The Valley of Dry Bones
I am a survivor, and my story has been shared many times, in many places, to raise awareness of domestic abuse and how it can happen to anyone. It was a gradual increase from working on my self-esteem, to cutting me off from my family and friends, controlling my money and my social contact, and finally, to extreme violence. It took me by surprise and I was in denial even afterwards as to how it could have happened to me. But fortunately it was taken seriously by the authorities and my ex was given a considerable custodial sentence.
After I left my ex and moved back in with my parents, I started to question why God had allowed such a horrendous thing to happen to me. I had been told by the police that in terms of injuries, mine was one of the worst cases they had dealt with, and they believed that I would have been killed by my abuser if I had remained in the situation for just a few days more. These thoughts started to circulate in my head and I started to question how a God who loved me could have stood by and let me be so badly treated without any sign of reprieve until the day I finally managed to leave.
It took many months, perhaps even years of working through this that I finally realised that God does love me and was always with me, but I was totally unaware of it at the time. There’s a passage in Ezekiel 37 (verses 1-14) that came to me at the time and still resonates with me now.
The prophet Ezekiel is taken in a vision to a valley full of dry, dead bones. The Lord tells him to prophesy to them, to tell them that the Lord says he will make them join together again, be covered with tendons, and muscles and skin. Ezekiel does as he is told, and the bones join together in front of him, and become covered in flesh, but they are not alive. Then God tells him to tell the wind to come and blow life into the dead and they stand up and come back to life. God explains to Ezekiel that these bones represent the people of Israel and how they are feeling cut off from God, and then makes a promise that the people will be brought back to the land of Israel and he will put his spirit in them.
The reason that this passage has resonance with me is this: My faith died when I left my abusive ex. It had been struggling for a while but I had been clinging onto it with all my might even through the bad times because it felt as if it was all I had left of my deepest self, that hadn’t already been beaten or somehow taken from me already. But because I somehow couldn’t deny God’s existence, I felt I couldn’t totally turn my back on him, which is why I ended up searching for answers instead of just denying he was there at all. The main thing that I couldn’t understand was how God could be a God of love and yet watch me go through such horrendous experiences without doing anything, seeing as I had been led to believe in a God of miracles. But as I searched further, I realised that he did a lot more than I realised.
I was given someone to keep an eye out for me long before I realised I needed it. I had for a while attended a local church (before my ex got suspicious of me going and made it too difficult), where the minister had expressed concern and offered to help me any time I needed it. Two years later when I needed to get away somewhere safe, he was the person I called. The next door neighbours had long had concerns about me and had reported it to the police on a number of occasions, both at the house we had lived at last, and at our previous address. When the police needed to gather evidence, both sets of neighbours were willing to give statement which assisted the trial no end. These were people who I had barely met, and to this day have been unable to thank, but am so grateful to them. Finally, when things had reached their worst point, my ex suddenly turned around one day and told me I had to leave as he was worried about what he would do to me next, and a few hours later, he walked me to the bus stop and waved me off. The next time I saw him was in court when I attended his sentencing hearing (once he had changed his plea to guilty on all charges, another miracle). Even the willingness of my very caring workplace to give statements to the police for use in the trial was further evidence of God’s help as I had been unable to share with anyone what had been going on. God was there but I did not see him at work.
God restored my faith through loving friends and family, and various churches I attended over the years. I was able to question and challenge on many occasions about where God is when we suffer. My faith came back together and had life breathed back into it, and I was able to reaffirm my baptismal vows a few years ago as a result. God is with me and I know that he loves me and will never let me go.
I have been writing my own blog under a pen name, which can be found at: http://newlifefromold.blogspot.co.uk/