Christmas came and went, and we survived. My ex-husband shared Christmas day with us, which proved more awkward than expected. Looking back I am not sure why I thought it would be anything less. The day had been filled with grandiose gestures attempting to prove that he had changed, that he thought I was wonderful, and that he could overlook all that had happened if I would simply go back home. The longer the day went on, the more assertively focused he became on convincing me to go back with him. It culminated with me sitting on the front porch watching in disbelief as he fell face down into the grass, pounding the dirt with his fists and screaming that I thought of him as a mouse, not a man. The kids stood staring unsure what to make of it all.
I stood reeling from the whole scene as he drove away. His behavior left me mentally and emotionally exhausted. Having been out of the situation for a while, it was easier to see how my sense of reality had become so skewed. He would not let go of an issue! About the time I thought things were going smoothly and I let down my guard, he would come at me from an unexpected angle delivering a bizarre one-two punch. Before I could recover from the shock, he would switch tactics and come at me with something totally different but equally as far-fetched.
Mental abuse is one of the most effectively debilitating methods to break the spirit of another human being. Through his manner of coping with his past, my ex-husband had become a master manipulator. He had been violated and hurt by someone he trusted and loved. As a result, he had become extremely narcissistic and demanding. Ironically, he was dangerously smooth. He was smooth enough to draw you in, and smooth enough to cover his tracks. He had proven on more than one occasion that others would dismiss even his most shocking behavior should I speak of it, leaving me to feel at fault or crazy.
This kind of behavior rarely allows the target’s psyche the chance to recover or sort out what is normal. It often happens gradually, intensifying over time. In my case, my husband at the time would shower me with compliments, flattery, and praise one moment, only to explode in anger and hurtful put-downs the next. He had become adept at projecting his bad behavior back onto me, somehow leaving me feeling responsible or questioning my sense of reality.
He would flaunt me as a sexual object, then shame me by calling me less than desirable names when he succeeded in gaining the attention he sought. He would press me to the breaking point over some obsessive behavior only to repeatedly remind me of my failure and sinfulness in giving in. He repeatedly reminded me how I was the black sheep of my family, and that I was a disgrace to them. He led me to believe that no one could ever love me like he did. His selective jealousy caused me to feel untrustworthy in many situations, yet other times he behaved in ways that caused me to wonder why he wasn’t more protective of our relationship. There were no constants, there was no stability.
I had begun to view God as I viewed my ex-husband. I became unsure whether He could be trusted. Even if He could forgive me, I felt I had made unforgivable mistakes. I felt that if I was a disgrace to my family, I surely had become a disgrace to God. I had heard scripture twisted and used against me to the point that I felt I was the epitome of every vile character depicted in the Bible.
Thankfully, my story does not end here. Thankfully, because of the faithful prayers of so many, God began opening my eyes to the increasing danger of continuing in this downward spiral. Thankfully, He worked through so many to bring me out of a deserted wasteland in which Satan sought to destroy not only me, but my children and my ex-husband. Thanks be to God, because of His faithful mercy and grace, He used education, counselors, friends, and family members to begin breaking the chains that had been placed on my heart and my mind.
For the first time on that Christmas day, seeing my accuser flailing on the ground spewing such strange nonsense, I felt more pity than fear. I also felt a tremendous amount of anger, but God opened my mind and heart ever so slightly to understand that this was not a battle “against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” My ex-husband was allowing himself to be used in this battle, but I began to see he was fighting a battle that was not of my doing. I had to take responsibility for my actions, seek forgiveness. I needed to take the time to see whether he was willing to do the same. I had to know if he was ready to take the necessary steps to wholeness that would allow our relationship to heal. It remained yet to be seen whether he was ready to sincerely begin the hard work of rebuilding from the rubble that was left. One thing was for sure…things could not stay the same.
Ephesians 6:12 “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.”
Psalm 119:50 “This is my comfort and consolation in my affliction: that Your word has revived me and given me life.”
Deuteronomy 31:6 “Be strong, courageous, and firm; fear not nor be in terror before them, for it is the Lord your God Who goes with you; He will not fail you or forsake you.”
2 Timothy 1:7 “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear: but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.”