I arrived at work on a melancholy Monday morning on a cloudy, chilly fall day. Only a few days at my new job in a nursing home and I was eager to make friends and begin to build that relational foundation I think we all seek in our work environment. I remember meeting many new people, all very friendly and very excited to see new blood, ready help them give to those who could never give anything in return other than a smile or sincere “thank you” from their hearts. Many that were approaching their last beat. The brevity of life often perplexes me and causes my mind to wander and my eyes to tear.
Oh, I should mention, that melancholy Monday only lasted half of the day and I’m so very thankful it did and more thankful for the reason that melancholy Monday became a little brighter.
As we rushed the nursing home residents into the dining room for lunch, I caught a glimpse and a tiny smile from a co-worker I had yet to chat with only because she was so enthralled and involved in how she intentionally focused her time to care for those that needed it most. I would like to say that I really enjoyed and remained in the comfort of her smile, as beautiful of a smile as it was, but another facial characteristic demanded my stare. As hard as I tried, I could not help but cringe at the sign of bruises on her face and neck.
I jumped to conclusions and I judged immediately. In my mind and from my experience, those bruises were all too familiar. I knew in my heart this young woman, my new co-worker was in an abusive relationship and my heart broke as I choked back tears.
I bring out the fact that I judged her for these reasons that I have since learned after growing through our short yet tumultuous friendship.
I judged her…
…when I cringed at the sight of her bruised face and neck, I didn’t communicate the love, grace, and mercy of Jesus, rather the assumption of an arrogant person not living in an abusive relationship.
…when I cringed at the sight of her bruised face and neck, I unconsciously disregarded her story and reasons she gave for her bruises. Her reasons in her shame sought the reasons we seek in truth. To be accepted as we are, where we are, in love and in the absence of ANY judgment.
Shame and Judgement are barriers to healing.
As we sat, helping the residents of the nursing home enjoy their lunch, we embarked on a friendship that neither one of us were prepared for. Of that I’m confident.
A beautiful young lady. A newlywed. A vibrant life so eager to love others. It wouldn’t be long before I found out why she was overflowing with love and care. I would very soon, at the fault of my own caring nature, be thrust into the whirlwind of a life of a young lady spiraling out of control in an abusive marriage that sadly would never see healing or restoration and only more trauma and abuse before it came to a tragic end.
We became instant friends. She was hurting and seeking the joy and peace or even just a glimpse of a little happiness she had remembered in her days that she attended church with her family and the love they shared. She had faith, and I never fully understood the analogy of “faith the size of a mustard seed” until I would hear her proclaim small promises she recalled from scripture while enduring the severe abuse of her husband who promised to love her, cherish her, protect her and care for her until death do them part.
She would share stories of how her husband used to be so caring and show her levels of love that she often couldn’t describe. When she did try to describe how much he loved her, she could only look at me, tilting her head, and begin to cry. She cried because a man she loved, who ONCE loved her unconditionally changed. He experienced an unspeakable family tragedy that he never dealt with and out of respect for him, I won’t attempt to guess what his path through that was. I can only share what I witnessed resulting in her story, or at least the chapters that I was blessed to walk through with her.
She loved deeper because she sought for so long, the love of a father who was struggling with a life of alcoholism of 19 years plus.
She loved at levels I cannot comprehend because a daughter wants so desperately to be loved by her father. I can’t help but recognize the correlation of a daughter’s relationship with her earthly father and her relationship with her Heavenly Father. It’s so very hard to know, lean into, and begin to believe in Heavenly love in the absence of a healthy Earthly love that begins in a father and lands upon the promises of a Savior.
Out of respect for her and her late husband, I leave out many of the ugly details that I witnessed. I will share that those facial bruises I first saw when we met were not the last that I witnessed. I will share that the one time I met her abusive husband, although it almost resulted in a violent confrontation, I could see the hurt in his eyes from the trauma he had yet to deal with in his life. Lastly, I will share that because he lived trapped in his hurt, he continued to hurt, her and others. Those actions ultimately led to a deadly confrontation. In the heat of a confrontation to pursue her, one of her friends who had responded to one of her many calls of rescue, shot and killed her husband in self-defense.
His intrinsic nature to love his wife was darkened by his worldly interpretation of a traumatic event in his life that the enemy used to ensnare him into a mindset of anger, hate, and loss of truth in the promises of our Creator. He lost sight of who God designed him to be in the presence of who the enemy convinced him he was. This manifested into a man of hate, anger, verbal abuse, physical abuse, and much more toxic behavior that sadly lead to his death.
Why do I share this story?
I share this experience with a hopeful heart. The desire to help a new, dear friend share with her sister, the truth and hope that I discovered while not just going through it, but while growing through it.
The roots of toxic behavior run deep. Those roots are often found in unresolved or hidden traumatic events within the life of the one who resorts to verbal abuse that escalates to physical abuse that may escalate to deadly abuse of themselves or others. When we face this type of trauma and we don’t have the tools to deal with it in a healthy manner, we will find ways to deal with in order to survive, often with unhealthy results.
Toxic Lie: “You or your past are the reason you are receiving the abusive treatment you are getting and you deserve the punishment for who you are and the decisions you have made in life.”
Truth: Hurt people hurt people. They way they treat you is a direct result of how they have been treated or an action they have resorted to so they can hide and act out the deep hurt that they have yet to deal with.
Toxic Lie: “Tomorrow will be better.”
Truth: Tomorrow Never Comes!
Toxic Lie: “One day, he will be better and stop hurting me; treating me bad; abusing me; abusing himself & others.”
Truth: Healing doesn’t happen accidentally. Healing takes intention. Intentionally recognizing the trauma and intentionally taking steps to heal, to change and love in a healthy way.
Toxic Lie: “I can love them enough to heal them.”
Truth: Ladies, I know you have some incredible abilities to love on levels and in depths that we men will never reach or understand, however… Pay close attention here:
YOU CANNOT LOVE A MAN INTO WHO GOD DESIGNED HIM TO BE!
ONLY GOD CAN DO THAT!
WE ALL NEED A SAVIOR! (ESPECIALLY US MEN)
The most loving thing you can do for someone hurting out of hurt is to give them the space to find and face their hurt in order to heal and step onto a path to stop hurting you and others.
Toxic Lie: “He treats me this way because this is the best I deserve because of my poor choices in life. This is just the way it is.”
Truth: The sum of your actions can never add or take away from the intrinsic and priceless value assigned to you at your design, in your mother’s womb, by our Creator.
Your worth, value, meaning, and purpose can never be defined by the words of another, no matter who they are who how much they claim to love you because your value is provided by God. Your purpose is found in your personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
Seek Him above all others and I place a promise upon his promise that there, you will find a love that will never leave you, never let you down, never disappoint.
“You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all of your heart.”
The answer is closer than you think. Lean on your family, friends, loved ones or simply call out to Jesus. Above all, please hear the truth in every story that I share…
You ARE Known.
You ARE Needed.
You ARE Loved.