VIEWS: 12 PAGES: 3 POSTED ON: 12/13/2011
Theological Reflection #1 Domestic Violence Background Information: During the 6th week of my internship, I attended the Character Development class at the church and was enrolled in a mixed small group with a broad age range of individuals. Our small group ranged from young adults in their 20’s to an older woman in her 50’s. The purpose of our small group was to vulnerably share ourselves with each other and as a result, grow in our faith and character. During our meeting, we all shared our stories and testimonies in order to get to know each other a little better. To my surprise, one of the women in our group revealed that she is currently a victim of domestic violence and was experiencing physical and emotional abuse from her husband. Detailed Report of the Incident: As she talked, the woman explained that she is in her third marriage after a long line of abusive husbands, and that her current husband has been the worst. I was completely baffled. Here this woman looked completely put together, upper middle class, fashionable dressed, and had a sweet demeanor about her. Most of the people in the group seemed compassionate, some displaying horror, others shifting uncomfortably in their chairs. The leader of the group asked if she had any children and if they were living with her. She said that all her children were grown and in college. She went on through tears to explain her fear and struggle to stay with her husband because she knows divorce is wrong. The leader began to explain how even though divorce is never what God intends, the church would also never encourage her to stay in an abusive situation. He asked her if she was afraid to go home after our meeting and she said no, that she would be ok. He then told her through tears that he couldn’t bear the thought of sending her back home to someone who beats her, that she had value and was important, and that we would help her as a group through her situation. She thanked us with a smile through her tears. Evaluation of the Event: During the 10th week of my internship, I attended a Domestic Violence Training Seminar with my Field Instructor held for the clergy in the Fox Valley area in Wisconsin. After attending the conference, I have now been able to better understand and evaluate the situation I experienced in the small group. The fact that the woman revealed the abuse she was experiencing was remarkable. I suspect it happened because she was one of the last people to share and the group had already created an emotionally safe and vulnerable environment for her to share. Even though I have had interactions with abuse victims before, I have never come in contact with someone in a current situation. Honestly, I wasn’t very effective during the situation due to my shock, feelings of helplessness, and not knowing how to react or handle a confession like that. Thankfully, I was able to observe the leader in action and better understand how to handle a similar situation in the future. Theological Reflections: From what I observed, the theological assumptions of the woman was that despite her abusive situation, she was required to stay in that environment because divorce is a sin. As a consequence, she believed that God expected her to survive and cope with her situation in order to remain “obedient”. My theological assumptions are that she probably also has a low view of herself, not understanding her full dignity and value as a person made in God’s image. Being abused by her husband has probably given her a distorted view of marriage, submission, and God’s intention of hierarchy and authority. My natural tendency would be to see her more as a victim, making it easy for me to overlook her own participation in sin (avoiding confrontation, denial, giving into fear, the way she relates with her children as a result, etc). There could be many theological issues involved such as guilt, shame, blame, anger, fear, forgiveness, injustice, etc. The best biblical model to use in this situation is to realize that every person has both a dignity and a depravity (Rom 7:21-25). It is important for me to see her as made in the image of God (Gen 1:26) and to understand how the sin of her husband, along with her own sin, has marred the 4 areas of her God-given dignity (Rational, Volitional, Personal, and Emotional). Then I could deal with the situation accordingly, finding ways to help restore truth, health, and healing to the four areas of her life from a Biblical point of view. The idea of domestic violence has been both disturbing and stretching for my spiritual growth. It has caused me to wrestle with the idea of suffering, injustice, and the presence of God. Where is God in the midst of abuse? I have found that child abuse is especially difficult for me to deal with theologically since children are unable to protect themselves or remove themselves from the situation. Theologically I believe that everything passes through God’s hand and that He is in control of our lives (Ps 139:16). I believe that God has given humans free will and the freedom of choice, which can be used to act in sin against others (Gal 5:13). I also believe that people are susceptible to be used by Satan through their sinful nature and that abuse is the result of someone’s sinful actions against another. Response/Application: This experience has shown me that I need to further wrestle with the theological implications of abuse. The most difficult thing about being under the control of my Maker is that I still do not understand why sometimes God does not step in and intervene or protect a child from having to experience such horrific circumstances. I believe that God “works all things together for good” and that He can use someone’s painful experiences to bring about a “greater good”, it is still hard for me to understand why He allows certain horrors in the lives of individuals, especially Christians. I feel this “problem of evil” is something that I have not resolved and still will need to struggle through. However, despite my anger at injustice or my inability to understand God, I still trust that He is fair and just and trustworthy. Through this encounter and the training seminar, I have learned about the cycle of domestic violence as well as the signs and symptoms. I have also learned how to respond to someone who reveals that they are experiencing abuse in a way that will be helpful to the situation. As a leader, it is important to be compassionate and understanding toward the victim, but to also know how to take protective action and help them process their experiences. I have been challenged to realize that abuse can happen in any relationship, no matter the social or economic status. I was able to learn tremendously from watching the leader interact with the woman I our group, and the important questions to ask when presented with an abuse victim. The following are 5 areas I need to grow in: 1) My understanding of the “problem of evil” and trusting God even when His lack of action doesn’t make sense or seem just 2) My ability to work with people who experience or have experienced forms of abuse 3) The ability to take action and know the best plan to implement for victims of abuse 4) Not allowing my fear of failure to hinder me 5) Gaining more knowledge and understanding on the affects of abuse and how best to handle it as a ministry leader The most difficult part for me is to willingly live under the control of my Master. Because I fear bad things happening and do not completely understand why God allows such horrifying experiences, I find it difficult to surrender complete control to Him.
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