I know this feeling. The caging. And I know the feeling of release. And it is beautiful. It is found in the smallest moments. Washing dishes in my new home. The quiet of being alone. Learning again to take charge of my bills, my choices, my dreams, my future. Going back to places, opportunities, desires that were put away, not allowed, in essence stolen.
Oppression comes in different forms. When we hear of setting captives free in Isaiah 61 many are drawn to think of those in literal captivity, jailed wrongly, kept against their will. Even I wouldn’t have known to call it oppression. You are steadily and methodically trained to this way of being, until you don’t even recognize it as wrong.
In my struggling with how I was being treated I had to tell a friend I could no longer watch her child. I was afraid of her seeing the ugly hatred spilling from his mouth. She sat me down that Fall and said I have to call this what it is, “It is abuse. You are dying a slow death.”
As I came up for air out of this smothering, I learned that this is oppression too. It kills the way boiling water doesn’t seem dangerous to the frog until it is too late. A killing of dreams, of freedoms, of partnership, of a voice. A modern day slavery sealed up with a kiss. A marriage where there is repetitive gas-lighting, the term based on the 1960’s movie and used by psychologists, is a phrase that describes the crazy making that happens when you’re constantly told what is true, is not. Actions and moments are flipped to make you think you didn’t see, didn’t hear what you did. It’s all in an attempt to blame and shame and keep you unstable.
Lies spun so well, turning reality round and round until you’re cocooned by the sticky silk thread of the web. Because there’s generally some glimmer of truth connected to it all, and the deceit is delivered with such detailed eloquence you unknowingly buy the ticket for the merry-go-round that spins you dizzy, trying to make sense of it all.
Once you get off the ride, you’re stumbling still, trying to find your equilibrium. It takes time, a lot of time to stand up straight again. Even once removed there are moments you hop back on, the glimmers of truth grab at you to hope for change. And then it reverts to the lies and webs again. It took me weeks after leaving to realize the words of change were just that, words. Through the pure desire workbook program, my therapist and even joint sessions with his I learned that we believe the behaviors not the words. And that it takes a long extended period of time of consistent changed actions behind the words of repentance to build trust. Forgiveness and trust are two very different things. To forgive does not mean to go back to an unhealthy, unrepentant heart.
The gas lighting and spinning often escalates, flipping that you are the one in sin, the hardened heart. A woman who stands for her safety, who learns to say no, to create healthy boundaries changes the rules and the game can’t be played the way it was before. That typically isn’t received well. But a man willing to fight for his wife, his marriage, his family above his addiction will see you are doing this in love. You are doing it because God does not want you in captivity, he does not want his precious daughter caged. He calls you worthy and precious and wants the man entrusted to lead you to treat you as such. A marriage with a man serving and loving as Christ would is a marriage where there are no excuses, deflections, spinning of webs. The trust is in the laying down of his life, his wants, his desires to repair the broken trust. It is in doing everything and then some to make you feel safe. And a new freedom and depth of intimacy can be found for both of you.
But it is hard work, and it takes time. The addict often reverts and rebels and wants to lash out at you for causing the changes. That is how it went for my marriage. I had a season of waiting. When I started out in our separation, I was prepared to wait the two to five years experts say it can take. But there was a shift where it was time to stand strong and realize my healing would come for me alone. My miracle would be in the opening of my eyes, to find the cage door unlocked. I very clearly felt God telling me to rise up, that I was released. It was time to not look back hoping, waiting anymore. But it was time to fly to my future, trusting the One who leads me is always faithful and true.
Jackie is a single mom to three now all in the teen and tween years, and she's learning to love this new season with them.
Creating art has always been a cathartic healing part of Jackie's life. In the aftermath of her first awareness of infidelity she felt God nudging her to create scripture art and that is how willowofwonder.etsy.com was born.
Jackie's marriage did not survive after many years of marriage crisis, yet out of it all, she can say that she knows her relationship with Christ has deepened to a level it would not have without the trials. She has learned to receive His unconditional love, and what it truly means to have the joy of the Lord as her strength.
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