Michele Armstrong November 9, 2017 33

Everyone has their breaking point, I suppose. Mine came one particularly cold night in the Spring of 2012, and I stood there shivering violently, trying to grasp what had just transpired. Dazed and hurling in confusion, realizations were coming clear to me that I had not dared to give heed to before. I was on a threshold, stepping out of a fog that I had lived in for so long, and the consummate conclusion was disturbing. But it was to lead me on a journey into realizing the power and provision of a mighty God.

The evening had begun as any other–nothing out of the ordinary. But as the pattern always goes in abusive situations, that ordinary evening changed traumatically. Here is the ever-present scenario:  A conversation becomes bizarre in nature, then manipulative, then controlling, then explosive, and then you find yourself swirling in confusion, utter torment, and most of all, fear. Your mind is tortured with choices of how to respond, what to say or what not to say, thinking of ways to dismantle the situation–knowing the end result will always be the same–you will be at fault no matter what. You will be left reeling with guilt because, as is always the case, it’s your fault. You will pay the consequences and will spend the next hours or days or months walking on eggshells and groveling for forgiveness, and hoping for some shred of approval indicating that you finally stand in good graces again. And the relief brings such euphoria and gratefulness, and you are once again feeling the sunlight on your face, trying to bask in the moment, before it will all begin again. And you wonder what will trigger the next round, but you can’t think about that now, because, for now, all is well, and you can breathe for a moment.  It’s the cycle, you know. And that cycle is the only constant in your life.

Prior to this particular night, some realizations had been coming to me that my situation was not normal and that things were not okay in my life and in my marriage. Something was wrong. It had taken me almost 30 years to admit that. But because of that tiny indication, I had found my voice (or at least partially found it) at last, and a shred of courage. So I decided this night, I was not going to stand there and “take it.” I was going to get away for a while. I did not know where, but I needed time–if only a few hours– to think. Surprising myself, I bravely got into the vehicle and sped away.

With no particular place in mind, I drove through my neighborhood, thinking I had escaped. After I had gone a few blocks, I looked in the rearview mirror and I saw headlights. It was the middle of the night, and in a small town there was little to no traffic, so odds were, it would be him. And it was. Suddenly he began increasing his speed, so I increased mine. Something in me rose up and I determined this time I was not going to buckle.

Finally, I entered the highway with no hindrances in my path, and I began to flee. He continued to pursue me, and tried to maneuver up to the driver’s side of my vehicle. His tire got caught in the gravel on the shoulder, and he lost control. Swerving violently back and forth across the road, his vehicle flipped on it’s side, skidding down the highway and spraying sparks like fireworks in the night sky. I watched from my rearview mirror in horror as it all unfolded before me. When it was all over, his vehicle came to a halt on the shoulder of the road in a crumpled mass, the wheels still spinning like tops on a spindle. Of course, as was always my tortured mindset, my immediate thought was that this was all my fault. The ramification of that was overwhelming, for at that moment, I didn’t know the outcome. I thought he was dead.

I turned around and drove back to the scene whimpering pitifully, asking God to not let him be dead. I stepped out of my vehicle, and into what felt like an out of body experience. Suddenly, I began trembling violently and became intensely aware of the cold and the horrific scene before me. It was eerily silent, except for the whirring sound of the spinning tires. But something kept me mentally stable enough to approach his crumpled vehicle to assess the situation.

Was he dead? Was he horrifically injured? What would I find? Would he be dismembered or wounded beyond recognition? There was no sign of life, and the reality of that thought sent me into shock. But as was always my habit, I had to keep going. I could see that he was pressed against the driver’s side door, which was now lying the ground. Still no response from him, as he lay there lifelessly. I know now that was a shock tactic demonstrated for my benefit. I could see he was bleeding, but I couldn’t tell from where. I began pounding on the broken windshield screaming his name and shouting, “Are you Ok??!!!! Are you ok?!!!!” I was begging for a response. Finally he began to move, and the first words out of his mouth were, “Are you going to leave me, baby? Please don’t leave me! I love you! I love Jesus! Are you going to leave me?”  Those rants continued over and over. They were the rants of a madman–manipulative and mind-controlling–even in the face of what could have been death.

And suddenly, for the first time in 30 years, I felt something break inside of me. He had finally broken me, and I knew it. The trembling now became a convulsing of sorts within my body. As though someone or something had flipped a light switch on in a dark room, the realization came to me that I had been living with insanity for all those years. I looked up at the moon and begged God to see me, to help me, to give me direction. It was a split-second of time, but a lifetime of questions and scenarios was all summed up in one question. “God, do you see?” And for perhaps the first time in my life, or at least the first time I was aware of it, I believe God spoke to my heart and said, “I have seen enough. This is it.” I had no idea what that meant, or where it would lead. But I knew at that moment, God picked me up into his arms and assured me he had this. And in my brokenness, I trusted him, and rested in that fact. I wept and allowed myself to admit, “I can’t do this anymore.”

After much resistance and not without long argument, my husband went to the emergency room in an ambulance. Believe me, the police on the scene had to exercise authority to make it happen. I watched as they loaded him onto the gurney and into the ambulance. I was still sitting there on the side of the highway shivering and convulsing. Knowing I was in shock, the emergency workers began asking simple questions to see about my mental state. What is your name? How old are you? Where do you live? Do you know what day it is? And then, from one of the policemen came a question that haunted me: “Was there any domestic abuse involved in this crash?” Of course, I insisted emphatically there was not. There was a voice inside me that doubted my answer. Why did he ask that?

And, suddenly, it began to unfold before me. All the hiding, all the covering, all the enabling had led me to this, and I began to imagine what they would think of all that had just happened and all that had been happening for the past 30 years. And it struck me what this stranger’s perception of my life would be, and I became aware that I had been hiding a very dark secret. Only now would I truly admit it to myself. My sons and I were victims of abuse. It seemed as though lights began to flash in my mind, and realizations were becoming plain, and past dramatic experiences were coming to light, like awakening from a dream-like state. I am nauseated and trembling even writing about it. But that moment would mark the beginning of a long quest for relief and recovery.

The night was only to become more bizarre. Upon my entrance into the emergency room, he was standing in his hospital gown, his arm bandaged from the wound he had sustained in the wreck. He looked at me and said one of the most bizarre things I had ever heard him say: “I just realized we never got to dance together.” And he hugged me close and began swaying back and forth. The room began to spin, and I became weak. I felt faint and thought I would vomit. He wanted to keep me in his spell.  But instead, that moment made me realize his level of insanity, and how very sick my mind had become. He climbed back into bed and I stood there helplessly whimpering, tears streaming down my face, broken in every way, and for the moment, no help in sight. And then he looked at me and said something, I can’t remember what. But it was some sort of manipulative, passive-aggressive statement said in a very sweet tone. Something that my mind translated, “It’s ok. We know this is your fault, but I’m going to be fine.”

The days that followed were to play out into many other scenarios, too numerous to detail. Thank God, the only physical injury my husband sustained was to his arm and was healed a short time later. And me? Well, in my state of disrepair God was to bring about miraculous healing and freedom. The days ahead were a process and it was not a swift delivery, but He sustained me long enough to eventually permanently remove me from the situation.

I am in a beautiful place in my life now, with a new husband, and I am in awe every day. But that night marked the beginning of an incredible journey of faith for me, which I had never imagined possible, and led me into the deepest places of trust in God’s leading and in His direct guidance.

God has taught me eternal lessons about His grace and mercy. I have re-discovered Him in ways I never dreamed. I have learned of His personal interaction in my life–that He speaks and is waiting for me to listen. I have learned, more than ever, that He is a God of love, and that He has a deep purpose for me–a purpose which I am on a quest to fulfill. I have learned that he can take brokenness and make it whole. He can take ugliness and make it beauty. He can take weakness and make it strength. He can create a victor out of a victim.

Perhaps you or someone in your life is living in constant fear and the despair of abuse. I am here to proclaim to you there is hope. There is healing. You don’t have to stay broken. You can live life fully and immeasurably. You can find joy in the pain, and come out of the dark. You can proclaim mighty victories and discover incredible treasures hidden beneath the rubble. God sees you. Defeat is not His will for you. Find his deliverance and his peace. Wield the sword of His word, and in the name of Jesus, defeat the powers of darkness, break the strongholds of evil, and go forward into the battle. Don’t listen to the lies any longer. God will not leave your side. Victory is yours. You are more than conquerors because of an old rugged cross and a glorious empty tomb. Claim that victory and behold what wonders He has in store for you. I promise you, they are beyond compare.

And pray for me, please, my friend. Pray for open doors in my life for ministry, and for being a voice and an advocate for women in dark places in life. Pray that I will recognize those doors and will be brave enough to walk through them. Pray for strength to allow Him to fulfill His plan for me, and for courage to do what He bids. And most of all, pray that all my life and breath are filled with His sweet presence and His beautiful Spirit, and that I will be bold and courageous until my time here is finished. And then, some day, when I see His face, I will fall on my knees in His presence and He will say to me, “Well done, my daughter.” And that will be the sweetest words to me ever uttered.


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