As a means of simplifying my life a bit, I am merging my Repurposed and Upcycled blog with Faith Creativity Life, and creating a topical category for posts related to God's repurposing of our difficult circumstances. This is a post I originally featured on Feb. 7, 2013.
Repurposed and Upcycled
By: Robin Hakanson Paulsen
Repurposed and upcycled are not two words that I thought should exist for me 10-20 years ago.
Obligation and shame more accurately described how I felt.
Growing up as the oldest of five in a Christian home, I was responsible and followed the rules. I tested those rules often during my teen and early adult years. The things I “got away with” wouldn’t necessarily be considered criminal by most standards.
As a young adult, I jumped in and out of relationships, looking for “the one.” Don’t we all?
I thought I had found “the one” in a man who seemed to be everything that I was not, but wanted to be. He was driven, confident, professional, in-charge and spiritual. He was on the fast track in the professional realm, he was obtaining a master’s degree and he attended church every single weekend.
All of these attributes were foreign to me and my college-age friends. Not that we were irresponsible, but these things all seemed like “the next step,” which was not the step we were on. We paid our bills, went to class and/or our jobs and were more focused on how we would invest our time and paychecks on the weekends. Not odd for most people I know in their early twenties. After meeting and dating this man, I felt I had purpose in this type of life.
Until the day that I shared two lines with him. Neither of these lines contained words. They presented themselves on an early pregnancy test.
At the time, I would have to say there was a mutual feeling of responsibility, but not a mutual feeling of happiness.
We became engaged without a proposal of marriage. It was just an expectation and I went along with it.
We went to pre-marital counseling through his church of choice. I had questions that no one in this church could answer, and in spite of every red flag, I went along with it. I later recognized that my identity was required of me.
After marriage, everything looked happy and portrait-worthy. My husband made enough money for me to stay home and tend to the house and his needs. Shortly after, our son was born.
In the next five years, three girls would follow.
I admit to feeling fortunate that I was able to stay home with my kids. I would joke that my husband worked hard so I didn’t have to.
But that wasn’t true.
I worked hard to keep up a perfect image. But everything in my life was calculated and controlled.
I begged to get counseling. He conceded once, and then never again.
Nothing and everything changed in one night. It started off similar to every other night: I had the kids fed and cleaned up for bed. They were upstairs playing while I was cleaning the kitchen. Their father walked in from work, clearly upset. He heard the kids who were having fun, but loud.
The next few seconds happened like they occurred in slow motion. A briefcase was slammed. Angry words were shouted. Threats towards the children were made. Angry actions began like they were accustomed to.
Until I shouted back.
No. I would no longer allow this scenario to take place.
He didn’t think I would fight back; didn’t see anything wrong with our relationship and refused to accept responsibility. He threatened me with all the ways he had controlled me in the past; told me that no one would believe me, said that if I left him, I would be putting myself and the children in poverty, and said the Christian community of friends I had would believe I was a fraud.
We separated and divorced. Some things he said to me that night were true; some in the Christian community decided to look the other way. But in my mind and heart, I knew it wasn’t too late to model healthy independence for my kids. I could still teach my son that it is not okay to treat a woman this way. And I could teach my three girls that it is not okay to let someone treat you in this manner.
This night all led to what I now consider my “upcycled” life.
God created something new out of old patterns and behaviors. And none of it could have happened if I didn’t start out the way I did.
Statistics show that one in four women in churches today are in or have experienced an abusive relationship.
One-third of American woman have reported being physically or sexually abused by a husband or boyfriend at some point in their lives.
And one in every three high school students has been involved in an abusive relationship.
These are more than just statistics to me. These are people in my church, in my country and potentially, in my own home. I believe that because I have my own story that is still being lived out, I can help come alongside those with their own stories of control and abuse.
I share my story when I can, when God presents the opportunity around me. The subject matter does not make me feel better about myself and how I started out, but it does show me how God can use my story that already exists to help others walking through a controlling and abusive situation. This is how God has shown me that he can repurpose things for his glory and hope for others. What I once thought of as a curse, I now feel honored…that God would choose to repurpose my story for his good.
Robin Hakanson Paulsen is a freelance journalist, licensed massage therapist and mother to four from Iowa. You can get to know her through her blog: Write-On-Mom
Thank you for your guest post on The Repurposed and Upcycled Life, Robin! We appreciate your honesty and openness. Readers, remember, Robin's story is copyrighted and belongs to her. No material from this blog post may be used with out permission from the author. --Michelle