(We) have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty,
not walking in craftiness,
nor handling the word of God deceitfully;
but by manifestation of the truth
commending ourselves to every man’s conscience
in the sight of God.
— 2 Corinthians 4:2
I have this adorable red-headed friend with an unusual Christmas story. Let’s call her “Abby.”
Abby found herself with a baby daughter and an unhappy marriage. She got a divorce.
Maybe it was immaturity, or the intense need for help with her small child, or maybe the bad judgment that sometimes comes with sudden freedom. But boom! She married again, quickly.
Like her first husband, this one was handsome and well off. They lived in a gorgeous home. He bought her a lot of bling. Things looked great.
But soon after the ink dried on the marriage certificate, she realized that the man she thought had a sophisticated, discerning personality was really a terrible, abusive control freak.
He criticized her spending. He criticized her taste in furnishings. He criticized her clothes: “Oh! You’re NOT wearing THAT!?!” He criticized the way she disciplined her daughter. He criticized how loud she laughed. He criticized how one of her nostrils flared out a little wider than the other when she breathed. . . .
OK, I made that last one up. But you get the drift. She was in a trap.
She found herself the victim of verbal abuse and emotional torment. But she didn’t think she could afford to leave him. Then he started hitting her – squeezing her arm – giving her a little shove – slapping her – always when there were no witnesses. Always without leaving any scars or breaking any bones or leaving any bad bruises. It was borderline bad. It was bad, all right, but not bad enough to have him prosecuted.
Everyone else under the sun thought he was the greatest guy who ever lived. He was that fairly common phenomenon: a secret abuser. Marvelous face to the world; monstrous reality at home.
So she couldn’t count on much support from friends or family if she left him, either. They’d blame everything on her – AGAIN. Two-time loser! It must be you, not them!
But if she stayed, it could only get worse. She was in a double bind. Most stressful of all, she knew she was setting a terrible example for her daughter, by wussing out and staying and pretending it wasn’t so bad and “taking” it.
The little girl saw and heard. That ate at her mother’s soul.
On a cold Christmas Eve some years ago, things culminated in a terrible argument. He threw her violently over a couch. There were other ugly physical things that happened that she won’t even tell. Bottom line: she had had enough.
She moved herself and her daughter out that same night. Yes, it was Christmas Eve. So she could relate to the plight of Mary and Joseph. Homeless! Desperate! Outcast!
On shaky ground emotionally, she cried a lot, hugged her child a lot, and told her she was sorry. She found a temporary place to stay, got a job and started the long process of putting her life back together.
Naturally, as these things go, she had signed a prenuptial agreement with her well-off husband. She got next to nothing in the divorce. Men like that always work it that way.
But she coped. Almost a year passed. She hadn’t seen him. She avoided the places he liked. It was better that way. She found equilibrium. She was OK.
Then one busy Saturday while Christmas shopping, she and her daughter stopped in to a crowded sandwich shop in mid-town. They had just paid for their order at the counter when her ex came in. She saw him. He saw her.
Frowning, he focused his laser-beam eyes on her, and started walking toward her, a little menacingly. Oh, no! Was he going to go off on her, in front of all these people?
Her heart was pounding. Her mind shifted through half-forgotten scenes of abuse, treachery, pain and confusion. She hurriedly asked the clerk, “Would you make that to go, please? I don’t feel like eating here any more.”
Her ex stood there, furious, as she and her daughter grabbed their sacks, avoided him, and rushed for the door.
Over the din of the lunch-time crowd, he yelled sarcastically at her retreating back:
“I BET YOU WON’T BE GETTING ANY BOXES FROM BORSHEIM’S THIS CHRISTMAS!”
The crowd went silent. Borsheim’s is Omaha’s world-famous jewelry store. Ooh! A scene! Who was he? Who was she? Why WOULDN’T she get anything from there? People stared.
She stopped cold . . .
. . . and turned dramatically. She pulled herself to her full height under that magnificent crown of red hair. She pointed her beautifully-manicured forefinger at him, and yelled back:
The room went even quieter, in the solemn way it does when everybody knows they’ve just heard the truth.
Yeah, it was gutsy and over the top. Give her a break: she’s a redhead.
He stood there, slack-jawed.
Her daughter smiled up at her, proud of her boldness. They linked arms and left.
As the door closed behind them, you’d swear you could hear merry jingle bells.
Merry? Sure! Because that’s the Christmas message. You don’t have to live with evil and abuse. You don’t have to keep it a secret. That’s why we had Bethlehem. That’s why the Gospel is such good news.
We’re supposed to expose evil, and get away from it. We’re supposed to run to freedom, cling to what’s good, and celebrate life.
Go tell it on the mountain: life in Christ is much, much better than a box from Borsheim’s, any old day of the year! †
By Susan Darst Williams | www.RadiantBeams.org | Trials | © 2020