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Violence Redeemed

It was 10.15 am on a Sunday. “There’s a telephone call for you, Morar. It sounds urgent.”

‘It must be,’ I thought. ‘Everyone who knows me knows where I am between services on a Sunday morning.’

It was. A man whom I’d been counselling with his wife. “I loaded my guns last night and went over to the house. I intended to kill them.”

I immediately thought of his wife, a professional, who had built up a successful business, and the four children she raised with very little help. (She had to take her children to the hospital when she delivered, since he was never home for the births).

“I don’t know what stopped me, but I didn’t go through with it.”

“Were you drinking?” So often his stalking behaviour was accompanied by alcohol. I asked him to unload the four guns, to have something to eat. I reassured him he had done the right thing, and to lie down and get some sleep.

At the same time I thought furiously about what to do next. After a call to the police, at their suggestion, I called her on her work line and urged her to get to the church as soon as possible (not knowing he had tapped her phone for eleven years).

Blessedly they were already on the way. I asked her to stay after and went in to lead worship, particularly thankful to God for the brakes that had stopped him from ... I couldn’t even bring myself to imagine it.

This time, he did time for weapons possession. It wouldn’t be the last time he threatened violence, and the next arrest would come for assaulting a scout leader he saw his wife talking to about their son.

The violence was so much more than physical. The stalking, the phone tapping, the constant barrage of, yes, evil, that descended upon his wife and children. With the help of an unscrupulous lawyer, he would take her business away from her, saddle her with debt, and use all the information he gleaned from the phone taps to undermine her in every possible way. Apart from the arrests, few knew. With no time for friends, she carried these burdens alone before finally sharing them within the safety of her church. It took years even from then, but she was no longer alone, and slowly she discovered that she was worth loving. Her children blossomed in the church, singing in the choir, often waiting for hours after practice till she could come get them, with a caring adult chatting with them. Her introverted son had the lead in the choir play, and delighted his mom and all of us with his antics.

The family had to move finally to be rid of him. She started over again in her business. She kept in touch, letting me know when she or the kids needed prayer, One blessed Christmas, they all wrote and thanked us for our support over the years. And then she called and asked if I would marry her. How lovely, I thought, a happy ending well deserved. Three hours after our second counselling session she called to say it was over -- my relief was physical. Fortunately, she began to see she was in danger of making another poor choice.

There are several cautions in this story. I learned that violence is a culture not just an act. And that culture affects everyone -- reaching out to damage a whole family and the whole community and it reaches out into the future, infecting relationships.

I learned that violence, stalking, seeking control over another person are all fuelled by alcohol. Another person who came to me for counselling after stalking a woman he met in a bar said, “I’ve seen the inside of every jail in southern Ontario.” Only when he was able to stop drinking, could he get control over his stalking behaviour.

I learned how difficult it is to ask for help -- eleven years before she shared her burden with another person. And it was hard, sometimes even scary (when he started following me, I worried for my children). It took years of giving support, being there at all times of the day and night.

And I learned that it took the community of the church to sustain us all -- to care for her and her family, and to support me when I felt scared or weary.

I learned there is hope. A caring Christian community that walked with her, offered God’s love to her and her family, even to the husband, allowed for hope and healing to eventually replace violence with love.

I think she learned that she was not alone, and.that she really was loved. I learned that God carries us all in loving arms. I hope she did too.