Nothing prepared me to realize that ‘fear’ would come at the hands of a person of trust, let alone a pastor like my husband.
"…and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted (tested) beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.” (I Corinthians 10:13, NASB)
While sitting in the darkness struggling with our situation, the pure voice of my three-year-old son gently soothed my wounded heart. Clear and strong, he sang the familiar refrain: Jesus loves me, this I know. For the Bible tells me so. Little ones to Him belong… Moments later the still of the night was rent by the all-too-familiar sounds of the leather belt being snapped in anger.
“I’ll teach him to disobey me,” my husband snarled as he headed toward the stairs.
“Please don’t”, I pleaded as I grasped at his arm. “He’s just singing himself to sleep.”
Throwing me off with a force that sent me reeling into the wall, he continued his charge to silent the song. “No, Daddy, no. Please don’t…” came the cry as the leather connected with the little body and the whimpering voice fell silent.
“Oh, God, please deliver us! I can’t hold on much longer! Where is Your escape?” I cried.
Straining for the sound of the car tires on the gravel drive, I held my breath. Daring to peer out the window, I watched the dust settle as he drove away. Spurred to action by the sight, I gathered my children together and dressed them quickly, driven by the need to get them to safety.
As I carefully explained our impending trip, my five-year-old son asked if daddy was making the trip with us. “No, he’s not”, I answered and waited for the protests.
Instead, he looked at my face and earnestly said, “Daddy will be VERY ANGRY”.
“Yes, I’m sure he will,” I responded truthfully. “And that is why we are leaving now.”
Puzzled, the little faces turned toward to look at their eldest (7-year-old) brother who, in his matter-of-fact way, simply said, “So Daddy won’t hurt us anymore, right, Mommy?”
Moved by his understanding, I simply nodded my assent. With understanding beyond their years, they said, “We’d better hurry,” and rushed to find their winter coats and boots. Grabbing a bag with a set of clothes each and a special toy or blanket, I called my neighbor for a ride to the airport. Tucking the note with our flight information into my jeans pocket, I guided my children from the house and closed the door on a life of fear.
I wish I could say the fear magically dispelled once we boarded the plane. It did not. Outwardly, I was composed and focused. I had to be. I had four small children depending on me. Inwardly I was haunted by memories. At every turn I was hunted by doubt and insecurity. I spent the next three years looking over my shoulder, half-expecting to wake up and find that the sense of freedom was merely a dream and he was standing over us once again, ready to strike the nearest person.
From a young age I went to church, prayed, believed on Jesus Christ as my Savior, and memorized Scripture. I knew Psalm 23. “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil…”
Nothing prepared me to realize that ‘fear’ would come at the hands of a person of trust, let alone a pastor like my husband. Had the abuse been aimed solely at me, I might have handled it differently but it was a ‘weapon’ wielded by my husband on our children to ‘break my spirit and bring me into submission.’
Consequently, my perception of God and my relationship with Him was profoundly affected by these experiences. I began to see Him as an angry, disapproving, vengeful Being just waiting for me to screw up so He could justly pour out His wrath on me.
Dutifully I went through the motions, knowing that I was saved but feeling like that salvation hung in the balance as if ‘by a thread’.
Would I ever be free of the doubt and the fear? God, do You hear? Do You care? I’m so tired! I don’t know if I can hold on? became the cry of my heart.
Quietly, gently He responded to my questions: Yes, I hear. Yes, I care. I love you, daughter, more than m n - life itself. Come to Me! Come into My arms and find rest. Just let Me hold you…
“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.” (Jesus, Matthew 11:28)