Autumn Miles joins the indoubt Podcast as this week’s guest! Autumn has an incredible story of redemption to share – from being in an abusive marriage to being freed from that relationship to where she is now. You’ll hear her personal testimony as she shares about her story of domestic violence. And with the work she’s doing now, she finds herself more equipped than ever to help people who are in the same situation she was. Autumn shares steps that we can take to change our perspective in any relationship while drawing nearer to the Creator in the process. Autumn also gives helpful advice for you to become more ready to help someone trapped in a relationship because of domestic violence.
Who's our guest?
Autumn Miles is the founder of Autumn Miles Ministries, an organization devoted to spiritually challenging the way women think. She is a dynamic speaker who produces regular inspirational content for over 100,000 Facebook followers, in addition to speaking at conferences nationwide. Autumn has authored two books, “Appointed: Your Future Starts Now,” and “I am Rahab: Touched by God, Fully Restored.” Additionally, Autumn is the host of “The Autumn Miles Show,” a daily radio talk show that brings its audience bold truth coupled with raw faith.
Welcome to the indoubt podcast, where we explore the challenging topics that young adults often face. Each week we talk with guests who help answer questions of faith, life, and culture. Connecting them to our daily experiences, and God’s Word. For more info on indoubt, visit indoubt.ca, or, indoubt.com.
Excited for today, this episode we have somebody by the name of Autumn Miles, all the way from Texas. She’s wonderful, she’s got lots of energy, and she’s got lots to say, and she’s got a very powerful story. And so, in this episode, we’re gonna look at her testimony, and her walk through an abusive relationship, an abusive marriage.
We’re gonna look and hear from her and her story of how God brought healing and restoration to her life, her situation, and how God has walked with her and redeemed her, and made her new from all of the stuff that she had kind of walked in. And so we look at Autumn’s story a little bit, but Autumn also shares a little bit about some of the work that she’s part of, and some of the ministries that she’s involved in. And she will declare that they are part of pronouncing bold truth, and having raw faith. And that’s kind of the slogan she’s all about.
She’s written a book called, “I am Rahab,” and it’s about how God uses, sometimes, the unlikely people in the world to bring about his mission for his kingdom. Looking back to the prostitute Rahab in the book of Joshua. So this is an awesome interview that we have with Autumn, so make sure you tune in it’s gonna be great.
So with me today, I have Autumn Miles. Autumn Miles, it’s great to have you. If you don’t know who Autumn Miles is, you need to know who Autumn Miles is.
She’s got lots of good things to say. So Autumn, thanks for being on the show with us today. I really appreciate having you.
Thank you so much. I love my Canadians. I love you already, you have such an incredible energy. I’m just honoured. I’m honoured to be here and to share whatever God brings forth from our conversation.
So Autumn, tell me a little bit about your story. Now, I know that you’ve written a few books, and one of them that has just recently come out in this last year, 2018. Tell us a little bit about you; your story, and how you’re using your life experience and your story for the advancement of the Gospel and the purposes of God.
Well, I mean, I grew up in a Christian home. My dad was a pastor and so I was at church like every time the doors were open, basically. I tell people I was born in the nursery because I feel like I was. But going to church doesn’t mean you’re a believer in Christ, and I think we get that… we don’t do a good job about really talking about that. But, that was kinda my story. I went to church, I was immersed in the culture, in the religious side of church, but had never started a relationship.
Met a super good-looking guy when I was a sophomore in high school, and really just kinda fell for him. I mean how do you fall for someone at fifteen years old? Ya’ do, ya’ do. I did. And I started dating him. Dated him for 3 years, and then he asked me to marry him, and I don’t know why I did that. That was like, one of those things I should’ve never done. Should’ve said no. Should’ve run! But I didn’t. And it sort of entered me into an abusive marriage, and it was in that abusive marriage that I actually, ironically enough, I did not find Jesus at church, I found a relationship with Jesus and just surrender in a home where it was just me and God at 3 A.M. in the morning. And thus, that story has really been the foundation of what I do today.
So yeah, lead us along that storyline a little bit. You really encountered Jesus, the love of God, in a place maybe where you didn’t expect. Probably, I would assume, like a lot of hurt and brokenness and confusion. And Jesus met you there, in an unlikely place. And then what happened? Like, what’s the steps after that?
So here I am. I met this guy, just backtracking a little bit, and he, in the middle of our dating relationship, he would cuss me out. He would tell me I was fat. He would tell me I was ugly. He would tell me all this stuff and I just sort of… because I don’t know how real you get on this podcast-
Oh, we’re real. Let’s go.
We were very sexually active, and I knew that was one of the things God talks about in the scripture. 1 Thessalonians 4, “Abstain from sexual immorality,” and we were very sexually active, so I was tied to him in that way, and I found that once we were tied together sexually, the respect level just diminished in our relationship.
So, he would tell me these things, and when he proposed to me I felt like I had no other choice. I felt like this is what I had to do because here I had messed up so much. I needed to marry this guy. And once we got married there was a lot of other abuse that occurred, it wasn’t just emotional and mental. There was social abuse, spiritual abuse, sexual abuse that occurred during our marriage.
There was a point, at 3 A.M. in the morning that one night where I was contemplating taking my own life because I didn’t have Jesus at this point in my life. I was looking at my life and I was literally sleeping next to my abuser, concerned he was going to kill me at any second. I actually had convinced myself he was going to kill me. All this stuff had happened in the years that I had been together, and here I am saying, “Ya know what, I’ve got to get out!”
So when we talk about suicide in our culture and our society and I know, even some of my colleagues, have been like, “How could people talk like that?” I did think like that. It is a very real place that Satan can get you to, where you believe that leaving this earth is the only option.
So, here I am, planning my own death, like, “What am I gonna kill myself with?” And at that moment the Spirit of God spoke to me and he said this, “Do you remember me?” And I knew… When the Spirit of God speaks your soul stands at attention. It doesn’t matter if you’re an atheist, it doesn’t matter who you are. When God wants to get your attention your soul will stand at attention. The creation always surrenders to the Creator. Don’t play this game with me that God’s not pursuing you, yes he is.
So that’s exactly what happened to me that night, and I know exactly who was talking to me. I know exactly what the Spirit of God was speaking about. He was reminding me that the God that I had heard about growing up was present. And the God that I had heard about when Moses parted the Red Sea was ready to do something on my behalf.
And I tell the story like this: it was as if Heaven and Hell were fighting for my victory. Satan was fighting I could almost feel the horns of Hell, and I mean this might be a little too real for y’all Canadians, but this is exactly what I felt: I felt the spiritual body at war around me. And that voice, “Do you remember me? Do you remember me?” made me stand up. Literally, at 3 A.M in the morning, walked across the hallway to a room. I stood there and I offered the most rebellious prayer I had ever offered, never done it again. However, it was the most authentic prayer I have prayed to date!
I flat out told God, “I do not believe in you. I don’t believe you exist.” Because, how could a God allow me to watch my abuse? And I’m telling you, I told God, “I don’t believe in you, I don’t care, I don’t care what my Dad thinks,” and I said, “but if you’re real, you better speak.” And I opened up my little blue Bible that was in the corner, that I was terrified to even open. Flipped it open, and I opened it to Psalm 91 and it says something to the effect in there that, “The righteous will have long life.” Only God knew that minutes before I almost committed suicide.
He spoke exactly to my situation. It wasn’t riddled with guilt, it wasn’t riddled with shame, it was encompassed in love. That day is when I fell on my face. I literally just collapsed, because for the first time I had met Jesus, and it wasn’t in a church. It was when my heart was surrendered. The altar of my heart was surrendered to receive when he spoke. I’m telling you what Ryan, I stood up, after hours of praying, I don’t know how long I was there I mean I don’t know. I was like in this holy spirit-like cloud. I don’t even know. But I stood up that night. I fell down, defeated, is how I felt and rose a champion.
That was almost 20 years ago. I have never, ever looked back. I know what changed my life, and it was the forgiving power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Sounds amazing, and I mean, I think one of the questions I have is: how domestic violence is seen in the church, and how people can grow in the awareness of it, or how they can help fight against it, you know-
Well, I’ll tell you a story.
God asked me… I knew when I found myself in an abusive marriage, I actually took it to my church, and my dad was the pastor of this church. And I told my dad, “Listen, I’m in this abusive marriage,” which I had hid for years. I took it to the elders of the church. I said this so well this morning, I’m gonna try to repeat it.
They looked at my divorce through eyes of religion. My dad was looking at my divorce, and the fact that I was divorcing an abusive man through the eyes of the Father. Those two things did not meld well together, okay. My elders kicked me out of the church. They brought me before the church to kick me out, to excommunicate me. According to Matthew 18 is what they used, the scripture they used. Sometimes Satan knows scripture too, ya’ know? So they kicked me out of the church, which was okay, but I found God. I was very bitter. I was very angry that they did that, but I felt like God said, “Autumn, I want you to go back and make a difference in The Church: when it comes to domestic violence in the church, I want you to be my mouthpiece.” And I’m gonna be super honest with you Ryan, I did not want to do it.
I felt very much like an outsider in the church. When a church kicks you out the last thing you want to do is go and show them mercy, okay? The last thing I wanted to do was to align with an organization that had absolutely hurt me to the core. But God said, “I’m gonna prepare you to do that.” And I’ve been speaking out about domestic violence in the church for a long time. Several years ago LifeWay, which is a big publisher; they do a lot of stuff down here in America. They said, “We want to do a study with you. We want you to commission a study about domestic violence and the church. Would you be willing to do this?” This was in 2016, this was way before the Me Too, Church Too movement, this is way before any of that.
I said, “Yeah, I will absolutely do it.” So, I commissioned the study with them and we asked 1000 churches 6 different questions, which was: Do you have a plan in place if there is a woman that comes forward in a domestic violence situation, what would you do? Would you recommend divorce? And from this study, God has done a miracle.
I can just say for America, with the Me Too… I didn’t come up with the Church Too hashtag… but I know the Church Too girls saw my study and started the hashtag. So, when I say, “Crucify yourself. Die to self. Pick up your cross and follow the Lord,” It will never feel comfortable. It will not feel like something that you want to do, but that very thing that you are resisting, that literally will play on every insecurity that you have, may be the one thing that God uses to change the church culture as we know it. And that is exactly what has happened.
What can churches do? What can young adults do? What can people do to grow in the awareness of domestic abuse, but then also help advocate against it? What are the things we can do?
I mean, I would say when I did this study with LifeWay in 2016, one of the just very common statistics that you can find anywhere is: 1 in 4 women have been in a domestic violent relationship, and 1 in 7 men. That is just a broad statistic, and that’s just what’s reported. So, if I am looking at a church service with 100 people in it, a lot of those women and men have experienced domestic violence.
We, for generations, have not addressed this issue. It’s actually one of the issues in the church that has been protected, and the verse has been slapped up with it. God hates divorce. A lot of people don’t even know the context with which that is said. But that’s what happened to me. God hates divorce. You have to stay with an abusive man who might potentially kill you.
That is not the God that I met that night, so one of the things that I’ve done with it: I did this study, and we got the results back, as we found that about 50% of churches had a plan in place for domestic violence victims if they were gonna come forward, but 50% did not. However, this same 50% considered their church a safe haven for domestic violence victims.
I can tell you as a victim: no chance in the world would a woman come forward because she really compromises her safety, the safety of her kids, the safety of her family members. If she was to out her abuser, unless they knew, for a fact, that it was a safe haven – by safe haven I mean: they knew that the pastor had stood up against domestic violence from the pulpit – they knew that there was a safe shelter that her and her kids could go to, or him, the man could go to that was being abused. So there was a huge hole in the church that it was not being handled properly, and that’s the hole that God asked me to fill.
So, I actually have on my website 10 different steps that are so simple, that you can really go through in like 10 minutes in a Tuesday staff meeting, at autumnmiles.com, that will help you make your church a safe haven for anyone that comes forward and says that they’re in a domestic violence relationship.
Our churches are the answer. Churches are the body of Christ. We should not be ousting victims when I know that Jesus goes to the broken in the scripture. We shouldn’t be ousting victims, we should be helping them, standing with them. Not pointing our finger at them and saying, “Well, God hates divorce, so you need to go back into that marriage, and you just need to suffer it out.” That’s not the God that we serve, and that’s not what you see him represented as in scripture.
Yeah, and hope and reconciliation and forgiveness is the ideal. However, in a relationship, you need two parties to make that happen.
And there’s an understanding of, “Okay, how do we navigate this?” In the sense of, how do we navigate this in our local church context, with the people and the leadership and the pastors that we have, to be able to take care of the safety and security of these individuals? And I think that’s huge, you know? I think that a lot of people want to have a place of refuge and a place where they know that they belong. A place of security. So, to have churches that can do that.
I am a male, so the odds are less likely that I would be abused domestically, but I haven’t experienced domestic abuse, but I remember hearing a story about a woman who, with her husband, called the police, but was ordering a pizza.
Have you heard this story?
So, there’s this woman who was under abuse and so she actually… Her husband was like, “Get me a pizza… Order me a pizza.” And she’s like, “Okay.”
So she calls, instead of the pizza place; Pizza Hut, Panago, whatever, she calls 911 and says, “Hi, I’d like to order a large, medium, pepperoni pizza.”
And the officer on the other side is like, “Uh, this is the emergency line.”
And she’s like, “Yeah I know. Yeah, that would be great. Thin crust is great. I would like pepperoni.”
And then he’s like, “Ma’am, what is going on? Are you in a place where you can’t share what’s really going on?”
She’s like, “Yeah, that would be perfect, how much are we looking at?”
And then he’s like, “Okay, we’re gonna find your address. We’re gonna find where you’re at right now. Is there a threat to your safety?”
And then she goes on, and she’s like, “Yeah maybe the crazy bread would be nice on the side…” Like-
Just… In such a way of trying to steer away from the confrontation with the abuser in the relationship. But that is an element that, again, is underneath the surface. Yeah, there’s abuse, but there’s fear, and there’s a mental and emotional abuse as well. So, what does that look like? Maybe you could speak to that a little bit?
Yeah. I mean it’s funny; I did an interview on this not very long ago, and we were sitting, we were drinking coffee in a coffee shop, and she was asking me basically the same question, “What does it look like?”
And I said, “Well, while you and I have sat here and drank this coffee, understand that potentially millions of women have got punched in the face. A gun held to their head. Their lives threatened. They are… Knives held to them. Things thrown at them, while we’re sitting here having this very calm conversation over coffee.”
When it’s not your reality, you don’t really understand the satanic brainwashing that takes place. Because let me tell you something, I know this is a podcast, but domestic violence looks like me. That’s what it looks like. It’s very hard because abusers are… They know how to push the envelope just enough. They know how to manipulate just enough. They know how to hit in all the right places so that the victim doesn’t look scarred, or bruised, or anything like that. And the victim is trained by the abuser to protect the abuser at all costs. And what you said is very important, there is so much fear involved, so many threats, so much intimidation. “If you tell anyone, I will kill all four of our children.”
I have four kids. So there’s no chance in the world, if I knew that it was a very real threat, I would say anything. Which is why our churches must start believing these women that come forward, and understanding that just because you don’t see it, doesn’t mean that it’s not happening, because domestic violence looks like you. It looks like me. That’s why it is the silent killer in churches.
Mm-hmm (affirmative), and it lies underneath the surface. Again, I’ve been thinking a lot about how Jesus would meet with people in these relationships, right? Jesus meets with the abused and aims to bring healing, restoration, you know, take away the fear. Recognize that he is all, and in all, and he is the one who can bring healing and refuge.
I find it so interesting is that Jesus, in the same way, he confronts the abusers, and he confronts… When he’s, 2000 years ago, walking the streets of Jerusalem, confronting the Pharisees, the perpetrators of abuse, right? Even in the book of Mark we see these guys throw in their cash, no big deal, and this woman gives two pennies, and she’s not exalted, she’s not loved, she’s pushed to the side, and they’re just going on with their lives.
What I think is so beautiful of the Gospel is that in the same way that he loves and welcomes in the abused with tender arms, he confronts, and actually invites the abuser – whether they’re Pharisees, husbands, or whatever, to say, “Hey, recognize what you’re doing is wrong. Confess and turn around.” And I think that’s really… I genuinely believe that that is a harder thing for men, to be able to say, “Yeah I confess, I was wrong. I’m in the wrong.” It’s hard, it’s an ego thing. It’s a pride thing. Ultimately, a lot of times… You know, my wife is a counsellor, and so I’ve learned a few things about emotions in my day. (laughs)
And one of the things that she would always say is that “Anger is a secondary emotion.” And we actually had someone on the other day in the podcast and they said, “Yeah, anger is a secondary emotion, and so what is the thing underneath the anger that is being missed?” These men sometimes, often times, might be feeling sad, or hurt, or not lovable, or not good enough, or not whatever. And their coping strategy of dealing with that stress is to take it out on somebody else, and that is so twisted. Like you’re saying, it’s so wrong, and it’s the abusive power. Jesus comes, and he says, “Hey, let’s deal with this at the heart issue.”
Because the Gospel satisfies the heart issue of the abuser and says, “Hey, you don’t have to take it out on other people. Let me be enough. Let me satisfy those deeper feelings, or deeper yearnings, or deeper things that have conditioned you to act this certain way. Let me bring healing and restoration to you.” But at the same time, and probably more quickly, will go to the person who’s abused and said, “Come to me if you’re burdened. I will give you rest. I will rest you.” In Matthew 11. And I think that is a big challenge in our churches today, a big challenge in our culture because God cares for everybody.
We had somebody on again, not too long ago, and they said that “The floor at the cross is level.”
Mm-hmm (affirmative). That’s right.
Everyone’s got sin. Right? And kinda like what we’re talking about, you know. We each have sin, and our sins need forgiveness. All of us; that’s all we bring is our sin. So, we all need this. So to recognize that to have that kind of attitude of grace, but to be able to stand up with, like what you were saying, “Boldly speak the truth, and sometimes it hurts.” Sometimes it really hurts. So, what would be your one, of the tips you have on your website for learning about domestic abuse and trying to be a church that is a haven for people, what would be one of the biggest… The one biggest thing that followers of Jesus can do to help those with domestic abuse?
Well, I will just speak to the pastors and the leaders that are listening. This is so simple, but you have no idea, Ryan, what this would do. Simply stand up on Sunday, you can choose October, that’s domestic violence awareness month, and make a point to say, “Our house, a house that I shepherd, domestic violence is not tolerated under any circumstances.”
That does two things. This is so important; it’s so simple, and I think people want a seventeen step whatever, but this is gonna signal to the victim, “I have an ally here.” It’s gonna signal in the abuser, “I better straighten up or there will be consequences to what I do.”
We over-complicate this, and no one’s ever really even covered this, except in the last couple of years. I would say, in order to speak to this problem in your churches, or in your schools if you’re a teacher, or in your classroom, or in your business. Whatever it is, simply make the statement, “If I find out you’re being abused, we will help you.” And, “If I find out you’re abusing we will call the authorities.”
That is so simple, but nobody’s doing it!
Right (laughs), right.
It’s like so simple, but if I would’ve known, if I would’ve known… and I really truly believe that those elders would’ve taken me in. I babysitted their kids for heaven’s sake. If I would have known where they stood, I probably would have gotten help sooner.
Okay, well that’s a good piece of advice and it’s not overly complicated.
No, it’s so simple! It’s so simple.
It’s simple. It can be very simple, yeah. Just having a space where you say, “Hey, I’m for you. If you’ve been abused there’s a place for you. I want to walk with you,” that’s cool.
Well Autumn Miles, thank you so much! It has been a joy to get to talk with you.
All the way from Texas, you know?
Yes, yes. We love it.
So thank you. Thank you so much, it’s been a joy.
Thank you, I appreciate all you guys are doing. God bless y’all, and everything that you’re doing.
Thanks for joining me on this episode with Autumn Miles, such a good story of hope and restoration. I’m really hoping that this conversation has been encouraging to you and that you feel that no matter where you’ve been, no matter what you’ve done, that God is not done with you. And God still is wanting to work with you, and bring about his good in your life.
So, if that’s you I’d encourage you to be in touch with Autumn Miles. Follow what she’s up to. You can follow her on instagram @autumnmiles, or you can go to her website AutumnMiles.com. And if you’d like to find out more about indoubt, you can go to indoubt.ca, if you’re in Canada, and indoubt.com if you’re in the United States. Download our app and listen to us there, we’d love to hear from you. You can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or connect with us on instagram @indoubtca.
Thank you so much for listening to us this week. I hope that you can join in with us next week as we have Temera Millar in, and she’s gonna be sharing a little bit about First Nations/Aboriginal spirituality, and religion.
Thanks so much for listening this week, and I hope that you join us next week.
Thanks so much for listening. If you want to hear more, subscribe on iTunes and Spotify, or visit us online at indoubt.ca, or, indoubt.com. We’re also on social media, so make sure to follow us on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.