If I’d known then what I know now… When I held those precious babes bundled in blue. When during the night watches I rocked them to the rhythm of my prayers. When I was their whole world and innocence was still their reality. If I’d known then…
I would have held them tighter.
Kept them from the world.
This day, women’s whispers haunt me. I’ve never told anyone before, they begin. Faces stained with tears. Eyes hooded with shame. They pause. Swallow. Start again. I search my mind for wisdom, but find none. Instead, silent, I nod my encouragement. I hold their stories close. I understand.
We were bludgeoned.
Women betrayed by men who promised faithfulness. Women abandoned by men who promised steadfastness. Women belittled by men who promised respect. Women violated by men who promised protection. Husbands, fathers, brothers, uncles…
I cry out to God.
Where are Your men?
Who will lead our sons?
Where are the warriors?
He opens an album and points. Remember? He asks.
I see my grandfather, fly rod in hand—tender, faithful, sacrificial. Hero to my sons.
Yes, I remember, I say, as I smile through my tears.
And this one, He turns the page.
There’s my great-uncle, laughter in his eyes—fun, caring, strong. For a season, he made breakfast for me every morning. Yes, I recall.
Others come to mind—a coach, an agent, a father figure, a handyman, friends—James, Steve, Ted, Tony, Neil, Dave, Jim…
But good men.
But what of the others? I ask.
He shakes His head. Some are wounded. Others are weak. Many bow to other gods: money, lust, themselves. His tone is marked by grief.
Her hair is gray, her features lined with age. Her countenance emanates peace—her words embody wisdom. “I am your wife. If you go to her, do not come back. This is what I said to him.”
I lean forward, “What happened?”
“He went to her. And when he came back, I spoke truth.” Quiet strength supports her words. “I told those who had spiritual authority over him and they met with him. They told him he must change his ways. But he refused.”
She looks beyond me to the trees swaying in the breeze. I wait. And wonder.
When she looks to me again, a tear has left a track on her cheek. “I live with my son and his family now. I am grateful. God has provided for me.”
“But…are you still married?”
“Yes, I am still his wife. But I filed the paperwork for a legal separation. I had to protect myself financially. I could not let him use all our money to court another woman.”
“No, I am just old.” She shakes her head. “I will not divorce him. But I remain resolved because it is the most loving action.”
“What do you mean?”
Again, she stares beyond me and I wait. This time when she looks back to me, I see mercy in her eyes.
“He is hurting me, but he is also hurting himself. He is doing the most damage to his own soul. To love him is to tell him no.”
They are young men now—no longer the babes I rocked to the rhythm of my prayers. They are good men too, I believe. Though like each of us, they were born with sin woven into their very nature. Our culture of hedonism woos and a dark, consuming world is just a mouse-click away. What I didn’t know then, I know now…
A lion crouches.
Snarling at my young men.
Ready to attack.
But the lion doesn’t lie in wait for just my men. He is after our men. And we—wives, mothers, sisters, aunts—must rock the lion with our prayers. Stoning him unto death.
To our men, we must speak truth. With quiet strength supporting our words. We must say, “No more.”
Because, to love him, is to tell him no.