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The Plan The Egypt Experience (Part Two) by Joanna Barr

Exodus 3


od meets with Moses while he is tending sheep. God calls Moses by name, and He identifies Himself as the God of the Israelites, Moses’ ancestors. God plans to use Moses to set the Israelites free and bring them back to the land He had promised to their forefathers. Moses is to tell his people of God’s plan and he is to confront Pharaoh and request their release. Moses will know that it is God who has commissioned him because after the Israelites are free they will worship God on that same mountain. When Moses asks for God’s name, He says, “I AM WHO I AM.” God instructs Moses to ask Pharaoh’s permission for the Israelites to worship their God in the desert for a few days. God also warns Moses that Pharaoh will not agree to release his slaves unless “a mighty hand compels him,” which God will provide. Finally, God lets Moses know that His people will not leave Egypt empty-handed, but will “plunder” the Egyptians. Identity and Destiny There is so much for us in this story already! God knows Moses and calls him by name. He has heard the cries of His people. God knows us and He hears us! God identifies Himself in terms that relate to reality outside of the abuse. He is the God of our ancestors and He simply IS. How much of our world is defined by an abuser’s perspective or agenda? Living in that “reality” is like falling down the rabbit hole into Alice’s Wonderland. How encouraging it is that God hasn’t been sucked down

that same rabbit hole. HE IS WHO HE IS and He knows who we are. He knows our suffering and He will deliver us from slavery so that we can live in the destiny, the Promised Land He planned for us long ago. The Plan I find it interesting that the confirmation of God’s leading will happen only after the Israelites leave Egypt. How many of us have had to step out in bold moves, perhaps seeing evidence of God but not knowing for sure that we are on the right track,

until we are in a safe place and can look back and see His faithfulness! I much prefer this relationship to my abusive marriage, where I was constantly worried about messing up and “paying” for my decisions. God is for us. God is helping us find our equilibrium again. He is not waiting for us to mess up, but rather He is allowing us the opportunity to think and act and feel again, within a healthy and loving relationship with Him. I am also intrigued by the request that Moses is to make of Pharaoh. He doesn’t demand the permanent release of the slaves; rather, he asks continued

The Plan continued for them to have a few days off to worship their God in the desert. Of course, worshiping someone other than Pharaoh is no small thing to Pharaoh, and the outcome of their “negotiations” is Israel’s permanent deliverance. If you have left an abusive relationship, was there a particular incident that led to that decision? Taken separately from the preceding abuse, does that incident seem minor? A week after my husband was abusive and threatening to me in the car, I decided that we would take separate cars to an appointment. (I had been exploring my options and considering separation, but I had not told my husband.) He responded to my decision with, “That’s ridiculous. What are you going to tell the children when they ask you why you broke up their family?!” Clearly, this wasn’t just about taking two cars to a meeting! I was making decisions separate from his view of reality and he was threatened by that. This outburst, arising in response to a calm statement, validated my plan to separate and gave my logical mind the strength to carry it out. God also tells Moses that the Egyptians would willingly give the

Israelites their valuables as they left. Now, I certainly haven’t experienced my abuser “willingly” giving me anything as we were separating, but I have been able to use and sell items that he had provided in the past. I find it helpful to think of these resources as “plunder from Egypt” rather than as painful reminders of a bad marriage.

there is a woman in your life who might be in an abusive relationship, how do you reach out to her? Ask God to help you find helpful words and timing. Perhaps, like the Israelite elders, she will be blessed by the simple fact that God hears her and cares enough to send you. She will need friends like you as her journey continues.

Exodus 4

Exodus 5–7:13

Moses struggles with God’s plan for him. God gives Moses miracles to perform to confirm the message. God allows Moses to bring along Aaron to help him. In a rather confusing passage, we see that Moses’ wife circumcises their son to spare his life. So, with this mixture of God’s grace and their obedience, Moses and Aaron brought the plan to the Israelite elders. The elders believed the words and worshiped the God who was concerned for them.

The path to freedom is not a smooth one. Pharaoh, angry at this challenge to his authority, dismisses Moses, Aaron, and their God. Furthermore, he punishes the Israelites by removing the “favor” of giving them straw for making bricks. Pharaoh makes sure the slaves know it is Moses’ request that has caused their troubles. The Israelites are angry with Moses for making them “a stench to Pharaoh.” Moses then questions God’s methods and God reiterates that He will compel Pharaoh to let the Israelites go. God’s message to His people bears repeating in its entirety here, for our encouragement:

Stepping Forward It takes courage to deliver God’s message to other people. Will we be believed? Will we be resented? If


am the LORD, and I will bring you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. I will free you from being slaves to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment. I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God. Then you will know that I am the LORD your God, who brought you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. And I will bring you to the land I swore with uplifted hand to give to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob. I will give it to you as a possession. I am the LORD. (Exodus 6:6–8, NIV)

Moses and Aaron return to Pharaoh. God turns a wooden staff into a snake. Pharaoh’s sorcerers do the same with theirs. However, God’s snake swallows the other snakes. Even with this obvious display of God’s power, Pharaoh does not obey God. Turning on the Heat It is notable that Moses, and then God, is blamed when the oppression becomes worse although it is


Pharaoh who is directly responsible for the abuse. The Israelites are forced to make bricks for Pharaoh’s purposes—giving them the straw is not a “favor.” Everything Pharaoh

does to, or expects of, the slaves is for his own benefit, either to use them or to control them. No level of abuse is “healthy.” Abuse does not go away if you don’t rock the boat.

However, abuse often does get worse if you do rock the boat, because the abuser chooses to tighten his control over you. So what is the choice? Keep living in a bad situation, or endure a worse situation as you hopefully move to a better life? No wonder it is so difficult to leave! Leaving is the most dangerous time for an abuse victim. Many victims are killed at this time—some of whom were never even physically

abused prior to leaving. A victim of abuse has to time her moves carefully so that she can survive to enjoy the freedom. During that process, it is important to remember that the abuser causes the abuse, and that his “favors” toward you are part of his methods of controlling you. Find a way to remind yourself of what the slavery is really like so that it does not start to look like a better alternative as you work your way out. The

Israelites cried out for deliverance for hundreds of years. Remember how long you have been crying! Consider your safety carefully. Unlike the Exodus story, professsionals advise victims not to tell the abuser ahead of time of plans to leave. Giving an abuser an ultimatum may ultimately endanger you and your loved ones. !

In the next newsletter, Joanna will reflect on the plagues on Egypt, the Passover, and the Israelites’ escape (Exodus 7–14). We encourage you to read over these passages and consider how they may relate to your own situation.

2008 PASCH Conference Partnering for Change: The Church Responds to Domestic Violence Washington, DC October 10-12, 2008 (Columbus Day weekend)

Advance Notice about an important PASCH conference workshop with Victoria Fahlberg Victoria holds a Ph.D. in counseling psychology and masters from Harvard School of Public Health. During her years of missionary service in Brazil, she founded a graduate school for social workers treating poor women recovering from childhood trauma. Victoria now directs Lowell One, a community outreach service for immigrant women.

Trying to respond to a difficult situation? Feeling like your church let you down? PASCH would like to help. In this workshop, participants will have the opportunity to submit a case study (that is, a story of something that has happened). All identifying information will remain confidential. To participate please send us the information by August 30 and include an e-mail and phone number in case we need to contact you to clarify the information. Please include details regarding the domestic violence situation, the victim, offender, family members, and how your pastor/lay leaders/congregation responded. The more detail you provide, the better we will be able to understand the situation. Depending on the response we receive, it may not be possible to select all submissions and registration for this workshop may need to be limited—so please contact us soon! To register or for more information, visit, e-mail us at or call 860-623-0174.


Healing the Bitter Waters


oanna has given us a wonderful spiritual pilgrimage through the story of the Exodus. St. Paul wrote that this saga supplies us with “spiritual examples” (1 Cor. 10:6), and we are invited to apply the episodes to our personal lives. In the Exodus narrative, there are several stories about water, but one that always seizes my attention is that of the waters at Marah, which means “bitter” (Exodus 15:22–25). The children of Israel have been traveling for three days without coming to a source of water. In those days, water was carried in animal skins, and after three days any water left must surely have been unappetizing. At last they reach a pool, only to discover that it tastes so nasty that they cannot drink it. There are many such brackish pools and wells in the desert. The newly delivered people now face a sobering disappointment. The hope of quenching their thirst is dashed by the cruel reality. Why had Moses led them to such a wretched place? How were they to survive? How many victims have come in their journey to just such a spot of disillusionment and despair! Love and trust have been betrayed, that which seemed most precious has become most hurtful. As one survivor told me, so many places evoked dreadful memories of how her abuser had mistreated her or her children at that particular site. Another pointed out that so many of the major events of her life were marred by the cruelty that she had endured at the death of a relative, the birth of a child, or the request to be taken to the hospital during a miscarriage. So many things can trigger memories, such as an old


photo or a song or even a scent. How can the waters ever turn sweet? In our story, God showed Moses a piece of wood (or branch with leaves) that he cast into the water, turning it sweet. To this day, Bedouins throw certain shrubs into the brackish water so that the salts sink to the bottom and remain there. Above them lies excellent drinking water. Some have allegorized the tree of Moses as being the cross of Christ, who can bring sweetness into our lives. Surely His redeeming grace is the great transformer. But just as God showed Moses a particular piece of vegetation, there can be other means of sweetening as well. To these we too may be led by God in many different ways. Despite surgical intervention, a survivor’s internal wounds continued to bleed periodically for many years. At last the woman said, “God, I’m trying so hard to forgive, and then the bleeding brings the abuse all back again. Won’t you please stop it so that I can do better at forgiving?” From that time on, there was no more bleeding. Another survivor resorted to a bit of whimsy when she felt overwhelmed with the garbage that still littered her soul. She explained that she simply telephoned the Heavenly Rubbish Removal Service for a pickup. The service provided was prompt, reliable and efficacious. Then she would enjoy a chuckle as she envisioned Jesus rumbling away with the dump truck. Recently, a therapist remarked to me that a victim can begin to let go of her resentment and anger when she sees that there has been repentance on the part of the abuser. She told of a husband who, while he

by Catherine Clark Kroeger was seeking to change his ways, missed his flight connection. He was forced to sit for several hours in an airport far from home, and suddenly the enormity of what he had done to his family began to surface in his mind. As the hours passed, the realization grew; and he was able to return to his family and to express his shame and remorse. Both his confession and his altered conduct delivered the wife from her bitterness. Another woman told me of how her ex-husband sought her out after many years. “I never would have deserted you if I had known that I would wake up every morning of my life, realizing that I had abandoned you with a two-year-old child and no real way to support yourself.” Genuine repentance is a great sweetener that facilitates forgiveness (Luke 17:3), but there are other healing shrubs that God may lead you to find: prayer, spiritual fellowship, the solace and affirmation of the scriptures, the confidence that a better part of the journey lies ahead. It was there at Marah that “the Lord made for them a statute and a rule, and there he tested them” (Exodus 15:25). Here, God first gave His people a promise of guidance and protection if they would walk with Him in obedience; at the place of bitter waters the concept was first introduced. The next stopping place of the Israelites had twelve refreshing springs and an abundance of date palms. Beyond that was Mount Sinai with a formalizing of the covenant process begun at Marah. The oppression and degradation of Egypt was left behind, and a renewed people moved on. !

“But he loves me!”

by Julie Owens

Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. (1 Corinthians 13:4–7, New Living Translation)


’ve worked with abused women now for nearly twenty years. Besides running support groups, I’ve managed crisis teams and church-based shelters and worked as a trauma therapist. In addition, for several years I worked with addicted women—nearly all of whom had been abused—in a substance abuse treatment program. I can’t count the number of domestic violence victims that I have come in contact or counseled through the years who have described the unthinkable abuses they have suffered and then followed up with the statement, “But he loves me.” While shocking on the surface, for several reasons this doesn’t surprise me. First, I realize that in our society we are not taught the definition of love. I read once that the English language is unique in that we have only one word for “love,” whereas many other languages have a plethora of them. We toss the word around every day, meaning many different things. “Oh, I just love that dress you’re wearing!” we may say, or “Don’t you just love that movie?” Mere moments later, we may use that same word to express our deepest feelings for our partners, our children or our family. No wonder abuse victims say such things! Abusers too misuse this word, perhaps even more often. Few of them fail to confess their “love” for their victims after beating them, especially if she has decided to leave. Those who kill their victims are often said to do so because they “love her so much” and can’t bear the thought of living with-

out her. What an irony and a shame that we don’t seem to be able to differentiate well between possessiveness and love. Second, domestic violence victims are often traumatically bonded to their abusers. They have been isolated and forced to look to the very person who abuses them for support and, oddly enough, sometimes even for “protection.” This dynamic, which is similar to the one experienced by hostages and prisoners of war, results in a skewed view of the world. The victim may have no reality check and be brainwashed, functioning in survival mode, just trying to make it from one day to the next. For a person in such a desperate situation, it is not surprising that occasional small acts of kindness (even those that follow abuse and are clearly manipulative to us outsiders) might be interpreted as acts of “love” by a person desperate for affection. Third, many domestic violence victims have also been abused by their parents or other significant persons who professed to “love” them. I can recall a handful of victims who told me outright, “I know that he loves me because he hits me.” If abuse was de rigor as a child, it is easy to see how this message could be internalized and carried into adulthood. I remember once when a pastor friend shared with me about counseling a prostituted woman who had just been severely beaten. When my friend expressed empathy, saying “I’m so sorry this happened to you. I haven’t ever been hit so I can’t say I

know how you feel, but it must be awful.” The victim seemed incredulous and replied, “You mean you’ve never had a boyfriend?” Clearly, this was a woman who had been taught that hitting and love just naturally occur in tandem. I’ve been thinking lately about where we learn our definition of the word “love.” I remember when I began to really read the Bible as a teenager and discovered 1 Corinthians 13. Of course, the scriptures had always been a big part of my life, but as a teenager during the exciting “Jesus Movement” of the 70s, I poured over the New Testament daily, finding wonderful gems and profound insights. First Corinthians 13 was a personal favorite, although I don’t think I gave it much thought until one night at a particular Bible study. The words were so poetic and beautiful and many years later I had them read aloud at my wedding. I was fortunate to grow up as a PK (preacher’s kid) and so all of my life I heard the Bible read. As a teen, however, it was exciting to discover things for myself. One of my favorite classes in high school was simply called “Bible” and was taught by a wonderful old saint named Miss Janet Robinson. She brought the Bible to life for her students and her enthusiasm for God’s Word was contagious. I also attended many Bible studies and youth events and was especially active in a Young Life group at my high school. I recall few lessons now, but I know they all had an impact on me at the time. Interestingly, I don’t remember being activecontinued 5

“But he loves me!” continued ly taught much at all about Christian marriage, but I do vividly recall reading the best-seller book, The Christian Family, by Rev. Larry Christenson. The hierarchical belief in a “divine order” in Christian families was widespread at the time and not questioned in my own conservative Southern church community. It was a husband’s duty to “rule” his wife, Christenson wrote. Abuse, of course, is much more easily “justified” under such a narrow authoritarian view of marriage, but this was not something I thought about back then. The terms “mutuality,” “partnership” and “egalitarianism” were nowhere to be found in most Christian writings, and it did not occur to me that perhaps this concept of Christian marriage wasn’t actually biblical at all. With such a rigid framework and without an understanding of the biblical model of equality and mutual submission in marriage, it is easy to see how a young Christian could be mislead by this and similar teachings. I think

perhaps that marriage was so far from my mind that I just didn’t think about it much one way or the other, and in fact I did not marry until I was thirty-two. I’m grateful, though, that my parents had a healthy marriage and mutual respect for each other. They modeled a loving partnership, and this is one of the reasons I immediately knew that something was wrong in my own marriage years later. Another reason I knew this is because of a simple exercise I had been taught in my teen years at a Bible study of 1 Corinthians 13. I can’t recall who shared this little trick, but it has stuck with me all these years and has helped both to form and inform my definition of love. Many times since, I have gently shared this exercise with abuse victims who have said, “But he loves me.” While studying 1 Corinthians 13:4–7, our group was told to think of a specific person who stated that they loved us. Then we were asked to replace the word “love” everywhere

it appeared in the text with that person’s name. We were to then re-read the passages. If, when reading the scripture this way, there was a sincere ring of truth, then perhaps this was genuine love indeed. If, however, the statement did not seem true as we read it, perhaps we needed to reconsider whether this person actually did love us. Later, we were told to replace the word “love” with the name “Jesus.” Here then was our real example of genuine love. It was immediately apparent to each of us what a good measure of love this scripture provided. I will never forget when years later I did this exercise once more and replaced the word “love” with the name of my abusive husband, David. It was a profound experience. I urge you to try it for yourself right now. Is there someone who professes to love you but does not always act lovingly? Fill in the blanks below with that person’s name and perhaps this will be helpful to you as well.

_____is patient and kind. _____ is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. _____ does not demand (his) own way. _____ is not irritable, and _____ keeps no record of being wronged. _____ does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. _____ never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.

Can we ever be sure about what love really is? Maybe not. The scripture tells us that in this life we “see through a mirror darkly.” As


Christians, we believe that someday we will know and experience love in all its fullness, when we are united with our Savior in heaven. In the

meantime, we have the character of Jesus Christ as our model. And that is enough for me. !

A Pastor’s Thoughts on Love


ove is not simply an emotion or a feeling, although our minds are continuously bombarded with this idea day in and day out in the romantic movies we watch, the TV programs that entertain us, and the slick magazines we read. Biblically speaking, love is an event. The New Testament gives us a “cross-eyed” view of love—a love that could be abused, despised and rejected; a love that could be scorned and spat upon, and yet remain love! Love is how we treat each other. Love is kindness, tenderness, gentleness. Love is caring and sharing. Love is understanding or “standing under.” In other words, it is supportive. Love is affirming and encourage-

ing. Love is gracious and courteous. Love is trusting—not jealous or suspicious. Paul says, “Love believes all things.” That does not mean love is gullible, but love looks for the good in others. Love has a faith-vision of others at their highest and best. Love is not selfish, but other-person-centered. Love is slow to anger, a characteristic also used of God in scripture, describing God’s relationship with humankind. Love is strong, like “meekness,” which is not weakness but rather strength under control. Love does not give up, does not quit. Love keeps no score of wrongs. It does not hold a grudge, nurse old hurts or brood over the past wrongs it has received. Love refuses to be im-

by Rev. Bob Owens, Pastor Emeritus First Presbyterian Church of Honolulu prisoned by anger and the desire for revenge. Love has the power to transform suffering into grace and failure into success. The opposite of love is not hate—it is selfishness, it is abuse, it is the desire to intimidate and dominate, it is the need to control, it is the need to lord it over others, to always have the last word. This is the opposite of what Jesus calls us to be, relationally. “The gentiles [i.e., unbelievers] lord it over one another,” he said. “It shall not be so among you.” Love still stands triumphantly after evil has done its worst. Love endures. Hate cannot defeat it or destroy it. When all else has failed, love still remains. !

A twofold opportunity for worship

Should one worship on Saturday or Sunday? The answer, of course, is that we should worship God every day! At our conference (October 10–12), we are excited to have two opportunities for formal worship. Our partnering church, Sligo Seventh Day Adventist Church, observes Saturday as the Sabbath and will be holding divine services to which we have all been invited—and, according to the custom of most of us, we will be able to worship again on Sunday. Come hear Catherine Kroeger at the Sabbath service on Saturday and then join Rev. Dr. Lydia Sarandan for Sunday services that will include a sermon by Robert Owens, a Presbyterian minister who himself has been a victim of domestic violence (see the article above). We will also hear the story of the faith journey of Maralee Dawn in “The Puppeteer Became a Puppet.” It is always good to meet with God’s people, especially when our hearts are burdened with a special need. In her research, Nancy Nason-Clark has discovered that few Christians say they have ever heard a sermon about domestic abuse. Even if our churches place information in some convenient place or have a study group, few dare to address the issue in the midst of congregational worship. Yet here is where a spiritual community is most truly itself, actively drawn both toward God and toward others of like faith. Here we confess not only our sins but also the faith that lies at the core of our souls. At our conference, we shall twice join formally in prayer and praise, song and scripture, laying hold of God in the sure conviction that we are heard, comforted and empowered in the task to which we are called.


Peace and Safety in the Christian Home (PASCH) 1095 Stony Brook Road Brewster, MA 02631 Tel. 508-896-3518 ! Fax 508-896-6864 A Christian network addressing varied aspects of domestic abuse. Prayer support, biblical and practical resources, literature, conferences, training, research, referrals. “Faithful to the wounded, faithful to the Word.�


April, 2008  

PASCH Newsletter, April, 2008

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