I met Kathleen Pooler on line two or three years ago, and found we had much in common. She loves the Lord, as I do, and she's a mighty fine writer. I found her memoir, Ever Faithful to His Lead: My Journey Away From Emotional Abuse, to be an encouraging read, and am always interested in what her guest bloggers have to say at Memoir Writers Journey. Here, Kathy shares a bit of her story regarding her struggles over divorce and how her church responded.
Finding Grace Within the Church by Kathleen Pooler
When I married for the first time at the age of twenty-four, I thought I knew what I was doing. My Catholic faith as well as my parent’s own loving marriage had infused me with the expectation that my vows were sacred and would endure life’s challenges. Despite the red flags—my prospective husband Ed’s excessive drinking, and his refusal to attend premarital counseling with the parish priest--I plunged full bore into a life of chaos and uncertainty. It turned out to be far from my dream of finding my Prince Charming.
My growing awareness that Ed was an alcoholic and my life was out of control led me to the doorstep of the rectory where I sought the guidance of my parish priest, Father Fulton.
Father Fulton was a young priest who sported a cowboy hat and cowboy boots at church functions. He loved to have a good time but he let me down at a time when I needed support and guidance. It was difficult to see beyond my own needs but as I think about it now, he probably had no idea how to help me. The guilt and shame of a possible divorce kept me locked in my own conspiracy of silence. A good Catholic girl in the 1970s did not entertain divorce.
Excerpt from Ever Faithful to His Lead: My Journey Away From Emotional Abuse
One day I bundled six-month-old Leigh Ann up and dragged her through the snow on a sled, ending up three blocks away on the doorstep of the rectory of the Catholic Church, in tears. Ed had stayed out late again. Another bowling night when I couldn’t sleep. I felt exhausted and sad. I had thought for sure he would change his ways.
I’m glad I didn’t give up on my church though.
I’m glad I didn’t give up on my church though. Through my trials, I developed a personal bond with a loving God. Several years later, Father was transferred and replaced by an elderly priest who listened with his heart and gave me the tough love and guidance I needed to find my way through the single again world.
I always had a faith in God and yet, it wasn’t until I was a single parent with two school-aged children after my first divorce that I found God in a personal way. However, I must have lost sight of that connection, for a few years after, when I met my second husband, I seemed to be driven by a need to be an intact family again rather than guided by faith. It turned out to be at a steep cost.
But this soul-shattering mistake led me to a deeper faith
and out of a dangerous situation.
I began focusing on God as I prayed for discernment and sought guidance through scripture readings. This fed my hope that better days were ahead. I ended up mustering the courage to escape in broad daylight with my two school-age children from a man who showed the capability of being physically abusive.
My church community has been very supportive.
Back in the 80s when I was a single parent, I joined a group called Separated and Divorced Catholics. Though there was division within the church about accepting divorce, many clergy were open to the changing times and provided me and my children a safe place to nurture our faith and each other. I also went through the process of having my first marriage annulled by the Catholic Church. This was a healing process that enabled me to move forward in my life.
With counseling, faith, supportive friends and family, I have been able to see my role in allowing abusive relationships and to forgive myself for subjecting myself and my children to unacceptable behavior. I am very grateful that I was able to extract myself from two abusive marriages and learn from my mistakes. In finding my voice, I found a life of joy, peace and gratitude. I finally feel deserving of all the gifts God wanted for me all along.
I’m empowered knowing I am in charge of my choices.
While some members of the clergy can be judgmental, I trust my God wants what’s best for me. I know this because every time I have cried out in pain, He has answered and filled me with the peace of His presence. In 1996, as I paced the floor in the emergency room, awaiting the results of a CT scan to identify the cause of shortness of breath and a persistent cough, I had cried out “Lord, give me strength for this battle of my life and for my life”. A sense of total peace washed over me that night and carried me through the next two years of treatment for Stage 4 Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.
“Be still, and know that I am God.” God wasn’t on the beach, watching a mountain sunrise, or dreaming by a babbling brook when he said those words he spoke. He was on the battlefield with me, giving me strength.
Kathy lives with her husband Wayne in eastern New York. She blogs weekly at her Memoir Writer’s Journey blog: http://krpooler.com. You can also find her at the following:
Twitter @kathypooler https://twitter.com/KathyPooler
LinkedIn: Kathleen Pooler: https://www.linkedin.com/pub/kathleen-pooler/16/a95/20a
Google+:Kathleen Pooler: https://plus.google.com/109860737182349547026/posts
Personal page, Kathy Pooler : https://www.facebook.com/kathleen.pooler
Author page, Kathleen Pooler/Memoir Writer’s Journey: https://www.facebook.com/memoirwritersjourney
Linda says: Do you have a divorce experience to share? Have you been shamed by a church because of your divorce? There are hurting people who need to hear your story, who need to know they are not alone, and who need to be encouraged. If you are interested in sharing your story, email Linda for guidelines: Linda@LindaMKurth.com
Spiritual Abuse in the Church by D.R.
As the marriage progressed, I became aware of the duplicity of his motives, intentions and belief systems about marriage and women in general.
We were married only four months when I was in a near-fatal car accident and had a “near death experience (NDE)”. This event left me extremely unsettled and my grandmother suggested I join a church. Shortly after, we started attending bible studies at my sister-in-law’s church. About two years later, we were baptized and made our spiritual commitments publicly before the church. It was then we began hosting bible studies in our home and participating in lay-ministry in the community.
My husband did not want me to work outside the home, so when my daughter was born I gave up my job. We had struggled with fertility issues for several years, and I was happy to be home. However, within two years of my daughter’s birth, he became passive-aggressive, prone to outbursts of anger with physical and emotional abuse. We were struggling financially because I wasn’t working and our plans to build a home were postponed. When we argued about this and other issues, he resorted to shoving me against the kitchen wall, getting close to my face in an intimidating way, and verbally berating me.
Shortly after my daughter’s second birthday, she expressed a desire to see “the big truck that Daddy drives every day at work.” We made arrangements to meet for lunch and after eating at a local restaurant, I took pictures of my daughter sitting in the driver’s seat of the truck. As she was climbing down from the seat, she accidentally kicked the pile of papers under it and a stack of Playboy magazines fell onto the ground. My husband blushed and would not meet my eyes. At that moment, my eyes were opened to the possibility he was addicted to pornography. The evidence soon bore out, and I came to understand why he no longer approached me intimately.
I told him he needed counseling or I would leave. We participated in marriage counseling twice, once for about six months with a pastor from another church in our denomination, then later with a Christian marriage and family therapist. There was never any accountability put before him; the only confession he offered was “I’ve done some things I shouldn’t have.”
I was repeatedly told, by both counselors, that if I would follow the Bible’s teachings on submissiveness, our problems would be solved.
I felt betrayed by the church and the therapist, and quit the counseling. I joined a support group for domestic violence survivors that was not affiliated with any church or denomination. After I made this change, my husband became more antagonistic. My concern for the safety of my daughter and myself intensified.
There were several incidences in the middle of the night that lead me to believe that my daughter was in danger.
She refused to sleep through the night, and I was exhausted from lack of rest. When I confronted him about this, he said I was crazy. The next few days he slept in another part of the house and we fought constantly.
I felt terrified, my gut telling me to “get out.” I hastily packed up my car and left with my daughter. We lived in the car for a few days until a friend from the support group I was part of took us in. I contacted Child Protective Services and filed a restraining order.
As the news of my situation gained momentum in my church, members and people in leadership shunned me.
I sat alone with my daughter at church services and potlucks. Some members accused me of bringing an unclean spirit into the church. Ironically, within three years of my divorce, seven other marriages in the church were dissolved because of abuse and incest. I realized many years later, that my experience brought courage to others.
The journey out of domestic violence is very much like coming out of prison.
After years of manipulation, deception and betrayal, I lost my faith, my spiritual centeredness and individuality. I decided to choose a life of discovering who I was outside the dictates of denominational religion. I began studying alone at home which deepened my understanding of the biblical concepts of “chosen”, “forgiven”, “forsaken”, “redeemed” and divorce. I spent many years outside corporate churches and found unconditional love and acceptance in the support groups of which I was a part.
I lived a solitary life with my daughter where we could heal and grow spiritually without oppression. I've been single for thirty years, and although I still desire a godly companion, I am reluctant to let another man into my life. Being the “Bride of Christ” is the safest and most nurturing relationship for me now!
Linda's Comments: I want to thank D.R. for sharing her powerful story here. Re-visiting such painful events takes courage. From our correspondence, I know there were times she struggled with the emotions brought forth as she wrote this, but as her writing progressed, she experienced some healing.
Do you have a divorce experience to share? Have you been shamed by a church because of your divorce? There are hurting people who need to hear your story, who need to know they are not alone, and who need to be encouraged. If you are interested in sharing your story, email Linda for guidelines: Linda@LindaMKurth.com
Linda M. Kurth is a writer and a divorced and remarried Christian. In going through the divorce, she experienced a dichotomy of responses from the Christian community. After sharing some of those experiences in her upcoming memoir, God the Devil, and Divorce, she's heard many stories of divorced Christians who have struggled with the same issue. This blog invites divorced Christians to tell their stories with the goal of encouraging churches to resist condemnation and become a source of healing and grace.
Living in self-doubt and questioning myself, I was terrified. I had not witnessed physical abuse towards my mother or extended female family members. Out of desperation, I consulted with the pastor for a second time. He asked what I was doing wrong. Told me I should keep him from drinking. Make myself scarce when he was in his moods. Not to deny him access to my body because it would make things worse. Be a diligent wife and it would stop. It did not.
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Divorce And Kids
Divorce & The Church
Holidays And Divorce
The Bible And Women
Divorce and Remarriage | Andrew Farley
Is Divorce the unforgivable sin? | Andrew Farley
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