During my two year siege of illness, desertion, death, and poverty, I frequently said that it was my Job season. I felt I’d lost everything. The younger four children were still in my physical custody, but R was trying to take them from me. Not a night passed that I didn’t watch them sleep and wonder how much longer before they, too, were gone.
The pain was deep. The fear was all consuming. I felt alone. I wanted to sit in the ash heap and scrape my wounds.
But, it’s better now.
My health continues an upward spiral. Some days are better than others. Some weeks I dip down again and become frightened it’s all coming back. Still, it’s monumentally better. The divorce is final, and I have sole custody. I created my own job. And, I can talk about my dad without crying. I miss him, but I no longer feel like an adult orphan.
That horrible Job season has passed, I think. Because, lately I’ve been relating more to the book of Nehemiah.
Like him, I mourn the devastation of my surroundings. I stay up late at night and survey the destruction, taking stock of what needs to be done. I’m overwhelmed by the magnitude of the job of rebuilding. And, I am buffeted from within and without.
I’ve faced conspiracies and false rumors. There are those who have feigned friendship, but whose sole intention was to stymie the rebuilding of my life. I frequently feel like I need to have a vacuum in one hand and a weapon in the other, like the Jews who worked upon the wall.
Like Nehemiah, I am aware I am despised.
I’ve received the letters from my enemies, and I’ve winced with pain as my loved ones stabbed me in the back. Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference between the two.
Certain of the Jews cried out against the usury exacted upon them by their brethren; I keep silent regarding the robbery of my inheritance by my brother and my own daughter while I struggle with the difficulties that causes and try to come to grips with the unfairness of it.
But, I, too, have a vision and a goal and a belief that God wants me to do this.
I believe I can create a safe place for my children to live. I know we will “repeople the city.” And, we’ll dedicate this new life to the Lord and establish reforms in the way family members relate to each other. We’ll cast out the remnants of those evil ones from the “chambers.” And, we’ll set watchmen at the walls to guard and protect the ones we treasure and value.
I know it can be accomplished. Someday.
In the meantime, I weep. I grieve. I am fatigued. Every day is a new battle.
But, with each change of seasons we grow closer to realizing the fulfillment of the vision.
I’ve been formulating a post all day in my mind. A post about creativity and goal setting. A post about moving on with life, planning for moving forward.
But, he called the kids tonight for his regular Sunday evening chat. He had news to share, and he asked to speak to me at the end.
The kids were obviously distraught. J has been going overtime on being sweet lately, but he was instantly angry and attacked E and D. He didn’t even finish talking to his dad. He just started fighting with them, accusing them of doing things they hadn’t done.
R had excitedly told them he’s quit his job, and he’s moving back to town. Next week.
E ran downstairs to tell me.
Panic had immediately set in.
Now, I can’t concentrate to remember what brilliant postulations I’d imagined regarding goal setting and list making. I can only try very hard to pretend in front of the children that everything is going to be okay. We serve a Holy God, a God of Justice, and He will protect us.
But, the panic has set in nonetheless.
I’m forced back to those dreams my two friends had several months ago. Two friends, who’ve never met each other, both dreamed that he was after me again. I was living in a new house (well, now, there’s some good news!), but he was determined and was doggedly hunting me down.
When I spoke to him this evening, I forced myself to remain cool and calm, grey rocking him as much as possible and trying to sound all business.
He said he wouldn’t be visiting the children next weekend after all since he’d be moving down here Monday evening. I simply asked him if he’d like to reschedule the visit.
I asked if that will allow him to keep the kids longer on Saturdays. And, he charged into an assurance that he wasn’t coming down here to rock my world, to bother me or the kids, to upset our lives.
I interjected, “I only asked because I schedule jobs for during the time that you have the children. It just helps me to know what kind of time frame you’re looking at so I can plan accordingly.”
I knew though that he was telegraphing. He was letting me know that he does indeed plan to rock my world. He does plan to bother us and upset our lives. Why else would he begin such a rant without my implying that concern?
And, the panic set in.
How far will he take it? How long has he been planning this? Was this part of the grand plan all along? Does he feel safe to move back now that he got every material thing and escaped alimony and high child support? Or, is it a haunting coincidence that he quit his job to move near me the VERY SAME week an abuser shot and killed his ex-wife only FORTY MINUTES away from where my ex now lives?
He left us over two years ago. Two years, three months, and ten days to be exact. I remember sitting in my support group at that time and agonizing over the stories and pain and tears of the women who’d been “out” for a year or more. I even blamed them a bit. I felt that surely they were hanging on for some strange addictive reason. Why didn’t they just move on?
Now I understand. Because abusers don’t just move on. And, they forbid their victims to do so.
I tried to keep the conversation amiable. He asked if it caused any problems for me that he wasn’t going to take the children this next weekend. I told him that it actually works out better because of the way my jobs are lined up for Saturday. It will save me on some running around.
He then stated that he’d be happy to take the kids any time he isn’t working. He’ll watch them while I work. Even if I just need him to take them for a couple of hours.
He snaked around and around. He said that he needed to live near his elderly mother. He said he can’t afford to come down all the time. His boss won’t work with him and give him the time off to visit his children. His car is having problems and won’t make the monthly trips. He doesn’t know how long his mom will hold on. He misses the kids and wants to see them more. He doesn’t plan on making the kids visit any more frequently than they see him now.
The whole time this conversation was taking place my 7 year old son was begging me to please tell his dad, because he’s afraid to, that he doesn’t want him to move near us. He doesn’t want to visit his dad at all now.
“Please, Mama, please, you tell him for me.”
I finally asked R to hold on. I told J that he needed to tell his dad himself. I can’t get in the middle like that.
He took a deep breath as I handed him the phone, and he held it for a few moments that seemed to lapse into an eternity. He thrust the phone to his own ear and quickly stated what he had to say.
R didn’t hear it. He asked him to repeat it.
He did. This time louder, harder, clearer.
“I don’t want you to live near us! Don’t come down here! Please! Don’t come live here!”
“I’m not going to live with you. I’m just going to live down there with Grandma. That way I can see you more often.”
“No! You say, ‘Grandma.’ Your mom lives close to us. I don’t want you to live close to us. Don’t do this!”
R’s voice strained. He sounded like he was getting mad over J’s words.
J had garnered the strength to persist though, and he repeated himself over and over again.
R finally told him that he didn’t have to see him anymore than he does now. It’s up to J. He won’t force him.
I think, for the children, it’s just the idea of knowing he’s nearby. It certainly is for me. It’s knowing we could run into him at any given time or place. He could break in at any time. He could be lurking somewhere in the shadows. We’ll just never know. We’ll always be looking over our shoulders now.
Just a couple of weeks ago he’d told the children he had a new manager, and she assured him she was willing to work with him on his visitation weekends.
Suddenly, everything has changed.
But, nothing has changed. His story is the same one I’ve been hearing for nearly twenty years. They worked him too hard. They wouldn’t give him time off. They were unfair to him. Things are just so hard for him.
I think about just last week when I could hear him ask the children, “Where’s your mom? What’s she doing? Is she busy?”
A few weeks ago he insisted upon talking with me to discuss the holidays, so he could arrange the vacation time. Vacation time he obviously never planned on taking because he quit his job within days of that conversation. Then, he drilled the kids about me last week. Tonight, he wanted to talk to me again to let me know about his plans.
Why? Why does he want to talk to me? Why does he want to know what I’m doing? Why does he feel compelled to share his plans with me?
The only answers I can come up with induce panic.
Before brushing his teeth, my seven year old laid his head on my lap and, out of the blue, said, “I’m just afraid. I’m afraid he’s going to come around.”
I brushed his blond hair with my hand and assured him, “Nothing’s going to change. It’ll be okay.”
But, I don’t think I was very convincing. We both know differently.
And, the panic has set in and rooted itself deep within our souls.
This is a must read. It’s an interesting point of view from “the other side.” After reading it, I’ve been pierced with a little bit of guilt and think I’ll write a letter to the cop who arrested my ex. The guy was young, good looking, and cocky. The kind of guy you just hate as soon as you see him walking up. He seemed to think he’s God’s gift to aviators. This young deputy was especially full of attitude the day R got arrested because he was from Texas, enter tons of machismo, and the son of a single mother, an abused woman. He personally had a passionate hatred for abusers.
I didn’t appreciate him.
I was stressed. I was scared. I was shell shocked. And, I just didn’t see that God was using Deputy Cocky to plant seeds in me.
I recall him telling me that R didn’t have the right to so much as point his finger at me. Did I understand that? Did I understand that? I wanted to scream at him that day, “Just because I ‘let’ him beat me doesn’t mean I’m stupid!” He droned on and on about domestic violence and men being stronger and bigger than women and how no man should ever present himself aggressively to a woman. I just wanted to leave. I wanted to take my two teenage sons to work, even though one had just been punched in the nose by R, and I wanted to get away from that scene. I wanted it to all go away. And, his presentation was occurring while my children sat in the van staring at their father in handcuffs. All the while everyone in our community was driving past and staring at the two sheriff’s cars and my husband standing at the bottom of our driveway. I was humiliated. I didn’t want this memory for my children.
But, Deputy Cocky had a point. He had a lot of good points.
I tried after that. I really did. I took R back. I worked on our marriage. I worked on being a better, more protective mother. But, every time R got aggressive or angry I could see that young man standing there saying, “He can’t so much as point a finger at you. Do you understand that?”
I heard through the rumor mill that he was later fired. Apparently he was a little too passionate about his work, and people, probably people like me, complained about him. The sheriff, whom I love and admire, felt the young deputy needed more training. He was sent off for more training, but it didn’t temper the guy. He eventually lost his job.
That’s unfortunate. I think he’s just the kind of cop who would have eventually grown to be a tremendous asset to a department. He cared. And, he obviously had a heart for justice.
I wish I could thank him now.
With a tremendous amount of shock and horror, my 7 year old exclaimed, “Your life is in danger! It is! Your life is in a lot of danger! From Dad. From R (my 17 year old). From S and D (our landlords). From B (R’s counselor). From A (my adult daughter). Your life is just in a lot of danger!”
My adult daughter was late to pick up my granddaughter yesterday, although I’d told her that I needed to leave by a certain time. I’d be pushing it anyway to get J to piano lessons on time, but then R left a note on my desk.
As I was cleaning off my desk, I told him that he had a paper he’d left there. “Oh, no. That’s for you,” he responded. It was a to do list of requirements for the Navy recruiter. R has set up a meeting for me for next week.
I scrambled. I called the eye doctor, the family physician, and the counselor’s office and requested records. They were all wonderful and could have them ready in the afternoon. Great! I could pick them up when I took J in for his lessons!
R did need to sign for his mental health records, so we’d have to bring him along. But, I offered to drop him off at a friend’s and figured he’d relish the afternoon just hanging out.
He had no one to call.
My daughter finally showed up at 2:10. I had twenty minutes to make the thirty minute trip into town and across town. And, I had to stop at the counselor’s office first.
I pulled into the parking and jumped from the car. R didn’t follow. I waited at the door for what seemed like forever as I could hear a giant clock ticking in my head. He finally came around the corner, and I hurriedly led him upstairs to the records office.
Thankfully the papers were ready. But, then, the woman behind the counter set her mouth firm and looked away from me (after she took the money from me) and looked directly at my son. “These are YOUR medical records. NO ONE has the right to these. Once you’re fourteen, NO ONE has the right to these except you. Do you understand me? That means YOUR MOTHER doesn’t have a right to these. This is YOUR personal business, and you don’t want ANYONE looking at YOUR PERSONAL records. Do you understand me?” Each of the words I’ve bolded was emphasized. She then dramatically held the papers up and placed them in a manila envelope. “I’m stamping this all over with confidential, so YOU and EVERYONE ELSE (a quick glance to me) knows this is confidential and it is YOURS.” She then droned on about HIPPA regulations, of which I am well versed.
It was now time for the piano lesson to start, and we were still fifteen minutes away.
My teeth were set on edge by her speech.
I’m responsible for this teenager. If he does something illegal, I’ll pay for it. I can be sued for his misbehavior. If he isn’t in school or being educated, I can be jailed for that. If he has medical or psychological problems, it is my responsibility to ensure he gets the care he needs and also pay for it. After a very lengthy and expensive court battle, I was awarded sole legal custody and control of his medical, religious, and educational decisions. However, although I am the one who took him in for counseling, I have no right to know how he’s doing or what their plans are for my child. That is clearly between this group of counselors and my son, and it is NONE OF MY BUSINESS. Is it any wonder his attitude toward me has worsened in the last six months?
Of course, I must swallow it down, as I do everything else.
I literally ran for the car. I encouraged R to hurry and buckle. And, I couldn’t contain it all. It was about to spew forth, so I released a small pressure valve. “I really wish she hadn’t spent so much time going over the HIPPA regulations. We could have made it without being too late, but we may completely miss his lesson now. Being in the medical field for so long I know all of that stuff, and I could have explained it to you.”
R continued to look straight ahead and said, “Yeah, I know. And, B and B (his two counselors) already told me all of that stuff anyway.”
My hunches have been correct all along. I’ve had a strange feeling that they viewed me as an enemy. They’ve gone out of their way to keep me “out of the loop” and removed from my son’s mental health care. But, once again, I’d doubted myself. When I first began attending the support group I’d heard women complaining about the counseling group. Some of these women had lost custody of their children to their abusers BECAUSE of the counseling group’s actions. I tried to reason with myself that perhaps those stories were making me paranoid.
I need to learn to trust my own intuition.
I sped along the parkway, trying to stay within the speed limit and drive safely but also pushing it as far as I could. We were now fifteen minutes late to a half hour lesson I’ve already paid for. A lesson J is taking seriously and enjoying. He needs this outlet.
I eased over into the left turn lane, and R exclaimed, “Where are you going?! It’s a right turn!”
At first I was confused. He’s never been to the music teacher’s house. He has no idea where she lives. And, it is most definitely a left hand turn. Then, it dawned on me. His next stop required a right hand turn. I’d momentarily forgotten that everything is all about him. Silly me!
I nicely explained that I was heading in the right direction and now he appeared confused. He apparently thought I would drop him off at the DMV before J’s lesson, which we were already late to because of his stuff.
I suggested he walk the three blocks from the teacher’s house to the DMV and told him I’d pick him up there when we were done. He jumped out of the car without saying anything to anyone and took off down the street.
When the lesson was over I drove to the DMV. No sign of him. I went inside. Still, no sign of him. I texted him. No answer. So, I left.
Because of my cleaning jobs and being stuck on the mountain on the long days I have my granddaughter, I seldom have the opportunity to run errands. Everything has piled up. Some things being timely. On top of everything else, now R had given me a second list. I only had an hour and a half to do it all. I didn’t have time to run around town looking for him or sitting in a parking lot texting him and waiting for him to show up.
The kids saw him in the distance, tripping along with ear buds in, not seeming to pay attention to anything, with his head down and texting on the phone he sneaked and bought himself.
It was a straight shot to the eye doctor, so I headed there first. I gave my phone to E and asked him to respond to his brother if he answered. Just as I pulled up, R texted me back. He thought I’d still be waiting at the DMV. He let me know that he’d walked back the other direction to the bank. He’d be right back. When E let him know we were picking up the medical records for him, he responded, “Are you guys going to pick me up now” None of the usual punctuation. The tone was evident. He wasn’t happy about waiting. E read it to me as I was getting out of the car.
That’s when J exclaimed, “Your life is in danger! It is! Your life is in a lot of danger! From Dad. From R (my 17 year old). From S and D (our landlords). From B (R’s counselor). From A (my adult daughter). Your life is just in a lot of danger!”
My oldest son’s girlfriend says that J has an old soul. Well, it’s a perceptive old soul.
I feel like I’m in constant danger, like I’m always being threatened.
My oldest daughter’s continual rude remarks about my “brain issues” and “seizures every time [I] get a little stressed” feel like attacks on my sanity or ability to parent and survive. I worry. How far will she go? How far would she take the hate for me that she inherited from my mother? She frequently brags, or reminds me, that she is a mandatory reporter.
Young R has lied about me to his counselors, his friends, and his former teacher. He demands I tell him where I’m going, who’s watching the kids while I work, and how much money I have. He’s working this morning, so I thought we had a window of reprieve. But, he just sent me a text, asking if we’re home. I feel constantly triggered by him, constantly on edge and frightened of him and what he might do.
I am overwhelmed with the idea that my landlord is going to kick me out in a few months. Where will we go? How will I afford a move and more expensive rent?
It all sends me into a state of chronic emotional panic. Even a seven year old can look at how I’m being treated and assess that it is an endangering way to treat someone. Yet, those doing it and their enablers justify it completely and use my concerns and my fears as justification for their actions. Because I worry about things, my two “problem” children say I’m unstable. Because I want to be involved in my son’s care, I want to set the rules for my home, and I want my children to feel safety in the structure of family life, my son’s counselors say I’m controlling him. It’s only natural of course. As one of them told him, “The cycle of domestic violence is hard to break.”
Even though my daughter openly posts on Facebook that she believes in spanking, I know if I so much as speak harshly to a child to correct him/her she’ll “have me.” However, on the flip side, if I don’t correct the kids and their behavior is wild, that is evidence of my inability to parent now with my “brain issues.”
My enemies are many, and they are surrounding me. They are controlling every moment of every day and how we continue on from here. And, a seven year old sees it!
The most excruciating part of it all is that my enemies are my own flesh and blood. My beautiful big eyed babies have grown up to turn on me and devour me, enlisting the help of others where they can.
When I got saved, my dad’s mother gave me a Bible and a life verse. It is Proverbs 3:5&6. Trust in the Lord with all thine heart and lean not unto thine own understanding but in all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths.
I’ve clung to those verses. Grandma was wise in holding that up to me.
However, over the last few years I have begun to think Matthew 10:34-40 more aptly characterizes my life.
King James Version (KJV)
34 Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword.
35 For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law.
36 And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household.
37 He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.
38 And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me.
39 He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.
40 He that receiveth you receiveth me, and he that receiveth me receiveth him that sent me.
I can’t say He didn’t warn me.
I was excited to go to church this past Sunday morning. We’re enjoying being in church again and hearing solid preaching. And, I had new clothes to wear!
After delivering the youngest two children to their classes, I tried to sneak into the sanctuary fifteen minutes late. A tall gentleman was showing slides of Haitian children opening shoe boxes. No luck sliding in unnoticed while everyone was standing and singing. You could have heard a pin drop in there, and that door I came through was a lot louder than a pin.
I caught the last half of his presentation and pondered how I might come up with the money to let J do a shoe box for a 7 year old boy and D do one up for a 5 year old little girl. It would be good for them to learn to be on the other end of charity.
Our former youth pastor from our last church attends this church, too, and he and his wife were leading worship this week. She sings like an angelic little bird. The musical worship was great, and I found myself lost in it, tossing my head back, swaying side to side, and raising my arms up to my Lord.
But, the pastor wasn’t there.
The youth pastor stepped away from the drum set and took his place, center stage.
He asked us to open to the book of Jonah, and he began to expound on its message. Using literary comparisons, he gave us the main idea. Jonah denied his calling, and God pursues and does not give up on His people. He discussed the elements of the story and outlined the main characters. In the course of explaining that Jonah is the antagonist, he shared that Ninevah literally means fish town, and it is ironic that Jonah was swallowed by the very thing, a fish, that he was running from, the fish town.
His main idea seemed to be that we should not deny our calling. This young pastor stated that if the Lord has called us to do something, to preach to someone, we should follow the Lord’s prompting.
I’ve been “given words from the Lord” from a number of people recently. None of these individuals are connected to each other, so I’ve accepted that the Lord does indeed have a “job” for me to do. However, I have been denying it. I find a million reasons to set it aside. I’m just too busy these days. So, I felt pricked in my heart as I listened to his opening words.
I was drawn in by his literary connection. At first. Then, the theology was brought forth, and I found my shoulders drawing forward as I winced at his words.
“Like the pagan sailors, find out who Yahweh is, and then the storms will cease.”
No wonder they seek the hidden, unrepented of sin in my life when I turn to them for help. Using their Greek logic, his statement could be turned around to: I would not suffer these storms if I’d just get right with God.
He continued, “The world says, ‘Burn that bridge!’ but God says, ‘Reconcile with one another.”
He asked who it is that we are bitter against. The drunk driver that killed a child? A child molester? Who is it that we deem to be unworthy of forgiveness? We were told to “remember where you came from.” We were instructed to “remember you were once lost.” “A child molester is just someone who needs Jesus.” We were advised to “enter into a dialogue with those you deem unworthy.”
The amens were going up all around the room while I wanted to bolt for the door.
I spent my entire life trying to dialogue with my mother. She was hard in her heart and refused my love and my words. I spent 16 years trying to dialogue with my now ex-husband. My love and kindness only worsened the beatings. Once, in a moment of transparency, R admitted that my kindness only enraged him more because he knew he didn’t deserve it. It made him feel like I was better than he because I was able to show love and kindness to him no matter what he did to me.
I never deemed them unworthy. Nor did I desire revenge. As a child, I prayed my mother would die. And, I began praying for R’s death shortly after we married and the choking and beatings began. I only longed for their deaths because I saw no escape from their hell. It was out of self-preservation that I desired their harm, not out of revenge or hatred. Even David, a man after God’s own heart, prayed for the deaths of his enemies.
Sitting there, I tried to remind myself that this young man is indeed young. His life experiences must be fairly limited. He’d made a comment that no one sitting in that room knew what it’s like to be tortured. Hmmmmm………
He is just naive. He truly doesn’t know any better.
An older pastor once told me to remember the three Rs: There can be no Restoration of Relationship without Repentance. He said to remember that God Himself freely offers us His forgiveness, but we can’t receive it until we repent. We should follow His lead in our relationships with each other by standing ready to forgive while eagerly waiting for the offender to repent.
Jesus instructed his disciples to shake the dust off their feet when they departed from those who would not receive them or their message. And, He described terrible punishment for those who hurt a child.
Yet, this very young pastor says that we are to view them as we view ourselves, we are no better than they.
I thought of the pastor who told my 6 year old son he needed to repent for “allowing” himself to be sexually abused. I recalled the pastor who became concerned for my marriage and stated that he was going to be praying that I did NOT follow through on my safety plan to escape my abuser in an attempt to save my life and the lives of my children. I remembered the well meaning older women who tried to teach me to submit, submit, submit, which I was already doing to the point that I was bowing before a false idol.
Then, the youth pastor turned another direction and began talking about not foolishly sleeping, as Jonah did in the boat, but to be awake and alert.
Isn’t that what he and all those crying, “Amen!” are doing? Foolishly sleeping? They are not awake and alert to the violence toward women and children. They are sleeping and dreaming that it isn’t happening. It isn’t happening in their worlds. When it is forced in their faces, they require the women and children to forgive and remember that they are not better than those they are accusing. And, they are told their God is a God of reconciliation, so reconcile!
At that moment, as I became aware that my shoulders were curled forward and I was slumped in my chair, eyes squinting against his painful words, I realized why I’ve been denying my calling.
People repeatedly tell me, “Every time I pray for you, I get a strong message that you are to speak for abused women.”
I want to minister to them someday. I want to put my arms around them and tell them I understand. I want to publicly share my story, so others will know they are not alone. I want to tell them they didn’t deserve that. They are loved by God, and He never wanted that for them. Their husbands’ actions were evil and wicked in the eyes of our loving Father.
I don’t want to speak for them.
Statistics say that one in four women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime. There were more than four women in that sanctuary. That means I wasn’t the only one sitting there that morning. That means those other women were also being told to quit looking at themselves as better than their abusers (which is ridiculous because battered women see themselves as unworthy) and to reconcile with those evil men.
If I were to speak for abused women, who would I speak to?
Ahhhhh, therein lies the secret to why I’ve been denying my calling.
I fear, as Jonah did, the wrath of those to whom I would speak. I fear my message will not be received well. And, they, like the Ninevites, have a history of violence and persecution.
But, if Jonah was swallowed by a fish as he tried to run from the fish town, how would the church swallow me? I don’t want to sit in the bowels of that beast with the stench of the heresy that turns away the brokenhearted and winks at the sins of the wicked who abuse children.
The book of Jonah closes with a conversation between God and Jonah. God has the last word:
Then said the Lord, “Thou hast had pity on the gourd, for the which thou hast not labored, neither madest it grow; which came up in a night, and perished in a night: and should not I spare Ninevah, that great city, wherein are more than sixscore thousand persons that cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand; and also much cattle?”
That’s a question I’d like to pose to the pastors like the young man I listened to on Sunday. They’ve had pity for child molesters and wife beaters, men they haven’t labored over nor have they helped these men grow in Christ. These men will perish. Scripture tells us their end will be bad. Yet, should God not spare the great multitude of battered women and abused children who can’t discern between their right hand and their left hand for reason of the tremendous emotional abuse they’ve suffered?
Perhaps that’s the question, the word, the Lord wants me to bring before these men.
I guess I’m reluctantly going to Ninevah.
“Well, I just assumed…….” I trailed off.
My much older co-worker gave me that mother look with her chin tucked down and asked, “You know what they say about assuming?” It came out more like a statement.
“No. No, I don’t.”
She lifted her head, and her face softened. “You don’t?!” she asked with quite a bit of surprise.
I shook my head no with bewilderment. Where was this going?
Her disapproving look returned, and she answered me with another question. “L, how do you spell assume?”
“Think about what you just spelled.”
I rolled it over in my mind a few times. A-S-S-U-M-E. I didn’t get it.
She finally gave me the answer she had wanted me to figure out on my own. “When you assume things you make an ass out of u and me!”
That was over twenty years ago, and I’m still trying to figure that one out. I’ve always been one who is quick to assume. I’m gullible. I assume people are what they say. I assume people act in accordance with their feelings. And, more often than not, I make an ass out of myself. And, perhaps someone else as well.
I’m not the only one. I’ve felt the brunt of others’ assumptions.
People have assumed I brought the abuse on myself. People have assumed I must be overly sensitive and making more of it than it was. People have assumed that I’m not very bright, or I would not have ended up where I did nor would I be working as a menial laborer now. People have assumed I have no sense of style or taste.
None of that is true. They’ve essentially made an ass of themselves and me by assuming such things about me. They’ve made an ass of themselves by denying the humanity that lies within them that yearns to show compassion and see beyond the immediate. They’ve made an ass of me by denying me the dignity and validation I deserve.
Perhaps it is karma. Perhaps it is God trying to teach me a lesson. As much as it hurts to have people assume false things about me, I just can’t seem to break the habit myself.
Because I’ve received negative comments regarding my “career choice” (said very tongue in cheek), I’ve assumed that everyone thinks I’m not smart enough or ambitious enough to pursue a “real” job. I’ve assumed that my clients see me as the Minny or Aiby in their lives. But, I’ve made an ass of myself and them in doing so.
One of my clients recently let me go. She no longer needs my services; she changed jobs in order to be home more. She said that the cleaning was a blessing, but I’ve blessed her life in many more ways, too. I taught her how important it is to be a mother. And, I taught her to look outside the box for ways to earn a living.
She never saw me as the hired toilet cleaner. She saw me as a woman who values my time with my children and has the intelligence and ambition to create work for myself that allows me the freedom to be a hands on mother.
This time it was me who robbed myself of compassion for another human being. I failed to see her for who she really is, and I denied her the dignity she deserved. She is a deeply emotional yet incredibly strong woman. And, I’d judged her. I denied her the dignity and validation she deserved as a mother struggling to do her best. I assumed she thought her education and her home made her better than the woman who mopped her floors. That thought never crossed her mind. I made an ass of me.
Another of my clients recently asked me, “So, what’s your background? Other than just raising kids?” He wasn’t quite making an assumption, but he was pondering. He knew there was more here than meets the eye, and he was digging with a purpose. After I shared it with him he asked if I’d be interested in a business administration position should he start a new business.
Again, it was me! I assumed he and his highly educated wife were kind to me because I’m the cause of the day. They’re well off, well educated, and well bred. Those kind of people are raised to value community service and helping the less fortunate.
Do you hear that? I’m the judgmental one! I made an ass of me again.
A dear friend has stood beside me throughout this ordeal from day #1. She and her husband have given and given and run and been there and worked to help me. They’ve also included me in social events. Oh, how I’ve kicked against that! I feel like T’s loser friend following her around. I’ve assumed all of their other friends see me as her pet.
When she invited me to a Bible study at her house with some of her friends, I really didn’t want to go. Their Facebook profile pictures made me want to run screaming in any direction but there. They were gorgeous, perfectly coiffed, smiling big smiles with perfect teeth. I assumed they would wonder what I was doing there with them.
However, as the weeks rolled by in our study, I found them to be gracious, open, and very raw and real. I came to love them and see them as my friends, too. I made an ass of me once again when I assumed that women that beautiful and well off certainly couldn’t be deep or kind. And, if I had followed my heart and run from them, I’d have missed out on some of the most wonderful conversations, growth, and friends.
This group of women gave me a grotesquely generous gift card to a clothing store for my birthday last week. And, as usual, I made my assumptions before going shopping. I haven’t been in a women’s clothing store in decades. Since R left I’ve peppered my hand-me-down wardrobe with a few pair of pants ordered from online sales. But, all in all, my style is, well, I have no style. I don’t understand the current fashions. I don’t know how to tie a scarf. I don’t know how to wear belts or boots. I’ve been tucked away in R’s hell on the mountain, living in extremely used clothes, for too many years.
So, I prepared myself for judgment when I walked through the doors of that place I’d only driven past until now.
The cute little blonde sung out to me, welcoming me. She asked if I was looking for anything in particular. Um, no, yes. I didn’t know. So, I confessed. “My friends bought me a gift card for my birthday. I haven’t been shopping in years and really need everything. So, I have no idea. I’m just looking.”
She didn’t look me up and down. She didn’t judge my appearance. She didn’t wince at my confession that I haven’t been shopping in years. Instead, Miss Cutesy Pie smiled even bigger and asked if she could be their friend, too.
So, I looked and I looked and I looked. I had no idea where to even begin. My Bible study friends had said that they didn’t know what my style was. Well, that made five of us because I didn’t either!
When I decided that I’d better start trying some of it on, the cute little blonde took me to a room with my name written on the door. She had items laid out to go together. She smiled and said, “I took the liberty of grabbing a few things to go with! I’m just in love, love, love with that sweater and those camis! I’ll be back to check on you and get you other sizes! I grabbed you smalls because I looked at you and thought, yeah, she can wear a small!” And, off she bounced.
I ended up buying the things she chose for me.
I went back yesterday to grab one more thing to go with one of the outfits, and she was there. She remembered my name. She said she was so glad I’d come back because none of her other Barbies had been in all day. Barbies?
I had assumed she would view me as a veritable homeless person and wonder what the likes of me was doing in her store. Instead, she saw me as a Barbie doll to dress up, a blank palette to paint. So, I asked her to teach me how to wrap and tie scarves, or whatever it is you do with them. And, she patiently showed me just a few basics over and over and over again, even trying to draw a picture for me to take home.
I told her that I’m just going to let her pick my clothes and dress me from here on out and if I have problems I’m going to call the store and ask her for instructions. She clapped and jumped up and down the way those cute little blondes do. (Do you hear that judgment in my words?!)
So, there you have it. I’ve assumed others see me in a way that degrades me. Not all of them do. However, I’ve definitely assumed things about others that degrades them. My assumptions have robbed them, if only in my mind, of their beautiful spirits, their compassion, their openness, their lack of judgment.
I walk around with a chip on my shoulder, assuming people are judging me and viewing me as the dumb, lazy, lowlife who has spent her life beating beaten because she doesn’t have the gumption to change her own life. Poor me!
Sinful me! I’m the one judging them!
I’ve made an ass of u (them) in my mind with my assumptions, and, in doing so, I’ve openly made an ass of me.
The younger three children were spending the evening with their father and the teenager was working, so I decided to rent a movie. A novel idea. I cannot remember the last time I watched a movie without interruptions, a movie of my own choosing without regard for rating.
I chose Redemption.
The star is an extremely attractive man, and the previews showed him in a beautiful suit driving a fancy car. It seemed like it had a story line but winked at me that it would be nothing more than a showcase of his hot body and his awesome fighting skills.
The story line was offensive at many turns, including a scene depicting sex slave victims warehoused in boxes in the back of a big rig being delivered to America, where all of their dreams would come true.
It was gritty. It dealt with war crimes, PTSD, child molestation, victim blaming, the sex trade and prostitution, and homelessness. It wasn’t quite what I expected. Not that I would recommend the film. There was plenty of make believe (he just happens to fall into an empty apartment and the bank just happens to send a PIN number through the mail and no one becomes suspicious and he is able to secure employment without appropriate ID and on and on) and too many photographs of penises as someone’s idea of photographic art. And, part of his redemption comes through giving away the money he earned as a henchman.
But, there were gems to be gleaned.
Like when he and his nun girlfriend were accusing each other of being hypocrites. His line was profound. It was something to the effect of, “What about you? You give them soup. What they want is their lives back!”
How many times have I felt that way? How many times have you felt that way?
I’ve been told over and over again to just apply for disability or social security. My landlord made a harsh comment, “I thought there was government assistance for people like you!” Others have said, “You need to go get some help. That’s what it’s there for, for people like you.”
Everyone wants to point me to the soup kitchen.
What I want is my life back.
No, wait. No, I don’t. I don’t want my life back. I want a life. For the first time.
Yesterday I walked out of the bank and saw a young mother pushing a jacked up Blazer through the parking lot. She had a child in the front seat and two car seats in the back. A stocky built man sat in a brand new pick up truck, watching her struggle. She was dirty and dressed poorly, as were her children. That was my life ten years ago. I don’t want that life back.
Yesterday morning I started reading a book on dieting to rest your adrenal glands and restore your health. The author likened our bodies’ response to standard dieting practices to our mental process should we be told we only had four cups of rice and two cups of beans to live off. We’d ration and save. That’s just what our bodies do when we try to restrict our calories and fat intake too severely. I recalled years of starving. As a child and later as a mother. I remembered living off of beans and rice, twice a day, for years on end as R took what other little food we had. He claimed that he was entitled to it because he had a physical job and needed to keep his energy level up. I would agree to it if I “wanted him to keep working.” The implied threat was that he would quit work if I demanded food for the children and myself. I don’t want to go back to beans and rice and being hungry all of the time. I don’t want that life back.
I went to the chiropractor and massage therapist yesterday to try to deal with the scar tissue that binds my neck, the bursitis and tendinitis in my shoulder, my blown out sacro-iliac joints, and the fluid bubble on the tendon sheath on my right hand. I’m falling apart, but these two young men haven’t given up on me yet and keep trying to find a way to help me heal and recover. So, another new process was used on me, wherein the MT used an ox bone to try to break up the scar tissue throughout my neck and shoulder region. It left me bruised today with petechiae covering my neck. I knew that would be a consequence, and I accepted it as a small price to pay for long term relief and increased mobility. However, I remember my neck being covered in petechiae and my body bearing bruises simply because my husband was using me as a short term release for his intense anger. I don’t want that life back either.
But, I want a life! God, I cry out for a life.
We all, myself included, have a tendency to look at the suffering of others and wonder what we can do to relieve it for a moment. We cover a sleeping homeless man with a blanket. We take a meal to someone. We help someone push a broken down vehicle off of the road. And, those things are good and necessary. But, we should always remember that beneath the hunger, the dirt, the broken vehicles, the bruises is someone who really wants more than a blanket or a meal. They want their life back. Or, perhaps, a life for the first time in any real sense of the word.