Even as I typed the title of this post, I hesitated on the word abuse. It’s almost 7 years since my first marriage ended, and I’m just now accepting the truth in all its fullness.
Although friends over the years have urged me to write about my past experiences in my first marriage, I have done so minimally, for a variety of reasons. I don’t want to be seen as a victim. I don’t want to purge my closet onto an unsuspecting public. And, I’ve wanted my past to be, well, my past. But, for reasons I don’t claim to understand, I have felt a stirring in my spirit over the last few months urging me to share something from this carefully tucked away part of my life. If God has put this on my heart for you, please, be touched, be blessed, and be safe. Before I even begin, I want to urge anyone who might be reading this while feeling endangered to GET UP and GET OUT to a safe place. You and your children, if you have children, deserve to live in peace.
Now, most stories start at the beginning of something. But, the moment that has been coming to my mind for several weeks is from somewhere close to the middle of my story, so that is where I will begin.
My husband and I had been married for a few years, maybe 3 or 4. I had lost a lot of weight (like over 100 pounds) and was quite active, but it wasn’t enough for him. Nothing seemed to ever be enough.
We had purchased our first pair of trail bikes. They were budget 18-speed bikes and heavy, very heavy. Mine was too big for my height, and my toes couldn’t touch the ground while I was seated, causing me to lean and hop off my seat whenever I came to a stop so I could get my footing.
One day, we loaded up our bikes and drove to a park on the far western side of town to try out the trails. It was a very hot and humid mid-western summer’s day. The park was large, with a sprawling trail. We headed south and looped back after a few miles to explore the north when we came upon a steep hill with a sharp left turn that looked like it had just been covered with fresh gravel. I switched gears and stood to pedal up the grade. My tire hit some loose stones in the turn, and my bike started to slip. I tried to catch myself, but my knee hit the ground before my feet.
It took a few seconds for me to feel the pain. At first, when I looked down at my bare legs, it just seemed like I had roughed them up a bit. Then, the pain quickly turned to a searing burn as the blood began to pour. I had basically skinned myself in a patch as big as my hand. My left knee was raw and bleeding down my leg into my sock. I was speechless and looked to my husband for help. He never got off his bike.
Instead, he laughed at me and accused me of wiping out on purpose to get out of my workout for the day. I remember him saying that adults don’t just fall off their bikes. Of course, even professionals in the Tour de France have wipe outs, but there was no point in bringing that up.
Then, he told me he was going to finish his ride and for me to have fun getting myself and my bike back to the car. As a coup de gras, he unclipped his water bottle, held it up, and shook it. His bike had come equipped with a bottle holder, and mine had not. For a moment, I thought he was giving his bottle to me, but he was just taunting me. He told me he was leaving me there and taking our only water with him. In his mind, he seemed to be punishing me and making my “plan” to sabotage our ride backfire.
As I stood there, bleeding and in pain, with at least a mile between me, my bike, and my car, I remember feeling stunned. There was a feeling of did he really just do that? Yes, dearest, he did.
I stood up my bike, took off my helmet and hung it over my handlebars and began limping up the hill, knee pulsating in a painful fury. I was in so much pain, but I’m not sure which hurt worse, my injured leg, or my injured spirit. I think that both were in a bit of shock.
Now, I’d like to step back for a moment and address something that I know some of you are thinking right now. Some of you are saying, “What a jerk! I hope she just takes the car and leaves him there!” That’s not what I did. And, it’s not because I’m weak or stupid. I am a strong-willed person with a genius level I.Q., and I can tell you why I didn’t leave. I didn’t realize I was being abused. What?? Yes, that’s right. In my mind, abuse was defined as physical abuse – beatings, and repetitive behaviors. My husband wasn’t abusive. He could just be a jerk sometimes. It wasn’t the same thing, was it? Of course it was, but for some reason I couldn’t wrap my mind around the idea that my husband, who could be so kind and good so much of the time, was an abuser. I told myself that he just had bad days.
You’ve heard the old adage that describes how to boil a frog? If you put a frog into boiling water, it will jump right out. But if you put a frog into tepid water and slowly heat it over time, it will not realize it is in danger. Right now, that’s the best way I know how to describe an abusive relationship.
So, back to the park. With every step, my knee burned and pumped out a fresh crimson stream. I got some sympathetic looks from the few people I passed, and I’m pretty sure I scared a little girl into wearing her Hello Kitty knee pads, and I finally, finally made it back to the car. Nothing in my first aid kit would cover the wound, and I had no water to clean it off with. I hobbled around the empty parking lot hoping to spy a nearby water fountain or a bathroom, but no luck. There was a gas station about another mile away, but I didn’t think I could make it. I sat in the car, waiting and wondering, applying pressure to my knee with the last of some take-out napkins I had found in the glove box.
After about 15 minutes, a car pulled up next to me. In the front seat were two women, and in the back were 2 or 3 children. I got out of the car, ready to ask if they were familiar with the park and happened to know where I could get some water. As I walked around my car to greet them, they saw my knee. As luck would have it, they were both ER trauma nurses who had never been to this particular park, but just pulled in on a whim. They whipped out fresh bottled water and a professional emergency kit and proceeded to care for me in the kindest of ways. They cleaned my wound, applied an anti-bacterial, and dressed it with a large Teflon non-stick bandage. Then, they gave me the whole box so I wouldn’t have to stop at the store on the way home. Then, they left. None of them set a single toe on the grass. To this day, I consider them my special angels.
A short time later, my husband returned, looking a little sheepish, but not apologetic. He drove us home and set me up on the couch with some pillows and an ice pack, but never spoke of his actions.
Friends, I cannot tell you why this was laid upon my heart to share with you. I fought against it for weeks because I could not see the purpose in sharing it. But, if you are reading this, and it has helped you in any way, then I am glad. Perhaps, if nothing else, my experience will help someone else take a fresh look at their own situation, and gain some encouragement to step toward freedom and peace.