Behind the walls of respectability
How the prayer of a daughter healed a family of domestic abuse
The author of this article, a regular contributor, asked us to withhold her name because her father is still prominent in his community. She says, "I kept the accounts of our abuse even from my husband. I didn't want him to become antagonistic toward my father... He has been set free from an unjust sentence ... I hope this statement will help us all to pray for those families trapped in abusive relationships."
I came from an Eastern culture where women were regularly battered and girls were treated as less than human beings. It was a shock to discover that this behavior is not limited to nations like the one where I grew up.
Even in the West, where I am living now, I find that behind the respectable facade, wife battering is rife. The fact that it goes on here, shows that even in a free society where women have a powerful voice there's a pressing need to address and heal it. Domestic abuse is a worldwide problem, not just one that belongs to third world countries.
Where do we begin in trying to eliminate it? Sometimes the problem is so messy and complicated that you just want to ignore it.
Well, please don't! Each time you hear or read about a case in the newspapers, please pray. I know from my own experience how much your prayers will help.
Let me tell you how I prayed about our hidden secret in a family where behind the walls of respectability something else went on.
My father had just beaten my mother so severely that she was nearly unconscious. She was covered in bruises and had open wounds. My sister was on the phone sobbing and didn't know what to do. She lived in one country and I in another. She needed to get our mother to the emergency room of a hospital, but she was scared that the police would be called and that my father would be arrested. She wanted to know what to do.
I had recently begun reading Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, by Mary Baker Eddy and I had seen many amazing transformations and healings in my life. Without hesitation, I asked her to give me a little while to pray. I asked God to show me how to pray.
A passage came to me from Science and Health, an interpretation of the first chapter of the book of Genesis. It quotes Genesis 1:27: "So God created man in His own image, in the image of God created He him; male and female created He them." Then it says, "To emphasize this momentous thought, it is repeated that God made man in His own image, to reflect the divine Spirit. It follows that man is a generic term. Masculine, feminine, and neuter genders are human concepts. In one of the ancient languages the word for man is used also as the synonym of mind" (p. 516).
Without hesitation, I asked her to give me a little while to pray.
From that moment, I started on a spiritual journey that took me 18 months. What wonderful things I learned about God ... and what healing and salvation took place for us during that time.
My mother was healed of her injuries very quickly and did not need to be taken to the hospital. So my father was saved yet again. As children, we had pretty much kept his behavior a secret. My father did very good and effective charitable work in our community, and so when we did try to tell one or two close friends to get help, they never believed us. That's when we realized it would have to be our terrible family secret.
When I obtained a copy of Science and Health, I just loved the way the author describes God as Father-Mother. My father seemed to be so heavy on the masculine qualities. Now I was learning that God was also Mother, and that we—as His "image"—each have both male and female qualities. I had to get a better sense of the motherhood of God, I felt.
My mother was a saint to me. She loved my sister and me deeply. How I longed for the world to see me through her eyes! Nothing was ever too much for her. She bore her burden with such grace. She never came to her own defense, in case doing so would in some way turn my father against my sister and me. She just took it all.
Yes, if God was Mother then I could understand what Love must be like.
To think that my father could be capable of reflecting the gentle motherhood of God seemed absolutely impossible. But I was going to pray and find out. I was desperate for my mother's freedom and release. I felt I owed it to her for all that she had protected us from.
I was married with children of my own. The prayer I was learning about had healed our children and us of sickness. It had brought us out of near bankruptcy. Surely it could extend to my parents, too. What I owe Christian Science, words can never express.
I began to better understand tenderness, the gentlest quality of God. But also I realized that God is omnipotent. In Psalm 91, God's power and His care for us are expressed this way: "He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust: his truth shall be thy shield and buckler" (91:4). The mothering qualities of God go so beautifully with the simile of feathers. What could be softer and warmer than to snuggle in feathers like a baby bird? I saw that my father reflected this tender nature from God. He was meant to be nurturing.
"Father-Mother is the name for Deity, which indicates His tender relationship to His spiritual creation" (Science and Health, p. 332). As I realized that creation is spiritual, I began to notice more signs of God's presence. I was able to go beyond a view of the universe as material and to contemplate the spiritual significance of everything around me— with emphasis on seeing its relationship to God as Father-Mother. Everything was His flawless spiritual creation. Everything around me began to tell me about the gentleness and tenderness of divine Love.
If the flower didn't feel the gentleness of the sunlight, it wouldn't open to a full bloom. It needs the sun to shine on it so it can open with a vibrant splash of color. I saw that the gentleness of God's love was the light that was made to shine in my father's heart. God could not have made him to be hard and violent toward my mother, whom I knew he loved. Where God's love shines, there is the power of God's mothering. This must be reflected in tenderness of the human heart and soul. Even just one person's realization of this leaves no place for violent actions, or turbulent obsessive thoughts, or uncontrollable anger and rage. It leaves no place for anything other than gentle and calm.
Love is the law of God that He/She enforces in all of creation. It is expressed in our individual consciousness. Nothing can impede or obstruct all the right thinking and good actions that flow out from God, because they are empowered by divine law. Love dissolves and cancels all that is not correct about human living.
I had fun thinking about the motherhood qualities God had given my father. And soon I discovered something unexpected happening to all the men I came in contact with. My husband has always been God's best gift to me. A more gentle and loving man I never met in my life—that is why I married him. He had always been so loving. But now he had become even more gentle and kind. Everywhere I went, the macho image of men changed, and they became truly gentle men.
One day I was talking to my sister, and she told me that my parents had not had a fight for months. In fact, my father was treating my mother with a lot of tenderness. We were overjoyed.
Behind what screams as weakness could well be a strong and bold heart standing for what is good and true.
That is not the end of the story. The same time I prayed to identify my father's motherhood qualities, I decided to see the fatherhood qualities in my mother. As I started to pray, I suddenly understood that she already expressed those fatherhood qualities. She had never been a victim. The love with which she had defended my sister and me was strong. So strong that I knew it showed the fatherhood of God. She had never failed in protecting us. We had been shielded by her strength as young ones when we could not defend ourselves. Her love had given us the confidence to be strong adults where nothing could frighten us.
Seeing my mother suddenly as the victor, rather than the victim, had such a startling effect on me that for the first time I saw how God's love for His creation is total. Behind what screams as weakness could well be a strong and bold heart standing for what is good and true.
This new view of my mother freed me from thinking of her as an oppressed woman. I found to my joy that she was becoming confident in her own ability, making decisions and taking actions of her own accord.
Today, eight years later, my parents are living in harmony with each other and have active and rewarding lives.