(My wrap-up and application to Ephesians – University of the Nations, School of Biblical Study.)
I remember the day the girls’ dad left our house. I had finally had enough of his drinking, his physical abuse, his name-calling, his non-stop need to control my every move. I had to file a court order to have him removed from our home. He stayed until the very moment the papers said he must be out, and as he was walking through the door, he couldn’t resist the urge to get in one last jab at my self-esteem.
“You’ll never find anyone who will want you,” he scowled. “Nobody in his right mind would ever love someone with three kids. Good luck with that.”
Those words made my soul ache. They were the final douse of gasoline on a raging, consuming fire that had been burning hot for four long years.
At that time, I didn’t care if anyone would ever love me or my kids ever again. I was just glad to have some peace and quiet and not feel like I was walking on eggshells 24 hours a day. I had lived that way with my son’s dad, and I had sworn I would never do it again. How stupid was I?
I did eventually find someone I thought loved me. Unfortunately, like my children’s fathers, that person didn’t love me either – he loved who he wanted me to be and who I tried to be with all my heart and soul so that I was sure to always have his love.
He loved me at 120 pounds and said he could never be married to anyone who weighed more than that. Fat people. How they disgusted him. I weighed 132 the day we were married. I never said a word.
He loved me at church, but as soon as the doors to the truck were closed, he let me know how much I had embarrassed him – or made him angry – in every possible way. Sometimes it was something as simple as drinking a cup of coffee in Sunday school, which everyone did, but because I took my own coffee mug I was a disgrace. Sometimes I chatted too long with Mrs. So-and-so, when he had to use the bathroom. I knew he couldn’t use the toilet in the church. He just wasn’t comfortable doing that. How selfish could I be?
At home, my cooking smelled bad – almost as bad as my body odor. He liked to count my pimples and remind me of how he couldn’t kiss me because my breath smelled so pungent.
Those words – the mildest of many thousands more I heard day after day after day – wore me down. Wore me to a nub. Sunk me to a level of hatred I couldn’t shake off. It was so dark down there. When I tried to explain to him how he made me feel – how I had a value – he told me I was just a “high and mighty (insert bad word here),” a “(insert very bad words here),” and I just thought my “(bad word) didn’t stink.”
By that time, I thought everything about me stunk. I not only heard the crushing insults my husband pelted at my face, but I heard Satan backing him up with every crippling fallacy he whispered in my ear.
Lies. How they mutilate.
“Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.” – Ephesians 5:6
I had convinced myself – as I had done in all my marriages – that every relationship was like this. Everyone else just hid it as well as I did. I mean, how could I fall for this garbage three times?
That mindset was a lot easier to deal with then the shame I felt for letting not one person, but three people, treat me like I was the scum of the earth. Plus, it was easier than convincing the church that one of its deacons was abusive and a Class A con-artist. I tried it later. I was first ignored, then called a liar.
“Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light.” – Ephesians 5:11-14
It’s not easy to walk away from half a lifetime of degradation and just instantly feel peachy-keen. I don’t on most days. I still believe the lies Satan tells me: I’m no good. I’ve made too many mistakes. God hates those who are divorced. He will never forgive me.
But I’m learning to shout right back instead of cower down as I’ve always done.
“Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil. Let the thief no longer steal … ” – Ephesians 4:26-28
I’m learning to stand firm in my armor (Ephesians 6:10-20) when those colossal waves of deception envelope me. I’m listening with a fine-tuned ear to what God says: He loves me. He forgives me. Jesus died for a wretch like me – a gross old fat, worthless, ugly, piece of trash like me (or at least that’s what I’ve been called a time or two).
“… and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.” – Ephesians 4:23-24
New. Created in righteousness. Likeness of God. That’s who I am. That’s who we all can be, even those who tell us differently. God loves them, too.
“Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” – Ephesians 4:31-32