Maybe Being Seen Will Save Her

On Sunday, August 9th, police in Ascension Parish were called to the home of a Baton Rouge, Louisiana woman, Monica Butler Johnson, who had been bludgeoned to death by her estranged husband. In addition to an existing arrest record (from when he strangled her until she had no voice), there were protective orders in place against him because he had been stalking her. The protective orders failed. He was seen following and intimidating her. Yet somehow, being seen didn’t save her. Secret suffering can be deadly, but is there any value in being seen?

In Exodus 3, Moses encountered a burning bush and the scripture says that,

“and he looked, and behold, the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed…And…The Lord saw that he turned aside to see…” (Exodus 3:2,4 KJV)

The text never said that the bush began to burn but that it burned. The implication is that the bush was already burning when Moses arrived. Moses stumbled upon a scene already in progress, a situation well under way. Yet, he stopped in his tracks to get another look. I can’t help but wonder how long the bush had been burning and how many people passed it by without a second thought.

I remember a couple who previously attended our church. When I met them, I observed some odd things about their relationship- body language, eye contact, behavior patterns (multiple absences, guarded communication, unusual choice of attire/accessories, etc)… but I attributed my thoughts to my active imagination. Until one day, while serving at an off-site outreach event, I confronted the wife. Without going into much detail, I discretely questioned the things that I saw. My words to her were met with body-jerking tears and a question that haunted me for a long time afterwards, “Yes…but what do I do about it?”
I was dumb-founded. I didn’t have an answer…no trap door, no plan of escape.
That couple moved on, carrying their burden with them, and I asked myself, “If my ministry could not help them, then what good is it? If what I teach and preach does not heal, save, deliver, transform, inform, then what good is it?” But the longer I live and the more I grow in faith, the more I believe that I am not always called to heal, save, deliver…you get the picture. I’ll leave that to God. Sometimes, many times, I am just called to see. Often the things that I see seem overwhelming, too big to tackle, too substantial to effect positive change, too deeply engrained to make inroads. And still God calls me to see.
I believe that there is an honor reserved for those who take the time to deviate from their own agendas, to pay attention to the people and things around them.
And maybe being seen won’t stop a situation already in progress…and maybe it will. Maybe making eye contact with a woman who feels trapped in a room with no door will give her the courage to dig a tunnel through the floor.
When Hagar fled to the Egyptian wilderness because of maltreatment at home, the messenger of God met her in her despair. And she proclaimed, “You’re the God who sees me! Yes! He saw me; and then I saw…” (Gen 16:13, MSG). Hagar saw Him. But maybe the next woman I see will see her way out. Maybe she will see hope. Maybe she will see courage. Maybe she will see herself.
As for me, I remain faithful to the call to pay attention.
I will stop.
I will look.
I will see.
And maybe being seen will save her.

11 thoughts on “Maybe Being Seen Will Save Her

  1. Cydni says:

    This article really touched me. It helped me with some closure to her death. Mrs.Monica was an awesome woman and the article showed it.

  2. Elizabeth Dorsey says:

    Praying for our beloved sisters, friends motherd aunt’s, cousins who face domestic violence. I dont think ill ever forget Monica story ever.

    • listeningaloud says:

      I hope that none of us forgets Monica’s story and that we continue to tell the stories of all victims of domestic violence. Maybe if we tell their stories, other women/men who suffer will find the courage to change their circumstances. Let’s also pray that policy makers will develop and enforce laws to stop this vicious cycle.

      Thanks for reading!

  3. Imani says:

    I read about this horrific tragic situation and it made me angry and sad because her life was taken in such a horrible way her older son tried to protect his mom and was faced with the evil murderer whom he knew as the man married to his beautiful mother .. her story and some other stories that I saw on Facebook has encouraged me to start up a women’s group for abused women survivors of Domestic Violence,and for those who may feel like there is no way out , we have to stand together and not feel shameful or suffer in silence feeling alone , or thinking this will go away. I am happy to see that this story is getting out and people are listening and starting a network of advocates. I enjoyed reading you’re commentary on such a serious topic that others don’t give too much care to speak on , I just really hope and pray the laws on those order of protections are changed made tougher to protect the lives of battered women.

    • listeningaloud says:

      Imani, thank you for your kind words and the important work that you are undertaking. I hope that education and advocacy are part of your program. We all need to reach out to our state-level elected officials to advocate for better enforcement of protection orders. You have encouraged me to do just that!

  4. Lakeydra says:

    I enjoyed reading this posting, I have read many things on Facebook . Some things where positive and some negative, however this reading by far has been very touching and heart felt. Whoever is behind this great readings , please continue with reaching others. It can only add strength and courage. Thanks

  5. Valerie Howard-Jones says:

    This was AWESOME Woman of God! What you write here is one of the issues the “church” faces today that we, as a whole, seem to be missing. We have forgotten what it means to be available or what it feels like to be stuck before we were delivered. We’ve become a secret society who refuses to step outside of our newly found quiet place of peace (which is usually fake) and help others. What I will say to you is that when you asked and the woman answered, I just have to believe you were planting a seed that someone else has the responsibility to water. We are not the asnwer, but we know who has it. Our responsibility, even while we are yet moving, molding, and maturing is to share the gospel, the healing, deliverance power of God as we go! The 10 lepers were healed as they went; it’s time to stop waiting for the complete transformation and walk it out as we go. Thank you! Thank you for being transparent, thank you for sharing, and thank you for reaching out to our sister in her place of pain.

    • listeningaloud says:

      Thanks Val! I think that being a part of a church family should make a difference in people’s everyday lives. We should let people know that we see them, that their presence (or absence) matters. And we shouldn’t be afraid to do our small part. We never know what act of kindness can spark change. Thanks for reading!

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