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This is the actual drawing that Gina keeps in her Bible to this day.

Every day of her married life she felt the weight of her husband’s oppression over her (told with permission).

My wife and I took a lady by the name of Gina (not her real name) to dinner one night. Gina had just gone through a difficult divorce and we wanted to encourage her. Her husband had been the kind of man who controlled her and kept her down. Yet, she was an extremely gifted and talented lady. A flurry of crashes in her husband’s life finally caused her to realize that her own life, and the rest of her family, would go under with him if she didn’t get out. So she filed for divorce.

At the dinner, a picture came to my mind. As my wife talked to Gina, I began to draw on a napkin the picture of a small stick figure woman standing next to a big stick figure woman. But I folded the napkin over so she could only see the small figure.

When there was a lull in their conversation, I showed Gina the smaller barely recognizable picture (I’m not a great artist) and I said, “Gina, this lady is you when you were with your husband. You were a beautiful, amazing and talented lady. You were very capable and I felt you had the potential to do much in life and for the Lord.”

Then I opened the napkin up so she could see both of the figures standing next to each other. Pointing to the larger stick-lady I said, “But Gina this is also you. I feel now that you are away from your now x- husband there is a much greater potential for you to become the bigger person that God has planned for your life.”

She knew I was right. Every day of her married life she had felt the weight of her husband’s oppression over her; keeping her down, holding her under his thumb, and imprisoning her with his control.

She had already squandered many years under his reign of terror over her. And as she sat there and began to understand the picture I was painting for her, she began to cry realizing she was now free to become all that God had in mind for her. She keeps that napkin in her Bible to this day.

I would never advocate divorce for anyone unless a person’s life was in danger. I always believe God has the power to redeem. However, I have to admit, I have encountered marriage after marriage over the years where husbands, and in some cases wives, oppress their spouses with control that squelches their partner’s personalities and their potential.

If we understand the Scripture correctly in Ephesians 5:25-29, that is not the picture of marriage the Bible gives. Marriage is a union that takes on the responsibility to help the one we marry become all that God has planned for that person. It is a commitment to develop and release their potential. I believe the scripture says we are to love them unconditionally, nourish and cherish them to perfection, treat them the way we would want to be treated, and help them find their God-ordained and glorious ideal. I believe that is also the picture Proverbs 31:10-31 paints. As spouses do this, they enhance their own lives and potential because the Bible also says spouses become one.

There are many married people in our world with severe problems of low self-esteem. Woe to the person who hooks up with one of these. However, they aren’t easy to detect. Often, it isn’t until couples are together several years that a spouse discovers that she/he is married to a person whose self-esteem is in the gutter and as a result has abusive and controlling tendencies.

These people can change, but only with influence from the transforming power of the cross and God’s Spirit. However, until that happens, these individuals keep their mates down. They won’t allow them to go out much. They can’t have many friends, and they better tow the mark. These people exist in every level of society; the poor and the rich, the educated and the uneducated. They think if their spouses aren’t controlled they might outdo them, which would increase their bad feelings about themselves.

Spouses, as you ponder the responsibility you have concerning the mate and home you have been or will be given, remember; God wants you to understand, you have the power to keep down and keep low the lives under your care. But you also have the power to enhance greatness in them. He expects you to help your spouse become all that He has designed that person to be. Whatever your spouse becomes, will make your union stronger, yourself better and your love richer.

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