I made some good progress on the book last night. Though I'm mostly just editing what I've already written, Denny and I agreed that something more was needed to tie in the section about my failed marriage. I'm so thankful for Denny's gentle challenges and constant encouragement. I pushed myself and improved the introduction to this chapter. Thought I'd share it here.
Dissolution of Marriage
In hindsight it is clear to me that my marriage was just as binding as my relationship to God. I had been thoroughly steeped in the doctrine that a Christian wife is to serve her husband, to consider him above all things in her life, because woman was created solely to be man’s helper. Once, several years ago, I spoke with an older female friend about this. She was the pastor’s wife, in fact.
“We wives are just glorified slaves, aren’t we?” I mused. “We belong completely to our husbands, to serve them alone, and have little say regarding ourselves, our family, our homes, our entire lives. It’s God’s will that we yield entirely to our husbands. But we can be their treasures, their most preferred, and if we are valued by them they will ask our opinions occasionally and treat us well.” She wholeheartedly agreed and was pleased that, young as I was, I was so quickly discovering the key to my happiness: knowing my place. And this is truly the position I believe the Bible supports.
So, for one, the grounds of my relationship with Bobby were faulty. I tried to submit to him as my head (master), and mostly I succeeded, but sometimes I resented it. More than I would have admitted it at the time. I resented that we were not equals, that my thoughts and my desires and my words had less weight than his. It pained me to see the effect his “leadership” had on the children. I found creative ways (that I hoped were respectful) to intervene on their behalf when I felt he was being unreasonable. And I felt he was unreasonable often. Not just unreasonable, but uninterested, uninvolved. Why should someone who is uninvolved and uninterested have the final say in the lives of others? But I loved God. I knew God’s ways were higher than my ways and I wanted to please him, so I choked down my opinions and yielded, trusting that God would bless my children, myself and my marriage for my obedience to his will.
The Bible teaches a wife is to respect her husband, not based on whether he deserves respect, but because his position as head of the wife demands it. I tried with all my heart for many years, but found it very difficult to show respect toward someone for whom I had little respect.
This is a recipe for disaster. The whole idea of headship warps the thinking and identity of women and men alike. Women are people, too. We have brains, hearts, voices. Women need to know this. Men need to know this. Marriage should be a partnership. I think the most beautiful partnerships occur when each party considers him or herself neither above nor beneath the other, but balances deference to the other with respect for oneself. Each understands and draws on the other’s strengths and strengthens the other’s weaknesses for the benefit of the partnership and the family.
“He who loses his life for my sake will find it,” promises Jesus, hinting at eternal life. Well, I lost my life. My life was Bobby’s and it never should have been. I have found it again, no thanks to Jesus.
Couldn’t Bobby and I have stayed together and found another way to relate? Some couples could, sure. I even personally know some who have left religion and are doing swell, but my faith in God was the main reason Bobby and I had stayed together. Divorce was a sin. My life was forfeit, no longer my own because Jesus had bought me with his blood. What I wanted didn't matter. So, when reverence for God went out the window, when I broke free of those other bonds in my life, I realized I was equally unnecessarily bound by marriage to a man whom I could not respect and whom did not respect me.
(For more about surviving spiritual abuse, visit the Spiritual Abuse Survivors Blog Network)