Saturday, July 19, 2008

Looking Back

Looking Back

I could hardly recognize myself. I was no longer the quiet, easy-going girl that very seldom got angry. In my reaction to my husband’s tirades and verbal abuse, I began having unkind thoughts (that’s putting it mildly!) and often responded with a sharp edge to my voice.

It felt like my insides were boiling and any day this volcano of bitterness would erupt to scald whomever stood in my path. When my intuitive co-workers confronted me and asked if I was harboring some anger inside, I became very defensive and said, “I’m not angry! That’s ridiculous!”

Although it took me a while to admit it, I began to see a mirror image in myself of the traits I detested in my husband. How could this have happened? I despised my stinking attitude and felt defeated by the man who knew which buttons to push to get a negative reaction out of me. Even more, I dreaded seeing the smirk on my husband’s face when I sank to his level, and hated hearing him declare how “unchristian” my behavior was.

I wanted the old me back—not the part who became my husband’s doormat, but the peaceful, kind person who was still there beneath the surface of turmoil and anger. During a marriage counseling session our pastor asked, “Are you willing to try to make this marriage work?” As a good little church lady I responded, “Of course!”

The next day his question haunted me. I knew the truth, but I had not been courageous enough to admit it. “No! I do not want to make my marriage work!” I said it out loud as if God couldn’t read my thoughts. “I don’t want to make this work!”

Living with a difficult, abusive man for 20 years was just about all I could take. I was not willing to go back and endure more of the same. I did not believe my husband would ever change, and I no longer had the strength to carry both of us. As soon as I admitted the truth to myself and to God, I was able to make one last attempt to reconcile the marriage. I agreed to seek the help of a professional counselor as long as he would hold my husband accountable for his actions.

I asked God to forgive me for my sinful attitudes and actions, and restore to me the joy of living and a purpose for being alive. I submitted my anger and right for revenge to God, trusting Him to provide justice and deliverance from harm.

As I expected, my husband had no intention of changing, and seemed to delight in pushing me over the edge. Instead of reacting to his rage, I remained calm and in control. Although he became increasingly violent, I made a conscious choice to restrain my tongue, set limits, and do whatever was necessary to maintain my safety.

Instead of remaining a powerless victim, I began focusing on what I could change—myself. I began to keep a journal and write down thoughts and feelings, as well as documenting incidents of abuse. My prayer life was more active as I prayed for my husband and for wisdom to know how to proceed if he refused to change or get help. The scriptures became a precious source of strength and builder of self-esteem as I rediscovered my worth through the eyes of the Lord, my creator.

Like a struggling baby bird pecking its way out of the shell, I began chipping away at the lies I had believed in the prison of my own making. I was emerging as a person capable of surviving and thriving on my own.

When faced with the decision of whether to allow my son to suffer the trauma of a broken home or live in an abusive home, I chose to leave and take him with me. It was the right choice for me . . .and ultimately for him.

When I had to choose whether or not to be truthful on financial questions when my husband skillfully hid assets and lied about his income, God helped me choose honesty over money. He helped me choose faith over feelings and integrity over manipulation.

I did not get the old me back, but the Lord gave me a new me instead. I praise Him for the changes He has made in my life. Some were very painful, but all have been for my good. My life is full of joy and anticipation as God opens doors, provides for my needs, and fulfills my every desire.

Brenda Branson, Copyright © 2002-2008, All Rights Reserved

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