Her bruised face
Joan’s face told the story. Bruce Sharp’s beatings were getting worse by the day. She had come to expect them, like a daily regimen of vitamins. He was her husband and tormentor.
Makeup helped her sneak through the grocery store unnoticed. What others saw in public and what she saw in private were two different things. The difficult part was her loneliness. She needed to talk, but talk only made things worse.
The time she turned Bruce in for breaking her nose brought intense suffering her way. After he wrangled his way out of punishment at court, he returned home to badger her. He would stare into her green eyes and say, “You useless piece of garbage!”
She believed him. He had called her so many names over several years that her personal esteem was pathetic. She had started hating herself. She had starting whispering, “I am to blame.”
The six-footer had started the beatings again. After twelve months of nothing but verbal abuse, he returned to the punching and slapping. She would be on the couch crying, aching all over, while he told her how much he loved her. He always told her he loved her after he beat her.
One morning a local pastor and his associate rang the doorbell. Bruce was at work. Joan ambled to the door, wearing a raggedy robe. The heavy dose of Motrin had left her in a light stupor. Otherwise, she would have never answered.
Two middle-aged men in suits smiled at her. The one with the neatly cropped brown hair said, “Hello. I am Pastor J.W. Barnabus. This is my Associate Pastor Earl Silas.”
Joan pushed back some strands of dark hair from her face. “Oh, my,” she said, “won’t you come in?”
Pastor Barnabus tried to remain calm. The sight of her battered face disgusted him. Pastor Silas gave him a sad glance. “Are you alright, Mrs.?”
“Oh, I am sorry,” she said. “I am Mrs. Joan Sharp. Can I get you some coffee?”
“That would be nice,” Pastor Barnabus replied. “I’ll take mine black, please.”
“Pastor,” said Joan, “I am not accustomed to having visitors. My husband is a private person. He discourages company. I, on the other hand, enjoy meeting new people.”
“Is your husband an abuser?” he asked.
Joan stopped pouring the coffee. “Pastor,” she replied, “that is nobody’s business.”
“I know all about what he has done to you in the past, Mrs. Sharp,” he said. “And I can see by your bruised face that he has not stopped. Is my deduction correct?”
Joan struggled with the answer. Her efforts to keep the truth covered were about to end. “He beats me at least once a day.” She covered her mouth, as if she had let slip something that might cost her dearly.
“Pastor Silas and I are here to encourage you, Joan,” said Pastor Barnabus. “While in prayer, we felt led to bring a message of hope to you. The Lord has not abandoned you, Joan. In fact, he sent us to help you.”
“Nobody can help me,” she said. “I have surrendered to the fact that I will never be set free from Bruce Sharp.”
She handed Pastor Barnabus a steaming cup of coffee. Then she handed Pastor Silas his.
“We have a group at our church for battered spouses,” said Pastor Silas. “It is discreet. You come to church for Bible study and we deliver you to the group. Would you be interested?”
“Will my husband find out?” she asked.
“Probably not,” Pastor Barnabus replied. “We try to keep your class secret.”
“He’ll beat me if he finds out,” she said.
“He’ll beat you, anyway,” Pastor Barnabus refuted.
She paused and then brushed her forehead with the palm of her hand. “Okay. I’ll go. I need help. I am like a slave to this abuse. I cannot promise that I will pass the class, though. He seems to have power over me.”
“Be encouraged, sister,” said Pastor Silas. “Nothing is too difficult for God.”
“Nothing?” she asked.
“Nothing,” said Pastor Barnabus.
“When and where is the class?” she asked.
“Let us pray together first,” said Pastor Barnabus. “We will look at details after that.”
Her heart jumped for joy. She bowed her head. “Yes sir. Let’s pray.” There was a slight smile that raised across her bruised face.
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