Category Archives: survivor stories

Meet Ruby: Pastor’s Wife & Survivor

Guest post by Lauren Rose

Meet Ruby! Before marriage, she pursued her master’s in Christian studies while on staff at a large church. “Life was good, and I had realized my purpose was to encourage and build up the next generation,” she exclaimed confidently.

When Ruby first met her husband, he seemed ideal, lined up with her future visions and goals, and he was in seminary. They had a long-distance relationship for a year before getting married. There were a few red flags, but she dismissed them because “he seemed to be repentant and was overcoming trauma issues along with deep insecurities from critical and neglectful family members.”

During their dating life, he was a smooth talker and often quoted Scripture. If he snapped, he quickly corrected himself. On the day they were married, as they drove away from the church, the mask came off, and he grabbed her arm and pulled her in the limousine from waving goodbye to family and church friends, harshly commanding, “Get away from there!” The remaining evening was tense. Ruby was shocked at the coming events. On the honeymoon, he became melodramatic, and there was a complete personality change. “I knew something was off that first week; he went from adoring me to criticizing everything about me,” Ruby recalls.

At first, Ruby continued to make the same excuses she did while dating. She saw his shortcomings stemming from a dysfunctional childhood and did not think he was capable of “loving” the way God calls us to because he never experienced that type of love growing up. At the same time, he was in ministry and there was a profound contradiction between living in the flesh and the spirit.

The first five years were the most difficult as she was trying to understand what was going on. Exhausted from doing 99% of the parenting, confused, she slowly began reaching out for help after multiple violent episodes around the kids. Still, she was “very concerned about being a good Christian wife and honoring and protecting her husband.” The professional counselor affirmed this was not healthy, but the two pastors she reached out to at this time just encouraged her to love and serve harder. “I wanted to be a godly wife, so I kept clinging to the Bible and prayed for miracles,” Ruby interjects.

When approached by pastors or counselors about Ruby’s concerns, he would play along at first, act humble, and share how he had not been kind. He’d often share how Ruby deserved much better and how sorry he was. He would cry, use beautiful poetic words, and often connected positively with the other pastors. They concluded, “He’s a man’s man; I like him.”

Additionally, her husband abused substances. Coming home from work, he would go straight to the bottle, abuse pain killers and other drugs. Once after her husband let his guard down and a pastor saw his true colors, he responded with, “Your husband needs psychological help! You need to cater to his needs and act like you have a special needs child, similar to if you had a Down Syndrome child. Moreover, you need to stop everything and cater to your husband.” Bewildered, Ruby thought, “I’ve ALREADY TRIED ALL OF THAT, and it enabled his SIN!”

After nine years of marriage counseling, Ruby’s health started deteriorating, having debilitating migraines from the stress of living in abuse. Ruby added, “It was as if God allowed my health to start failing to show me that ‘I’m not meant to hold all of this together.’ It was my failing health, in addition to my children’s fears and anxieties whenever I left them with their dad, which lead me to seek refuge from my marriage. However, I was still focused on reconciliation!”

After three years of trying hard to bring healing and reconciliation, and battling harsh treatment, deception, and unfaithfulness on his part, God closed those doors! In these three years, Ruby met Joy with Called to Peace Ministries (CTPM). “Our first conversation felt like she understood my situation, and I didn’t have to say much. My story was ‘textbook’ to so many others. She validated my feelings and connected me to valuable resources that would ultimately bring freedom and deliverance from oppression.” Finally, as Ruby laid the relationship down to God, accepting that it might not work out because of her husband’s continued rejection of their marital covenant, she began to heal.

Out of all the Christian support, churches, seminary, and friends, CTPM was the most supportive, helpful, and life-giving. “I received non-judgmental and practical support. I was welcomed and valued as one deeply loved by God. I wasn’t viewed as part of the problem, but rather as someone who had been deeply wronged,” Ruby shares gratefully.

“Today, I’m free in Christ and so thankful for His lovegrace, and mercy. Life is still often hard and harder, but I’ve been delivered from deep oppression. I learned that God’s design for marriage is to reflect His love and peace. When one person acts in opposition to God’s design, how does that relationship display Christ and the Church? It doesn’t! God’s design for marriage is beautiful, each submitting to Christ and loving the other out of reverence of the LORD to build up His Kingdom.”

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The day my world came crashing down

Guest Post by Sage Sparrow

I’m a survivor of domestic abuse and I remember the day my world as I knew it came crashing down around me.  I got a phone call from an elder at my church hours before I was planning to help lead a children’s program.  

Don’t come, not for this, not for choir, not for holding babies in the nursery, not for anything. 

I broke down in ugly tears.  Only a few weeks prior, I had left my abusive husband.  More than a decade of all kinds of abuse directed toward the children and me.  This was enough to disqualify me from church service.  It’s for your healing was the excuse I heard.  I can only imagine how healing it would have been an hour a week to see the faces of the preschool children light up as they played or talked about Jesus.  Instead, I sat in the lobby while my own children attended their groups.  I can only imagine how healing it would have been to have been surrounded by a choir who had sung with me for over a decade.  Instead I sat in the congregation as a well-known singer.  I heard more than once, “Choir not paying you enough?”  I can only imagine how healing it would have been to rock a baby to sleep in the nursery.  Instead, I listened to a sermon calling people to serve and how they always needed more childcare workers. 

Each Sunday became an exercise in pain management.  Passing choir members in the hall who “don’t know why you’ve suddenly “quit” the choir.”  Passing elders and wondering how they could equate isolation with healing.  Passing former “friends” who didn’t believe me.  Avoiding my abuser (because he’s still there too).  Trying to go into worship with all of these people and listen to the pastor preach against abuse so eloquently, while not being able to recognize it when my husband strode into his office with a charming smile and introduced himself as “victim of an unloving wife.”

Months went by and there was no indication of reinstatement to church life.  Meanwhile my abuser had told the church he wanted to reconcile, claiming he had been forced into legal action because of me.  I offered to show them the court documents to prove which one of us had filed to start the divorce (him). I attempted to explain to the church how this was a lie as he was making false allegations against me with CPS (Child Protective Services) with the intent to win sole custody and make me homeless in the process.  

Shrug.  We’re still praying for you and for your marriage to be restored. We can only believe what he tells us, even if his actions seem contrary.  Maybe you can serve again when all this is over. 

Half a year of this torture had passed with at least another half year before “all this” could have been considered over.  In secrecy and desperation, I attended a different church’s service.  I found healing there.  Compassion, prayer, genuine worship, acceptance. 

If you are a survivor reading this and you are in a church where you feel shamed, anxious, cast aside, isolated, and treated as anything less than a believable, lovable, beautiful woman who is more than welcome to worship, I submit to you that you haven’t found your church yet.  Church is the way God set up for his children to come together as a family to worship and fellowship.  Jesus went after the rejected, despised, and the unloved.  His heart is for the oppressed.

“The LORD is a shelter for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble. Those who know your name trust in you, for you, O LORD, do not abandon those who search for you.”
Psalm 9:9-10

“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.”
Psalm 147:3

“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”
Psalm 34:18

“But joyful are those who have the God of Israel as their helper, whose hope is in the Lord their God. He made heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them. He keeps every promise forever. He gives justice to the oppressed and food to the hungry. The Lord frees the prisoners.”
Psalm 146:5-7 

“Speak up, judge righteously, and defend the cause of the oppressed and needy.”
Proverbs 31:9