Dearest Naghmeh, my Sister in Christ, I BELIEVE YOU, I SUPPORT YOU, I LOVE YOU…and I am here to tell you JESUS LOVES YOU and He does not require you to live in a situation harmful to the mental and physical health of you and your children in order to love you.
If we simply think of how much we love our children, we KNOW we would not endorse them being mistreated. We would surely go and rescue them out of that situation. Our priority would be our beloved child. The other person could take their time to find salvation or not but our child would be safe. As your Father God who LOVES YOU, He does NOT want you harmed or mistreated. He does NOT require you to be a martyr to PROVE you are a good woman of faith—He already knows your heart—He already knows you are!
I AM HERE TO APOLOGIZE for our uniformed, judgmental Christian brothers and most shockingly, sisters. America is an entertainment-based society. We glorify people instead of God. People have glorified your husband. He is not the first pastor to be charged with criminal as well as unethical, immoral behavior. He is not the first pastor the people support at the cost of the victims. These are not people listening to The True Shepherd (Jesus). These are the easily deceived.
Our people are woefully uninformed about domestic violence. They do not understand the dynamics. The people questioning your integrity do not understand that by the time an abused woman comes forward publicly for help and decides she must separate for her safety, she has tried for YEARS. She HAS prayed without ceasing for her husband. She has believed God Hates Divorce and she is COMMITTED to her marriage. She has believed that by her character and showing her husband the love of Christ, his heart will change. As things progress, she cries out to God and prays for God to convict his heart bringing change. She has tried EVERYTHING. She has believed for a miracle. She has believed that with her prayers and with her strength, she can effect change in her husband.
One day, God sets her free with the realization that we all have free will. Anyone CAN change, if he WANTS TO. Anyone who turns to God in repentance will be forgiven, set free, and gloriously changed. But just like GOD WON’T MAKE HIM, SHE CAN’T.
There comes a time when your prayers can’t cover a grown man. There comes a time when even God steps back and leaves the wicked to their own devices: Romans 1:28-30 “And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper, being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil..." You will notice, Naghmeh, these verses also cover those slandering you and gossiping about you instead of praying for you, my sister!
The people judging your story as untrue are also unaware of just how difficult it is to obtain a restraining order. The fact that your husband pled guilty to Domestic Abuse in 2007 means his abuse is documented. This has been going on for a LONG time. I would believe you without that proof. However, as you see, even with documented proof, there are those that simply will not believe the truth. I am a Certified Domestic Violence Court Advocate. I have sat with women who desperately needed a Restraining Order but there just wasn’t enough proof to obtain one. Again, it is DIFFICULT to obtain a restraining order. As you are probably also aware, the abuse usually escalates in a domestic violence situation so that after years of being able to stay and pray, living together becomes simply undoable.
It doesn’t surprise me that your husband was a pastor AND an abuser. It doesn’t surprise me that he required you to suffer in silence while promoting the image of a happy wife and happy home life. It doesn’t surprise me that he is now disputing your claim and trying to leave you without Christian support at a time when you need it most. It is not surprising he would try to twist this and somehow make you the “bad guy” for going public with the truth about him--most abusers are narcissistic. The only “truth” he wants known is the false but glorious image of himself as a man, pastor, husband and father he has required you to falsely maintain.
When you are brave enough to take a stand with your abusive husband regarding his behavior, he doesn’t feel sorry or realize he really has to change or he’s going to lose you. Instead, if you are not going to be his cheerleader who says he is a great man when he is not; if you are going to require that he behave properly as a Christian man, husband and father; his hatred and abuse will typically intensify. If you have been smart enough to separate first with legal protection, he will go on attack mode against you personally.
The reason an abuser can sit under solid Biblical teaching every week with no heart change; may be the one singing on the platform; or even PREACHING the Word of God—is that in his spirit he has been deceived to the point he thinks he is not in need of correction or change. That is a dangerous person! The person who can hear the Word of God, sing praises to God, and/or preach the Word of God with a heart so hardened it effects no change and no fruit in his own life has totally and actively (although possibly unknowingly) rejected God.
We get confused because someone is a Pastor. We believe that surely he must be saved. We believe he couldn’t be guilty of something as horrible as domestic abuse. But, Jesus says regarding false pastors, teachers, etc., “Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers’ ” (Matthew 7:22, 23, NIV). Did you hear that, people? He could be driving out demons and performing miracles in Jesus’ name and STILL be someone who is not of our Lord. He could be beaten and held in captivity for 3-1/2 years and STILL not be a good man or a hero.
I personally believe it was your prayers that covered and sustained him during his captivity, Naghmeh. I believe God preserved his life at your request and gave him yet another opportunity to change his heart. The fact that you spoke with him before he arrived home and he made it clear that even that experience had not changed him, left you with no choice other than to protect yourself and your family. I KNOW THAT AND I BELIEVE YOU.
In closing, you don’t know me personally but I don’t just sympathize, I empathize, having been where you are. I believe you, support you, love you, lift you up in prayer, and I am here for you. If you need someone to talk to who understands, someone to pray with you who understands, or even someone to sit beside you in court to offer support, I pledge my support as your sister in Christ and a fellow survivor of Domestic Violence. Thank you for your bravery! You are a hero.