The Secret about Secrets

I opened my social media account and noticed the little flag notification in the corner.  I had another new inbox message and it was from someone I didn’t know.  I paused before clicking to open it.  “Here we go again” I thought.  I took a minute to think through if I had the emotional strength to read what I was about to read. I didn’t know exactly what the message said, but at the same time I knew exactly what the message said.  It would be the same as all of the ones before.  It would be another woman, who’s friends friend recommend she reach out to me. The message would be a painful paragraph recounting the years of abuse and betrayal she endured in her marriage.  Some of the messages were from women who had escaped their abusive relationship and didn’t know what to do next. Some were written in secret desperation from women who were in the throws of an unimaginably painful situation.  I understood why they were reaching out to me- a perfect stranger about their deepest most personal pain.

 Afterall, there were always was two commonalities in every single letter.  

The first, being a detailed account of an abusive relationship and the second, being their experience of how their church rejected them. 

I was familiar with this rejection. I too remembered the day my husband and I went to church leadership to have an honest conversation about what was really happening behind closed doors.  We were both in church leadership ourselves and knew that what had transpired wasn’t okay.   

This was a huge day for us. 

This was the day where we would finally be freed from darkness to light.

This was the day the masks would come off

This was the beginning of walking in truth and freedom

This was the day I could come out from hiding

This was the day we would start towards healing and restoration

Until it wasn’t.

I, like so many other “good Christian women” had kept our home life a secret.  I was aware of the unspoken code in the Christian church that applied to women.  

You wipe your tears in the car before you walk in,

You smile,

You volunteer with the children,

You stand beside the man you hid from last night 

You don’t bother the important people with your problems

You pretend in the lobby with all of the other pretenders

You go home and never speak of it to anyone.

But everything was about to change.  We were sitting in the office. My husband and I on one side, and the leader  was on the other.  I didn’t know where to look so I stared at the patch of carpet on the floor beneath my feet. I felt nauseated. I had a lump of tears sitting at the top of my throat that I was desperately gulping down. The truth about our life, our marriage- about everything was about to see the light of day for the first time in nine years.The anticipation of the relief this moment would bring was almost overwhelming me. I had been alone for so long. I had spent years desperate for help, from someone – anyone who could help this pain to stop.

Slowly my husband began to speak.

I looked up from the floor.  

Almost immediately the leader was fidgeting nervously shifting his weight from one side of his chair to the other.  After a few short minutes (and after my husband had barely began to share what we came here to share) The leader stretched his hands out towards us in a “stop” motion as he interrupted my husband. He reminded us that this was our own personal business and we didn’t have an obligation to share any of this with him.  

My husband stopped talking.

I froze.

I was confused.

What was happening? 

What did he mean we didn’t have to share anything with him?  

I was perplexed by his reaction. 

We were here for help 

We were desperate for it 

The leader pivoted his body towards me and bent down a little so he could make eye contact with me.  

He broke the awkward silence with a soft and gentile praise

“I’m so proud of you” He said genuinely as he looked straight at me. 

He went on to to remind me about the importance of a wife’s discretion in marriage- especially in ministry.  He commented that other people “wouldn’t understand” and that what I had done to keep quiet and protect my husbands reputation and ministry was an admirable accomplishment. 

He commended me for my “bravery” in battling this situation alone 

He encouraged me with what a “strong woman” I had been

As he spoke, I could no longer gulp away the lump of tears in my throat.  The tears filled my eyes and streamed down my face as I sat there in silence.  With every word he spoke, I was pushed back further and further back into the darkness.  

I didn’t feel brave and I didn’t feel strong

I felt the complete opposite

As we left his office I was filled with shame and humiliation.

I was ashamed of myself for thinking I was somehow different and that the “rules” wouldn’t apply to me.  I knew how things worked here. Secrecy was currency. It was valuable.  It was something to be praised for and proud of. Secrecy was a direct reflection of a women’s spiritual depth. Only the most holy, forgiving and faithful women had the strength to suffer in secret.

I never heard from the leader after that day.  

Never once did he reach ot to me to check in and see how things were going.

Never did he ask his wife, or another female leader, or anyone else in church leadership to follow up to see if things were okay

Never once did he look into the very serious and concerning information we attempted to share that day.

We left his office and left our secret under the carpet beneath my chair, right where he swiftly and strategically swept it.  

The experience in that office that day reinforced the unspoken rule for women in the church that I so foolishly thought I could break free from:

You wipe your tears in the car before you walk in,

You smile,

You volunteer with the children,

You stand beside the man you hid from last night 

You don’t bother the important people with your problems

You pretend in the lobby with all of the other pretenders

You go home and never speak of it to anyone.

 

But I’ll tell you a secret about secrets. 

 

Secrets are deceptive

Secrets promise to provide protection

When they are actually a prison

 

Secrets are a theif

They steal the voice of the wounded 

And line the pockets of the offenders 

 

Secrets are isolating  

They convince the wounded that they are alone 

And that no-one can handle their pain

 

Secrets are destructive

They demolish confidence 

One ugly incident at a time

Abuse in marriages whether it be verbal, emotional or physical is one of the most rampant and highly guarded secrets in the church today. Many Christians, in their misguided understanding of the sanctity of marriage actually use marriage to enable abuse.  When a man does not fear God and respect his wife the consequences are deep and devastating.  When church leaders choose to ignore abuse, they are signing off on a husbands ongoing deplorable behaviour and his wife’s continual suffering.

 Church leaders, be careful that you do not use “Christian guilt” and the sanctity of marriage to enable men to harm the women under your care. There is a hard line between the “normal” friction and struggles in marriage and behaviour that is abusive.  When men are not confronted, they are not repentant and they do not change.  When women are not supported, they are not confident and feel shamed into silence. Imagine if the church operated with loving accountability towards the men.  What if instead of normalizing men’s sexual and emotional struggles, churches actually spoke the truth about God’s power over their lives?  What if men were challenged to serve their wives, putting their needs and wants ahead of their own?  What if men knew that that abuse and betrayal would not be brushed aside and covered up?  What if men stopped viewing marriage as a way to “trap” women to endure selfish and deplorable behaviour, and actually worked to earn and re-earn the love and trust of their wife? 

Women are deeply valued and cherished by God.  

Each one was created with a unique plan and purpose for her life. 

Women are not insignificant to God 

Women are not a man’s personal nanny and maid

Women are not a man’s emotional or physical punching bag

Women are not a man’s sexual plaything

Women are not a man’s publicist

Women are not a man’s trophy 

Women are not a man’s secret keeper.

 

“Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her”- Ephesian 5:25

Xo, Pam

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15 thoughts on “The Secret about Secrets

  1. Pam, that was so well written. I admire you for telling it like it is. You are a wonderful mother and I wish you a Happy Mothers Day

  2. Wow Pam! Thank you for sharing so honestly once again. I am so sorry you had to experience that from church leadership… those who are meant to watch over our souls…

    1. Thank you Pam! I can totally relate and went through this myself years ago. I also stood by a friend in the church about 15 years ago that experienced the same abuse from leadership. Thank you for you voice and volubility in sharing.

  3. Thank you Pam for being vulnerable and honest. There are so many women out there that can relate to that, which is a very sad thing. ❤️

  4. Thank you Pam for your transparency. I was in an abusive relationship and it took me about 12 years to leave due to my fears. I thought everything was always my fault and that life could never be different. I believed the lie that I couldn’t make it on my own.Thank you for talking about what people want to keep hidden.

  5. Pam, you have spoken truth with humility and dignity. You are valued, loved and respected in my eyes and heart. I am so sorry these sins where swept under the rug. God knows and He is for you♥️

  6. Pam, thank you for being so honest and vulnerable. I pray that your testimony will bring courage to others to reach out if they are in the same situation. And thank you for being available to help those who reach out to you. I pray for complete and perfect healing and restoration for you and your family. 💕

  7. Pam thank you for again being vulnerable. You are such a talented author. I have always seen you as being so strong; so altogether lovely. I’m sorry if I didn’t take the time to stop and really look in your eyes or ask how you were. I hope today you are closer to feeling whole than you were yesterday.As you know you are cherished by our loving Heavenly Father. I will continue to pray for complete and total healing for your broken heart and disappointed spirit.

  8. Wow. Very powerful and well written. 🙏🏻 So sad that you had this experience. I felt sick reading this. I pray that whoever your leader was reads this, reflects and learns 🙏🏻 Your message is so important. Hypocrites are one of the reasons I left church for many years. I don’t know you, but you are are great writer. This is a gift. Don’t stop writing. 🙏🏻👍

  9. Hi Pam. It’s been a long time! I finally married at 52 divorced at 57 because I could t n wouldn’t. But I’m not at a church now because of less than wisdom that was given to the man I married. You are very brave. ❤️ Thank you from the bottom my soul beautiful lady ❤️

  10. Hi Pam. I too went through a very similar situation in the church which left me very broken and bitter towards the church for many years. I left that particular church, left many friends (or people I Thought were friends) only to find many years later that those friends’s marriages eventually fell apart in a similar manner to my own and the church of almost a 1000 members fell into despair and eventually fell apart. Dont get me wrong there were many God fearing and believing people in the church but they were under leadership in the church that were very self serving… I have in the past few years found a beautiful pastor and church that does not condone sweeping abuse under the chair we sit on, but is wiĺling and prepared to out it, call it what it is -abuse, and deal with both people correctly as the Bible instructs. I thank God for my Pastor now.

    You have written a beautiful blog. Please continue to use your ministry to help others that are trapped. ❤

  11. Thankyou. You gave words to what I experienced a few years ago when I went to elders and the pastor for support and the pastor turned it around on me, and said I was the problem. It was devastating and o lost all respect for the leadership.

  12. thank you Pam for being so transparent, so vulnerable. Abuse takes so many forms and secrecy needs lies in order to survive. That’s how I grew up and continued to ‘perform’ in so many relationships. It’s hard to break free from the lie that I am loved because of what I do in the relationship, yet I am learning to change. Darkness to light. Darkness to light. Happy Mother’s Day….

  13. Hugzzzzzz, church is full of broken scared people who don’t know how to help, and are too afraid to try. You are a beautiful person with a wonderful heart! I hope you are working with children because it is your gifting and not where you feel you must be. Hugzzz. Bravery is to stand up to what is wrong! So glad you did not allow that experience to stop your love for God and his people❣️💋

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