Here is part 2 of Sofia’s story. If you’ve not read part 1, I suggest you start there.
It is harrowing. But important. It is a testimony of experiences. This stuff happens. In our churches.
Let us have ears to hear, and perhaps as importantly, eyes to see… Let us resolve not to be naive.
She sat at the piano, her fingers hovering over the keys, the black and white blurred by her streaming tears. She hammered away at the ivory keys as if berating a trophy hunter for his selfish desire to conquer until her anger was spent. Then there was only pain. The wrenching pain of realisation: the word belonged. No longer a foreign word about others, but a word that now owned her.
The poison of the word trapped her breath as she leaned back against the wall, crying bitterly. How had it come to this? It was no sudden event but a matter of enduring years of it. And she ‘a consenting adult’. Consenting because she had let it happen. She had failed to recognise its subtle, boa-like, deception. How on earth did that happen? After she had done all she could, to do right, to be right, to portray right.
It was all her fault. It had to be. Everything was always her fault. With every step she had ever taken, she had learned to take responsibility; cause and effect; consequence following choice. Reinforced by ongoing blame for everything that happened. So it was only logical, this had to be her fault.
She had been isolated. Detached from honest interactions with the outside world by a husband who expected—no, demanded—complete loyalty. Left alone to manage the hidden, behind doors of respectability that concealed manipulation and coercion, underpinned by ‘spiritual’ commands and expectations quoted as weapons to guarantee obedience. But in her confusion, it wasn’t as if she had sought an unknown for help, a spirituality that led to idolatry of self. For self-sacrifice lay at the heart of all her choices. Confused by the violence she experienced in this “Christian-love-based-marriage”, she turned to “Christian” books from “Christian” authors who held up “Christian” beliefs unwaveringly, determined to see God glorified.
She didn’t understand. ‘Whatever did that word mean?’, as anger surged again, causing a sudden shift on the cushioned stool. She kicked the piano soundboard, creating a hollow thud that flooded into her dark pain. The advice had been “to trust and obey”.
Live life sacrificially. Put husband first. Consider always how to support him. Focus not on his behaviour but on her failings. Concentrate on and improve in those areas. Recognise the sanctity of marriage. Perhaps he was merely reacting (quite reasonably) to her lack of godliness? Solution: work harder; do better; sacrifice more; submit better. Most important of all: stay and trust. Trust that God knows all—that makes it all okay. Because, after all, everything would work out for good for those who love God.
Did God’s commands really validate abuse?
A sharp-knifed recall of a probing phone call from an older “Christian” woman cut into her mind. She had been asked about the circumstances of those years, the years in which she had suffered so much as she obeyed those teachings. The woman debated the validity of her view of events, reinterpreting them as failings: in her character, in her actions, in her lack of Christian perseverance. Implicitly suggesting that she had been responsible, casting doubt on whether she was being obedient and trusting enough.
Doubt, like a creeping thick fog, filled her mind, obscuring thoughts, muddling directions. Maybe it was her fault…?
But now she knew. Now it was clear that it had been abuse. Friends outside the church, the not-religious, in horror and sorrow, had pointed her towards the evidence in her own life. Which only deepened the current pain from her battle for sanity and reality.
For there was a God. She did believe that.
But she could not trust. Not now.
The tears, burning in shame, fell, splashing the black and white with silence.
A confused silence of betrayal that no music could evoke.
Trust and obey… for there is no other way…
For trust led to abuse.
After her trust had been so violated, could she ever learn to trust again?