed. He can’t without Christ. This sermon really helped me understand who X is rejecting: it’s not me, it’s Christ. X doesn’t want a Lord.

Learning Rob and Roberta’s story and watching Fireproof helped me to understand what repentance looks like. And learning the children’s catechism is a great reminder:

To repent is to be sorry for sin and to hate and forsake it because it displeases God.

Change isn’t because the abuser loves his target or because he doesn’t want to see the kids suffer; it’s because he loves God. Rob acted to protect Roberta and made no demands. He would have done it from afar for the rest of his life. That’s a picture of repentance. And it’s the opposite of the comments and emails we get from abusers seeking to con us into becoming their allies. Learning to recognize the real thing makes the counterfeits stick out like a Vulcan among Klingons.

16 Comments

  1. Brenda R

    This is a beautiful story. I only wish it happened more often. Not the leaving his family and adultery part, but the reconciliation. If my first husband hadn’t continued on that path, we would now be married for 40 years. I don’t miss him and wish him well–now!! He continued tha same path through 3 more marriages and I understand that there has possibly been another.

  2. Gods Grace

    Yes, I love this story, And Fireproof I know very well. I was married for 18 years, and left the marriage, and now in a safe place. Covert Aggressive, very narcissistic were the terms used to describe my x. One of my sisters, and her family took him in and judged my decision and because I removed myself from the home, and I did divorce, they warned me of God’s wrath.
    Trying to explain mental abuse and emotional abuse, was not what they wanted to hear. “Sister, God can heal your marriage”. Yes he can, and as was mentioned in the story, he has to have a heart for God. I knew when separated that he was being counseled by my sister’s family on Biblical teachings. I knew that he was because he gave me all the reasons to come back into the home, he was the head of the household. He wanted it to be a place of safety. This was not my x talking it was my sister. He always did things to impress everyone that he is making the effort, and he does that so very well. But when I would engage with him I knew that he was still self seeking, and it hurt so much to see that he stilled loved himself more that the Lord. He does so very well to impress those he needs to impress so they don’t see the real sin.
    Thank you for this story. That is a true Love story.

    • he sounds like a good parrot!

    • also Joanne, you may not be aware but you’ve been a bit inconsistent in the screen names you’ve used so I’ve changed the one you used above back to the one you first started using on this blog. If you want to discuss this further, please email TWBTC. Her address is on the About page.

  3. Sunflower

    I have found that the movie and book Fireproof is not understood by many. I’ve seen targets use it when it is actually meant for the perpetrator to use. It is counterproductive when used by the target.

  4. LorenHaas

    I had a badger show up a few weeks ago.
    My wife and I have taken a break from leading a divorce recovery group and presented a program for blending families called “The Smart Stepfamily”. The second week I was there alone, as the other participants were all out of town. In walks a man that was vaguely familiar. He had been referred here by one of our home bible study groups. Turns out he had attended the divorce recovery group for one session, three years previous. He attends an ultra-conservative/abusive church in our town. (Ultra-conservative churches can be healthy, but this one is not) Three years ago he was seething with anger because of his wife forced a separation and he still exhibited the same raw emotions. He kept probing me with questions and I could tell he was trying to see if he could enlist me as an ally. After five minutes of this I told him our group was not the right place for him and that he needed to focus on why he was still so angry.
    Wow, what a cold, glassy eyed stare I got for making that suggestion.
    I asked him if he wanted to pray with me, but he declined and went out the door.
    The home bible study leader told me he left their group after another week. No allies for him there either.

    • Good that you spotted his attempts to enlist you, Loren!

  5. Kimberly

    I am grateful to God that my husband turned around. He repented and won my heart back. God gave him a new heart of love to DO the will of God. He has spent the last 6 years laying his life down for me and his sons. He now mentors other men about what it means to give up their life for their bride.

    It is shocking the percentage of “Christian” men who will not face the truth that they ARE abusers and have no conviction to repent and show fruit keeping with repentance. Men are also ignorant of God’s heart for marriage, never considering another way of doing marriage, as they are taught the going patriarchal paradigm. God’s design for marriage is stunningly simple and it works. We teach marriage as Initiate/Response. We already see as clear as day, that women respond to their husbands as they are the Head/Source. A husband is either agape loving his bride or he is wounding her and withholding love. All roads lead back to him. God holds him responsible and culpable for the condition of the marriage. Period. This is why we know when a wife is being abused because everything about her will reveal the condition of his heart. She is the MIRROR.

    Sadly, it turns out that most men refuse to love their wives the way God has instructed them. They are not interested in understanding that loving their wives will mature them and change them.

    We spend most of our time leading women through divorce to be freed from the cruel captivity of abuse.

    • Kimberly, how does your paradigm deal with the cases where the husband is the victim and the wife the abuser? As you know we have a few such men on this site.

  6. Not Too Late

    It would be interesting to find out if Rob’s social network encouraged him to seek reconciliation. The Christian church puts a lot of pressure on separating couples to mend the marriage. Given this context, it should be no surprise that abusers and non-abusers alike put reconciliation at the top of their agenda. They are reinforced and rewarded for doing so. Someone like Rob above might have been labelled a failure for not trying hard enough to win his wife back.

    Will you show honor, respect, kindness to those you previously abused even if you could never come near them again?

    An abusive person would find it very hard to answer in the affirmative. Their definition of love is control, and how can you control someone who doesn’t come near you? They are very well practiced in only showing honor, respect and kindness to obtain something in return, including a good reputation and the trust of their loved ones. It would be an absolutely alien idea to them to show honor, respect and kindness to people who couldn’t respond and give them something in return. For them to internalize this kind of behavior would require a seismic shift in ingrained concepts of love and relationships. I don’t see how this could happen without the right type of therapy, and by that I mean, the specialized intervention that is not often found in church ministries.

    • soldiergirl

      Certain husbands can never be the “HeadSourse” for their families, due to their preoccupation with themselves, and their reprobate nature that does not change.

      Christ is my solitary Headsourse.
      Mistreated women cannot look to these reprobate husbands as leaders of our families.
      If we do we and our children are destined to fall in the ditch that the abuser leads us into.

      I have discovered that even my oldest daughter that grew up in the (FOG ) psychological warfare that the abuser/husband creates, now gravitates towards men that are controlling and manipulative.
      She has no natural fear or apprehension towards these types of men that are Full of red flags and triggers.
      I try to warn her of all the warning signs that I now see in them, but she insists that she feels comfortable with them..
      She also does not regard my opinion also, because my abuser/husband disrespected, countered, and held me in contempt throughout most of the marriage- which in turn colored my children’s view of me as an proper influence in their lives.
      It is like watching a second horror film unfold, with my daughter playing the lead victim role with these manipulative types of men…

      Had I had the right support from the church to pull out of my marriage earlier in my life,- while the children were still young and impressionable, my daughter would be a different person today, and not be seeking these types of men for companionship..

      • how sad. how awful.
        And your story is not uncommon . . .

  7. This was a good comparison, and I love the Star Trek reference…..yes, I’m a huge fan. (Trekkie)
    Almost seven months of separation (same house, separate rooms) after an incident with my N/abuser husband where I actually told him to get out (he packed some things, left the house and drove around for awhile, then called and said he had no where to go), and there has been no repentance at all. No attempt to even approach the details of this incident. As I have said before, that blank “N” stare is all I get. Oh, he has been seemingly more humble, quieter, quick to do tasks, and under control, but I know the rumblings beneath. He hasn’t made a move toward making right what he had done, or even admitting wrong. It was a laundry list of things, all done so many times before I cannot/do not want to count them. Has even gone so far as to suggest to me that he has no idea why he is having to go through this and even comparing himself to Job, yes, you heard that right. Always wants to tell me how when he was praying….blah blah blah…..he heard God say this…..blah blah blah…..and quoting this scripture and that…..always in reference to something I am not doing.

    He is becoming a bit more bold, too, just coming in my room when the door is closed, not knocking as he had been doing. I will be keeping it locked from now on, of course. He left for almost a week to a spiritual weekend his Dad hosts with some friends and while he was gone, it was so peaceful and wonderful. I also have to admit I didn’t miss him. I had gone to this retreat in the past and there is always a Pastor and his wife from the area that will prophesy over those who attend. Isn’t prophecy supposed to be directly from God? Why does this Pastor not get from God what is really going on and speak truth? Perhaps not in front of everyone, but with a few trusted people privately? This Pastor and his wife has told us both we would be in ministry together and help young couples, etc. And believe me, that had been held over my head a lot, as if I was the only one being held accountable. This was years ago when our marriage was awful due to his behavior, long before I found out he was a Narc. I have to admit I never believed it, couldn’t see it, and was confused why he would even prophecy that over us. It just didn’t make sense then and now I see its absurdity.

    I need prayer, I am about to talk to my sons about leaving, they will understand, but it will still be painful. I loathe the fact that he causes even more pain for our children, and doesn’t even know or care.

    • Brenda R

      SV2, Praying for your and your children. Those claiming to be prophesying will be held more accountable than those who do not.

    • Remedy

      Survivorthriver2…..may I ask the (approx) ages of your sons? I have teenage boys. Also separated in the same house for a year and no repentance, telling me that a reconciliation would only bring more of the same. My children are the only reason I am still here, but it is more unbearable by the day. Will your children go with you? Mine do not want to leave the only home they’ve known, but do not feel their dad can handle all domestic duties. They are concerned everything will fall apart. The indecision is tearing me apart!!!

      • Remedy, I am so sorry for your situation. My sons are in their mid and later 20’s and no longer live at home. But, we all suffered under my N/abuser’s hand for a very long time when I had no idea who he really was and why. My sons saw how their Dad treated me and hated it, didn’t understand it and were powerless. But, he is their Dad at the end of the day and had to reconcile that in some way. And they love him, but are not blind.

        I wish I had THE answer for you, but it is an individual one that only you can make with lots of prayer (I’m assuming you pray, I guess) and eventually peace. What I believe I know is that you know your sons better than anyone, and that should help you in your decision making. Change is never easy, but as adults we know that things eventually get better and no situation good or bad lasts forever.

        My younger son is the sensitive one with a huge heart and I think (but will never really know) he would have suffered more had I left when they were in their teens. He is also the one that is for the under dog, which in his eyes would have been his Dad, had I left him (my husband). My older son is more logical (I am too) and he has a great mind for sorting things out and coming to the best conclusions possible. He could have handled it with much more certainty of the outcome. He has a deep caring heart, but it’s not always evident on the surface. My boys have always trusted me and I have tried my best to cultivate that in them given the chaos, at times. We cannot control our abuser, but we can control ourselves. I don’t say that lightly, I know what it takes under all the hurtful, confusing, frustrating times, all we can do is our best and God does the rest.

        And last, but not least…..LOVE those boys with everything you’ve got, ALL the time, that will get you all through.

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