Susan K. Beatty
A Path toward Courage
“Frank stopped shaking her. Olivia slumped in relief–until he took a hand from her arm.
“His slap blossomed on her cheek and knocked her head to the side. The sting drove the tears from her eyes to gush down her face. Her knees buckling, she hung in the grip that still clutched her arm.
“Had that really happened? A scream echoed in her skull.
“’You ever disobey me again, and I’ll knock you to forever.’
“He released her, throwing her against the door. The knob jabbed her again. She turned to the door, clutching the knob that had gone from tormentor to lifeline.”
In my novel Faces of Courage, Olivia increasingly suffers from her husband Frank’s abuse. Olivia blamed herself for the mistreatment, as indeed many women do. For Olivia, blaming herself came easily, having learned it in childhood at the hands of her parents. Add to that her confusion about how God viewed her and the challenge of lacking a strong faith. All made it much more difficult to find the courage needed to see the truth and confront her husband.
Was there someone who had already found courage who could gently lead her, to point to the Scriptures, and to help her strengthen her faith? To help her find courage at the intersection of faith and grit? She’s going to need it when later confronted by another terrifying reality.
According to the Center for Family Justice, domestic abuse is a pattern of coercive, controlling behavior, one person in a relationship having power and control over the other person, taking many forms including physical; emotional; economic; stalking and harassment; and sexual.
Christian circles often ignore this topic even though one in four women, according to the CDC, will experience physical violence by their partner during their lifetimes. Perhaps the fact that thirty-seven percent of pastors surveyed in 2018 say they believe that domestic and sexual violence does NOT occur in their congregations exacerbates the blindness in the Christian community.
But maybe by telling women’s stories of abuse and other hardships through fiction, similar to what Harriet Tubman did for slavery in Uncle Tom’s Cabin, we may open some eyes.
Faces of Courage releases May 11, and I pray Olivia’s path toward courage inspires the reader, and Olivia’s story will help others understand some of the issues of domestic abuse.
If you are being harmed, don’t hesitate. Call the domestic abuse national hotline at 1-8001-799-7233.
Katherine Scott Jones
The Imaginary Girl Who Inspired Me to Take Real Action
Jayashri is an imaginary girl who wasn’t part of my original story plan.
That plan was to write what would become Her Memory of Music, a novel about a talented young single-mom, Ally, running from a traumatic past. Into that story came Rees, a troubled, American sex-trafficking investigator home on furlough from India. It was as I wrote his story that Jayashri popped into the picture. Boy, did she.
Jayashri became a teenage girl who had been rescued from the brothels of Mumbai—but not without price. Suffering from PTSD (as trafficking victims do) she came to claim much of Rees’ attention as he worked to see her healed and whole again, finding healing of his own wounds in the process.
When I began writing Her Memory of Music, I’d meant for Jayashri to be a mere mention, a tiny slice of Ally and Rees’ story. But the more I researched what it meant to be Jayashri—and the more real-life investigators and psychologists I interviewed—the more I realized Jayashri could not remain a footnote.
Beyond that, I realized that, knowing what I now knew, I could not remain passive. That even though Jayashri was a product of my imagination, she represented millions of girls who are very, very real. Understanding what these girls endure on their way to rescue and healing prompted me to want to do something to keep real-life girls out of the sex trafficking trade.
Of course, trafficking is only one of the many dangers that youth in developing countries face. Even if they’re not sold for survival’s sake, 20,000 children under the age of five die daily to preventable causes. They die for lack of resources most of us take completely for granted: adequate food. Clean water. Health. Shelter and safety.
And while no one can do everything to solve these problems, everyone can do one thing.
For me, that one thing included child sponsorship. Because when we lift up the lowliest member of a community—their children—we lift up the entire community.
So that’s how I came to sponsor a little girl in India who is exactly my own daughter’s age. One of the reasons I chose her was so that, unlike Jayashri, she will not be forced to into trafficking in order for her and her family to survive.
Oh, and in case you were wondering—Ally and Rees? [Spoiler alert] They find their happy ending and are a part of Jayashri finding hers.
And I am privileged to be a part of providing the same for a real-life girl like Jayashri.
If you are inspired by Ally and Rees’s story, and by Jayashri’s, I hope you will join me in helping to change how another real-life story ends. Click on any of the following to learn more:
- Sponsor a child through World Vision
- Sponsor a child through Compassion International
- Protect children through International Justice Mission
Rain and wind slammed against the house like the devil himself was seeking entrance, but it wasn’t the torrential downpour that tormented my sleep. It was the five seemingly simple words my husband uttered without emotion while standing in our bedroom earlier that night.
“I don’t love you anymore.”
I’d been paralyzed by the pain and shock of his confession. “You can’t be serious.” The words were forced through the panic clawing its way up my throat. Never, in all the years we’d been married, had I imagined this scenario could take place. Wasn’t it just a couple days ago I blithely told a friend if we could survive twenty-two years of marriage—and all the drama that went with it over the last three years—then we were solid?
He shoved his hands into the front pockets of his jeans and said nothing.
“I don’t understand.” My voice cracked, and I scrambled for an explanation. “We’ve been through a lot lately. Nicole’s car accident was difficult, not to mention—”
“No.” His eyes seemed to search for somewhere to land—anywhere but my own, swimming in tears. “I’ve felt this way for a long time. Two years, at least. I was going to leave you last year.” He cleared his throat. “You know. The accident happened, and I thought…”
Who is this man? How could I have been married to this stranger my entire adult life and be so blindsided?
“Two years? You’ve felt this way two years and never said anything?”
He shrugged. “I didn’t want to upset you.”
“Get out,” I whispered, crumpling to the floor. When he just looked at me, I snatched the first thing I could get my hand on—a shoe. “I said get out!” I hurled it as his retreating back, but it hit the door with a thwack and dropped ineffectually to the floor.
I huddled in our king-size bed that night, cold beyond anything I’d ever felt. The storm raged along with my emotions. When I finally gave up on sleep in the wee hours of the morning, my eyes were swollen to slits, my throat raw from the screams I’d stifled with my pillow.
I wandered into the still-dark family room where blankets were folded up at one end of the couch. I hoped his sleep was as miserable as mine. Then my eyes caught the partially decorated Christmas tree our sixteen-year-old son had been working on when I came home late from a training session at school the evening before. Somehow, the drama of the night trumped Christmas. My heart ached for the kids. Would anything ever be the same again?
In desperation, I got the name of a counselor and made an appointment. I bought every book I could find on how to restore a marriage at the Christian bookstore. Nothing seemed to sway his decision to leave me. Even in the three counseling sessions he agreed to, he seemed to look for reasons, one more lame than the next.
“I want to live my life for a change,” he said.
“Your life?” I snorted, and I’m ashamed to admit, sneered at him. I’d honed sarcasm to perfection after teaching eighth grade for several years. If he wanted to match wits, he’d be at a disadvantage. But really, what would it get me? If I hoped to salvage our marriage, I’d need to curb my temper.
Was there another woman? He assured me, “No,” then casually told the counselor that he was leaving me before he went that route, as if he should get brownie points for the effort it took to be faithful.
By Christmas day, he found an apartment and made plans to move out. He said he’d prayed to God to change his heart, and when that prayer wasn’t answered, he decided it was God’s will that our marriage should end. I couldn’t understand a God who would condone divorce, especially when there was no reason that made sense to me.
If someone had asked me at the time if I was a Christian, I would have given an unequivocal, “Yes.” But the truth was I only knew what I’d been told about God—I’d never actually sought out a relationship with him on my own. There had been several times I felt Him tugging at my heart, convicting me of the choices I’d made. And didn’t He try to get my attention with several painful circumstances in the past—the last the near-fatal car accident of my daughter the Christmas before? But rather than yield to Him, I chose to maintain control. I went to church on Sundays—most Sundays, anyway—and said my three rote prayers every night.
But when my husband moved out, leaving me alone with my shame, I dropped to my knees in prayer. I can’t do this on my own anymore, God. Please, please help me. I surrender it all to You. I beg, You, Lord, bring something good to me so I know You’re there.
The following week, Cindy, one of my closest friends and colleagues, came to me. She’d already shared my tears and fears and comforted me the best she could. “There’s a new Beth Moore Bible study starting up at my church next week. Do you want to come?”
Bible study. Yes! That was the “something good” I was looking for as a sign from God. But…” Who’s Beth Moore?”
I sat in the social hall of a church I’d never attended, surrounded by a group of twenty women, none of whom I’d ever met—aside from Cindy—and prayed no one would ask why I was there. The shame of being abandoned by a man who’d professed to love me forever only a few months before sat like a rock in my gut. Divorce had never been in my vocabulary. I was never going to be a statistic.
How arrogant I’d been.
This Bible study was just the first of many, but the only one I’ve ever attended where the facilitator asked us to write out a letter in the first week. “Open up and ask the Lord for what’s truly in your hearts. Seal the letter and attach it to the back of your study book. In four months, on the last night, you’ll open them up and see how God answered your prayers.”
My first inclination was to ask God to restore my marriage. Hadn’t that been my prayer over the last two months? But even then, a mere babe in my walk with Christ, I knew enough to depend on God’s will in my circumstances. So instead, I asked that He make it clear if my marriage was to survive or not.
As I sat through the weeks of Bible study, I got to know the hearts of the women in that room. Each had been through their own horrific trials, some much harder than mine. But it wasn’t until the last class that I was able to share what brought me to them. With tears clogging my throat and flooding my eyes, I told them of my shame. There was no judgment from them, but instead, God’s grace and peace.
I slipped my finger beneath the seal of the letter I’d written on that first night. The divorce papers had been signed three months earlier. I read the brokenhearted words poured out on the pages of that letter, and I praised God. Not because my marriage was over, but because I had no doubt that my trust in my sovereign Creator was not misplaced. He had my life in His hands, and He treasured me.
That was sixteen years ago. Since that time, I’ve been through numerous trials—the most difficult was the loss of both my parents and my brother. But through it all, God’s shown me how He can turn ashes to beauty.
I remarried fourteen years ago. The Lord blessed me with a God-honoring man who sees marriage as a gift not to be taken for granted. My husband, Chris, encouraged me to follow my call to write—and God has used the difficult circumstances in my past to bring comfort to others through the written word. God has continually brought “something good” to me, as I’d prayed in that first prayer. When I trust in Him, He is faithful to bring me through any trial.
Second Corinthians 1:4-5 has proven true to my life: …so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows.