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I had a wonderful dream recently, and I am sure that is was because of the prayer I prayed just before I fell asleep. At the end of April, I wrote about my experiences in the Cooneyite, or Two by Two, church in which I was raised. I had reminisced about the "Now I lay me down to sleep" prayer I had been taught as a child, and how it had bothered me to think about dying in my sleep, just before I was about to go to sleep.
I suggested that it would have been better to pray more along the lines of "Now I lay me down to sleep; I pray the Lord my soul to cuddle. And thank You, Lord, that You love your sheep, even if we get in a muddle." This is a much more comforting thought to go to sleep on. I taught this prayer to Connor and Jake.
I prayed that the Lord would cuddle my soul, and He did! It related to my relationship with my older sister. I wrote about the sibling rivalry that went on in our teen years, in the Cooneyite page of the Early Years section of my website. In my dream, Pat lived with me and we got along great.
I thought about the dream the next morning and it felt like I was being cuddled in my heart. That was when I realized that God had cuddled my soul while I slept, by giving me a beautiful dream about my sister. Without a vision, the people perish. Proverbs 29:18. How good and pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity. Psalm 133:1. That goes for sistern, too.
For many years, I have wanted to have a close relationship with Pat, like when we were little toddlers, only better. Pat is into New Age beliefs. She used to hit the ceiling if I made the least mention of God. She doesn't get ugly about it any more, but even when I spoke to her recently about how my grandson nearly got hit by a car, and said that I was thankful that God's angels were looking after him, I could feel frost coming through the phone line because I said something that relates to God. Since I am not going to change who I am, we don't talk very often.
One thing I have learned about dreams that God gives me is that, even if they don't come true in the way I expect, something good always comes out of it. Usually, they are just allegories, but the allegory in them gives me patience. Thinking about the dream makes my heart feel more peaceful about my relationship with my sister than I have ever felt in regards to her. It is like a healing ointment and it has somehow enlarged my faith. I hope that the cuddle prayer blesses others as it has blessed me. I think I will be praying it every night from now on.
Another thing that blessed my soul is something I noticed in 1 Corinthians "But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat." When I read it a few days ago, the railer stood out to me. I thought for the first time about what that means. It is a person who rants and carries on when they don't get their own way, a person who inflicts mental abuse.
The Apostle Paul says that a wife should not leave her husband, but if she does, she should not remarry, but seek reconciliation with her husband. The Scripture recognizes that, although ideally a wife (or a husband) should try to bear with a contrary spouse, there are cases when it is necessary for the wife or husband to separate. Many pastors expect a woman to stay with her husband as long as he does not present a physical danger to her, and some really weird ones will even counsel women to stay with their husbands, regardless. I have a friend whose ex–husband abused her, and her pastor told her that she ought to continue to live with him, even if he ended up killing her. How would you like to have a shepherd like that, folks? He certainly was not a good, kind, protective, loving, and gentle shepherd.
Most pastors are not that crass. They will allow that if a man is physically abusing his wife and kids, or sexually abusing the kids, the wife should leave her husband. But what about mental abuse? What about having to listen to nagging that is like a constant drip, or guilt trips that leave a person feeling crushed, or yelling and swearing? The Bible says that if a person considers themselves a Christian, but engages in this kind of behaviour towards others, we should not keep company with them. Does that mean that we should not keep company with them only if they behave that way to us personally, or would it apply to how they treat their family, if we know that this is how they treat their family?
Christians have become too seeker friendly. I attended a meeting and saw a big bruiser of a man there who snapped at his daughter because he thought she sounded too loud. All she did was ask him a question, but her voice had been a bit loud and her manner was not quite as feminine as he liked. It did not portray his family as perfect. Up until then, he had been happily hobnobbing with the other folks there, to all appearances Mr. Friendly, but when he daughter spoke to him, he suddenly grabbed her by the front of her shirt and snarled at her. If a man wants his daughter to act like a princess, then he has to treat her like a princess; not be rough with her. I was shocked. I thought, "If this is how he treats his daughter in public, how is he treating her in private?" The man quickly remembered where he was and let her go, but I wondered if there was something I ought to do.
I didn't go to the church except for the one time. I didn't know the man. I figured that I didn't want to know that man, but I hoped that someone in that church noticed what he did and kept their eye on him, in case his family needed help. Would they help, though? It seemed unlikely. Unless abusers are really in our faces with their misbehaviour, most of us would rather not know what they are up to in the privacy of their homes.
When a pastor learns from a woman that her husband is driving her crazy, she should be encouraged to get herself out of the situation. Even if she doesn't have bruises or broken bones, living with a railer can beat a person into the ground. If a woman's mind snaps some day and she kills him, the pastor who counselled her to stay with her husband is partly responsible for his murder. If the rest of us aren't supposed to eat with him, then why should the poor wife and kids be expected to live with him and listen to his ranting?
When I was in my teens, I visited a family with my boyfriend. After dinner, we sat around the living room while our host bragged about himself. He told my boyfriend about a man in his church who told him that his was the only true New Testament family that he knew of. The conversation was entirely between this man and my boyfriend. It is no surprise that my boyfriend got along well with this man and was not bored by his conversation; my boyfriend was abusive. The man's wife and his daughters did not say a word. They sat in silence while the old guy blathered on about how wonderful he was. It gave me the creeps. The wife and daughters didn't even try to talk to me during the entire visit. It seemed that they were afraid of their "lord". He had his family under his thumb, and that doesn't happen without coercion. Did he beat them? Probably. For certain, he must have railed on them to beat them down into his idea of what women should be.
Most people who are in the rut of being abusive don't stop behaving abusive until they get a jolt. Ideally, this should consist of someone taking assertive ACTION. A friend confided to me recently that her partner had a drug problem and she told him that she could not control his behaviour, but she had choices, as well. He knew right away that she was referring to her choice to leave him, rather than remain in a relationship with someone who takes street drugs. How that will work out, I don't know, but she is on the right track. She has warned him and is watching to see what choice he makes, which will then notify her about what she is going to do.
When I noticed that God equates railing with drunkenness and extortion and illicit sex, I felt blessed. Ladies, God has been for us all this time. He has never condoned the position that wives should just bear it, if their husbands habitually harp at them or yell at them, when they have the option of leaving them. If it seems that there is no way that they can leave, they should pray that God will open a way for them.
Certainly, wives should forgive their husbands and be willing to reconcile with them, IF they see that their husband has changed his behaviour. But they don't have to worry that God will be mad at them, if they leave when leaving is what they ought to do. Remember, He is a loving Father, and not even an earthly father who loves his daughter would stand by and do nothing for a daughter who was being harassed by her husband. He would open his door to her, rather than leave her trapped in that situation.
Yes, I know that common sense makes it clear that a woman should leave a husband who is mentally abusive, but common sense doesn't work very well when a person has been programmed to think that the Bible says things that it doesn't say, such as how it will teach a woman to be humble and patient to put up with a railer, and out of loyalty to him, she shouldn't talk about how her husband mistreats her. Common sense gets clouded by false feelings of guilt. Christian women who are earnest about pleasing the Lord usually need to know how the Bible specifically tells them to get out of that situation. If their husband is a Christian, but he is a drunkard, or an adulterer, or he rants at them, or he is dishonest in business (covetous), or engaged in crime (an extortioner), 1 Corinthians 5:11 says to not keep company with him. It does not exclude wives from protecting their character by taking themselves out of close contact with such a person.
What if he isn't a Christian, but does these things? The Bible says that a wife should remain with an unbelieving husband, if he is pleased to dwell with her. Think about that for a moment. If a man is pleased to dwell with his wife because he wants to take unfair advantage of her, and can take advantage of her because her beliefs make her feel obligated to let him, is that the kind of pleased that God means? Again, He is not an evil Father, but a good Father, who is distressed when He sees His sons or daughters mistreated. A man demonstrates that he is pleased to dwell with his wife when he treats her fairly.
If a man is a bully, he is demonstrating that he is not pleased with his wife. He is demonstrating that he finds her distasteful and considers it just to make her a target for his ill temper. An unbelieving man who does not mind that his wife goes to church and has Christian friends, and treats her with respect, is one whom God would prefer that the wife stay with. He is unlikely to mistreat his wife and his reasonableness makes it likely that he will eventually see the truth of the Gospel and be converted to it.
Divorce is a hateful thing. If people were more careful in the first place about whom they married, there would be a lot less of it. If women had higher expectations of men before they consented to be married to them, there would be less divorce. Men would put more value on women and work harder to keep them after they married them. The culture has stopped going that way, so where does that leave men and women who have healthy self–respect? Needing to exercise more faith than ever in believing God for a worthy spouse. It does not mean that we have to lower our standards because nearly everybody else is doing it.
But if a person is already married to someone who was a bad choice, that person might respond to having a crisis forced on them through their spouse demonstrating by leaving that they will not let themselves be abused. Certainly, there is a risk that they will respond in a negative way, but it's pretty rare for a person to develop more character, if their wife or husband will put up with them as they are.
When I look back at my marriage, I see that both my ex–husband and I were guilty of being railers. It was ugly. What would have happened if he had turned and said to me, "Lanny, I am not going to let you talk to me that way. Keep calm when you talk to me, don't swear, don't yell, and don't put me down. If you don't like how I am behaving, tell me what you see wrong with my behaviour. Otherwise, if you keep this up, I'm going to walk out on you." I think that I would have probably ranted, "It's how you talk to me, so who are you to judge me?"
He could have responded, "You're right. I have talked to you this way, and it was wrong. If I talk to you that way again, I will understand if you kick me out, but if you keep this up, then it will be me who leaves." If he really meant what he said, I think it would have straightened me out pretty quick, and I would have been more amenable to getting counselling, so that I could have learned how to address my concerns about my husband's drinking and other failings without being ugly about it. I would have also learned to control my temper more when he got on my case about my failings.
As it turned out, it was only when he left that I started to take him seriously about the things he was disatisfied with. I never got the chance to see if it would have worked for me the same way because I put up with too much, and it caused my husband to lose his respect for me to the point where he didn't want to try to make our marriage work. He knew I didn't love him very much because I enabled him to be misbehave by putting up with it. He wasn't happy about the man that I had let him become.
Women can ruin a good man by letting him get away with too much and a wife never serves her husband by letting him act like a jerk. Threats don't work; action does. I missed my chance with him but, praise God, I didn't with others after that. It works. When you actually DO something, people take it seriously. This is why God says in His Word to not keep company with people who say they are Christians, but don't act like it. He wants to force a crisis on them, so that they will reconsider their behaviour and change it.
That doesn't mean that we ought to be mean about it and snub them. Not at all. It just means that we tactfully avoid spending too much time with them, particularly in ways that seem to condone their behaviour. When people are consistently polite, but also firm in their resolution to not spend too much time around a person who is a drunkard, or an addict, or hot–tempered, or any of those other things that Paul listed as unbecoming behaviour for a Christian, they will get serious about doing something to change their behaviour, if they are sincere about being a Christian.
I didn't need to read that verse to know that I shouldn't put up with someone who tends to rant at me and put me down, but it did make me like God a lot more when I realized that He doesn't want us to put up with that either, if we have a choice about it. In a free country with as many resources as what we have in Canada, most of us have a choice.
In any case, God is the One who makes a way where there seems to be no way, if we put our trust in Him. He parted the Red Sea for the Israelites, and He still likes to do that for His children. How much easier it is to stand in faith when one knows that God approves of leaving an abusive spouse, even if they don't physically abuse, but are mentally abusive.
Copyright © 2011, Lanny Townsend
Page modified by Lanny Townsend on May 10, 2011
Scripture references on this website are closely paraphrased from e–Sword's King James Bible.