Have you experienced true evil in your life? Can you look back over the years and see the hand of the Evil One at work in someone else and how it changed or touched your life in some way? Oh, I can.
Some of us get uncomfortable when the word evil is mentioned. I'll admit that the mention of the Evil One or Satan or the Devil - whatever you want to call the spirit of evil that exists and moves and takes hold of some - frightens me a little. I don't like to think about that alternative side to my soul - one that could hurt, harm, deceive, or much worse. I don't like to face the fact that there are people lurking among us who have no sense of morality or general goodness. But there are. There are people who for reasons only they fully understand have chosen a different way. People who have left a trail behind them of emptiness and destruction. People who use, manipulate, and destroy the souls and lives of others.
In my mind, I've often only attributed evil to the murderer, the violent rapist, the child molester - those truly abominable acts that all of society recognizes to be unjust and wrong. But what about the smaller evils of life? What about the evil acts that no one sees? What about the man who abuses his wife with his words or by making her perform acts even though she feels uncomfortable with them? What about the mother that hits her children with a belt for reasons no bigger than an unclean room or uneaten dinner? What about the young man who forces himself on his date at the end of an evening together when she clearly wanted him to stop? Are these things any less evil?
I've been processing some of the evil things that have been done to me. It's been a strange and painful experience for me, I must admit. Everyone knows that I was married and divorced in 1998. People have the general facts. But there are only a handful of people who really know what I went through. There was an evil spirit at work in that relationship, and it didn't begin with the adultery that ultimately ended the marriage. It began long before that with small issues of control, with verbal abuse, with manipulation and lies, and some even more painful things. I look back over those three years I spent in the relationship and can't even recognize the girl I became - insecure, scared, unworthy, inadequate. When God finally made known the truth in plain view for all to see and provided me a clear way out of the relationship, I remember feeling as though a weight had been removed from my chest, and the nervous tension I had felt for so long was gone.
But the fight against those feelings didn't end there. I went to a little therapy after the divorce, and for the first time talked openly about the inner workings of my relationship. I had not been honest with anyone about what had gone on - not with my best friend, not with my parents. But I didn't want to believe that this person - this man I thought loved me but ultimately violated every sacred part of my heart - could possibly affect me for very long. I didn't want to be a victim. I had no idea that the things I experienced in that relationship would continue to shape my decisions and interactions with others for years to come. But boy have my eyes been opened.
On Tuesday, I was rereading over some passages in Isaiah, which has become a place of refuge for my soul in the past month. I went back through the book examining the verses I had highlighted and came across this:
Strengthen the feeble hands, steady the knees that give way; say to those with fearful hearts, "Be strong, do not fear; your God will come, he will come with vengeance, with divine retribution he will come to save you." Isaiah 35: 3-4
Divine retribution - those words jumped out at me from the page. They meant something to me. Retribution is payback - it's, "Hey... you took something and now you have to pay it back." It's God saying to the Evil One, "Oh, no... that belongs to me. You've done enough here." It's God coming in and taking my soul back into His comforting arms and claiming me. And if you've ever been a victim of any sort of abuse - no matter how big or small - it's comforting to know that God cares for you that much.
That very next day, I opened my facebook account to find a friend request from my ex-husband. Funny how the day after I find in the scriptures something so meaningful and healing to my soul that the very person that represents evil in my life tries to push his way back into my world. Funny how the forces of good and evil are seen pitting against one another on a daily basis... but I praise my Lord for giving me those words when I needed them. For God did come in with divine retribution to save me. I have a wonderful family - a good husband who loves me and with whom I grow closer everyday, two beautiful children who make my life more interesting and entertaining than I ever dreamed possible, and I have a faith in my Lord that is moving and growing inside of me like a tulip popping up in the Spring. He came in and saved me. He claimed me. He provided the way out of the darkness. It hasn't always been pretty, I haven't always made the best choices along my way, but the path ahead of me is clear. And He continues to mark the way for me.
And now it's my job to continue on with the good work that's been started in me. And that's what I'd like to do. I'd love to take my story - all my experiences - and find a way to do good with them. Whether it be talking to young girls about relationships or maybe even writing a book about what I went through. What it boils down to is this - I didn't go through all the pain of my experience to just seal it up in a box and put it in the attic. I need to use it. I need to reach out to others before they end up in the place of darkness in which I found myself during those years. I want to take the bad and use it for good. And wouldn't that just be the most divine retribution of all?