Some might think that title is scandalous. I know that my own fear of divorce kept me from escaping a narcissistic abuser for fourteen years. Now, seventeen years out from that disaster, my regrets center around not leaving far earlier. I lived in a lot of denial for years. One has to cultivate denial in order to survive, much less stay, in a marriage that was as abusive as mine. And just how abusive it was did not fully dawn on me until I disclosed, ten years later, details of the torment to my counselor.
The look of horror and grief on her face showed me just how far from normal my first marriage had strayed.
But this story is about how the Lord intervened and rescued me and my four daughters from a man who dedicated himself daily to our destruction. I had spent a year really committed to praying for my husband. I literally prayed for him day and night. I knew there was something terrible wrong with him, but at that time, I really did not understand what a narcissist was. I had recently read the book, Changes that Heal, by Henry Cloud. Most people know him by his book, Boundaries. In it, he spoke about how we cannot hold ourselves responsible for another’s happiness. I realized that both my ex and I held me solely responsible for his happiness. And of course, I was doomed to fail.
However, the Lord really strengthened me through that time of prayer. All the spiritual books I read were mentors. The more I was freed on the inside from my fear of John and the more I depended on the Lord for my emotional needs, the stronger I became. John could see the difference, and the change only made his behavior worse. I fully believe he was resisting the conviction of the Holy Spirit. When I caught him burning his Bible in the trash bin, I knew that he was quickly reaching a point of no return.
I had fled a couple of times before with my daughters. Each time he would go through an elaborate courtship to get me back. Things would be barely tolerable for a month or two and then the moods and the abuse would creep back in. A narcissist does not change. It was late March of 2000 and I came home from work to see that my ex had thrown away all of my seedlings I was nurturing until I could plant them after the last frost. Every single one was gone. At that moment, the Lord said as clearly as I have ever heard Him in my spirit.
“Everything you plant, he will uproot,” God spoke to my heart.
A bit shocked, I ran upstairs to my little prayer closet. I could feel physically the Lord releasing me from my fear.
The shame issue remained. “Lord,” I said, “If I divorce him, then I will have failed. I will be divorced.” “John 8:11,” the Lord said to me. I didn’t know what verse that was, so I opened my Bible. It read, “And neither do I condemn you.” That verse is the end of the story woman who was going to be stoned for adultery. Honestly, I have never been embarrassed since about being divorced. There are some who judge me, but the Lord freed me from any sense of shame about it. That alone is a miracle because for a long time, I feared divorce more than I feared God or my own destruction.
One word from the Lord toppled what was really an idol.
Even then I worried about what would happen to John. Even though I did not understand the nature of mental illness at the time, I knew that he was somehow very sick in his mind and spirit. And soul ties are strong after fourteen years of marriage. Immediately on the screen of my mind, the words, “2 Titus 3:5” appeared. I turned to that verse and all I could see were the words, “Let these men go.” I understood at that moment as well, that the Lord wanted me to have nothing to do with John or his extremely wealthy father with whom he was enmeshed. At that moment, I resolved to leave. I left within the week. The difference this time was I did not flee in fear. I left under the direction and blessing of the Holy Spirit. And this time John did not come after me.
At the time, I worked at a small Baptist university. They kindly gifted me with a check for $200. I took out a credit card, and together, my four daughters and I put together a modest house that for the first time in fourteen years, felt like a home. Our first night in our little rented home in Kentucky, we sat around the table and my oldest and I looked at each other. We knew what the other was thinking. We didn’t have to lie anymore to survive. We didn’t have to live in fear. Suddenly possibilities opened up. The whole world seemed new. And this time, my father, who had spent time researching domestic violence, came out. He stayed until he knew I would not go back. That blessing alone gave me the strength to face the rest of my family.
I lived as a single mom for nearly five years before I remarried. Of course, difficulties emerged. However, the Lord was so faithful to meet my needs. I found that He is close to the widow (or the divorce’). I didn’t mourn the marriage at all. My mourning came during the marriage, as my hopes for love and bonding within that relationship died. That first night, though, the Lord turned my attention to the book of Joel.
“I will repay you,” He said to me, “I will repay you for the years the locust has eaten.”
And praise God. He has done that and more.