Leaving Is Just the Beginning
by Karen DeArmond Gardner
“Faith shows the reality of what we hope for; it is the evidence of things we cannot see.” Hebrews 11:1 (NLT)
Thirty years, four months, and two days after I said “I do,” I left an abusive marriage. I was done hoping for what I could no longer see, finally acknowledging he’s an abuser, and that he wouldn’t or couldn’t change. I thought leaving would be the end, but it was just the beginning.
The beginning of unimaginable pain, anguish, and grief. It would also be the beginning of releasing thirty years of silence to my unsuspecting family. I knew our marriage wasn’t good, but the looks on their faces and periodic gasps said it was so much worse.
Some days all I could do was breathe, other days I pretended life wasn’t hopeless. Bouncing between sadness and anger, I attempted to process thirty years of control, coercion, and terror. No one warns you that the battle begins when you leave as you face pain, betrayal, and discovering your life was anything but normal.
For thirty years, I did what every dutiful wife should: I prayed, forgave, submitted, turned the other cheek, gave him too many chances, trusted God would change him, stood on the promises of God to not give up too soon. Believing if I was a better wife, he would be a better man. Only there was nothing I could do or not do to make him a better man.
My family didn’t know what to do with me, they didn’t know how to help or what to say. Telling the story of abuse is embarrassing. You feel weak and like a fool for staying. Yet he was the one who was weak and a fool.
Some people believe since you’re an adult, you could leave. If only it were that simple. If only they understood the dynamics of abuse that include coercion, threats of violence, verbal, emotional, and psychological abuse. Including gaslighting, slander, control, manipulation, and torture. Covered in shame, filled with fear, apprehensive and uneasy, living in a constant state of chaos.
While the abuser lives as if he did nothing wrong. He’s smooth, in control, able to talk his way out of anything. She looks like the problem; he doesn’t. He’s believed. She isn’t.
Sadly, I’m not alone. One in three women are in or have been in an abusive marriage. She’s afraid to speak out, afraid no one will believe her. My family believed me, but too many people don’t believe women, thinking she must have provoked him. Or women who stay in abusive marriages are weak, with statements, “I wouldn’t put up with that for five minutes.”
“If you haven’t been in an abusive relationship, please don’t say you’d never allow that to happen to you. Because we thought that too,” AccidentlyShe (FB).
Leaving is the beginning of healing.
It would take years to heal and discover God wasn’t angry at me for leaving and that He didn’t hate me. When I was overwhelmed with pain and despair, the Holy Spirit interceded on my behalf before the Father, with groanings that couldn’t be expressed in words (Romans 8:26). Jesus and the Father stepped into my pain, sat with me, comforted me. It’s a beautiful picture of the triune God working in tandem for my benefit.
This would happen over and over through the years as I journeyed through healing my soul. Learning more about who God is and isn’t. Discovering His kindness and goodness even when I didn’t understand how a man could harm the ones he should love.
Leaving is the beginning of grieving.
Fourteen years after I left, I entered a season of grieving that lasted eight months. I grieved a lifetime of trauma, riding the rollercoaster of emotional ups and downs, feeling emotions I’d never felt or acknowledged. This season led me into a deeper relationship with God, He was ever present in His love and comfort, with my husband, family, and friends. Though it was both tough and a time of surrender.
I would not be where I am today without experiencing God’s goodness, kindness, and extravagant love in the middle of pain.
Healing is hard and arduous, it’s also wonderful and incredible. God never takes us further than we want to go on our journey to healing, and He is always close. “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed” (Psalms 34:18 NLT).
Leaving is the beginning of hope and the abundance of God. Paul reminds us, “Never doubt God’s mighty power to work in you and accomplish all this. He will achieve infinitely more than your greatest request, your most unbelievable dream, and exceed your wildest imagination. He will outdo them all, for his miraculous power constantly energizes you” (Ephesians 3:20 TPT).
I thought domestic abuse was a life sentence. It’s not. It is part of my story and God continues to write a new ending of my story. A story not about what happened to me but what He did and is doing with what happened to me. He will do the same for you. My hope for you is this:
“Those who are wise will take all this to heart; they will see in our history the faithful love of the Lord” (Psalm 107:43 NLT).
Are you struggling to heal? Does the pain seem endless? Invite Jesus into your pain, ask Him to show you your next step toward healing.
Karen DeArmond Gardner is the author of Hope for Healing from Domestic Abuse. Karen helps women heal from the one who vowed to love them. She and her husband Tom live in Texas and own a private security company. Discover more at AnotherOneFree.com.
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