Beauty for Ashes: Hope for Victims of Domestic Abuse by Sherri Falco
There is an old Chestnut tree in our backyard. According to local history buffs, it is the only one which managed to survive a blight that killed the trees once gloriously lining our “Chestnut Street.” The tree was planted around 1885 when our house was built. The back porch is probably my favorite place in our house, not because it elegant—it isn’t. In fact, quite the opposite is true. It is old with peeling paint and has an odd slant to one side, as if the burdens and worries of life have somehow made it lopsided. The back porch is special due to its unobstructed view of the majestic old Chestnut tree.
The house itself holds countless memories. It is where my children were born and grew up. It was also, as many victims of domestic abuse understand, the place of tremendous pain. Most domestic abuse takes place in the secrecy of the four walls of a house, which often to outsiders looks like the perfect home. Many suffer in silence afraid to seek help even from their closest friends. For years the only people who knew of the events which transpired within the walls of our house, were complete strangers—the New York State authorities.
Recently, one of the students in my seminary class urged me to tell my story. “Dr. Falco," he said, "You are no longer that person. People need to hear your story. There is healing in it.” This suggestion coincided with the repairs on our house, which ironically were scheduled at the beginning of the year, but were delayed for months due to COVID-19. As the dilapidated siding was stripped away, exquisite details of the house from the original architect were revealed and hints of its former beauty were unexpectedly visible. When I saw the unique detail, it brought tears to my eyes. The house bears the signature of its architect just as we bear the image and beauty of God. While our original beauty may be hidden by brokenness in the wake of domestic abuse, the love and care of God is able to restore it fully.
I now have a husband who loves both me and my children, whom he adopted as his own last year. It was in the midst of my struggles to care for my children that the Bread of Life was born. I did not know what would come of it at that time, but I chose to believe in the goodness of God. Today, I look at the house and I see tangible evidence of the faithfulness and love of God.
The place of my pain has become a place of beauty. It is the place where the hungry come to be fed and where the community comes to serve. The promise of Jesus for every victim of domestic abuse is that he/she shall receive God’s beauty for ashes.
The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion— to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor. (Isaiah 61:1-3)
If you or someone you know is suffering from domestic abuse, please contact:
My Sister’s Place (White Plains, NY): 1-800-298-SAFE (7233) or
The National Abuse Hotline: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).