When Promises Become Dreams: Doing Marriage God’s Way

by AfricaTurtle

The title of Sierra’s Post “When Dreams Become Promises” stirred thoughts in me of another Dream, of other Promises that have brought their own dose of pain and disappointment and reality into my life: Dreams of an enduring, godly marriage and the Promises I made to God and myself in order to lay hold of that dream.

I made my first promise at the age of 14. “I promise to never date a non-christian”. It was the call to action given by a speaker at the summer church camp I attended that year.  I knew it was right, I knew it was what God expected of me. How can “light fellowship with darkness”?  Why would I build a life with someone I couldn’t hope to spend eternity in heaven with? What a heartache that would be!  What a burden to bear, to be “unequally yoked”!  I knew that God wanted what was best for me.  I knew I could trust him.  I knew I would never “compromise” my walk with God by dating a non-Christian.

The second promise came only a few, short years later, at  the age of 16. “True Love Waits” was the name of the campaign. It was pretty popular that year in various area youth groups and on a national level.  I still have the card that I taped to the inside cover of my Bible that year: ““Believing that true love waits, I make a commitment to God, myself, my family, my friends, my future mate, and my future children to a lifetime of purity including sexual abstinence from this day until the day I enter a biblical marriage relationship.” Signed and dated.  For my 16th birthday I even asked my dad to buy me a “purity ring”, a ring I would someday give to my husband to show him how I had saved myself for him, and him alone.

Then as I went through high school and built friendships with other “like-minded” and “strong” Christians, we started talking about “casual dating”, why it wasn’t good, the emotional repercussions and so on.  We really believed it was important to only consider dating someone who we believed we could actually marry.  By this time I knew I had a call to foreign missions so this drastically reduced any dating “options” for me.  Not too many guys I knew were interested in heading off to live in the jungles of Africa!

I believe it was also around this time that Josh Haris’ book “I Kissed Dating Good-bye” started to appear in Christian circles.  I had pretty much already concluded that casual dating was not for the “mature” Christian.  My father had no interest in “choosing” my spouse for me. (Not that he was unconcerned, he just always said “you’re the one that has to live with him, not me! )  So while I never committed to courtship, in the purest sense, I was, nonetheless, convinced God would lead me to the “right man” at the “right time”.  This was something I was leaving in his hands.  I didn’t “trust” myself with a decision this weighty, I definitely knew I needed God’s guidance, direction, and seal of approval.

Now during the course of time I had had a few boyfriends so I became aware of how easily my feelings/preferences could be swayed once “love” (or hormones) were at work!  I decided, while in Bible School, and during a period when I was involved with no particular individual, to make a “list” for my future spouse.  In my journal I wrote down, objectively, every quality or interest that was “non-negotiable” in someone I would consider marrying.  This idea came to me after reading/hearing so many people emphasize the fact that you cannot change the person you’re married to.  I was also aware that it was “unwise” to think “I hope I marry someone who is musical”, for example.  No, if that was really an essential quality to you, you should make sure that you chose someone who was musical.  I believed that by prayerfully considering this list and working through it with God at a time that I was “free”, it would be of great use to me in determining who the “one” for me would be if/when I happened to meet him.  If a man met all of these (I believe I came up with 27?) qualities/interests AND I liked him AND he liked me…surely that could not be me “deceiving myself”.  Surely that would be a “sign” from God that this was indeed a “good” choice!

Then the rubber met the road, as they say.  I met my now-husband 2yrs after finishing Bible School.  Finally “The One”!  He met ALL the qualities on my list, and then some.  He wanted to serve God full-time, though we were a little fuzzy on the details of exactly “how”, we knew God would reveal that to us together…plus I knew that if he was to be my husband, I could “relax” a little and trust God to lead me through him. I no longer needed to have every single detail mapped out.  Not only did he match my list, but our current vision of family matched up exactly too (ideas I had added since the original writing of my list) Those ideas included inspiration from Quiverful thinking, homeschooling publications, and family church ideology.  This was especially surprising given that his background was SO different than mine, culturally and spiritually.  Surely this was a sign that we were “meant to be”!  We continued to pray and seek God’s direction throughout our dating/engagement time.  And yes, we went into the relationship with the intention of marriage…there was nothing “casual” about our attitude toward the importance of what we were undertaking.

So, where has all of this taken us since?  What fruit have I experienced from all of my obeidience and faith in God?

From day one of our marriage my husband “silenced” me concerning our call to missions. He no longer wanted to talk about it.  At all.

We agreed not to use birth control, but with each new pregnancy, his resentment toward me and my “weakened” state (I was not sick, just huge!) grew.  He refused to make any concrete decision in this domain, but resented the consequences of his indecision.  Meanwhile, I was convinced he would “grow up” soon and see the beauty of what we were building.  I trusted God was growing both of us.  Four pregnancies later his attitude still never changed.

The “beautiful sex life” we were promised, if we waited, never came either. (And we really did wait, I don’t know any other of my Christian friends who took that pledge who actually ended up entering marriage as virgins!)  Once again I was silenced as to my preferences, desires, or opinions…and I shut up, after all, he was the man, I would let him lead.  He was just a little “insecure” I reasoned, and was sure it would get better if I could reassure him “everything is okay, we just need to be patient with each other”.  But how can you make progress in an area that you never talk about, that you’re not “allowed” to talk about?  This definitely hadn’t been a issue while dating…we talked quite openly about things once we knew we would soon be married.

The biggest “dream-breaker” though is not so much about interests or changing convictions…I was prepared for that… the biggest part is his attitude towards me: Critical, cutting, blaming, silencing, intimidating…  After spending a couple of years in tears and confusion I realized I was living in an abusive relationship.  Mostly verbal abuse, sometimes light physical abuse (twisting arms, elbowing, cornering, etc.) and this realization has shattered my world.

HOW could this happen to me? IT’S NOT POSSIBLE!!! I want to scream.

ALL that TIME! All the CARE!  All the PRAYING! All the CAUTION! All the COMMITMENT!  All the FAITH!  And where has it left me??

What was the point of only dating Christians, saving sex till marriage, only considering someone who shared my “calling”, rejecting casual dating, turning down more than one potential suitor and seeking God’s will for my future mate?  Was it not to escape the heartache and brokenness the “world” knows?  Was it not to experience a heavenly marriage, a godly marriage?  Was it not to ensure that my children would never know the trouble and heartache that is now theirs as a result of this turmoil?  Wasn’t this the most important decision of my life? (as I was told so many times)  Did I miss part of the equation somewhere?  Or is it simply, that there are no guarantees?

Discuss this post on the NLQ forum.  Comments are also open below.

Read all posts by AfricaTurtle

  • http://jessicasideways.com Jessica Sideways

    I am really sorry to hear that. I am thankful for NLQ and each and every story I read here, as I never really thought much about the evils of Complementarianism and Quiverfull (well, okay – I did know of the evils of Quiverfull because I’ve met Andrea Yates and played with her children at my gram’s church).

  • Carol

    As a christian, I affirm to you that your desire to live a godly and pure life in relation to sex, marriage and family was pleasing to God! You followed His way and I know He was pleased with that.

    However – your husband clearly had some secret sins he wasn’t addressing. He can not say that he loves his wife as Christ loved the church when he is abusing you (verbally and physically). That is not right and not part of God’s design for marriage!

    You are not to blame! I don’t agree at all with the Quiverfull doctrines. I think they take what is beautiful in God’s design and turn it into a potential tool for abuse by men on the women who faithfully submit. I don’t think complementarianism is evil. However – what you had with your husband was clearly not complementary at all – he was in charge, you were abused. Not an equal partnership with different roles – but an oppressive situation with you being abused. Again – not what God originally designed marriage to be.

    The other thing I want to add is that the “True Love Waits” slogan had good intentions but bad execution. As a christian girl, I waited. I was a virgin when I married. However – my parents were open and honest with me about what sex is (the mechanics) and what to expect. I waited to experience sex – but I was not ignorant of what it was and what to expect! This whole idea of “we don’t talk about sex” is absurd. And it traps Christians because they don’t have information – they just have idealism.

    My parents also encouraged me to work on my own shortcomings and work on my own spiritual growth – rather than focusing solely on what I wanted my spouse to be. The simple fact being that a marriage is about 2 people. Both have to work hard at it, both have to sacrifice and both have to submit to each other. Our of reverence for Christ.

    I have been married 7 years now and have been with my husband for 12 years. It has not always be great – in fact, we are going thru a tough season in our marriage. But we are committing it to prayer, we are encouraging each other, talking lots and will see a counsellor if it becomes necessary. We’re both Christians but my husband has been away from God for a while and he wasn’t a virgin when we married. So we have struggles. Do we love each other? Absolutely. Is marriage difficult for us right now? YES! Do we know how it’s going to end up? Not really. But we love each other so we are giving it all we have got. We’re talking, we’re forgiving, we’re crying, we’re talking some more. Above all, we are not giving in to idealism but hopeful, prayerful realism and praying for God’s grace in us to overcome the problems we have now.

    Looking forward to your next post!

  • beautyforashes

    Carol, marriage can be difficult, yes…but there is nothing that can be done when one of those people is abusive and refuses to change. The complementarian world has little to offer the woman who is married to a man like that, because they are clueless about the dynamics of abuse. The counsel that comes from complementarians (like John Piper, who said a woman should endure being smacked, who said she should take it to the church and not to the police, etc) only makes things worse for many women. :( I know, I was one of them, and have since heard countless stories from others.

    Complementarian marriages can look nice and can be nice—-just as in all subcultures, there are good marriages and not so good marriages….but it’s important to remember that complementarianism is *not* an equal partnership. The very roles (LIFE-LONG roles, roles that you are born into by virtue of your gender) emphasize that one person is in charge and that another person is not. Sure, that can be done in nice ways or abusive ways…but it doesn’t change the fact that the partnership is UNequal. To say it is equal is to engage in Orwellian double-speak.

  • africaturtle

    Secret sin? i’m not so sure. Broken past/childhood? definitely. Did you know that men who “go too fast” demanding a commitment to marriage very shortly after meeting/dating you are showing a sign of being a “potential abuser”? I didn’t. I thought it was a sign of godly intention.

    Quiverfull philosophy actually didn’t weigh in very heavily in our relational dynamics, Biblical submission/headship definitely influenced both of our actions. I know that i am “not to blame”. My question is moreso, “how, if i was doing things God’s way and submitting my decisions to Him in prayer, did He “lead” me into marrying a man that He “knew” would treat me this way?”

    And though it is not mentioned in my article, I too was aware it was my job to “work on my shortcommings” (he was so gracious in encouraging and supporting and praying for me prior too marriage, i was sure that this would carry over into our married life of becoming “joint heirs together…”)

  • Kathy

    It is so true. Following the Christian “prescription” for a good outcome in life/marriage/parenting does not necessarily guarantee a good outcome. I have learned that through disappointment as well. My husband and I waited for marriage, but that did not equal a satisfying sex life. And submitting to my husband did not buy his love. Neither does tithing or commitment to full time ministry guarnatee employment.

    The idea that “doing this equals that” is so prevalent in Christian teaching. It may sound like a good, godly plan, but it is really an attempt to have control over our lives. It is really no different than tribal people sacrificing chickens in order to assure a good rice harvest, or Buddhists offering incense to a statue everyday in order to prevent prevent a business failure. (I am a former missionary, thus the example.)

    The truth is, we have no control. The only thing we can guarantee is having bad outcomes through our poor choices. Good choices don’t guarantee good outcomes any more than sacrificing chickens prevents bad weather. Good choices MAY result in good outcomes, but there is no guarantee.

    Contrary to (Christian) opinion, God does not work that way. Christian teachers who say he works that way need you to follow their precscription in order to prevent their own crisis of faith.

    I have finally learned that if we choose to do things “God’s way” we must do it just because we have a conviction that it is the right thing to do, not because we think we can force God to do XYZ for us because we have played by his rules. Good choices (for example, choosing to have boundaries with your spouse) MAY result in good outcomes (like a better marriage), but there is no guarantee. Poor choices (like allowing a husband to continue to treat you poorly) generally do result in a poor outcome (continuing to be treated poorly). I am speaking from personal experience.

    My heart goes out to you. It is painful to realize that we do not have the control over our lives that we were promised by so many Christian teachers. But I think that it is the beginning of a journey to a true relationship with God where we are free to make the choices that we think are right just because they are right, not because we are trying to manipulate God (consciously or not).

    Hope that helps some. Hugs!

  • africaturtle

    thing is, I always thought the difference between sacrificing chickens vs. praying to God is that chickens are part of superstition and false gods, whereas Christians worship the True and Living God! should we not be able to count on Him to lead, guide and sustain us? If it is really the same and there are no guarantees, it still leaves me wondering “what’s the point?”

  • Kathy

    You are right, we are talking about the true and living God here, not a false god. I believe he does lead and guide us. The thing is, as he leads and guides, it does not necessarily go the way I thought it would. And depending on how painfully off course things seem to be, I can get downright mad about it! “This is NOT what I thought this trip was going to look like. In fact, this sucks! What’s the point??” I have even felt like ending it all.

    So, what is the point? It certainly isn’t for any kind of reward in this life! In the past few months I have had times when I also felt like chucking Christianity. But I keep coming back to holding on to it because all the other religions/belief systems really ARE, at their core, about rewards for doing good. Christianity is the only one that has God doing something good for us that we did not deserve. At least that is the core, bottom line tenet of it. Sadly, it seems like the majority of Christian teaching has turned it back into a do-good-in-order-to-be-blessed program. That appeals to our “flesh” so much (if you don’t mind the Christian lingo – can’t think of a better, commonly used word right now).

    The Old Testament is all about obedience=blessing, disobedience=cursing. But the New Testament tells us to expect problems and suffering, even when we are doing things God’s way. I know I really got blindsided when the problems and suffering I faced was coming from my Christian missionary husband! That did not fit into the way I thought things were supposed to work.

    After some very painful experiences, I ended up drawing a boundary with him, which eventually ended up in our marriage making a huge turn around. I believe I made the right choice and I am very thankful that our marriage is so much better. But I know that setting a boundary is no guarantee of a better marriage. I set the boundary because I was convinced that it was the right thing to do.

    We have also had the opposite experience. We stood up for our convictions in a conflict with our mission leadership which resulted in us becoming ex-missionaries. It’s like running into a brick wall. “What happened? Why? This hurts so bad! What are we supposed to do now?” We are struggling to find employment now. Dealing with the unpleasant sequelae of doing what we felt God wanted us to do. This time the pain and suffering came at the hands of Christian leaders.

    That’s not the way it’s supposed to be! But life is showing me that that’s the way it IS sometimes. So I keep trying to hold on even when stuff does not make sense. At least I feel some consolation in knowing I followed through on my convictions even if the outcome was not what I had hoped for.

    Again, my heart goes out to you. As I read your post I just nod my head and hurt with you.

  • Michelle

    Ahh… if only life were that easy. As much as we would like it to be, there is no formula where we are promised that if we do A and B, then we will get C. Just because you did everything “right” doesn’t mean a heavenly marriage. Marriage is two sinful, selfish and fallen individuals trying to live together. It is hard, even in the best of times.
    I have had terribly difficult years in my marriage, and I know there will probably be more of them. I also know that I have learned to rely on God in a way that I wouldn’t have without those times. I am currently doing a study on a book entitled Shattered Dreams by Larry Crabb. It sounds like you had some dreams that were shattered. I certainly have, and I have found that book to be a real blessing in a difficult time. Really, anything by Larry Crabb is great–but this book really looks hard at the question, “Where is God when this beautiful dream that I believed was his will for me didn’t come true?”

  • Virginia

    AfricaTurtle, your story parallels my own in many ways. I signed the “True Love Waits” pledge during chapel one day at my good Christian high school. I made a list of the qualities that I required in my husband and made it known that I would not be dating casually at all. I did my absolute best every day to be…”perfect”…in everyone’s eyes, least of all, God’s. I remember hearing the ladies at church speaking in hushed tones when one of my classmates lost her virginity to an older boy at our high school. She was looked upon in shame, as was the whole family; after all, sin is always family related (at least, that’s what I was told) and that meant that the whole family must be dealing with a demon of sexual impurity.

    I met the man who met the qualities on my list at 19. I was truly thrilled and thanked God for bringing the two of us together. We married quickly…too quickly. The problem I had with the “True Love Waits” pledge was the waiting for sex. It’s a lot to ask a teenager or young adult to ignore biology and hormonal desire. We married quickly just so that we could have sex without feeling guilty. In hindsight, I wish we had just gotten it over with before getting married and gotten to know each other better. Prayer and seeking God’s will did nothing for me because I learned to ignore my own judgement and logic which were, after all, sinful and flawed.

    I managed to stick out three years of verbal and physical abuse before calling it quits and divorcing him. When our daughter became the object of his rage, I knew I had to get out before he hurt her. Looking back, I wonder why I had so little respect for myself that I let him abuse me like that. Why did I think that it was “ok” to be hit? Why did I let myself be hurt by this Godly man who followed the Bible?

    I asked all the same questions as you have after my divorce, AfricaTurtle. I spent years trying to come to terms with what happened to me; I went to Christian counseling and “sought God” on my knees praying for answers. It wasn’t until I left church and stopped asking God for anything that I found my second husband and my true love.

    I don’t believe in God. I’m no longer a Christian. It wouldn’t surprise me if I’m accused of poisoning this forum (if my comment makes it past moderation at all) or told that I speak out of anger; however, I’ve now spent 10 years coming to the realization that God doesn’t exist. I now look back on my childhood, my teenage years, and my early adulthood, and I feel cheated.

    My husband and I are truly happy. It’s amazing how life changes once you know what real love feels like. My husband and I have a partnership. I am not a submissive wife and if I ever acted the way that Complementarianism or Quiverfull requires me to, my husband would be quite upset. He has often told me that he wants a wife, a lover, and a friend, not a doormat who agrees with everything that comes out of his mouth.

    Oh, and the sex is great. We lived together before we got married; I wanted to be absolutely certain that we were compatible. It’s been 7 years now and we’re still going strong.

    The best thing I ever did for myself was toss away the guilt, the expectations, the fear, the pain, and all the other things that came with being a Christian. Christians have excuses for everything: “God was testing you”, “You must not have prayed hard enough”, “When God closes a door, he opens a window”, “God never gives you more than you can handle”, “God will use this situation for good, you’ll see, just believe”….all of those phrases are nothing but lip-service and, quite frankly, crap.

    I do hope that you’ll be able to find the answers which you seek. I also hope that you’re working through your past with a counselor or psychologist.

  • James

    Dear Africaturtle,

    My heart broke as I read your essay and the comments of those who so lovingly replied to you in an outreach of love. But I fail to see in most of the replies any commitment to “Truth”. I am not talking here about chosen beliefs. Whether or not we admit it, not one person here truly knows if what they believe is true. We hope that it is, we pray that it is, we assume that it is, we accept on faith that it is, but none of us, not even the most erudite Bible Scholar, can know for certain that what they believe to be true is indeed Truth. And we will not until our lives are finished.

    Don’t freak out. That is what I personally believe faith is, believing without knowing. Anyone who tells you that they “know” something spiritually is telling a lie. They can say, “This is what I’ve found that works in my own life.” They can say, “I am persuaded….” But no one who has ever handed you spiritual guidance has ever truly known if what they were saying was the truth. This includes me right now.

    We can only express our beliefs, not our knowledge. And if we are open to Truth, those beliefs will change as we learn more Truth. Sadly, most of the people writing here are people who are simply looking to have what they have chosen to believe proved true. This is why they spend money on trips to find Noah’s Ark or purchasing books promising to reveal God’s truth or supporting their favorite Tele-Evangelist. They simply want to be proved true and surrounding themselves with others who say, “Yes! You are right!” is how they get through life. Most of us are not humble enough to be able to deal with a challenge to our chosen beliefs.

    The reason for my confidence in embracing this idea is that if we do indeed accept that there is a God who is greater than the individuals we are, then we cannot truly know what that being is, nor how that being thinks. We can catch glimpses of that being and we can see reflections through scripture (should we choose to believe a particular source), but we cannot even begin to apprehend any concept that adequately conveys what God is. Therefore, all of the teachings of humans you have embraced and all of the things people have told you along the way really do not count at all. You can let them go. You do not have to believe them.

    That being said, it is dangerous to have nothing to replace the teachings of others one has embraced. This means that you have to do the hard work of finding a spiritual vocabulary that speaks of truth to you. And then you have to construct a backbone of chosen beliefs and philosophies against which to measure your existence and actions. And you have to be willing to accept the consequences of your beliefs and actions.

    All of the promises you made and blessings you claimed were the results of embracing someone else’s teaching. I have every confidence that if you will read and re-read and study the four Gospels over and over again, you will find that you will encounter something that can become the basis for your choosing of a new way to measure your experience, the understanding of the new Truth you are seeking. My suggestion is that until you truly master each of the teachings of Christ, you should leave the rest of the Bible alone. (Not that other scripture isn’t valuable, but after all, you ARE a Christian, so re-evaluate your beliefs in terms of Christ’s message.)

    I think that when you find the core of your belief system in Christ’s words, you will come to a peace within yourself. I believe that you will no longer feel victimized and you will know just how to handle the person that your married. By dropping the baggage of other people’s teachings, you will be freed by Christ’s love.

    So look for Truth where ever it can be found: in science, in nature, in serving others, in scripture, in other religions, and most of all through your own commitment to it. (I personally recommend secular counseling so you can get away from the pattern of having to accept another teacher’s imposition of their personal truth.) I believe that though we may not understand how it all fits together, all truth does because God is Truth. Be humble in your understanding, knowing that what you believe at the moment is simply your current understanding of truth and be courageous in your commitment to understanding yourself, your husband, and the Truth of your beliefs.

  • nowisee

    Thank you for being so honest. I love what you said, every word of it. I too had the experience of spending many years in church settings, doing everything I was told and not really agreeing with it. When I stopped going to church, I realized it took a while for me to think for myself, but it was truly like having the scales fall from my eyes. Now I look at my rejection of religious belief (but not spirituality) as the beginning of my freedom. I am still the same good person, I just don’t believe in God.
    Like you, I was also 19 when I met the man that I thought God had sent into my life, and like you, one of the main reasons we married quickly was because we didn’t want to sin by having sex! Luckily he was a good man, but by the time we grew up a few years later, we were going in different directions in life and split up.
    If there is one theme that keeps popping up on this web site, it’s that girls and women in QF don’t let themselves think or make decisions for themselves. This is the most damaging part of the movement and it really robs people of their ability to live the life they were put here to live. So people, please think for yourself!

  • africaturtle

    wow, all these comments definitely give plenty of food for thought. To answer to a few details…yes, I am in counseling, and yes it is “secular”. I have been on the verge of completely rejecting the Christian faith for a while now. Only there always seems to be someone/something that keeps me from going “over the edge” completely and abandoning 100%.
    I do search for truth. The idea of completely reinventing my faith with all new interpretations of passages I took to be literal truths seems to me a mind-boggling task. Truth is what we all seek, but how do we know when we’ve found it? I thought i’d found it. I’m scared of making that same mistake again with a different set of beliefs. I also dislike the feeling that I need a degree in history and biblical languages in order to understand what the bible “realy” says. I think we should be able to rely on the holy spirit… but how do we know it’s not our own desires? The Bible has been made to say so many things. I don’t see any reason most of it should not be taken literally, at face value, but I do see that my old way of seeing things no longer works. This is all a lot to sort through!

  • africaturtle

    The one thing everyone seems to be picking up from what i wrote was that I was practicing a “formula” to ensure success (A+B =C) While i see where it could appear this way, I really do not see it quite the same.

    I was careful to do things “God’s way” because I wanted to please him. I also knew that the result of sin is heartache and misery so I wanted to avoid those bad consequences of disobedience. What is amazing to me is not that I encountered “difficulties” in my life (I know that Christians are not promised pain-free existences) but moreso why in the world God would have led me/allowed me (if indeed he was invlolved, as I believed he was) to mary someone who was abusive. This just doesn’t make sense. “would a man give his son a stone when he asks for bread?… does not your father in heaven know how to give good gifts to those who ask him?”

  • africaturtle

    you should not be worried about your post being censored…this is a very free place, very diverse…the forum even more-so (many veiwpoints) than the blog comments… take time to dig in to some of the other stories around here, if you haven’t already, I think you will appreciate where many of us here are comming from. Thanks for sharing your story too, by the way.

  • Kathy

    Yes, it is a lot to sort through. At the rate I’m going I imagine I am going to be sorting through stuff till the end of my days! Just last month I was praying to be led into truth – into real, right reasons for why I believe what I believe. Humans love to tell each other who they think God is, and even more they love to tell each other how they should live. So what do we believe?

    I came across these verses, which encouraged me. “I have written these things to you because you need to be aware of those who want to lead you astray. But you have received the Holy Spirit and he lives in you, so you don’t need anyone to teach you what is true. For the Spirit teaches you all things, and what he teaches is true – it is not a lie. So continue in what he has taught you, and continue to live in Christ” I John 2:26-27

    I call myself a Christian still (for lack of a better term), but I reject Christianity/churchianity. It seems like Christianity is a thick layer of stuff shrouding Christ – the true, simple, sweet message of forgiveness, hope, peace, joy, and love relationship – from me, and from all humanity.

    I want to get back to just being led by the Spirit and following my convictions. I don’t need others to tell me what is right. There is just as much chance that they are wrong as right. I already look back on my life and see where I held Christian beliefs that I now think are wrong. But I am okay with that now. I am realizing that I am journeying into truth, not arriving there all at once. I am trusting God’s Spirit to guide me. Having that attitude also helps me be gracious toward others that I think I wrong. They are on a journey too.

    Hey, here is a book that looks like a good read. “Woman Submit!” by Jocelyn Anderson of (Freedom for Christian Women Coalition). I have only read the first few pages on the Amazon site. But it looks like a good discussion of why abuse happens in Christian, even professional Christian marriages.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts, africaturtle (and others). It’s encouraging to know we have companions in this journey!

  • Kathy

    Great question! I don’t know the answer. But at least by asking the “this doesn’t make sense” questions, we open ourselves up to the possibility of finding answers!

    I follow another blog for adult MKs (missionary kids) who survived physical, emotional, spiritual, and sexual abuse from dorm parents and others who were supposed to be taking care of them. One of their moms commented that the realization that a God of love could WATCH a wolf in sheeps clothing abuse the children (her children!) of parents who gave up everything to serve him and not do anything to stop it made everything she had believed about God seem meaningless. She said it took years to re-build her faith.

    Between what I’ve read here and on other blogs for survivors of abuse in Christian environments, and my own experience, my own theological views are being rocked too. Obviously this Christian thing is not the way I thought it was.

    I don’t have anwers. But I resonate with the questions!

  • Petticoat Philosopher

    But in many ways, it isn’t even possible to take the bible “literally, at face value.” The bible is cryptic, it demands us to interpret, extrapolate, philosophize, and basically to use our God-given faculties of analysis and reason. If we were made to blindly follow, than why do we have the ability to question?

    I don’t think you need to see the idea of looking at the bible from a different angle as “reinventing your faith.” You will only be doing what people have always done–finding ever new ways to think about the same things. Have you looked at other churches? I am not a Christian myself (I am a Jew) but I know many strong Christians who practice in all sorts of different ways. Some of them date, some of them have sex before marriage, some of them generally live their lives in fairly conservative ways but have much more progressive interpretations of scripture, all profess strong faith and most of them seem quite happy. All of this is to say that there is plenty of precedent for what you are now doing and there are plenty of ways for you to explore new ways of looking at life and stay a Christian if that’s what you want. (Of course if you eventually decide that that’s what you don’t want, that’s obviously okay too, but, for the time being, this might seem less unthinkable for you.)

  • Michelle

    This very question is what is addressed in that book I mentioned earlier. Shattered Dreams by Larry Crabb. I think you might find it truly helpful.

  • http://thebarefootauthor.blogspot.com Tessi

    I did the same thing as this author…all the way up to the getting married part. I never found anyone who met any of the items on my list, much less all of them. I just turned 31, and I’m still unmarried (and still a virgin).

    Hard as it was, I had to let go of the “promise” of a husband to share my call, and now live in a home I own and share with my younger sister (also unmarried, a virgin, and 26 years old) and two deaf boys we’ve mentored since high school. I serve as a spiritual director, mentor and friend to a school full of deaf children and am so blessed with the children, and family, God has given me (though none of them are “mine”). This is never what *I* understood His promise to me to be, but it is beautiful and I won’t regret it, even if I never meet a man with whom I can spend my life. It’s tricky, this following God. But it’s beautiful too.

    Last night, at the end of a Bible study with four of “my kids”, I sent one girl home with Josh Harris’s book. Funny, since one of the kids in the study is gay and two are still questioning their sexual identity. But all four of them love Jesus, and need to learn how to have healthy relationships. If anything Josh has to say will help them move that direction, while they’re figuring the rest out, I’m gonna give it a shot. :-)

    -Tessi

  • http://pearblossom.blogspot.com Rene

    Africa,
    I am a Montessori trained teacher, as well as a life-long seeker of G*d/Truth. We have a tool to use with the children that is a series of colored lenses; one red, one blue and one green. When one looks at the environment with each lens, some things/shapes are missing, while others are vivid in unexpected ways.
    You’re looking through the “lens” of Americanized, or westernized Christianity. So long as you look through that lens, some truths will be obscured.
    Blessings to you on your search.

  • Virginia

    I would recommend you be very, very careful with anything written by Josh Harris. His book, “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” was widely circulated and advocated in SGM circles and the damage done was extreme. Harris and his group are Complementarian. I’ve seen many, many marriages fall apart with this philosophy. I can honestly say that the closest I’ve ever come to being involved in an outright cult was my time with CLC/SGM. Please tread carefully. Josh Harris is the last person in the world from whom I would ever take relationship advice.

  • KR Wordgazer

    Of all the Christian authors I have ever read, Philip Yancey is the one I trust when it comes to these sorts of questions. I suggest “Disappointment With God.”

    http://www.amazon.com/Disappointment-God-Philip-Yancey/dp/031021436X

    Yancey is always real, always honest, and never formulaic. He never gives platitudes but honestly faces the real pain of questions like the ones you’re asking, Africa Turtle. Sometimes the best thing we can do is hear from others who have walked the road we’re walking. If you want simple, pat reasons to still believe in God, you won’t find them here– but you will find out why some have found it possible to keep their faith.

    My heart goes out to you in sincere wishes that you’ll find peace.

  • africaturtle

    what is SGM? (or CLC)

  • TooOftenSadNewlywed

    oh my goodness, africaturtle!!! I could have written this article. EVERY word you said, with the exeption that we dont have children yet and are trying not to have any right now.

    Ive been married for almost a year now and have cried out to God so many times about why did he want me to live this way if there was no bennefit to it.

    Ive known I wanted to do missions since I was in kindreganden. I have felt called to missions…this seriously hampered my dating options- even at Bible college. So imagine my suprise when I met my now husband after Bible college and he was so open to missions…Now that just gets shut down all the time. I want a huge family- but Im terrified to bring a child into this situation. Ive had to admit that our relationship is sometimes abusive. No child should have to watch that.

    My H is getting better witth the rage- i ended up going to the pastors wife becasue i feared for my saftey. The pastor is now talking to my husband about his anger and that seems to be helping, Still though, he has no interest in all the things we discussed before we got married. Missions, family size, values on material wealth, etc. It realy breaks my heart. I feel this depression i just dont feel anyone can understand. I blame myself for somehow misinterpreting what God was saying to me when I felt he was leading me to marry my husband, but now, even in hindsight, I think i did what God was leading me to do….Its just so painful and so confusing. I really feel for you on this. :-(

  • http://volunteer11.blogspot.com Vol-E

    “The Jesus I Never Knew,” another Yancey title, is the only Christian book I still own from my “religious phase” of 1987-2002. It’s excellent.

  • Caravelle

    If Josh Harris is a complementarian as Virginia says and wrote “I kissed dating goodbye” then giving books by him to kids who are gay or questioning their identity strikes me as anything but funny.

  • Sparrow

    *sigh* No one escapes the pain of the world, my dear. Only small children, and then only for a little while. Is that what you want? To be a child, eternally? Is that really what you believe your god wants of you?

  • MomofSeven

    Ladies, I understand and hear the hurts that you all are carrying with you. I am sorry that you had the impression from someones teaching that life is guaranteed to be a “bed of roses”,if you obey. But you all must remember that if you have truly committed yourselves to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, the heart of the issue is that you follow the Word of God and walk in His ways regardless of the outcome and if we are married we need to work through these things as ONE. We are called to be one unit, working together to glorify to God. You question the point of purity, yet you have no idea what that choice has saved you from. At first glance it at a minimum reserves a clear conscience before God, which should be WORTH far more than you appear to realize.

  • APRIL

    If I may…say that there is no point. At least none that we can see. And isn’t it possible that God gives us more freedom to make our choices than we have been taught by so called christians and their “traditions of men”. Maybe….Just maybe,We have more choice over some things like marriage and maybe there really isn’t that ONE chosen just for us by God. How can we learn from our mistakes and grow and mature if we are always asking God to take all the Choices from us? Even through the very hard and difficult times that we don’t understand, can we like Job say” Even though He slays me, yet will I trust Him,”! You can’t control your husband or his choices but you sure can choose how you are going to allow him to treat you!

  • Texasrose

    One of the things that I always disliked about churches and congregations was the judging, if you didn’t live your life the way “they” think you should, then you were not a good person in their eyes.

    The reasons I walked away from churches was brought back into my mind recently, I have a young lady and her young son living with me. She doesn’t identify with the church she has been going to, but she was going because her grandmother is elderly and in poor health, and one of her grandmother’s wishes is that her grand-daughter and great grandson embrace her church and beliefs.

    I have been watching and listening to my friend’s interactions with her church “sponsor” and I see and hear so many judgemental things coming from the sponsor. For example, the sponsor encouraged my friend to go back to an abusive husband. The sponsor tried to convince my friend to meet with my friend’s abusive ex-husband that had been planning and plotting with his current wife to kidnap my friend’s (and his) son and take him out of state, because the sponsor didn’t really believe that my friends ex-husband would really try to do that, even though my friend had told her sponsor that she had proof that the ex-husband was planning on kidnapping their child (so he wouldn’t have to pay child support)

    I hope that I am making sense, it’s been a long day, and I am also trying to protect my friend’s privacy.

    The final straw this past week was when the sponsor told my friend that “god” wouldn’t like my friend declining to go to any more evening meetings. My friend decided to stop going because her child is in school and the meetings ran well past her child’s bedtime.

  • Rachel

    I relate to a lot of what you’ve posted. My first husband and I were virgins when we got married at age 22. Not quiverfull but missionary kids, very much into that whole youth group churchy mentality. I soon realized that biblical principles were being used against me to turn me into unpaid household help. I stuck it out 4 years, luckily did not have kids, and finally took a deep breath and filed for divorce. Well, this shook the earth on its axis for both our families, but I figured I would try this instead of suicide. Best decision I EVER EVER made. And then I tried things a little differently. I met a guy who was an agnostic. He NEVER beats me over the head with the Bible. :) I slept with him right away. We moved in together, and lived in sin for a year and a half, then got married. Our 10 year anniversary is coming up and its been the happiest, most effortless marriage compared with my first. Even tho we’ve done things in a “worldly way” it doesn’t mean we’re bad evil selfish people. Our marriage is peppered with Please and Thank you and I appreciate you and you’re wonderful, all the time. Those other things are so superficial, but being a decent, considerate, compassionate GOOD person is completely separate from when your first kiss is. In my first marriage, all that other outward stuff impressed our parents and their friends. But it didn’t make him a good person. It’s much more complicated to know that about a person I’ve found. Consider that there is another way. I understand being disillusioned with God after you’ve held up your end of the bargain. But maybe it wasn’t really God at the other end of that bargain. Maybe it was all the authority figures, the Josh Harrises, all the people that wanted to feel good about what a good little child you were being. THEY lied to you when they promised everything would be ok if you just did things their way. They don’t know that. Maybe it will be ok, but maybe it will really really suck and your husband will sneak off to strip clubs after work and control you and belittle you and treat you like a child and make huge life changing decisions that effect you without your consent, all while attending church every Sunday. Church attendance does NOT make any of that OK. Take a deep breath, and take back your life…

  • JR

    Wow, I don’t know how to really begin a comment here, I am new to the site, having followed a link from a friend’s fb page. So I don’t really have any answers or comments, but I can relate, just as so many on here can. When I was 19, two weeks after Bible school ended, I married the first guy I had ever held hands with. He had proposed just two months after we started dating. The day after our wedding, I knew something was drastically wrong. I remember thinking, if only he had his guitar with him, things would be better. To make a long story short, he moved out on our six month anniversary. Two months later, he moved back. But I had gone on birth control and he used that as an excuse not to sleep with me. When I called him out on his irrational behavior, I got a glass thrown at me which shattered and cut in me in several places. I knew instantly that not doing anything would make me a doormat, so I called the police. He was arrested and was ordered drug and alcohol counseling as well as anger management. It was one of his counselors that told me my husband was probably not going to change. It was a hard decision, but I chose to be a divorce statistic rather than that of a homicide victim. At 20, I remember sobbing in my great big bed all alone, wondering where I had gone wrong. I, too, had kissed dating goodbye and let God write my love story. I had prayed about the relationship every step of the way. The two of us had become one, and the divorce felt as if half of me had been ripped away. The pain was excruciating to say the least. But I’ll never forget one of those moments when I was questioning how God could have “led” me into that relationship (at the very least He could have protected me from it). In the midst of my anguish, I remember being so thankful that I had a relationship with a Father who let me ask questions, let me be angry. And it was so clear to me that I could be bitter and turn away from Him, but then I would be without the only Person who knew me inside and out, could comfort me and sustain me. I was living in a state where I knew NO ONE except my husband’s family. And the Lord truly was my strength. This will sound bizarre to you, it sounds bizarre even to me – but one night I determined to sit down to dinner at the table alone (rather than sulking in front of the mind-numbing tv) and talk with God as if He was there (as my dinner date). Afterward, I jokingly said out loud, “Ok Jesus, I’ll wash and You dry (giving Him the easy part)!” And then I danced with Jesus in my living room, as a little girl imagines herself dancing with her prince charming. And believe me, I laughed at myself! But I went to bed and slept untroubled by loneliness. And in the morning I went to put my dishes away which had been drying in the rack. They were spotless (Usually they had those little water circles all over them)!. I jumped and laughed and cried at the surprise and love of it all. I hadn’t expected anything – I thought I was silly to talk to God out loud as if He were in my home having dinner with me – but He didn’t think it was silly at all – He showed up! A few months later, I found myself back on the mission field. I have since completed college and am thankful for the fantastic life I have led thus far. I’m still single, don’t go to church all that often, and still have some questions as to what all that was about. I do know that two of his sisters were changed by seeing me walk through that. One of them is now a missionary as well. The other was recently ordained. I’m sorry this turned out to be longer than I expected. Praying that you encounter the Living God as I did – not on the pages of a book, but in your home, with you and your children!

  • k

    There’s not only this manipulative teaching; there’s also the doctrine of “don’t worry about it” and “seek ye first the kingdom of god” which yield the same net result, minus the divorce. That woman ends up with nothing even to show for it PLUS the stigma of that being the case…which is self-perpetuating in our current sexist culture. it is all UGLY.

  • Jane

    This happened to me as a young woman also. I made pledges of purity and for finding the right man for a husband. I prayed and waited until the one showed up. Four years, three children, and his physical abuse plus cheating later, I filed for divorce. My mother said I was going to Hell, both parents said I was no longer their daughter, and my now ex-husband was still their wonderful son and was still more than welcome in their home. I went to work (!) and for the first time in my life was surrounded by non-christians. And they were the nicest, most supportive people I ever met. I met a wonderful guy, had sex, and we married three years later. We are still going strong after twenty years. Yes I am that old and this purity crap was just at the beginning stages when I first made my pledges. I am still a Christian, but I keep my own counsel and have a very finely tuned bs radar. My heart goes out to you because you have to make some tough choices. Follow your heart, your head, and your desires. Emphasis on YOUR. To thine own self be true.

  • Jennifer

    I am shocked to find so many other people with such similar experiences to mine! I had no idea you were all out there! Thank you! AfricaTurtle, you’re story blew me away in how similar it was to mine- but I was fortunate not to get to marriage and children before I found a good therapist. That so many women on this site felt called into missions and knew that limited their man-choices is so refreshing to me- not because I want your choices limited but because that is what I experienced too and I’ve never found others who were in the same boat! Thank you for sharing your experiences.

    I wish I could say something good about the Quiverfull movements and family centered church, but I really can’t. The stories on here, along with the reality that played out in my life and the lives of my friends who followed this theology give me nothing good to say. It’s all just a bad philosophy. God never promised ANY of the things these movements claim. You have to really reach and stretch and proof-text to get the theology of the I Kissed Dating Goodbye crowd. Sure, there are truths in there, but not enough to let it stand on its own.

    God gave us brains, hearts, and emotions. He expects us to use all of these in choosing mates, careers, and life paths. It’s when we close our eyes and just “trust God” that the danger starts. It allows us to overlook so many warning signs and red flags and just say, “God will take care of it” with the implication that you yourself do not have to deal with it. I’m not saying don’t trust God, I’m saying don’t JUST trust God. When you have to close your ears/eyes/heart to something in order to “trust God” you’re not trusting God. You’re using him as a scapegoat. God is not going to protect you from your own failures. I’m not saying it’s all your fault here, I’m really not. I’m saying we’ve believed the lies our leaders have told us, and as a result we’ve expected God to do something HE never said He was going to do.

    So while I’m not blaming you, I am saying it’s all on you to do what you need to do to get your life straightened out. No one in the church nor God will fix any of it for you. You may not have to leave the church, but getting out from under the leadership system that fostered these things in you is imperative. Find a good counselor, and I recommend one who is NOT a “Christian counselor.” A counselor who is a Christian would probably be very helpful so they will understand where you are coming from, but not a “Christian counselor.” You need someone who is willing to help you see your blind spots, not someone who is going to help you keep them.

    God didn’t lie to you. Everyone else lied to you about God.

    To encourage you I can tell you that after finding a wonderful therapist who all but reparented me, I learned how to date and choose a man who would treat me well and be my equal. We had sex before marriage, but I learned how to truly “guard my heart” instead of just building a wall no one could get through. And now we’re married and believe it or not, we’re missionaries. And he’s not even a full-on Christian. There is no formula for how to be happy or how to serve God. And the people who try to tell us there is, rather than helping us be whole, healthy human beings, are really doing some serious damage.

    You can make it through this and be whole on the other side. It is absolutely worth the hard work. The good news is, once you’ve done the work you never have to do it again. The bad news is, if you avoid doing the work, you’ll have to live this way for the rest of your life. You don’t have to do that. I have faith in you, sister. I know your post is almost a year old, so I hope you’re doing well and are getting whole again.

  • Madamoyzelle

    What a jackass you are. Did you READ the post?

    Here’s a platitude for you: If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.

  • Madamoyzelle

    Dear AfricaTurtle,

    I am sorry. I feel for your betrayal. That is not too strong a word, no.

    Some other posted said “Find the Truth.” That is very good advice. I studied Physics for exactly that reason: It doesn’t lie. It is honest. Always be honest with yourself–be honest with how you feel about people, about what you’re doing, about what you feel. Get in touch with your feelings. You don’t have to act on them–just feel them. They give you valuable information about yourself, your surroundings, and other people, and you should never ignore them. And if you are afraid of your feelings–then that is some VERY valuable information right there.

    Secondly, someone else said to study just what Christ said. That is also good advice. I like Jesus because He is so funny! He outwitted those who wanted to trip him up every time.

    And one other: Love your neighbor as you love yourself. That’s the balance.

  • Debra Helmer

    Get out now!!! There are tons of flags, raging red flags, about this marriage…been there, done that. Get out now!!!

  • Pearl

    I’m so sorry you’ve been through so much. The closest I’ve come to experiencing abuse is as a counselor hearing about others’ experiences. As for the true love waits thing, I’m so sorry everything has been messed up with your marriage, but please don’t regret waiting for sex. I’ve seen not waiting for sex….in the juvenile delinquents I counseled, sex everywhere from age 11 and up. It wasn’t a pretty picture. I don’t think waiting for sex guarantees you an awesome sex life or a happy marriage, but I think it does give a woman some self-respect, as she realizes her body is something special, a temple of the Holy Spirit, not just a piece of meat like my jail kids saw each other. I’m happy I waited.

  • chizila

    Thank U so much for this kind of post. I also have a similar promises to God and also confused because my own case is dat im not yet married although i kept myself and waiting on God. Till date i do have heart breaks and disappoints from different men. I dont know if such promises always goes with a test. Well, Let the will of God be done in the life every christian.

  • nonny

    Hmmmmmmm! My sister i want to congratulate u for your courage in penning this ordeal my heart goes out to u . Ive been married for 12years with four beautiful children. I cry most nites not for lack of food or shelter or from any physical abuse but for shattered dreams but in all ma pains christ has ALWAYS been there to console me. Wen at the age of 14 i kissed dating goodbye. And vowed to remain a virgin i felt as i was tot that ma marriage wld be a sure reward for ma troubles but. I was in for a rude shock. ma husband Never wants sex, he,s not interested , never kisses me, Never romances me never passionate abt me our bedroom is just ….. But sweetheart i cant Ever stop being a xtian NEVER. Its like a car u bot straight from the manufacturer and wen it goes bad instead of taking it back to the manufacturer who sure knows how to fix it , you dump d car and decide never to ride until u can manufacture one urself. He is d porter we are the clay.go to God in prayer over your hussy He will surely give u a miracle.ur following God,s way can Never be in vain wait a little more and be sure God will look ur way.as for me I say with the psalmist… I will keep looking unto d lord until he hears me. I Love u but Jesus loves u more.pls lets have an update on recent happenings.Godbls

  • http://www.hgbyrsdyzosh.org jtiuixzsyefh

    foxdycmhebsg

  • http://www.patheos.com Flavia

    Hi All, first time here and am glad I veound this forum. I struggled with the same things that all of you have talked about here. However for me, my husband is/was JW and I was a Protestant Christian. We met was I was 19, right from the start he felt it was God but I didn’t. I didn’t like the way he treated me sometimes but I stayed with him. We had sex before marriage, I didn’t like the sex at all. It was his way or the highway and it never changed. We got married and our marriage produced 3 beautiful children whom for the most part he always complained about. I suffered at his hands even though there was no physical abuse. The psychological manipulation was horrible. I suffered from depression and zero self esteem. By the time I left him, I was an empty shell. I could no longer function emotionally. When I was still with him, I would pray and fast hoping God would do something because w had children btn us. It was not so. I didn’t believe in God after I left the marriage. I could not think of why a good God would let me go through that kind of hell even after I prayed and bound demons and prayed to become a better wife. I was mad as hell! I cried, my life went downhill, I couldn’t hold down a formal job because I was like a sponge and everyone found it easy to abuse me because I lacked self esteem. I was done with all of it and suffering. I decided to just go home and recover because now suicide was an option and I always had the feeling that one more act of abuse towards me from anyone would send me over the edge and I would voluntarilry leave this earth. I cried when I thought of my family explaining where mommy is to the children, anger filled me when I thought of taking my life because of a simple human being who like me spent 9 months in his mother’s womb. Ws he anymore special than I was??? I was very angry, so angry that I could feel the pain physically in my body. My bones would ache when I cried and my face would twitch. I knew a stroke was on its way for young me if I didn’t get well soon. No one around me seemed to understand my pain. They told me men abuse women all the time and the cheat too even so I should suck it up. That really hurt. I wanted to get well but my anger got in they way. As turns out, my anger was the best thing that ever happened to me. It allowed me to challenge God and ask him where he was when I suffered, it alowwed me to set boundaries and stand up to my ex when he came around (he is very manipulative) I refused to die because of him, I wanted to live again no matter what. I set out to live and live well. It wasn’t easy, it still isn’t . I relapsed sometimes during recovery n went back to my zero self esteem ways but I alwasy found my way back up again. Fast forward to 2013, I don’t believe in God the way o used to and maybe that’s what he was trying to show me. I wasn’t happy still when I was a ‘religious fanatic’ for lack of a better term. I feel free now, I love other people the way I love myself and that’s all that matters. As long as don’t hurt another person, I am good. I f someone wants to control me, they ll feel me. I don’t allow people to force me to live according to their opinions ( I still take afvice though), I believe in God but I belive he wants me to make conscious choices in my life. I know now that when my ex treated me badly, I should have walked away but I stayed. I didn’t have self esteem brother did I know anything about boys and men because is did not date before him. I gave my ex too much power that why he abused me. When I asked him to treat me well and I set up boundaries, the marriage went south beacause I was no longer a victim and he could not contrl me. I use my internal compass now and when things don’t feel right when am engaging with people, I walk away or stand up for myself. I don’t take the slap on the other cheek but I site know how to forgive when I need to. I have changed how I live, I no longer attend church because they will not understand the way I see God now. I don’t believe in a Fairy Tale God anymore. To sum it up, I am very strong now, focused, emotionally stable and have good self esteem. I know how to love and when abuse comes my way I easily recognise it and take appropriate action. I believe God is in me, I am him and he is me. Africaturtle, I pray that you find answers and happiness out of all of this mess just like I did. My love to you all. (ignore the typos, mobile blogging).


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