Dena Johnson Martin Christian Blog and Commentary

If I Would Have Stayed

Have you ever read a blog post that felt as if it were your own words, your own story? I happened across this post at recently, and that's exactly how I felt. Megan's words could have been my own. So today, I bring you a special guest post from Give Her Wings. I hope you will take a few minutes to check out their page!


Saturday morning, I quickly showered, dressed, had quiet time and then had to rush to the store with my two littles. My oldest daughter, Mila (12.5), saw me when I came out of the bedroom. She gave a radiant smile and said, “Mama! You look so pretty!” I smiled back and hugged her. My heart was full. It is natural, in our home, to say such things. We compliment each other; we are courteous; we smile at one another. We hug. There was no jealousy nor selfishness in what she said. It was kind and sweet. And she was pure and lovely. Once again, I was struck by how different our household is than what I grew up with . . . and how different our household is from what it could have been. And I am overcome with gratitude that we have joy and love and trust in our home.

When we lived with my ex husband, everything was tense all the time. He could say and do whatever he wanted and we all just had to be quiet and take it. And die inside. The last few years of our marriage, there was so little laughter . . . so much “quiet strife”. We were all so isolated. I remember my ex husband yelling, “I JUST WANT PEACE IN MY HOME!” Translation: I just want you to be quiet and do what I say and never object to the ways in which I hurt you and the children. 

My babies were being crushed. And they were being taught that that was normal. I was watching the light go out of their eyes and their personalities fade. And I knew what future they were facing because I had coped with the life-taking atmosphere for such a long time. And it was breaking my heart.

It has been almost five years (to the day) since we left. And, oh, the joy of seeing my children be who they were meant to be! We aren’t perfect (of course), but we do try to raise them in sincerity and authenticity. I love them all so much! I love the ways they thrive under their parents’ leadership and care. I love their mannerisms. I love how Josiah crinkles his nose when he laughs. I love his cleverness. I love how he takes care of his siblings so beautifully. I love Mila’s tenderness and beautiful sense of responsibility. She is so creative. She will be such a wonderful mother someday! I love Camden’s loving vulnerability. He cries when others are hurting and is a great comfort to those around him. I love that he is an introvert (like his mama!) and that he wants to do everything with excellence. I love that Bella has no guile. She is not competing with anyone. And, in our family, she doesn’t have to worry about feeling unsafe. She is adored by everyone. Last night, she hugged Josiah and I heard him say, “I love my Bella!” That would never had happened, if I had stayed.

If I had stayed, my children would have thought that their sole purpose in life would be to prop up their biological father. They would have thought that love is simply being used. If they did more or better than their father, they would have been pushed down SO QUICKLY, they would not have time to catch their breaths! If I had stayed, true Christianity would have been replaced by an acts-based religion where God could leave you on a whim. Relationships would be shame-based. Any joy would have been quenched because you cannot have joy when you are afraid of God. And no one else can have joy, either. If I had stayed, my boys might have thought that chronic porn was just something that all men do. They would have thought that women were nothings. And my girls would have thought that they were nothings. Or, worse, manipulative tramps. My daughters would believe they were “half a person” . . . . created to be used by men. And all of these things would be backed up biblically! Their idea of God would have been more demonic than anything else. They would abhor Him but feel chained to Him at the same time. There would be no reasonable conversation. They would have been spanked relentlessly, often and for the wrong reasons. He spanked them for what he perceived as “disrespect”, rather than disciplining them for their best, good and safety. He would have broken them . . . he spoke (often) of needing to break their wills. Oh, my babies. Oh, my very heart . . . 

Now, I look at their incredible health. They are well-loved and savvy, smart and fun. They know who Jesus is and they love Him. Their relationships with God are their own! They have a very full understanding of this world and their place in this world. They are good to each other (most of the time!). They experience emotions and they are beautiful.

So many people objected to my leaving my ex husband. But, I never doubt. All I would have to do is to look at my children and think — just for a second! — about what it was like before and how healthy they are now and I am overcome with certainty . . . . and flooded with gratitude that God made a dramatic way for our escape. We crossed the Red Sea and we did it together. And we are free. Then, to just seal the deal, God brought us David. He has taught us normalcy and love. He has provided a safe house for us. Safe to love, to laugh, to be, to fail, to cry . . . and oh! The healing.

Sometimes, God calls us to stay; other times, to go. I felt I needed to stay for over eleven years. Then, it was simply time to go. And God made that clear. And I needed Him to for my own sensitive conscience. He will do the same for you. Don’t stop crying out to Him. I was so wrong about Him, friends! I thought that He wanted me to hurt! I thought I deserved it! My faith was misplaced. I allowed other people (who idolize marriage) to blur the lines between who God is and what marriage is. And oh, how I regret that! But, God knows. I remember confessing to Him my lack of understanding of who He is. And I remember hearing this:


Oh, my daughter! I know. I know. I knew . . . I saw it all. I was there.

And His mercy washed over my heart. And He has been so gracious to me to allow me to experience what a real and godly marriage is with David. He didn’t have to do that. But, He did. Because He’s like that. God is so much more loving and wonderful than I could ever have imagined. So much holier; so much more beautiful. And it just gets better and better. Are you going through a “Job-phase”? Through tremendous loss? Are you in deep pain and darkness? Are you being routinely hurt?  You won’t be there forever. You just won’t! Eventually, Job was able to heal and move forward into a different life. You will have that, too. Please don’t give up. Cling to that thread of faith because you will be rewarded. And you will be able to breathe the clear, fresh air of grace and life. Don’t give up.