Foolishness and Faith

Some people look on a woman who chooses to stay married to a man who is “difficult,. as a fool. Some will argue and advise.

Leave. You need to leave to be free to be all God has created you to be. 

Leave. You don’t deserve to be treated like this. 

Leave. I did and now have a wonderful marriage with a different man. You could have that too. 

Get a job so you are not so dependant on your spouse. 

As a side note, they might even say, “but, of course you should do what God tells you to do.”

Isn’t that just the kicker? Out of one side of the mouth being told that an intentional choice to stay married is wrong but at the same time told to follow the very God who has led us to that choice.

They often don’t see that they are inextricably linked. Staying has to be a choice of faith and obedience to God as much as leaving. If every step of our lives is to be in obedience to God then we don’t look for the “out” or excuse to leave. We stay in spite of excuses and cling, not to the opinion of men (or women) but instead to the leading of God through his Word and the Holy Spirit.

And should God open that door to leave, we will also pray that we have the courage to follow Him there as well.

Have courage and stand firm, clinging to the God who loves you dearly.

Blessings, Lilly Grace

Choosing Your Battles: Speak Up or Bite Your Tongue?

I’m a talker, but have learned that with a verbally abusive spouse, sometimes silence is the best response to things. If I share even innocuous things, they could be used to belittle me later.

Image courtesy of Suat Eman / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Suat Eman / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

For instance. A few months back my kids wanted me to make macaroni and cheese. Yes, Kraft. Right out of the box. I’ve made it more times than I can number. For some odd reason, my noodles came out so mushy it was disgusting. So I tried again. I timed it and everything! Same issue. The kids and I laughed at my inability that night to boil noodles and we had pizza instead.  Remember that in 12 years time of making boxed mac, I’ve only had that one night of failure.

My husband often makes the mac ‘n cheese though and the other night he was doing so at a child’s request and I jokingly called him “Mac Daddy: King of the Macaroni and Cheese.”

His response: “That’s because I follow the directions and you don’t.”

Say what? I walked away shaking my head. What an idiotic comment though. This man has benefited for over twenty years with my ability to follow a recipe and create tasty meals that he devours. Leftovers? Rarely happens because of him. I know I can follow a recipe and what happened that night with the noodles? I have no idea. I”ve never had an issue at any other time. One night of a silly failure does not make me a bad cook.

One comment though does make him a thoughtless husband and is evidence of the subtle at times verbal abuse I struggle with.

There are times I have confronted though. I just have to pick my battles and know when to walk away. If’ I’m going to walk away, doing so before the battle begins is a better option than in the midst of it. In other words, I won’t pick a fight if I can help it. How can I do that?

Well, my husband thinks he is superior in anything he does. Let’s go back to the kitchen. From washing dishes to loading the dishwasher to filling ice-cube trays, my husband believes and has stated that he knows best how to do those things and I of course, am a failure at them.What is interesting, however, is how often I have to do them when I am, by his account, so inept. I really would not be offended if he chose to wash dishes and load and unload the dishwasher every day.

But it’s not worth pursuing because he only does it to try to get a rise out of me. So I don’t give him the opportunity. When he is in the kitchen, if I can at all do it, I leave. If the kids want something, they need to ask him. I will not go in and put myself in his path physically or verbally. My kitchen just isn’t big enough for the two of us.

But speaking up can also be good. My husband doesn’t hear me when I speak though. He can only hear his own wonderful thoughts and ideas. So when it is really important – I send him an email. Does that sound cowardly? It is honestly terrifying for me because I have had some come back with abuse as well. The up side to that is I have documented proof of the reality of my marriage. It has helped to give my support system a view of that so they can see the lies and twisting of truth that comes through in those messages.

A woman I talked to the other day has been keeping things very quiet about an issue with her upcoming divorce. She said if anyone finds out, her husband blames her for it. I told her that since he initiated the divorce and abandoned his family, by keeping it a secret from the world, she is enabling him to avoid the consequences of his sin. Will she speak up and be honest about it? I don’t know. There will be a negative consequence if she does, but keeping a secret is tearing her up inside too and allows him to skip along his merry way. The long shot is he would repent. But without consequences, will he? My only prayer is that someone not only prays for this man – but that someone (preferably a man) will confront him as well.

Every situation requires prayer and I believe at times when I have confronted verbally, it has been at the urging of the Holy Spirit and when that has happened, fear did not figure into it. It’s hard to pray and be ready when the time is right. It is hard to bite my tongue too when I long to hurl nasty words back at the insults tossed my way. God helps me with both of those.

Speak now or forever hold your peace. I don’t remember if those words were in our wedding ceremony or not, but sometimes they are a good rule to live by.

Blessings,

Lilly Grace

 

The Difficult Marriage: Walking the Tightrope of Holding on While Letting Go

A natural tendency when things go wrong in the marriage, is to pursue our spouse and try to “make it better.” Unfortunately when it comes to sin and an unrepentant spouse this results in validation for his choices instead of consequences.

In instances like this, pulling back, disengaging emotionally from the marriage, is sometimes the wisest course. This is not easy to do. We are not to be resentful or hate our spouse even when he sins or keeps on sinning. As sinners ourselves we are to have mercy and compassion knowing that God’s judgement falls on us all.

So how does a woman, who is hurting and lonely and longing for a close relationship with the person she vowed to love and cherish for the rest of their lives, pull back from the relationship when it becomes bad, difficult, toxic. Maybe even abusive.

How does one do this without also cutting off love?

First of all. Love is not an emotion. Yes, there are feelings that can accompany love. Emotions that move us to tears and laughter and grip us deep inside with fear when a loved one is threatened. But love is more than this. Love is action.

Jesus demonstrated his love for us. He felt it, he spoke of it, and then he acted on it by his death and resurrection.

But Jesus also had boundaries. His love was constant even when he refused to enter and perform miracles in a town because of their unbelief.

Their actions had a natural consequence. Their choices denied them the blessings of a relationship with God.

Sometimes, love means disengaging and ceasing to affirm and enable the sinner to keep on his path.

In some ways this is what spouses of addicted people face. Co-dependancy. We get comfortable with a certain dysfunction and adapt to it. Sometimes it is merely because we are afraid of losing that spouse and the relationship. But in the end it hurts us becuase we sacrifice ourselves so they can continue to sin. That’s not healthy for anyone.

So we set boundaries. For instance, in my home, my spouse is wrapped up in himself. He has shown, time and time again, that he cares nothing for my feelings, thoughts or daily life struggles. My health? Not an issue. If it’s not going to make him look good, then he doesn’t want to waste his time listening to me.

Unfortunately, I’m a talker. I process my thoughts and feelings out loud. It’s taken years to recognize that by doing so I was often opening myself up to more verbal abuse from him.

So with prayer, and a great support system including my pastor and a therapist, I have learned to act differently. I smile more. I cry less and I’m learning to like who I am which is not what my husband admires or likes. But I’m me and that’s all I ever can be and I’ve chosen to protect the treasures of my hopes, dreams and feelings. I’ve given myself a rule of thumb: If he doesn’t ask – I don’t share.

He rarely ever asks. I however do ask about his life and I do affirm and thank him when he does something nice, like bring in the groceries or fill up my gas tank.

My life has become far more peaceful. In reality, my husband is the loser here but he doesn’t recognize it or even care. He doesn’t engage with the kids either and they’ve learned some of the same lessons. Just leave Dad alone. He’s lost the respect of his kids by his controlling words and actions and more constant neglect.

This is not a marriage, is it? I still share a home and have his last name and on very rare occassions he accompanies us someplace. It’s become quite rare. My kids and I have learned to live life without him being a part of it. Not because I have disengaged, but because I stopped pursuing him and he has opted to walk away.

We are still married. God is a God of miracles and instead of focusing on my husband’s sin, I need to keep refocusing on God and the work He as to do in my heart to make me more and more like Him. If I am to live and serve the way He has called me to, this is the only way to live. Even if my husband were to turn from his own sin and want to re-engage with the family, I have learned I do not need him to be a complete and whole person.

Sometimes I wonder if God has allowed this in my life so I’m forced to depend on Him. Would having a doting, loving husband pull me away from seeking God? I don’t know.

What I do know is that if my husband wants a relationship with me, he’s going to have to go through God to make it happen. He doesn’t have access to my heart anymore and won’t without repentance and reconciliation. Even then, trust will have to be earned and takes time to rebuild.

I do walk the tightrope of hope vs despair at times. Learning to be content in my circumstances is hard when you know that it is now God’s desire for a Christian marriage. But see, that’s the error. As a friend of mine wrote, there is a big difference between a Christian marriage and a Christ-centered marriage. (Kevin Adams, The Extravagant Fool). I thought I had married a Christian. Now I’m not so sure. I long for a Christ-centered marriage and will hold out for nothing less.

It feels wrong at times to make a choice to seek health and at times I’m made to feel guilty for that. That’s when my support system reminds me that it is healthier also for him to face his choices on his own instead of me cushioning life or trying to mitigate or nag the behaviors away. It doesn’t work.

A tightrope, yes, but God is the one holding the rope and he’s my net when I fall. I am beyond grateful I do not walk this rope alone.

Blessings,

Lilly Grace

Staying or Going: The Example of Job’s Wife

The biggest struggle I sometimes face is that of well-intended people telling me to leave. As I pitched my book on lessons God has taught me by staying married, I have found that any woman who has made the choice to leave will fight me on staying.

I think they truly do, in their heart, believe they are speaking love to me. Maybe unconsciously they are justifying their own journey. Sometimes I think it is more the latter.

I would never disparage someone who has made a choice to leave or been forced out of her marriage when she has tried to take the high road. That’s not my place and I haven’t walked their path.

My human nature wants out of the pain and loneliness of my marriage.

God tells me to stay.

People who tell me to leave, as well meaning as they are, are not that much unlike Satan tempting Jesus to eat after 40 days of fasting.

But Jesus stayed true to His calling and didn’t fall into the temptation and lies Satan offered.

Maybe the woman who left has found a new love. A man who treats her well. I am glad for them. But one person’s experience on their journey is not a predictor of what God will or will not do for me . . . especially if I disobey Him by leaving when He has not given me permission to.

Sometimes I think I have more grace for those that have left than they do for me who stays.

Kinder words are: “My heart aches for what you are suffering because I know that pain. Just know that if God leads you to stay – or go, you will have my love, support and prayers.”

I get it though. It is hard to support someone in a difficult marriage becuase their issue is often chronic. Unchanging. But prayers and encouragement and reminders of God’s faithfulness to them when the pain is particularly intense, help.

Job’s wife could have walked out on him. Think of it. She lost everything: Her kids, home, wealth, status, and her husband was afflicted with illness and depression. She got angry, expressed her views to be chided by her husband (and reminded of truth) and then she is not heard of again except that after God restored Job, he had even more kids. It didn’t say he had to get a new wife. Life got tough for Mrs. Job and she did not abandon her marriage. Scripture doesn’t speak to her journey or pain, but she suffered as well.

Now, Lilly Grace, you may say. That’s different. Job wasn’t abusive. But abuse can include neglect. I’m not saying Job intentionally slighted and abandonded his wife, but you hear none of his devotion or care for her in their difficulties. Neglect can be as much abuse as anything else. Emotionally it appears that Job left the marriage. From what we can tell though, he didn’t.

I’m not writing to disparage Job or his journey but to highlight that a difficult marriage encompasses more than situations of abuse: emotional, verbal, financial, physical. Somtimes it involves physical or mental illness. Or financial distress. Addictions. Adultery.

Are there good reasons to leave? Certainly. And a woman needs to take that before God and with wise counsel follow what He leads her to do.

He hasn’t given me that option at this time.

Blessings to you as you lean on God in your marriage. He is faithful. Always. And He sees what you are going through.

Lilly Grace 

 

I Didn’t Know I was in an Abusive Marriage

For years I struggled with my marriage. Depression and health issues made it even harder to get through a day once I quit working to be home with my kids. To top it off, we moved and I was more isolated. Funny thing, me being trained as a counselor that I didn’t recognize the abuses that had been going on for years.

I wrote my book while blind to this and I still stand by the truths I wrote  in there. I need those truths.

I understood about verbal abuse early on and with counseling, found ways to fight it as well as recognize that it was something I also had a tendency to engage in. I worked hard to eradicate all sarcasm out of my speech.

I’m not an arguer. I hate fighting. My husband has bragged about how great our marriage is because we don’t fight.

I found out early on it wasn’t worth it. I could never win. Early on I would refer to my “know-it-all” spouse as “Dr —–” It was not meant as a compliment. I now recognize it is more likely a narcissitic personality disorder. You can’t really win a fight with someone like that because anything you say can and will be used against you in the future, or twisted to make you begin to wonder if you are sane.

I really didn’t “get it” that I was being abused though until I heard Beth Moore speak while promoting her book “So Long Insecurity.”  She talked about not giving away our dignity. Then she said this in her book: “Whether male or female, any person who enjoys and exploits another’s insecurity and sensitivity is an emotional predator.” (pg 247) Beth then goes on to cite the Apostle Paul as writing about emotional predators. Whoa! How did I ever miss THAT in Scripture?

But he does:

“For men wil be lovers of self, lovers or money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God: 

holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; and avoid such men as these.”

(2 Timothy 3:2-5 NASB)

I’m not here to point fingers though. Only to say, I didn’t know. And not everyone in a difficult marriage struggles with abuse. And how do you avoid someone like this when you are married to them? Even if seperated or divorced, it’s hard to avoid someone you may have had children with. They will likely always be in your life.

But Beth Moore is right. We don’t have to hand them our dignity on a silver platter only to have it smashed to smithereens by neglect, financial strangleholds, emotional blackmail and verbal harangues. And then there is physical abuse too which is usually more easily identified but no less easy for a woman to cope with in a marriage. (Please, always be safe and get wise help and counsel if you decide to leave ANY kind of abusive marriage).

Coming to grips with truth about abuse though involves two main issues: 

  1. I have to own my sin. Am I pure and blameless? Have I never been abusive? Where have I failed? Sometimes confessing those sins to an abuser can make you more vulnerable to abuse. I have at times, when I’ve realized I’ve been wrong, confessed in a calm moment in the relationship (timing can be everything) and it has been something that takes my husband off guard completely. In those moments God has protected me from those moments being used to abuse me. In many ways that alone reaffirms His faithfulness to me.
  2. Knowing that your marriage is abusive is not a happy thing. The more you learn about abuse and how pervasive it is, the more you have to grieve in what you have lost, not so much in your marriage (because you probably never really had it) but what you had hoped for and deserved as a Christian wife. It’s a bitter pill to swallow.

Once you move past this though, and learn to walk in dignity (a good therapist who understands abuse as well as a great support system is essential), the easier it is to hold your head up and grow in your understanding God’s love and compassion for you.

I didn’t know I was abused. I do now, even though my husband denies that (yes, I have identified behaviors as such and it was not well recieved).

God never condemns us. Even when we fail, He is there with his loving arms ready and open to lavish his love. It may not change the reality of our circumstances if we are seeking to preserve our marriage until the Lord gives us permission to leave, but it grows us in ways we would never experience otherwise.

Do I wish I had never been abused? Absolutely. But I also recognize that God has and is continuing to use this as a refining fire in my life and as a platform to bless others. I’m humbled to part of His bigger plan.

He knows and sees your pain, Dear One.

Blessings, Lilly Grace

Why a Great Marriage is a lot like Ice Dancing

I’ve been obsessed with watching Meryl Davis and Charlie White’s rise to getting the Gold at Sochi and while I haven’t been able to watch the Olympics, I have kept tabs.

As I watched videos of their performances from last month, as they prepared for Sochi, I was struck by how a great marriage is a lot like ice-dancing.

  • Life is hard. So is ice.
  • The man leads and protects his partner. He even elevates her and goes out of his way to make her look good. He may be bigger, stronger, taller, but he never flaunts that to overshadow his partner.
  • The woman follows and leans on her partner.
  • There is great respect and trust. One would have to in order to be lifted up and twirled about like that!
  • Great discipline and teamwork in private practice, impacts what is seen on the ice. So too in marriage. Good communication, regular dates all go towards a beauty seen by others.
  • The team is greater than the members. They need to be in synch regardless of what kind of day they’ve had.
  • Time makes up a good team. Concentrated time together. I’ve seen videos of Meryl and Charlie even working out together.
  • Being tuned into your partner allows you to stay in synch. Watch those twizzles!
  • When done well, a great marriage, like a beautiful ice dance, brings glory and honor to the Creator of all beauty.

I have none of this in my marriage, which is maybe why I find watching them dance on ice resonates with the deep longing in my soul for that kind of marriage.

Here is one of the dances they were to do at Sochi. Enjoy.

Do I Have to Respect my Spouse in a Difficult Marriage?

I, by no means, have managed to master this concept.

I used to belive that respect was something a person earned, like trust. They really are connected in many ways. But when trust is broken, respect is hard to summon.

So when a woman is in a difficult marriage and it says in Scripture that she is to respect her husband, it is like kicking someone who is already writhing on the ground in agony. You just can’t see it because as a “good Christian woman” we have to pretend to the world that everything is fine.

Even when we are at church.

Especially when we are at church.

After all, it is right there in Ephesians 5:33. Verses 23-33 are pretty strong commands for men to love their wives. Yup. It’s a command.  No negotiations. No paltry love. We wives are to be charished, protected, provided for and LOVED.

Then Paul writes this little addendum:

” . . . and let the wife see to it that she respect her husband.”

I’ve heard that “see to it” is more of a “might.” It is not a command. It really is a suggestion. A strong one from Paul.

The fact is, if a man is really living out verses 23-33 (you can go look them up), a woman is going to naturally fulfill the last part of 33. She’s going to want to.

So does that mean women who are in difficult marriages don’t have to respect their spouse who fails to in any way fulfill the ten verses before that?

No. We still need to respect our husbands.

I’ll be honest.  Struggle daily with the resentment and hurt over the fact that I don’t have an Ephesians 5:23-33 kind of guy. I long for that. Is it wrong for me to want what I can’t have? No. But I can’t need it. That’s a tough one.

So how does one respect a spouse that does nothing to earn it?

We respect him as an image bearer of God instead. He may be a horrible spouse. But he is still an image bearer of Christ as much as any murderer, rapist, child-molester is.

Ooooh. Ouch. But it’s true. All sin is equal in G0d’s eyes. And I am not exempt either. I don’t always act as Christ would want me to although most of my sins are ones of thinking. Still, it’s sin. Pure and simple.

So while we may struggle to love and respect our husbands because of their words and actions that are the oppositive of what a God-fearing man should be doing, we have to remember that we are all fallen and all sin.

Because Jesus loves our husbands more than we ever could, we need to respect the person and yes, even the position. God  holds our husband’s responsible for the words and actions he expresses towards a wife. And the ones he doesn’t but should.

Just as he holds us responsible for our own actions.

So maybe Valentine’s day isn’t a lovey-dovey holiday for many of us. We can still be respectful of the person God holds in the palm of His hand just like He holds us. No one is more important than the other. Equally loved in spite of our sin.

And for that reason alone, we should respect our husband in spite of the pain he causes.

Blessings, Lilly Grace

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