Part Two: as told by “Christine,” written by Lauren Rose
Remember Part One: “Christine” whose church introduced her to love after abuse?
In the first part of her previous story, she asked her pastoral care pastor, “How can someone understand covenant love when the only covenant relationship (marriage) one has known has been everything that Christ’s love is not?”
Her church walked alongside her and through their support she understood God’s unconditional love. “I don’t have the words to describe what their support has meant to me – without their community approach to loving and helping I think I would have returned to him and possibly found myself permanently trapped. Read more here!
But the support didn’t stop there!
“Christine” Begins Part Two of Her Story:
This past spring, after attending Called to Peace Ministries’ (CTPM) encouraging Women’s Retreat, I returned broken – emotionally and mentally. At the time, I couldn’t figure out why I was suffering from depression, the likes of which I had never known, even in the darkest moments of my abusive marriage.
For the first three weeks of the depression, I cried almost constantly. What I did not realize at the time (actually, it took me several months to recognize) was that this was a healthy and “normal” part of recovery from abuse.
After years of abuse and isolation, my church family and the ladies of Called to Peace Ministries had built communities around me.
My whole being finally felt safe to lay down the load I had been carrying alone for so long.
Unfortunately, I spent the next several weeks withdrawing from everyone around me, holding all of the pain and anguish inside, and struggling again to understand how God could love me. It felt like all I could hear were my abuser’s words ringing in my head – how worthless and how much of a burden I was. In desperation, I prayed and asked God to let me see His covenant love on display.
Little did I know how much He would exceedingly and abundantly answer this prayer that summer through my church.
By the end of June, my depression had become so severe that I could no longer take the pain. I reached out to my church’s counseling pastor and asked if he could help me locate a Christian therapist who could get me the help I needed. This was a massive step for me because mental health was something the Christian college where I had met my abuser has long shamed Christians for seeking. The churches we attended in their orbit had also done the same.
Within two days, I had my first appointment, and within a week, I was getting the treatment and healing my body and mind desperately needed.
That’s where this story becomes amazing to me. Because the depression was so severe, the treatments I needed were heavy-duty and required that I have someone sit with me through them and drive me to and from appointments. I work full-time for my church as the receptionist, and I thought, “How am I possibly going to be able to do this?”
My church rallied around me – two of my church co-workers alternated taking me to every appointment.
They sat beside me, holding my hands, praying with me, and singing hymns to comfort my soul as I wept through treatment after treatment – as a lifetime of storing the trauma inside came pouring out of my heart and mind.
Another two co-workers sacrificed their time to cover my desk and duties while I was away.
On nights when treatment left me completely mentally, emotionally, and physically spent, they took me to their homes, giving me a safe place to process through all the pain and hurt that was pouring out in the treatments, often sitting up with me until the wee hours of the morning.
At first, I constantly apologized, asking, “Why are you doing all this for me? Aren’t I being a burden? Why would you sacrifice your time, your space, for me?” The answers were always the same – “Because your Heavenly Father is our Heavenly Father. He calls us to love you because He loves you. We aren’t meant to walk alone.” One friend in particular constantly reminded me: “Isn’t God’s chosen (given) family something wonderful?”
They poured constant reminders into me, assuring me that they weren’t going anywhere, often directly contradicting the lies my abuser had spoken to me for so long.
They would speak affirmations and words of comfort over me: “You are safe here. You are worth it. We are committed to you. We are holding on. We aren’t going to let you go down. We are holding onto you and holding you up.”
In the middle of all this, I was in a car accident where my car was totaled. Within minutes, my church family rushed to my side, taking me to the hospital and staying by my side. They then continued to step up and made sure my children and I never once missed church or other necessary appointments. Someone would either give me rides or lend me their vehicles for days at a time so I could make sure my children had what they needed.
I asked so many times that summer, “Why, Lord? How long? What are you doing in all of this?” During those dark times, I’d beg God to explain why He wasn’t done with me yet. Each step of the way, my church family had drawn in closer, coming alongside me in those truly dark and painful experiences.
A few weeks ago, I met with an unchurched friend who knew much of what was going on and asked how everything was going. As I shared all my church family had done for me in this, my friend looked at me in shock. “I have never, ever seen love like this. This is something special and amazing.” I could see God’s work on display right before my eyes as the gravity of how my church community has loved me so well dawned in my friend’s eyes.
During the CTPM retreat in April, we were encouraged, during one of the breakout sessions, to close our eyes, breathe, picture Christ, and describe where He was, what he was doing, etc. I remembered this exercise several weeks ago and decided to try it again. I was amazed at how vivid the picture I saw was – Christ was in my treatment room. He was doing everything those two covenant friends had done for me.
I profoundly realized at that moment that my church had been the hands and feet of Christ to me through all of this. Though they were physically there, they were but the vessels my Father used to pour His love into me.
Even if I never know every reason why God has allowed me to walk this path, I know this clearly – His love, poured out through His church – His covenant community, can heal the deepest wounds. We, indeed, are called to reflect His covenant love to one another.
THE CALLED TO PEACE CHURCH PARTNERSHIP PROGRAM
PROVIDES EDUCATION, SUPPORT AND MENTORING TO CHURCHES!
We know that pastors want the best for their congregations. Situations involving domestic abuse are challenging and complicated to understand. Our trained Church Partner Liaisons desire to come alongside your church pastor to help them discern when domestic abuse is present and how they can help her.