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Joy Unspeakable (part 10) -- Submission 101

By undercover agnostic ~

I promise I will move on in my story, but I need to still lay some foundational groundwork so that future excerpts make sense. This chapter introduces the theme of domestic violence and how my rose colored glasses distorted reality such that I viewed it simply as another tool god was using to shape my character and teach me submission. I hope the message conveyed is how Christianity interferes with our own sense of right and wrong, causing us to mistrust our most natural instincts.

It doesn’t take long to hit rock bottom when one’s highest pinnacle is not a mountain top, but rather a stepladder. Still we teetered on the bottom wrung for several months until we finally hit the ground with a dull, throbbing thud. The pastoral counselor gave us little hope, pronouncing our marriage practically dead on arrival and explaining that if our relationship was to be resuscitated, it needed a radical overhaul.

The remedy? Bible studies. Homework assignments. Accountability.

Troy, instead, had a different idea. Run away. So we did. We loaded up all of our possessions, left my car at Aunt Ruby and Uncle Bill’s farm to be picked up by my parents after we had found a place to settle, and started driving. We had only enough money for gas and $10 per week for food, which consisted of a loaf of bread, a jar of peanut butter and ramen noodles that we tried cooking with an electric tea pot, in the only places where we could find an outlet--public restrooms. Our tent was our home for the next four months as we wandered across the country looking at potential seminaries for Troy to attend and occasionally trading our campsite for the basement sofa bed of several Trinity alumni with whom we had kept in touch. Lest one gets any warm fuzzy romantic notions about two young newlyweds hitting the open road without a destination, living in a canvas dome, and cooking noodles in shit-scented rest stops, Let me go ahead and burst that bubble right now.

One day, as we were driving, Troy turned on the radio to listen to music. My speaker was blocked on my side from the all the stuff we were hauling, so I innocently turned up the dial a notch. Troy immediately turned it down. “I can’t hear it on my side,” I told him. “I need to turn it up just a smidge.” The second my fingers touched the dial, his fingers were right there to counter my move. Before I could even blink, or formulate a token, “What the heck?” Out of nowhere, I felt an unexpected sting as he backhanded me across my face. With angry veins bulging from his temples and his index finger pointed at me like a loaded revolver, he began to slowly speak with a deliberate pause between each word, for emphasis.

“Don’t –you—ever—touch the dial—Again! Do —you—understand?”

During our first few months of marriage, he had physically grabbed me and aggressively shoved me onto the couch, while getting within an inch of my face screaming at me when I expressed that I was feeling insecure (as if THAT would make me feel better), but he hadn’t yet actually hit me. I was stunned. Here we were heading down the highway in the middle of nowhere, with absolutely no support and no back up plan and I was sitting next to a man who thought it was perfectly fine to smack me in the face for adjusting the radio volume. I entertained the idea of jumping out of the car at the next stop, but who would I call and where would I go?

I knew the solution before even seeking counsel from the Holy Spirit. I just needed to be submissive In my helplessness, I started to pray.

With my God goggles on, the answer seemed to always be within reach. All my years in church and Bible College, being groomed for biblical womanhood, I knew the solution before even seeking counsel from the Holy Spirit.

I just needed to be submissive.

If my husband said not to touch the radio dial, my wifely obligation was to obey. I absolutely abhorred the thought of being treated like a child with my own husband acting as my parent. But, if I was going to follow Jesus, the rebellion brewing inside of me had to be subdued. So I took a deep breath, humbled myself and asked his forgiveness for touching the dial without his permission, then waited for him to reciprocate. He didn’t say a word. I prodded.

“So..umm..are you going to apologize for slapping me in the face, because that was really uncalled for?”

“Nope,” he said, “because you had it coming.”

I had it coming? Really? Was it in the misogynistic handbook or something, and I just missed it? It’s one thing to simply forgive and let it go. But it’s another to be a doormat. I decided that I had nothing more to say to him until he admitted he was wrong, so we finished out the day in silence as I wrestled with anger and grief, reliving in my mind the litany of crippling things he had said and done in our 6 months of marriage, all the while preparing for ministry.

When it was time to go to sleep, I couldn’t bring myself to get in the tent, so I remained outside, contemplating my options. Realizing I wasn’t joining him, Troy made a snide remark, threw my pillow at me, zipped up the tent door and went to sleep. I sat out under the stars weeping uncontrollably as I had never felt more alone and abandoned.

The next day the thick silence continued. By the afternoon, Troy finally spoke. “I know you want me to apologize,” he said, dripping with sarcasm, “so here it goes. I’m sorry for living. I’m sorry for breathing. I’m sorry for everything in the world there is to be sorry for. Now are you happy?”

Wow! Way to cover his bases. He had offered a blanket apology to cover every offense ever committed. Brilliant! Should I have thanked him profusely for going above and beyond what I had even asked? I really didn’t want to accept his lame, dumbass apology, at all, but what choice did I have? I concluded that God was allowing this in order for me to learn how to forgive freely, so I swallowed the bitter pill of injustice, reluctantly accepted his snarky attempt at reconciliation, and quietly thanked God, once again, for the amazing work he was doing in my heart.