This is What Leaving Looks Like
“Just slip out the back, Jack. Make a new plan, Stan. Hop on the bus, Gus. Just get yourself free.” When artist Paul Simon sang those lyrics in 1975, he probably was NOT thinking about domestic abuse. No, I KNOW he wasn’t. He was thinking about something completely different than survival.
Leaving the abuse can be easy, or complicated. It can be a spontaneous out-the-door in the heat of a battle, or a well-thought out plan with all the details covered as well as all the contingencies. Leaving the abuse can be a one-time event, or an ongoing effort to be free. Every woman’s story of escape is as unique as her fingerprints.
And yet I see a common thread among all of the “leavings”… God is with that woman when she steps out that door. He is holding her hand and telling her the truth about His great love for her. He knows it will not be a walk in the rose garden for most women, but His presence and His miracles will give her hope and strength each day.
May I relate some stories to you today, guarding the privacy of these brave women? Their names and details of their escapes have been changed and scuffed up a little, but I think you will be encouraged.
Marla was so tired of the abuse of her police detective husband. When he pushed her to the floor a few months ago, she decided “enough is enough”. She filled several big black garbage bags with her clothes and bedding. “I’m going to the laundromat. Gotta get these blankets washed.”
Suzanne is a pastor’s wife. After years of verbal and emotional abuse and even unnecessarily heavy medication, she decided to go and visit her sister in another state because her sister was having serious health issues and needed assistance. She told me that she had not been allowed out of her husband’s presence for more than THREE hours during all of 2021. Surprisingly, he bought her a plane ticket to visit her sister. After a week with her sister, Suzanne realized that she was actually free. She had escaped and didn’t even know it!
Because God is kind and good, He led her to a domestic abuse shelter that had a room for her for one month. He took away the pain of migraine headaches and neck pain and back pain. He gave her the wherewithal and strength to search for employment and more permanent housing. God provided a job and a studio apartment. She is living a peaceful life. She is closer to the Lord than ever before.
Tammy’s husband was terribly emotionally abusive to her. He was also best friends with the pastor of their church. After he refused to allow her to visit her son and grandson, Tammy tried to speak to the pastor about her husband’s “control and manipulation issues”, but the pastor didn’t see any problems with the husband, only with Tammy for not submitting to him.
When she knew that “enough is enough”, she packed a bag and drove to a local shelter for a weekend which turned into a longer stay. God has provided her with a summer camp job, a Christian psychologist therapist who is licensed to do pro bono counseling. Tammy has found a safe church where she is heard and understood and a Christian life coach to help her make healthy choices and plans for the future.
Tammy’s husband has blocked her from their joint bank account, locked her out of the Amazon account, shut down her EZ toll pass and her auto insurance and pulled out the flowers she had planted in the yard earlier this spring. She says she is convinced that he wanted her dead.
And yet Tammy says, “God’s grace is glorious grace.” She has a roof over her head, food in her stomach and clothes on her back. She says she is in great shape and looking forward to all God has next for her.
Winnie lost her home and the relationships with her children, all thanks to her abusive fiance. She was staying at a hotel with him when she called FOCUS Ministries, locked in everyday without a key to leave. We were able to help her with a gas card so she could fill up her tank and also coolant for her radiator ( passed through the screen window of the hotel) so she could escape from him while he was at work. She called one of our partner shelters in a different county and was able to stay there for a couple of weeks. Then she found a church in the neighborhood and was invited to stay with the woman who had founded and pastored the church from the beginning, a dear aged saint who needed some help herself.
These four women have found that leaving looks like freedom from oppression and abuse. They can breathe and live and move according to the love of Jesus. They are not afraid for the future because they have seen with their own eyes that God is FOR them and has helped them in amazing, miraculous ways.
Leaving looks like thankfulness for every provision and protection. Leaving looks like joy in Jesus that He sees us and runs to be our comfort. Leaving looks like peace, no more berating, no more manipulation, no more sad isolation, no more fear, no more gaslighting.
Leaving looks like the love of a God who loves us and wants us to know that. So He sent His only Son, Jesus Christ, to earth to save us, to rescue us from our bondage to sin and to make a way for us to be with Him for all eternity as we trust in His blood poured out at the Cross and His powerful resurrection and victory over death and the grave. He has sent His Holy Spirit to live in us, to guide us, empower us, counsel and comfort us.
“What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?” Romans 8:31