Laura cried. She gushed out the whole ugly story. She’d been hiding it behind quick smiles and forced laughter for months. I sat next to her on the couch, holding her hand. Flies buzzed through the open door. We could hear peals of laughter and outbursts of anger as our children figured out how to play together. Kids find their emotions so accessible.

Laura, on the other hand, struggled to connect to her emotions, even though they were obviously strong. Her husband hit her last week. He’d been a monster lately. This all started long ago with imagined offenses and small slights. But seventeen years later, after they’d both caused unforgettable damage to their relationship, things had escalated. Laura almost left him a year ago. At that time, she attended a church that encouraged her to fight for her marriage. Certainly a noble goal, but she hadn’t told them about the anger or the violence she faced at home.

Her husband puts on a good show. He has a huge smile with big white teeth bursting out from behind his lips as if they can’t wait another second to reveal themselves. The show was Laura’s main concern. “I can’t go to church anymore,” she told me. “I can’t smile and pretend that everything is fine like he does. I’m so embarrassed because our neighbors hear the screaming.”

Instead of figuring out what she needed to do to keep herself safe and protect her children, she worried about showing the neighbors what a Christian is supposed to look like.

how you are doing

I told her, “God cares more about how you are doing than how good you are. He loves you. He wants you to be in a safe place where you can thrive. I don’t care about your testimony. I want you to be real.”

I don’t know what Laura’s going to do. I’m praying for her and for her husband and children.

What about you? How do you respond to the pressure to have it altogether?

Ellen Benefield

In Her Own Words: My husband Kyle grew up planning to be a doctor. He met Jesus late in high school. Our first year in college, we went to a church planting conference. He very clearly heard the Holy Spirit tell him that he would be a church planter in Latin America. He argued for a while, and eventually gave in. In the 12 years that have followed, he hasn't looked back. When we told me his new plan, I was thrilled. I never saw myself as a doctor's wife. We got married, finished out degrees, and spent 9 months in training at our local church. In the summer of 2007, we loaded up my grandpa's pickup and moved to Mazatlan, Mexico.

Seven years later, we have three small children and a bustling church in the middle of a low-income neighborhood. We consistently meet women who think they need to be perfect before they can connect with God. Poverty puts people in difficult situations, and many have made choices they aren't proud of as a result. Our church motto is "Imperfect people full of Jesus' love." Over and over again we find ourselves explaining God's wonderful, amazing grace. My favorite part of ministry is watching people hear from the Holy Spirit.

Connect With Ellen Online:

website: mexicomercy.org
twitter: @Ellenbenefield