Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Sharing Shoes

"Maybe someday I'll understand why it happened that way. But I guess God knows what He's doing."

Perhaps you've said something similar. I've uttered this phrase many times, usually with very little expectation of ever actually figuring out why certain things happened or why things went the way they did. I'm usually fairly resolved to never having a clue about what God is doing, and I'm more ok with that than I used to be. But over the last couple of days, it's as if God has pulled back the curtain on certain times in my life, and given me a fuller view of the "why." 

I've never written a whole lot about my second marriage, mainly because I'd prefer to pretend it never happened. And in social situations, I avoid talking about it, because I'd rather people that don't know, NEVER know. If I had it my way, I would erase that entire year. Nothing good happened in those months. 

But then my phone rang yesterday, and God set events in motion that have changed my heart. It was around lunch time. I received a phone call to assist with an "emergency" involving a young woman and her two kids in an abuse situation. As I drove to meet with her, I tried to prepare myself for what I might find. The goal was to be the best counselor I could be. 

But as I sat across from her and listened to her story peppered with abuse in various forms, I found myself sucked back in time. When she told me how she would get in trouble for breathing wrong, using her fork the wrong way, or hugging her kids too much, I found myself transported to my old living room, where someone was lashing out at me for drying the laundry on the wrong setting, for cleaning the dishes the wrong way, or for folding towels a different way than he thought they should be folded. I remembered being called a "f*cking c*nt" when I crossed some invisible boundary that I wasn't even aware existed, and listening to him call my innocent three year old horribly cruel names for wetting the bed. As this woman shared her story and her fears, I unexpectedly found myself sharing her shoes. 

The thing about abuse that most outsiders don't understand is the quick and consuming battle between the healthy and sick parts of you. The sickness that causes the abuser to fall into the perilous abuse cycle is wildly contagious. It latches onto your soft spots, the vulnerable places that ache for healing, and very quietly begins to turn clarity into confusion. It jumbles together your insecurities, your discontentment, and your deepest desires into a tangled mess of unfulfilled longing, and then confusion is all that remains. After extended exposure to this toxicity, it's easy to buy into the belief that "this time he'll change." Abusers are the best at apologies. They have no trouble saying they were wrong, that they shouldn't have threatened you, shouldn't have thrown things. They simply shouldn't have lost control. But they did, and they are sorry. And they are crying over their mistakes. And they are begging for forgiveness. And they are promising that it will never EVER happen again. An abuser will remind you at the beginning of the hour that the military taught him to kill you with his bare hands, and at the end of the hour hold those same hands up to Jesus and in tears of brokenness ask you to pray with him for the healing of your marriage. 

And you do it, because confusion tells you to be committed to your marriage. Confusion tells you to have hope. Confusion tells you that he can be different. Confusion tells you to give him another chance. That he loves you. That it will get better. That it will change. You do it, because now you are sick too. 

Regardless of what type of abuse is taking place, the cycle is difficult to step out of. In fact, statistically, it takes roughly 8 attempts to step outside of the cycle, before the abused is able to finally walk away. Miraculously, it only took me two. As I gathered up this mom and her two kids this morning, it occurred to me that I'm not certain what number attempt this is for her. I know it's not her first. I'm praying that it's the last, but only time will tell. 

I've never understood how or why I got myself into that sick second marriage. Looking back, it was idiocy from the very beginning. But I know at some point, his sickness jumped onto me, and I got sick too. And when he wanted the dishes done, I did them. When he wanted a new vehicle, I bought it. And when he wanted to pray, I prayed. And I prayed. And I prayed. And I prayed. 

And then, when I removed myself from his sickness, God restored my life to a wholeness that I had never known. And He continues to work all things together for the GOOD. And he continues to absolutely blow. me. away with his mercies. 

I've never understood the why. But this morning, as I sat with this mom and we acknowledged the multiple parallels in our lives, she looked at me and said, "I'm so thankful that God put you in my life. When I look at you, knowing your story, I just see hope." 

And just that quickly God pulled back the curtain on the "why." 

It was the first time in my life, that I have been able to be truly thankful for this journey.