My relationships with men and god were always a struggle. My father was not someone I could rely on. He was in and out of my life over the years. He sexually abused my stepsister. She was around the same age as I was when I was molested. He went to prison and then was deported to his home country. Watching that situation unfold and hearing my stepsister’s story was like reliving what happened to me, it was heartbreaking. He blamed me for not siding with him and our last words to each other were harsh. He is lost to me.
When I think about it, it is amazing I can have relationships with men at all. My childhood was filled with predators and unreliable men and my father ended up being one too. At age twenty I got married. It was a bad idea from the start. I loved him but I knew that he would not be good for me. After my mother died I was barely holding on and I desperately wanted a family. I wanted something that seemed normal. The problem is I had no idea what normal was. After 12 years of being together, I decided that divorce was the only answer.
My mother got divorced and due to my upbringing, I felt that divorce should never be an option. When I got married I told myself this is for life and you will figure out how to make it work. I was so naive, I had no idea how hard my road would be. He was abusive in every way possible. The world saw the physical abuse and thought that was awful, but in my eyes, bruises fade, the things he said to me still linger in my mind.
At this point, I was attending a Southern Baptist church. These churches were kind of rare in Madison. Even though the church was Southern Baptist officially I feel it was more liberal than other churches of its kind. In many ways, this church healed me. Once I was able to get past the lax holiness standards and the use of the NIV. My kids enjoyed the Sunday school program and I jumped back into ministry. In the background, my abusive marriage continued. My husband was convinced by an elder of the church to attend a Promise Keepers rally, at that rally my ex-husband became born again. He was quickly baptized and I thought my prayers were finally answered.
I was wrong. We would go to church together and everything would seem ok from the outside, but once we got into the car the abuse would start. He was very good at showing the right face to the church but at home, nothing changed. I tried to get help from our elder. We went over there for dinner often and my ex-husband liked him very much. Time kept rolling on and at this point, we had three young children.
I remember the day I decided I had to leave. My heart was tormented because I knew what the Bible said about divorce and the one thing he had not done was cheat on me. I knew the church of my childhood and the church I was attending would think this divorce was sinful. It was Christmas time and my almost three-year-old son had just tried to be a human shield between my husband and me. My ex-husband was throwing holiday gifts at me in a fit of anger and I was curled up in a ball on the sofa trying to hide from his anger. My precious baby boy had stretched his body across mine to shield me from the blows, thinking about it now cracks my heart in two. At that moment I knew what I had to do, even if it cost me, my soul.
I left him and it was ugly. Our elder phoned me to tell me that I had to go back to my husband or I would go to hell. He said we could be temporarily separated as a sort of cooling off period but divorce was not what the Bible taught. This conversation broke something inside of me. Mel (the elder) told me he understood that my husband was a bully but I still needed to do what was right. Calling him a bully seemed like an understatement to me. My ex was threatening me and also threatening suicide. He told me he was going to take my kids away and never pay me a dime. Cooling off was not going to solve anything.
I went ahead with the divorce. This is also the point when the Christian god lost his hold on me. It wasn’t an instant thing, it took a couple of years. These men, these churches drove me to the point of not caring about hell or my own salvation. In my mind, I would rather burn for all eternity then suffer another day in that marriage. If god required me to suffer my whole life in order to be with him in heaven I did not want any part of him. At this point I still believed in hell I just could not bring myself to put my kids at risk in order to save my own soul.
This left me an orphan. No parents and no church. Thankfully I’m married now and I have four great kids. I have good men in my life. Men who have proved to me that I can trust and have friendships that do not always have a risk attached to them. These men are not great spiritual warriors but they ask if I’m ok and care about what matters to me. They listen and appreciate my intelligence. They make my world a better place. I am grateful for these men.