Last week I began telling the story of my walk from an unhappy marriage where I was in bondage to an abusive husband to freedom in Christ. I shared how Beth Moore’s Breaking Free* bible study gave me a new insight into how much God wants to give His people freedom. Christian women are often so caught up in the desire for a healthy marriage, and in trying to honor their marriage vows that they don’t realize how much God wants them to be free.
On week 1, Day 5, page 26 of Breaking Free, Beth Moore writes, “We must never cease believing God cares about those in physical, emotional, mental or spiritual prisons. Everything that concerns us is God’s domain.” Then she quotes Isaiah 61:1-4. Verse 1b says:
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners…
Beth Moore continues on, “When we are suffering because of captivity (or for any other reason), we must learn to cry out! Yes, of course, God sees our suffering and cares deeply for us, but acknowledging the slavery is a crucial starting place toward authentic freedom.” When I read this, I was prompted to tell my story of how I walked from captivity to freedom. To read the first part of my story, check out last week’s blog at this link. During the last 10 years of my abusive marriage, I had been crying out to God because of my suffering. However, it wasn’t until I realized that I was truly being abused that I (in Beth Moore’s words) acknowledged the slavery that I was living in. With the strength of the Lord behind me, I was finally ready to do something about it. Here are the steps I took to free myself from my bondage:
1. I called the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−SAFE(7233). The advocate I spoke to gave me the number for my local women’s shelter. I called it, and went there the next day.
2. I found out I could meet with a shelter counselor for free, which I did.
3. I shared with the counselor my worries about dishonoring the Lord by separating from my abusive husband. I didn’t want to go back on my marriage vows. She helped me see that separating from my husband would be making public the reality that my husband had already shattered our marriage because of his actions. It was not my step of seeking a separation that was ending the marriage, but his abuse that had already ended it.
4. She gave me the phone number of our local free legal service for victims of domestic violence. I called that number and asked for the name and number of the lawyer who was the greatest expert in domestic violence in our city.
5. I called that lawyer, and made an appointment for later in the week.
6. When I met with her, (for a set, nominal fee), she immediately understood that the marriage I was describing to her had been verbally and emotionally abusive for several years, and that in the last year it had become physically abusive.
7. I told her that I had been a stay-at-home mother and I hadn’t worked in years. I said my husband kept a tight rein on our finances, even though we were quite well off financially. I had been looking for an apartment to move to, because my husband refused to leave the house. She said, “Oh no, he is going to leave.” I said, “But he won’t leave.” She said, “You are going to get a restraining (protection) order.” I had never heard of that before!
8. She gave me the name and number of a psychologist (counselor) who specialized in domestic violence. I called the counselor and began seeing her regularly. We talked about all my worries and concerns about the huge step I was about to take; how it would affect my children, whether it was the right thing to do in God’s eyes, how frightened I was of my abusive husband, and how I was afraid of what he might do to me if I went through with the restraining order, and what I could do to keep my kids and me safe, etc.
9. With the help of my lawyer and my counselor, I created a safety plan for leaving my abusive marriage. To see information about how to create a safety plan, read my blog.
10. Six weeks after I first called the National Domestic Violence Hotline, I was ready to use my safety plan. That morning, I waited for my husband to leave the house. Then I ran through my home gathering everything I had written down that I thought I might need if my petition to the court for a restraining order was not granted. I then drove to my local courthouse where I met my lawyer. She and I stood up in a room in front of many strangers, where I told a judge all the abusive things my husband had been doing to my children and me. I was granted the temporary restraining order!
11. I took the order to show the staff at the schools my children went to, because the judge had added the children to the order, and my husband was not allowed to see the children for a period of time. Then, I parked my car in a neighborhood near my house until my kids got out of school.
12. When my husband was served the restraining order later in the day, the man who served (gave) him the order called me immediately, and told me to watch out because my husband was really angry. Sure enough, my husband called me in the next minute, (which was illegal for him to do according to the restraining order). I told him, “You have just broken the restraining order. I’m calling the police.” I hung up the phone and immediately called the police and reported him. They said they would come and take a report. They met me in a parking lot (I had been told not to return home without a police escort.) They took the report, and I continued waiting for my kids to get out of school.
13. When their school day was over, I picked each of my kids up from school in the office of their schools, (something I had arranged earlier in the day). Then, I called the police again, and had them meet me at my home. My kids and I waited outside until the officer had gone through the entire house to make sure my husband was not waiting inside for me – I didn’t know what he might do at that point.
14. I had a locksmith come and change all the locks on the house. Also, a garage repairman came and changed the codes of the garage door openers. I also changed the entry codes for our home’s alarm system.
15. Once that was all completed, I cooked dinner for my children, which we ate in complete peace for the first time in a year. Afterward, we sat and watched a television program together for the first time in a year. (My husband had kept control of the television remote for the entire previous year, and I hadn’t watched a single program I wanted to watch in that entire time.)
I don’t want to give the impression that all went smoothly from that point on, or that my kids were overjoyed that day. We had a long, difficult road ahead. What I do want to say is that
When I finally realized that I was in bondage, and was really being abused, the Lord empowered me by His Spirit to find freedom. Tweet This
On page 27 of her Breaking Free bible study, Beth Moore says, “As long as the sun comes up in the morning, God will keep offering to deliver His children. As Psalm 102:17-18 says:
He will respond to the prayer of the destitute;
He will not despise their plea.
Let this be written for a future generation,
that a people not yet created may praise the Lord…
For every captive, God sent a Deliverer. God’s liberating words in Isaiah 61:1-4 concerning the One who was sent to proclaim freedom for the captives apply just as surely to us as they did to the Israelites as they faced Babylonian captivity. They will continue to apply as long as God looks down from the height of His sanctuary, views the earth, and hears the groaning of the prisoner.”
Question: Have you ever felt like you were a captive?
I hope you will find peace in the fact that God wants to set us free.
*Beth Moore, Breaking Free, The Journey, The Stories (Nashville, Tennessee: LifeWay Press, November 2010).