Sleeping With the Enemy...
I'm going to ask you to imagine, if you will, a young lady. She could be in her mid twenties or mid life. Even at this age, the vast expanse of her knowledge of abandonment and heartache could easily rival many beyond her years. Yet, she remained undeterred in her belief (some would say assumption) that true love not only existed, it would one day find her. She dreamed of the fairy tale that most girls dream of with the white picket fence, a house with the big front porch, children playing in the yard, a loving husband to grow old with. To her, attaining this dream one day was very nearly implied. It was just a matter of time.
Her Prince Charming showed up, not on a white horse, but he might as well have. He was kind, charming, handsome, and stable. He had lovely eyes, an angelic voice, and two of the the most beautiful children that instantly endeared her to him. He was a wonderful father, having the qualities she always felt she lacked growing up. She fell in love with all three of them.
It didn't take long for her to picture a future with her new family. And after nearly a year they were married in front of all of their family, friends, church, and children. Everyone celebrated this couple finding one another. Their wedding was everything she dreamed of and then some. If she was being honest with herself, however, she didn't care about the wedding. She would have married this man in rags on the side of the road. What mattered to her was that she was with the love of her life and nothing would change that.
Alas, however, this love story would be short lived. When the "I do's" were said and done, life began. There were bills to pay, schedules to volley, exes to deal with, and the "sickness and health" part of their vows would be called into question sooner rather than later. Soon the not so subtle changes in her husband began screaming at her almost as loudly as he did. She was starting to become hesitant about speaking, much less speaking her heart or mind. She would walk on virtual egg shells from the time he got home from work until he would leave the following morning. Grappling with her heart pounding in her throat at the sound of the door opening became common place to her. Yet she reasoned that his life was stressful and that she could somehow make it better for him. And if she did he would go back to being the man she married. So she took on as many burdens as she could bear. Then she took on more. So much so that her health began to quickly deteriorate. The harder she worked to make everything perfect the sicker she became. The sicker she became the angrier he got. He began to get so angry that he wasn't just screaming, calling her vile things, and telling her how much he hated sick people. He began punching things. First it was the bag downstairs, but soon it would become walls, furniture, and then the bathroom door when she locked herself in because she was afraid for her life.
The doors and walls gave way to furniture and glass being broken with her body. Her arms being held behind her back as she was thrown onto a coffee table that gave way from the impact. Yet, she reasoned that he loved her and needed help. She had her step children to worry about and she didn't want to break up their family. She loved him. She made a vow.
Soon she became pregnant with their second child. Barely seven weeks along, she suffered a miscarriage. After years of wanting another child and failing, she was devastated at their loss. She was held in bed by equal parts physical pain and heart wrenching grief. All the while her husband voiced his disdain at her behavior. After all, he told her, it wasn't even a real baby. When she was able to get out of bed the next day she would soon wish she hadn't. He became angry about nothing, and this day would easily be remembered as one of the worst of her life. Phone chords were pulled from walls. Broken glass littered nearly every room of the house. Her head was nearly torn from her neck, and she was kicked repeatedly in the stomach until she could no longer stand. Black and blue and hemorrhaging, she waited a week to seek medical attention because of the shame she felt. Yet, she stayed. She reasoned that she couldn't have him arrested because it would ruin his life. He would lose his kids. She loved him. Or did she? For the first time she couldn't come up with even the smallest thing she did wrong. She also began to wonder how it was possible to love someone and hate them at the same time.
She did leave; several times in fact. Only to return...because he was sorry, or her son was sick, or the guilt would eat away at her, or well meaning family or church friends who knew nothing would lovingly intervene. She would go back time after time. It was an endless ride that she couldn't get off.
Abuse doesn't discriminate. It knows no race, class, or gender. On the outside her life looked perfect. She had the house, the front porch, the children in the yard. Yet she no longer recognized the man who slept next to her. She no longer recognized herself. Yet, she reasoned that he was really only hurting her...
It wasn't until she was severely attacked in front of her children that she finally decided to fight back. She had had enough. She was done. In the chaos that ensued she looked up to see her children sobbing. The fear in their eyes haunts her to this day. Yet, it was her son, age 11, asking her how many times he was going to have to watch this man hurt his mom. It was this little boy with so much wisdom and courage who called the police when she couldn't. It was her little boy who freed his mom.
Today this young lady has no house, no front porch, and certainly no Prince Charming. But in its place she does have peace, love, joy, and the most beautiful children a mom could ask for. If you asked her even a year ago if she could see herself so content in life being single with a rusty car and very little to her name, I'm not sure she could have imagined it. Yet, the joy her Heavenly father has given her is immeasurable, the peace she now has is unfathomable, and the love she has for her children...well it's limitless.