A Time to Leave–Part 1

Michele Armstrong March 27, 2018 4
A Time to Leave–Part 1

A few short years ago, I lay in a crumpled mass in a hotel room completely broken by life and by abuse. Overwhelmed and consumed by darkness, I had no idea what the next day or months or years or even the next moment held for me. No clue what direction to follow. What I did know, is that no matter how dark that moment, and as lost as I felt, I knew God was holding me. I think I had cried every tear left in my body, and I knew I had not one ounce of strength left. I was sick in every way. All I knew is that I could no longer stay in the abusive marriage where I had been for the last 30 years. I was terrified.  But it was time to leave. For certain. I knew for sure this time. It was direct from God, and I knew it. No question. I could do it in faith. Although I had attempted it once before.

Incredibly, so desperate for relief, I had implemented a plan about a year and a half prior. And it was a good one, so I thought. I had slowly been sorting and storing my belongings away discreetly in the garage so that when the right moment came, I would be able to load them quickly into a vehicle and make my escape. I had set up two jobs in Arizona with a friend I had known since elementary school who owned a restaurant and a finance company.  I had no vehicle, so I made plans to rent a car to get me to Arizona, and then use the bus system, or a bicycle if I had to, until I could do better. Former necessities I now considered luxuries. I could do without. I wanted out.

I had a place to stay with a friend on a short-term basis until I could get on my feet. Christmas money was now my tiny lifeline in a secret bank account–around $200. It was all planned. And the scheduled date for my departure from this life of torment was approaching. Why I scheduled a “leaving date”, I have no clue. To be in control of my choices for once, I suppose.

On the day before I was scheduled to leave, I began putting my plan into action. Obtaining the rental car had to be done secretively with no one’s knowledge. The town in which we lived had no rental car establishment. No problem. I would find a way to get to the next town. I had checked the bus schedule that would get me to the town 30 miles away, where I could get a car at the airport. Very early that morning before daylight, and before my husband got out of bed, I snuck out a window in the bedroom on the other end of the house from his bedroom. He was used to me getting up extremely early, and he slept extremely late most days, so this was my chance. I walked to the nearby bus stop and boarded the bus for my destination.

I was horribly anxious and a bit fearful on the bus ride, but I pressed on with my plan. This was my way out, and I was going to take it. When I got to the airport, the fear began taking over, and I began having second thoughts. But I was determined. I felt I had to follow through. I was desperate for relief.

In spite of any fear, I rented my car, and drove the 30 miles back home–parking away from the house so as not to alert my husband’s suspicions. I crawled back into the house through the window, my husband still asleep in the other room. And now I was ready. When he left the house that day, I would load my belongings and leave in the middle of the night. Less than 24 hours, and my misery would be over.

A perfect scenario. Just like a movie. But suddenly my heart began to change. What would this do to my children? What would this do to the church? Who would I hurt in this process? Questions began swirling in my head.  I don’t know if it was fear. I don’t know if it was compassion for other’s feelings. I don’t know if it was conviction of the Spirit. Maybe it was guilt, or self-condemnation. Perhaps it was the control he had on my mind. Maybe it was timing. Perhaps it was a combination of all of it. But my heart changed, almost in a matter of seconds. I couldn’t leave. Not this way.

I rose long before dawn again the next morning and drove the rental car back to the airport, rode the bus home, and climbed back into the window before most people were even awake. I was sad and disappointed. But more than anything, I felt empowered. I had now MADE THE CHOICE to stay. No one had forced me into it. There was something about that thought that gave me strength and hope for what was to come.

I began making intentional efforts to be a better wife; to show affection to my husband, though it made me nauseous; to make every effort to make ME better for him; to be a better minister; to be a better friend; to be more spiritual; and to try to make this marriage work as far as it depended on me. It took everything I had to exert what little strength I had left. I was determined to go the distance. But, of course, things didn’t change, and 18 months later, the decision to leave was staring me in the face again, but I knew this time was for sure.

I know now there was a purpose for the whole window escape experience. God always has a purpose, doesn’t he?  I can look back and be grateful for the lesson. He was weaving His divine plan into my life. I realize now that when the true and God-ordained timing for my departure became evident, that because of this experience, I knew I had left nothing off the table. All my cards were played. I had given it my all. Every option had been exhausted, and now there would be no regrets for the choice I was forced to make.

And so, I left. Not when I climbed out a window. Not when I had $200 in my pocket and a 2 day rental car. Not in secret. I left in broad daylight. Out in the open where everyone, including my ex-husband could see. And God moved mountains, and calmed tempests, and parted the Heavens, as it were, to clear the way.

And He will do the same for you. No matter what circumstance in life you are trying to escape–abuse, sexual sin, addiction, depression, or whatever may be holding you imprisoned–there is an escape for you. Find it. Freedom is there for the taking. Jesus breaks chains. His kingdom isn’t constructed of misery and darkness, but of joy and peace and confidence that he will deliver. Fear is agreement with Satan. Jesus dispels fear.

The next time I blog, it will be about the amazing and incredible plan and provision of God for my life when I decided to stare fear in the face and get out. I am still astounded today as I think of where he has brought me. I will take you on that journey soon. Perhaps you need it. Maybe you will see that the spirit of fear is a chump, and that through Jesus, there is deep inside you the strength to change things. You just need a little nudge and a thimble of hope and a grain of faith–the kind that moves mountains. And they will move. Trust me, they will move.

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