I usually don’t share specifics about my beliefs regarding God for two reasons. First, I adamantly feel that my beliefs are just that, mine. I have no desire that others believe the same as me nor do I care to get into any sort of debate about why my beliefs might be wrong, skewed, unbiblical, or just plain ridiculous. They are absolutely ludacris and absurd so, I feel great leaving it at that. Second, my view of God expands and morphs on a daily basis, so keeping that up to date would require an entire blog of its own… and I’d rather not. But just for today, I’d like to tell the story of how I realized I was in an abusive marriage, how I went about accepting that brutal awakening, and when I decided to very weakly, but bravely trek on to the terrifying, unfamiliar unknown minus the husband and the photo-friendly, perfect Christian family.
Here we are before the truth made its way into our lives. (2-year-old MaryBella, the living husband, and fully equipped with hair on my head and a growing baby boy in my belly, me.) So picturesque.
It was shortly after my son was born when my husband resigned from his position as a pastor at a local megachurch. He had been jobless for six months and we had just heard the news that he did not get the job that was supposed to redeem our dignity, faith, and finances. I was pissed. I had all the faith, prayed all the prayers, believed all the things for God, my husband, and my family and here it was again, disappointment. I was fed up with God’s trickery and I made a hefty decision that day.
I gave up on God.
I didn’t pray. I didn’t believe. I didn’t try to understand him anymore. I was done with the God-games so I quit. I didn’t know what I believed anymore, but I sure as hell wasn’t going to believe in these elusive games of faith and prayers and shifty plays with changing rules that I had spent my life preaching up until then. That system had failed me too many times and this was the last straw. This disbelief lasted two entire weeks. It was brutal and dark, freeing and eye-opening. I was changing the rules and finding I had power where all these years I thought only God held the power.
After two weeks, I prayed again… sort of.
Ok, God. I kind of miss you. But that’s frustrating because I don’t even know you. You’re confusing and hard to get to know. I don’t hang out with people like that, so I don’t really like our relationship. So, I guess I just miss the idea of you, which is also annoying because who believes in “ideas” and not “solid truths” about God? Apparently me now. If I’m going to move forward believing in anything resembling “you”, here are my terms:
First, I’m not believing a single thing unless I see it and experience it in my real, actual life. I understand this is in no way biblical, and actually, it’s UNbiblical, removing a large part of the “faith” element. But, as you know, I just can’t anymore. So, if you are the things you “say” you are in the Bible or otherwise, well, you better make your character real obvious or I will simply choose to reject that idea about you.
Second, I need actual results with actual things in my actual life. I am tired of feeling empty and lonely and foolish and naive. I just want truth and real. No more pretty pictures or “believing in potential”. What is, is. What isn’t, isn’t. Period.
Third, I’m done with my old way of life. I’m done living powerlessly. I’m done with what I used to do. I’m not going back. Not to church. Not to those people. Not to that “faith”. I need something different. Something that fits me just as I am, not “my potential best self that really looks a helluva lot like everyone else inside these walls and these same beliefs”. I need real choices, power and freedom to grow, learn, and ask whatever questions come to my mind. I mean, weren’t you the one who supposedly made my mind? Why is it so unacceptable in the church? I’m sick of so many things not adding up.
If you’re the kind of God I want to believe in, then you’re big enough for my doubts, my questions, and even my little ultimatums… And if you’re not big enough to handle how much I want to grow, well, then I guess you’re not God and I don’t want to believe in a small God anyway. So, either way, I’ll win. I think that’s all. So, what’s it gonna be?
Then I thought or he said or I just felt: It’s about time. Now you’re giving me something I can actually work with! Let’s do it!
Ok… that’s a little more enthusiastic with a little less passive-aggression than I was expecting but GOOD! I’ll carry on as I wish now, and I guess you’ll just do whatever it is that you do…
Within two weeks, our tax returns came back exactly $100 over what our current maxed out credit card bill was. Within five months, my husband got a job paying twice as much as he’s ever made in his life (as a pastor). He was working with engineers and he didn’t even have a degree, much less experience in this new field of work. It didn’t make sense why they would hire him, but we were ecstatic! Then just eight weeks after he started working there, they gave him a 50% raise. Seriously, it was absolute absurdity. We saved our house from foreclosure, paid off $26,000 in debt, and saved more money than we ever had in just six months. Our lives were radically changed.
Ok, what are you trying to tell me?
I love providing. And I love lavish favor even more.
Ok, that makes sense. Cool. So you really are a good provider. Got it. What’s next?
Over the next year and a half, bit by bit, God showed me in real life, documentable ways exactly who he was. And I chose to believe what I saw. I felt warm and cared for inside my core. Even though my husband was drowning in alcoholism at this point, I was learning that his journey and choices were not my journey and responsibility. It was an undoing, but luckily God had spent the last year plus building up a rapport with me, so I trusted what he was doing in me.
One night as I sleepily considered what else I wish I knew about God, I thought about dads. I never had a loving, equipped dad who I could count on in times of trouble or failure. A stable home I could go back to if life ever fell out from under me. I believe having or not having that safety net changes how you develop as a young adult and I felt there was a hole in my soul and it was letting in a draft of fear and uncertainty. I whispered to God as I drifted to sleep.
I wonder what it’s like to have a daddy that protects me, cares for me the most, and rescues me if I need it… God, are you like that? Would you show me…
Apparently, God responds to me on a two-week timeline because it was exactly 13 nights later when he showed me. My husband and I got in another fight. It was the usual- I unknowingly tripped his trigger and he spent the next hour screaming at me while his mother, her friend, and our children watched and listened. But this time, while he was screaming at me, I didn’t cry. That’s new. And as I was sitting on our closet floor and he was standing a few feet away from me raging and pointing his finger at me, it happened. The veil lifted off of my eyes and it was as if an interpreter was in between us explaining what my husband was really saying to me.
He would scream at me:
NOTHING I DO IS GOOD ENOUGH FOR YOU!
I would hear him saying:
I’m not good enough and I feel worthless!
He would scream at me:
YOU TREAT ME LIKE SHIT!
I would hear him saying:
I think I’m a shitty person!
He would scream at me:
YOU ARE RUINING MY LIFE!
I would hear him saying:
I hate my life and I hate myself!
It was almost like a movie. I think I even smiled or chuckled in shock because I had figured it out! I said to him, “Woah woah, hold on! Listen, I just realized something! None of this is even about me! Everything you’re saying about me is really what you believe about yourself!”
“What in the hell are you talking about?! This is about you being a bitch and ruining my life!”
He clearly didn’t share my enthusiasm for this life-altering epiphany. I was unfazed by his inability to see the freedom. I spent the next 36 hours in complete shock. And as I lay on my brother’s guest bed recalculating every memory I had from my marriage now that I understood he was abusive, I asked God, “Seriously?! What is going on here? I thought you were going to redeem my marriage! But he’s actually a bully… he is actually doing this to me on purpose… I can’t go back to a life like that… and my babies! I can’t let them grow up thinking that’s normal or OK!” And just like two years prior, I knew/felt/heard him say, “You asked me what a good daddy does, and I showed you. He doesn’t let his daughters be treated that way. Not another day in your life, baby girl. And your babies, well, I love them even more than you do. So I’ve got them in my hand. And I’ve got you too. I’ve got you. You can do this. I’ve got you.”
Life. Changed. Remember when I told God I didn’t want to go back to my “old life” and I wanted more power and choices? Yeah… he one-upped me on that request. God does like to play games, but I always come out winning even when all bets are against me. So, I never went back to church and I never went back to my abusive husband. Turns out good dads do fiercely protect their kiddos.
And turns out getting real with God will absolutely wreck your life.