“I hope our sandwiches don’t spoil, I didn’t know we were driving to Seattle.” she said to her husband as we crawled forward.

“There’s a long line of planes in front of us. Can’t you figure that out?” boomed across the quiet plane.

“Yes,” came her equally quiet reply.

A part of me wilted and I looked out the window trying to physically distance from them, though we three were in the same row.

Airborne she helped adjust the volume on his headset. “Jeez! God!” exploded from him when a commercial came on. She turned it down only to later be snapped at. “I can’t hear it!”

The flight couldn’t end soon enough. Marital disrespect saddens me and I felt trapped. I prayed for the flight to end. For the wedding I was going to. For the friends I was to see. And for no more interactions that gut a person.

“So, you live in Denver or Seattle?” he asked me.

Though I had no desire to talk to this jackass, it’s hard to dodge a simple, direct question. “I’m from Denver, but I live in Beijing.”

He lit up, turns out they had spent two amazing weeks in China on a tour. And they were off and running down memory lane. They smiled at each other. They talked about the food, their tour guide, the people, reliving the glory days.

I was a bit peeved that a connection between us was made. He was no longer simply a jackass to his wife. He was also a man who babbled about China and smiled at his wife. I wanted to hold on to my two-dimensional view where he was judged and I was excused from engaging him.

But that’s not how God works. He lives and works in the three-dimensional messy world. And once again he gently invited me to see the imago dei (Image of God) in the man next to me.

What invitations have you received recently?

Categories: China, Community, Faith

Amy

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  1. Tarah Colvin November 13, 2012 at 7:13 am - Reply

    Hi Amy. Your title caught my attention! I have been substitute teaching these past few weeks.

    One of my first subbing assignments had me watching a room full of bored high school sophomores as they were to quietly finish an assignment their teacher had left for them. The class was not completely at the volume of quiet I was hoping for and, unlike my wonderful Chinese university students, these students did not really care.

    There was this one student, a large guy who sat with his back to me throughout the entire class. The first time I walked by, I found him playing a game on his phone. I told him to put it away and to get to work. Work he never did, but rather doodled and sketched on the assignment instead. After a while, he got bored of this and decided to play his game on the phone again. I decided that I was tired of trying and that he should go to the office and get out of my hair. He was rude, disrespectful and clearly not interested in following my instructions. I had to show the class that I was in charge.

    But, then, for the first time that day, as he picked up his backpack and headed for the door, I saw his face as he looked up at me and left. There was a real soul there. A real hurt behind those eyes that I had made an example of. I quietly prayed that, perhaps, someone in the office might say some words to this hurting boy who was clearly scared and alone in his teenage world. He was definitely human, made in His image and desperately hungry for true Hope.

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      Amy November 13, 2012 at 7:45 am - Reply

      Oh Tarah, thanks for taking the time to share. These moments are around us (I’m not excusing your student or my seat mate), but I’m not excusing us either :). Blessings on you as you sub! Amy

  2. Pete Aldrich November 13, 2012 at 7:46 am - Reply

    When I saw the headline, I was prepared to read about Balaam and his talking donkey (which I actually read this morning). No worries, though, your story was still quite interesting! Love the blog …

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      Amy November 13, 2012 at 7:48 am - Reply

      Thanks Pete … yeah, I’d rather not think I’m as dense as Balaam … but sadly I easily can be!

  3. Mark Allman November 14, 2012 at 2:36 am - Reply

    You know I think God loves twist and turns and loves when we realize that we were so off base it becomes funny. I like God’s sense of humor and I am glad he made laughter. Thank you God.

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      Amy November 14, 2012 at 8:34 am - Reply

      Me too Mark! Me too.

  4. aspen November 14, 2012 at 11:10 am - Reply

    Amy, what you have written here hurts me, not because people are not made in the image of God (we all are) but because the senario you describe here is a very typical example of an abusive marriage. I have learned a lot about “abuse” – the technical term – in the last year as we are dealing with a family situation involving it at the moment. (I’m not talking about people having a bad day or being mean to each other. Real abuse is different.) It is something that is not recognized or dealt well with by the evangelical church (of which we are active members). So I can’t just read this and ignore it. I feel like i have to say something about how real abusive relationships work.

    Abuse is caused by the mindset/belief system of the abuser (many of whom at least call themselve Christians and are often activen, even in leadership, in evangelical churches). They honesly believe a few key points: They are superior to others, especially their spouse, they are central to all relationships (the universe really does revolve around them), and they deserve/are entitled to special treatment. They HVAE to be the ones in control of their spouse (and often children) at all times, and they have many ways of enforcing this – intimidation (not always physical, but the results on their spouse is the same), fear, belittling, manipulation (espeically manipulation) etc. They devaste those they supposedly “love” because they HAVE to be the best, the one in charge, etc. And yes, they know what they are doing and they mean to do it. They also feel totally justified in their actions and will defend them to the point of absurdity, because they honesly believe they are “right” in what they are doing.

    On the other hand, they are very concerned about public opinion and are often very charismatic (in the non-religous sense), outgoing, friendly people. They can spin stories (and fabricate lies) that sound totally believable. They are often “the nicest guys”. (And yes, while women can have this mindset, the vast majority are men.) This public personal works in their favour as most people have trouble believing that “such a wonderful guy” can be so devastating at home. They are masters at twisting things so people will even join them in mocking their spouse and support them rather than their wife when she finally tries to confront the abuse. So even the “good guy” part of this story fits with how an abusive person rules their world. Her talking about the trip as well doesn’t discount the rest of the story. That is also part of the covering up that is constant in abusive relationships – because she knows what will happen later if she doesn’t go along with it now. And she is so relieved that he has changed his current persona (they can flip the way they appear in seconds) and that he won’t continue putting her down publically that her relief comes out in her happier appearance.

    I apologize if this isn’t the place for an essay, but this hits very close to home right now and it hurts to see it in black and white. I’m glad I recognize it now though. I wouldn’t have a year ago. The more people understand the thinking behind true abuse and how it comes out in actions, the sooner people will recognize it and maybe help the women and children trapped in abusive relationships. If you want more information (and I have more), please e-mail me. I would really appreciate the chance to educate more Christians about this very real problem.

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      Amy November 14, 2012 at 11:41 am - Reply

      Aspen, Thank you for taking the time to share on what is a very important and serious topic. I agree with you that often the subject of abuse is not dealt well with in the church and am glad that you care enough to speak up. I worked for two years at a domestic violence and substance abuse treatment center when I was back in the States getting an MA in counseling. I did not mean to make light of abuse in my post, it is serious and despicable when one in power uses it to hurt others. What I was also trying to communicate is that in those situations I am tempted to merely judge one as an abuser and feel sorry for the abused instead of being willing to see the whole complex, messy situation. I believe his behavior made many of us on that plane uncomfortable (as it should!).

      Thank you for offering to be a resource! Please, anyone reading this who would like to connect with Aspen … do! Aspen, I’m sorry for what your family is going through and am thankful to have you share with us!

      Amy

  5. aspen November 14, 2012 at 1:05 pm - Reply

    Amy,
    Thank you for your response. You are correct. These situations are very complex, and very, very messy. Yes, we need to be careful not to condemn without knowledge. We are all sinners in different ways, and we all have God’s grace extended to us, if we humble ourselves before Him and accept it for real.

    But we also need to recognize that true abuse is a totally different situation from two people who are having a hard time getting along. True abuse is 100% the responsibility of the abuser. Nothing the abused does causes it, (it is because of the underlying mind set/belief system/world view of the abuser that it exists) and nothing the abused tries to do can stop it. This is directly contrary to every other relationship and to everything we are taught about how relationships work, but it is true. (It took me a while to recognize and accept this, but after this past year, I do agree this is the case.)

    Discerning between true abuse and other relationship problems needs people to be educated about and understand how true abuse works. For people who are interested, here is a link to a blog started by a pastor who had to deal with true abuse in his congregation, as well as a woman who has come out of an abusive relationship. He did the research and learned, and is now trying to help educate others in the evangelical community about how true abuse works. The November 12th post about How Abusers Flunk the Empathy Test will give people an idea of how abusers think. http://cryingoutforjustice.wordpress.com/

    Amy, if the link is inappropriate on your blog, please remove it. It is here for education purposes for people who want to learn more.

    Thank you again for listening.

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      Amy November 14, 2012 at 4:17 pm - Reply

      Aspen,

      I agree wholeheartedly with you! Part of what makes abuse some complex is the ways that the abuser is able to manipulate and either blame the victim or make the victim feel it is his or her fault. It’s not. Thank you for eloquently and clearly saying this. I have looked at the above site and it looks like a valuable resource! I’m glad to have it and that particular post you point out is helpful. You have added great depth to the conversation and I hope you’ll pipe in on other posts as well!

      Amy

      • aspen November 14, 2012 at 11:39 pm - Reply

        Thanks Amy. I enjoy reading your blog. Thank you for doing what you do.

  6. Jeremy Statton November 14, 2012 at 11:48 pm - Reply

    I enjoyed this. It amazes sometimes some circumstances force us to get over ourselves. I wish it would happen with me more often. It is also amazing how finding common ground can be so powerful.

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      Amy November 15, 2012 at 6:34 am - Reply

      Jeremy, I was reading through some Bryan Allain site and saw the post about your plane ride! Wow, now that was a ride.

  7. Margaret November 15, 2012 at 1:52 am - Reply

    I agree with the comments above- the title totally grabbed my attention. Life would be easier if we could stick people in our 2-D boxes… but you’re right. Then comes along the imago Dei….

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      Amy November 15, 2012 at 6:35 am - Reply

      Thanks Margaret!

  8. […] In which an ass becomes a man “I wanted to hold on to my two-dimensional view where he was judged and I was excused from […]

  9. Lisa Waszkiewicz November 17, 2012 at 2:00 pm - Reply

    I’m invited daily. To see the glorious, bubbling, imaginative, feisty, curious, passionate creature that is my teenaged daughter. Instead of the dirty dish leaving, sock losing, no bed making, doesn’t want to walk the dog, eye rolling teenager. Love the title.

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      Amy November 17, 2012 at 2:46 pm - Reply

      Ah, yes, those under our own roofs!

  10. Eileen November 18, 2012 at 3:29 am - Reply

    I had a similar thing happen to me recently. Some neighbors of mine who I had put in the “written off” category. God opened my eyes and showed me they just human and made poor decisions some times just like me.

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