This whole story is one of narcissistic abuse, but this particular episode happened about six months prior to my final departure from my ex-husband. Those of you who suffer from gall stones understand how painful they can be. One evening at home, I suffered an incredible attack of pain. It felt like a lance pierced me through just above my navel. My husband at the time refused to take me to the hospital, so I drove myself with my twelve year old daughter with me in case something happened. Needless to say it was an excruciating drive. I drove along the back roads at a slow pace, trying to keep us both safe.
A sonogram quickly diagnosed the issue, and the doctor scheduled surgery soon after. The Sunday before the surgery, I took my four girls to a church about thirty minutes away in the town in which resided the hospital I would soon be in. I visited the little church in Columbia, Kentucky on the recommendation of a friend. After a lively service, I introduced myself to the pastor and his wife, Jim and Laverne. Several days later, I drove myself to the hospital. I was a little worried about how I would drive myself home afterwards, but I had no choice. John refused to take me to the hospital, and this surgery was not optional.
The day after surgery, several hours before I was scheduled to go home, Gerald and Laverne came to visit. I was surprised. After all, I had only met them briefly and had not told them about my surgery. However, a friend who attended their church had, and they came to pray over me.
Before they left, Laverne looked at me and said, “I have never said this to anyone before. However, the Lord wants me to tell you that if you find yourself with no place to go, you can come to us, you and your children.”
I thanked her, though I had no intention of imposing on the nice couple, nor did I foresee the need to. I did not yet realize how much intervention I would need.
I spent the next week recovering from surgery, healing quite quickly to my surprise. My first day back at work, I picked up the mail. I received the usual birthday check from my in-laws and knowing that we were a bit low on food in the house I cashed the check and did a little shopping. Previously, my birthday money had always been mine to spend, so I did not anticipate any response. After all, I was spending it on groceries.
But one of the marks of an abuser is unpredictability. Unpredictability keeps a victim on his or her toes, after all. John was furious with me, more than the typical fury. His face was red, and he seemed to struggle with holding himself in check. I was terrified, more terrified than usual for some reason. He had a violent streak. He told me to get out. I had spent $60 without his permission.
Narcissists, being incapable of love, often hate their victims, though they try to hide it because they fear losing their buffer to the world.
For the first time, I saw the mask truly slip. I felt the hatred simmering in him, and knew it was not safe to be there.
Then I remembered Laverne’s words. I didn’t have a cell phone at the time, but I did have her address. The girls and I bundled up some things, and we were off, groceries and all. That we were received graciously blessed us. We stayed a week, until some money from my parents enabled us to get a small house in town.
This story does not quite end here. Victims of domestic abuse generally take up to six times to leave permanently. This is because they are evaluating their resources and their ability to sustain themselves on their own. This certainly was true in my case. John, as he usually did, turned on the mega-watt charm to win us back. I returned unwillingly, but knew that I needed a bit more time and strategy if I was going to make it on my own. He was usually able to sustain the good guy act for a couple of months until the emotional and verbal abuse would begin again. However, I did get him to visit the church once during his attempt to keep me from leaving again.
He knew that Gerald and Laverne had taken me under their wing. Typically a narcissist cannot bear to have others think poorly of him. He announced in church, in an attempt to win an unimpressed Gerald and Laverne, that he was going to dedicate his family to God. It was showy, meant to make him look spiritual. But he gave God the permission for intervention in his family. I didn’t think much of it at the time. However, Laverne took careful note. Six months later, I got myself a car and a rented house, and took the girls to their new home. I knew I was not going back. I filed for separation and divorce.
Gerald and Laverne, tireless in their aid of a struggling woman they barely knew, came to court with us. After the first date, in which I was awarded temporary custody pending the divorce hearing, Laverne took me aside. She recalled my mind to that day in church where John had publically surrendered his family to God.
“I knew at that moment that you would be free of him,” she said. “God takes note of such things, and I knew God was going to hold John to that.”
And He has. Though we had fifty/fifty custody for a time, in the end the girls did not have to encounter John for over a decade after the divorce was finalized. I wish that they missed him, for that would have meant that there was a bit of genuine relationship there. However, in all honesty, his absence was the very best thing that could happen to us, allowing us to begin the long process of healing.
I am not threatened by the unbelief of others, as so many Christians are. God’s existence and particular care for me are settled. He knew my great need before I did, and arranged care from my daughters and me in our most desperate need. His intervention was timely, loving, and a miracle for my daughters and me.
Why are you depressed, O my soul? Why are you upset? Wait for God! For I will again give thanks to my God for his saving intervention. Psalm 42:5
The account of his intervention will be recorded for future generations; people yet to be born will praise the LORD. Psalm 102:18