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Easter Reflection 2011

Apr 18, 2011 — Categories: ,

by Rev. Kathy G. Reid

After rising from the dead, Jesus appeared early on Sunday morning to Mary Magdalene, whom he had delivered from seven demons. She went to his former companions, now weeping and carrying on, and told them. When they heard her report that she had seen him alive and well, they didn’t believe her.

Later he appeared, but in a different form, to two of them out walking in the countryside. They went back and told the rest, but they weren’t believed either.

—Mark 16:9–11 from The Message//REMIX by Eugene H. Peterson

Amy didn’t see the warning signs when she was dating her husband. All she saw was his smile, his devotion, and his good looks. He seemed to sweep her off her feet, and she was so in love. In fact, she thought it was a sign of his love that he could become agitated when he saw her talking to another male and that he loved her so much he didn’t want her to share her time with her girlfriends.

Her family thought they were a good match too. They were impressed that he was a Christian. Amy talked to him about her belief that God intends for each woman and man to pair forever and raise a family. Her husband agreed and used phrases like “eternal covenant,” “life-time commitment,” and “till death do us part.” He said all the right things.

It wasn’t long after their wedding that she noticed that her world was becoming smaller and smaller. She didn’t see her family anymore. Her husband didn’t believe that women should work outside the home, so she quit her job. They sold her car to pay bills, so she was totally dependent on him for transportation from her rural home. Her life was filled with taking care of him, and her friends just stopped calling. All her neighbors saw was a happy family. Her family didn’t hear much, but they assumed that they were happy. No one saw the daily terror that filled her life. No one would have believed that she was regularly beaten until she was unconscious. No one noticed the fear in her children’s eyes.

The story of the resurrection of Jesus is filled with wonder and disbelief. Mary Magdalene shares her experience, and no one believes her. Even those disciples who meet Jesus on the road to Emmaus tell their story, and they are not believed. Our Christian faith has evolved in such a way that today our language categorizes people into “believers” and “non-believers.”

Becoming a “believer” is an essential part of my work. I am the Executive Director of the Family Abuse Center, the service center for those living in domestic violence situations in Waco, Texas, and the surrounding six counties. Every day I am honored to meet courageous women, like Amy, who leave the terror behind to create a new life. Amy came to us shaking and fearful, and one of the first things she said was, “No one believed me.”

Some of women who come to the domestic violence shelter are telling their stories for the first time. But most are telling their story for the first time to someone who “believes” them. Some live in poverty. But many come from middle-class homes. Some even come from families with wealth. Some of their homes are beautiful and costly. Almost all leave their material possessions behind.

But the loss of those possessions is not the greatest loss they experience. Even before they leave the violence in their home, often they have already lost their hopes and dreams. The abuser tells them that they are breaking their marriage vows and destroying their “happy” family. No one has ever told them that the abuser destroyed the marriage covenant long ago with his violence. He sometimes quotes scripture and wisdom to enforce his control over her and the family. All those expectations of youth, marriage, and happiness are gone. Only fear and disbelief are left behind.

As I meet new clients at the door, often shaking and sometimes physically hurting, devastated by the emotional abuse, one of the most powerful things I can say is “I believe you.” I consciously choose to align myself with the victims as a believer. Many of our clients have multiple serious problems, but first and foremost, they are victims of domestic violence. The domestic violence has been the fuel that drives their troubles and inhibits their ability to get help and find healing.

While as a society, we have come a long way in being able to talk about domestic violence issues, it is still our families’ “dirty secret.” Outward appearances are deceiving unless you know what to look for, and denial is strong. The truth is so ugly that few are able to comprehend what is happening. On top of that, we can feel completely helpless, not knowing what to do or how to respond.

For more than twenty years as a Christian pastor, I reminded congregations how Good Friday and Easter Sunday are inextricable linked together. The ugly truth of Good Friday is that Jesus was murdered in the context of humiliation, fear, and terror. Nothing we can say wipes away the brutality of that day. Many domestic violence victims live in that context daily. Amy lived that terror and fear for years, until she was able to break free.

The most often asked question I get is “How can you do the work you do, hear the terrible stories, see the pain and damage, and still face each day with hope and optimism?” The answer for me is simple: “Easter Sunday.”

Yes, I and a wonderful staff of people listen to the stories of suffering, humiliation, rape, and battering. What I hear is the “Good Friday” of life for the victims of domestic violence. I believe those stories, and sometimes it is very hard to listen. Our belief in their stories is the first step in healing, hope, and joy. But that is not the end, thankfully, for most of our clients. For all those “Good Fridays,” we also get invited into experiences of Easter Sunday when clients break free of the control of their abusers and begin new lives. We see hope, optimism, courage, resiliency, and amazing miracles every day. At first our clients are often so devastated that they can’t imagine hope. But as their new life starts and possibilities open before them, they begin to believe that joy, hope, and the experience of Easter Sunday are possible for them and their children. I have the joyous opportunity to be part of that experience.

This year Easter will have a special meaning as I remember how new life begins again all around me every day.

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