‘To me, freedom is so precious and I would not give it up for all the world. I have realised that for those who live in the West, freedom is so often something they take for granted. It has always been there for them. It is their unnoticed, unrecognised, constant companion and friend. But for those… like me who were enslaved, it remains a uniquely beautiful, special experience.
…for me, this freedom is also a terrifying thing. I was captured when I was still a child. I spent my teenage years and my early adulthood in slavery. For all that time, I had no freedom. I was a non-person; I didn’t really exist. I had no doctor, no dentist, no school, no family, no friends, no money, no bank account, no taxes to pay and nothing to buy or sell. I had no diary, no papers to file, no phone calls to make or take, no letters to send or receive and no bills to pay. I had no decisions to make about my own life. Everything was decided for me; when to get up, what clothes I had to wear, when to start work, when to eat, when to sleep. In short, I learned nothing that a normal person learns when they are going through the transition to adulthood. After I escaped I realised that I just didn’t know how to do any of these things.’
by Mende Nazer
This is a brilliant book. The tenacity and courage of Mende Nazer is a wonderful thing to behold. I found I could relate to so much of what Mende went through. I went from an abused childhood into an abused adulthood. During my first marriage I was only ‘allowed’ to visit the doctor or dentist with permission. One time, I had a miscarriage and was in a lot of pain and bleeding. Any normal person would have called an ambulance. That man refused to even call the doctor. I bled for a whole month.
When I was pregnant I had placenta praevia, a very dangerous situation where if I went into labour or started bleeding I had to have an emergency operation immediately or my baby would die and I would bleed to death. When I started bleeding that man would not let me have the emergency C-section that I needed until late at night. Afterwards, although I was not really well enough, he forced me to go home after only two days in hospital.
He stopped me from studying (this was my dream). He stopped me from having friends. He created situations that were so awful that he pushed my family away and then blamed them. I didn’t see them or hear from them for years. I had a bank account, but only so that he could use it to control me and the money. I was not permitted to spend money other than in the manner he dictated. If I did, he would hit me and call me horrible, awful, vile things. He was as cruel with his tongue as with his fists.
I had to use the phone in the exact manner that he dictated. If I said anything ‘wrong’ he would hurt me. I was not allowed to make decisions about the vast majority of things. I got up at quarter to six every morning so that I would have a short time to myself, and time to read my bible and to pray. He forced me to stay awake until late at night so I was constantly tired. Even my clothing, like Mende, was decided for me. He decided when and if I needed new clothes and how much I was permitted to spend on them. Unlike Mende, I was allowed to go out of the house as long as I followed, to the letter, his instructions.
Also like Mende, the freedom that came when I first found myself a single mother was overwhelming and terrifying. Like Mende, I had to learn how to do everything one usually learns as a teenager or young woman. I am still learning! By grace I manage so much better now. Hallelujah! It is grace and freedom in Christ that is the real purpose of this blog post. Many people have no idea what freedom means, and hence can have little idea of what freedom in Christ means. When we have always been granted so much, how can we comprehend being thankful and joyful over so little? This is not a joy that is free from pain. The pain and the sadness and the flashbacks are still, on occasion, overwhelming. I have at last received a diagnosis of PTSD although I am still waiting for treatment. But I know without doubt how much I have to be thankful for and how grace has set me free. I have found something that is worth more than anything else will ever be, and I will never let it go. There is an inexpressible ‘something’ that is more powerful than the pain. Faith, maybe? I don’t know; it is inexpressible.
‘Christ has set us free to live a free life. So take your stand! Never again let anyone put a harness of slavery on you.’
Galatians 5:1 (The Message)
I have loved you just as the Father has loved me. You must go on living in my love. If you keep my commandments you will live in my love just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and live in his love. I have told you this so that you can share my joy, and that your happiness may be complete. This is my commandment: that you love each other as I have loved you. There is no greater love than this—that a man should lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I tell you to do. I shall not call you servants any longer, for a servant does not share his master’s confidence. No, I call you friends, now, because I have told you everything that I have heard from the Father.
John 15:9-15 (JB Phillips)
Believe me when I tell you that every man who commits sin is a slave. For a slave is no permanent part of a household, but a son is. If the Son, then, sets you free, you are really free!
John 8:34-36 (JB Phillips)