The setting was perfect. The excitement was genuine. A cuppa at Java coffee with a friend I had not seen in ages. In the end, I felt angry, I felt helpless. I cried.
Here she was, a young lady, going through so much torment in her short life. And there I was, listening and asking a few questions here and there, my only way of helping. The agony, the pain. The abuse. To cap it all, a recent separation from her husband.
We sat and talked for hours on end, in that crowded restaurant. She told me of the emotional and physical abuse, and the financial difficulties. Stuff you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy. The details she has, and out of respect, I can’t say much. Speaking up she will, when she is good and ready.
No one deserves this. No one.
In the course of their marriage, they pursued counseling from pastors and professional counselors. But none paid much attention to what she was going through. They were only interested in offering their own tailor-made solutions for those issues this couple was grappling with. Revive your date nights. Forgive your husband. Be more understanding.
This was someone who had been physically abused. How loud did she need to get for someone to hear and understand her plight? Is it that quick to manage this situation with solutions so typical without getting to the root of the matter? Browse around the internet. See the people around you. Hear about a battering so brutal it only becomes fatal. How many other countless cases have we seen or heard? How many infidelities or emotional abuses have we witnessed or experienced? How many financial cases have ruined marriages? Just how many?
Who is there to give objective and constructive feedback to married couples today? What is causing the kind of feedback that we are seeing? Isn’t the purpose of the sessions to hear someone out before seeking to provide the same solutions?
I love reading Bikozulu’s articles https://bikozulu.co.ke/. This genius of a writer goes into great lengths to describe a story so well you are left mesmerized and consumed by it. Have a look at The Ten Percent blogpost, an intriguing and yet quite sad article. You see, it’s becoming the norm, such stories, that we are almost reaching a point where absolutely nothing can shock us any more. And then another story pops up, a story of someone devoid of heart, soul, love and genuine passion about their marriage. You just cannot believe it.
What struck me about the story in Bikozulu’s blog was the way the narrator stated that the counseling at her church did not help her. Wait for the reason. The pastor, she felt, was siding with her husband. She felt that he was ignoring what the husband had done. His emphasis was on forgiveness and reconciliation.
Listen. Marriage does work. I’m not only confident about it but a believer as well. God’s intentions for us are good and pure. He’s a good God, a God of mercy, but a God of justice as well. He says, the wages of sin is death. There are consequences to our actions. We just cannot wish bad behavior away by simply telling people to forgive. True, forgiveness is a mark of strength. The Lord has forgiven us and He’s encouraged us to do likewise.
That’s not my point of contention. Propagating forgiveness without understanding the underlying matters, without recommending serious actions for the abusers, is my issue. I am not against pastors or counselors. I am concerned about bad advice. There has to be provision of necessary tools and appropriate skills when dealing with people who are living in abusive relationships. And it has to be on a case-by-case basis.
Marriage is for life. Those vows we said remind us of the permanence of this institution. Couples should be encouraged to stick in there and work hard at their marriages.
However, we should be bold enough to call abuse the very word it is. Abuse. Infidelity, pornography, physical, emotional, financial abuse, or any other form of abuse should not be tolerated in this mortal world. They should not be encouraged. Why should we continue feeding such abuse, encouraging it to grow? Can’t the social system care enough to dig deep, to interrogate, to save the souls of the victims of abuse? Shouldn’t, in extremely difficult circumstances, separation be recommended as the abuser seeks treatment or help?
We shouldn’t leave people in such terrible circumstances. We should care. Care about their lack of self esteem, their depression, suicide thoughts and any other negative effects they may experience.
Let me talk to the church. And I’ll start with a blog written by a man, a man who has come to a remarkable conclusion about the horror stories women have or had to go through. In his post ‘Enough Is Enough – Why the Church Has to Stop Enabling Abusive Men‘, the author states: ‘Christian leaders and friends, we have to see that some evil men are using their wives’ Christian guilt and our teaching about the sanctity of marriage as a weapon to keep harming them… We have got to put the fear of God in some terrible husbands’ hearts, because they sure don’t fear their wives, and their lack of respect is leading to ongoing deplorable behavior.’ That is simply profound.
Churches and christian organizations should strive to engage qualified persons to provide professional services to hurting people. Dedicate a department of counselors, for there is so much need to reach out to the growing number of people going through the above issues. Obtain feedback on the sessions carried out. Continuously assess if these sessions are meeting the needs of those who seek them.
And for those offering counseling services, look at how you deal with different situations. Assess your level of skills while managing the conflicts. Upgrade them, if need be.
To friends and relatives, seek to understand the situations brought to your attention. It is okay to admit that you may not have solutions. Refer the hurting ones in our midst for professional guidance or to older persons with experience.
Ultimately, we know that God is at work. He is able to bring healing to wounded hearts. He cares for our well-being, whether we see it or not. Let love be like His. It is kind, it does not dishonor others. It is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered. It keeps no record of wrongs. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes and always perseveres.
1 Corinthians 13:4, 5, 7.