I probably never would have used the word abusive about my marriage - I didn’t really understand what it meant. What I did know is that I was deeply unhappy, afraid and not sure that I could survive, isolated and alone in a country thousands of miles away from my family with a man who I could confidently say did NOT love me.
I didn’t think my husband would kill me, I just didn’t know how long I could survive being such a disappointment to him, feeling so inadequate, so confused and so incapable of being ‘me.’
— Rachel —
I had a beautiful little girl who I desperately wanted to be there for, who I wanted to guard and protect. I wanted her to grow up knowing joy and real love and security, I wanted her to grow up knowing the real me, but I wasn’t sure I had enough strength left to do that with him, to compensate for him, to not let her see how he was slowly destroying my self-worth, my confidence, how he had wiped away my joy and energy.
But, I had been raised knowing the importance of marriage, the permanence of marriage. I couldn’t see a way out. I thought I had made my bed and now I had to lie in it.
We lived in South Africa, and I wondered if there was a way I could live in the city in term time for school and just be at home at weekends, or better still go back to the UK and just fly back for holidays. Maybe that way I could sustain some kind of normality. It never occurred to me that I could just leave altogether.
Then my second daughter was born, a year after the first. I’d flown to the UK to have her and in the weeks after her birth, I had ‘randomly’ watched Songs of Praise with my sister. It was a choir competition and one children’s choir had sung a song I didn’t know; The Father’s Song by Matt Redman. It really caught my attention, I’d been out of the UK so long I’d lost touch with Christian culture, but this song touched my heart.
The thought of sitting and being sung over by my heavenly father was the kind of comfort I dreamed of.
— Rachel —
Weeks later I’d flown back to South Africa, babies in tow and from the minute we landed, my husband was demanding yet neglectful, and his endless disappointment with me and assertions that I needed psychological intervention began again in earnest. It was relentless and now I had another girl to love and raise, I didn’t know what would become of us.
A couple of weeks later, two things happened that changed everything. The first was that when I had the audacity to challenge my husband about a lie he had told: he hit me for the first time, whilst I was holding one of the girls. We both went flying. Something in me shifted, this wasn’t just about me anymore; it hadn’t been for a while, but this solidified that.
And then I got a parcel: a CD from my sister - one that contained the song I’d loved on TV. I pulled out the sleeve to read the lyrics and saw a Bible reference. Not a passage I was familiar with!
Cheer up, Zion! Don’t be afraid!
For the Lord your God is living among you.
He is a mighty Saviour.
He will take delight in you with gladness.
With his love, he will calm all your fears.
He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.
— Zephaniah 3 v16-17 —
That alone was comforting but as I read back through the rest of the chapter, it was these words that caught my attention.
Sing, O daughter of Zion;
shout aloud, O Israel!
Be glad and rejoice with all your heart,
O daughter of Jerusalem!
For the Lord will remove his hand of judgment
and will disperse the armies of your enemy.
The Lord himself, the King of Israel,
will live among you!
At last your troubles will be over,
and you will never again fear disaster.
— Zephaniah 3 v 14-15 —
Somehow I knew that this was God speaking to me, calling me daughter, telling me I have may have chosen a bad bed, but it had been laid in quite long enough, that He was going to turn back my enemy and that I did not need to live in fear any longer. I knew I could go home, I knew God was with me in that decision. It changed everything. Four weeks later, two little girls in tow, I landed back at Heathrow airport. Broken, but free and ready to rediscover me.
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