The pressure was on to wrap-up the assignment with a deadline looming. Down to the last hours to put an entire semester worth of research and study into a well formatted and knowledgeable exegetic work of art. All the hours spent pouring over scripture, revisiting my concordance, scrutinizing commentary while carefully verifying sources, editing draft after draft, came down to the final submission of a sixteen-page interpretation of an assigned section of Ephesians.
Anxiety wrapped me like thick dark smoke that fills a room from scorched grease left on a high flame. Hard to breathe, difficult to see. I’ve managed final papers with ease numerous times before. This time was different. Even I was amazed at my ability to carry on my day-to-day duties, responsibilities and routines while carefully covering any trace of the hell we were living. The alarms were blaring and I heard them, but turned a deaf ear. I’d gotten used to blocking out things that were hard to deal with.
Like the noise from the TV volume intended to disrupt my concentration while I read chapter after chapter of assigned text he said was a “useless, stupid waste of time”. Like the belittling remarks thrown at me like darts that I pretended had no effect. The burning sensation of absolute disgust as his whiskey-induced comatose body pressed against me at night. I desperately tried to ignore the belligerence going on just outside the bedroom door for so many nights in a row. The hostility projected towards me was undeniable and his disdain slathered me like Vaseline. I just kept willing it away, hoping it would subside, not grow momentum. I painstakingly guarded the rage that was bubbling up inside me and I heaped scripture and verse on top of it. I prayed until my legs went numb. In my secret moments, I cried out to God and begged for courage, for peace, for wisdom, for an end to the torment.
God’s timing is impeccable you know. He is always on time. Not our time, but his. Who knew that my laments were about to be addressed in the most unlikely way. Who knew there was reason beyond imagination that I had been awarded a scholarship to a Christian University. A scholarship I had applied for well over a year previous and long forgotten with the only stipulation being that I begin my studies the current term, less than a week after being informed. Who knew that it was part of a bigger plan that my adviser had encouraged me to take biblical courses before attending to coursework related to my Education major. Who besides my Father God would have known that all those assignments were blessings in disguise. I couldn’t have guessed how essential my understanding of how to study, understand, interpret and apply Gods word would become to my very immediate future. But HE did. That night when it all irrupted, I was prepared. God had been outfitting me and I was oblivious. Meticulous preparation had been taking place during the months leading up to that night. The significance I wouldn’t even begin to comprehend until years later.
During that time, among other important lessons, I learned how the bible is structured and why. I learned why context is an important consideration when interpreting scripture. I had never seen a concordance let alone knew how to use it. I studied the wisdom books and discovered how to apply biblical principles in my daily life. And most miraculous of all, it wasn’t an accident that the final paper, due that night, and all the study and research done up to that point had been on Ephesians 6:10-20. THE ARMOR OF GOD. That night, my stand began.
A rush of crazed fury ran through my body like cold saline administered intravenously filling every millimeter of my insides. A force greater than I could withstand stood me straight up out of my chair and before I could even rationalize what I had heard, I had made my way through the house and was on him like a rabid dog. I was lost in contempt for him. There was no part of me in that moment, I was absent all judgment and control. I swung and landed a stunning blow then somehow mustered physical strength to toss a 250-pound man off my son and across the living room like a rag doll. I remember watching him hit the wall and saw the crater in the drywall as he stumbled to get to his feet. I stood in front of my crying child postured like a WWE wrestler and I watched his facial expression contort between utter shock to absolute madness. As he came at me I pivoted and snatched up both of my sons and carried them off to my bedroom. I ordered them to stay in the room and not open the door, no matter what! In retrospect, I must’ve believed I could protect them better from outside that flimsy chipboard, or wanted to shield them from what would follow, or at least take the brunt of any aggression headed our way. I stepped outside the room and closed the door.
I heard shouting and glass breaking. His bosom buddy, who had been helping him drain bottles of Jack Daniels and Bud Light all evening must’ve intervened. Not helping matters, but dousing the flame with accelerant, jeering him on with, “You’re the man. How can you let her treat you like that? This is your house!” My husband was trying to process, very loudly, what had just transpired.
Throughout our relationship, he was careful to bound his physical aggression towards me to kicking, pushing, shoving, and holding me down. I knew he had consciously held back for two reasons; first, because he had told me as much and second, because he had to be the strongest man I have ever known (no exaggeration). Had he actually come at me with any real force or loss of control, he would have pulverized if not killed me. That night was the only time in almost 17 years I’d known him that I witnessed an outward display of his attempt to control himself from unleashing on me.
He could hardly speak. He was slurring and spitting out sounds I had never heard him make. He heaved himself back and forth stomping on everything in his path and repeatedly slamming his fist into his other hand. He didn’t look up at me as I stood in the doorway of what was left of our living room. My rage had subsided slightly making room for the fear that was creeping in. No doubt I was smack in the middle of a truly volatile situation, but any sense I had left hadn’t risen to my brain so I puffed up and screamed “GET OUT!” I just kept screaming “GET OUT!” and opened the front door in case either of them needed a visual cue.
The man I loved and cherished for so many years, that I had stood beside and defended was gone. Not physically, not yet, but the man that stood before me was void. An empty shell of who I had known. In all, by the time the police arrived, he had cast a few threats, smashed a few bottles, stomped all through the house leaving destruction in his wake and then took off walking with his cohort and the remainder of a case of beer. The house was trashed but I was untouched. The precipitant of the whole episode, what I had heard that uprooted me from my seat, had been the blood curdling cry of my youngest son. The boys had been rough housing with their dad and with his judgment impaired by alcohol and his inclination for physical aggression pronounced while under the influence, he bent our sons arm behind his back so far, he nearly broke it.
The boys were far from fine, but they weren’t physically hurt. The police advised me to take my children somewhere safe for the night since there was a good chance he’d be back. There would be no charges since our son wasn’t hurt and he didn’t put his hands on me. Apparently, it’s completely legal to destroy your own belongings if it’s limited to your house and doesn’t disturb the peace of neighboring residents. At least that’s what I was told. As I hurried to pack some necessities, I realized that my husband, even in his alcoholic state, had the wherewithal to sabotage me yet again. That final paper I had been working on for weeks upon weeks, the one that would determine if I passed or failed the course, the one that required digital submission by midnight…Wiped out. Even if I had a complete back-up, he ripped the modem out of the wall and took it with him to guarantee I’d miss the deadline. Honestly, the boys safety took precedence, but it would be a foretelling of what awaited us the next day and the unbelievable series of events that would unfold in the months following that night.
The Armor of God – “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.”
Ephesians 6:10-20 (NIV)