Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The Joke Was On Me (Part Fifteen)

I was probably 3/4 of the way out of my vehicle before it came to a complete stop. I honed in on the house key, turned the lock, and barreled in through the door. My brother's family was just inside, spread across the living room on air mattresses and sofas. My brother was sitting up in a chair, recently awakened and still groggy, his wife and kids still sleeping. I asked, "Where is she?". He said, "I guess she's in bed." I blew through the room, rounded the corner, and headed past the kitchen where my dad was making toast. I asked, "Where is she?" He nodded toward my bedroom and said, "She's still in there."

[The sleeping arrangement while she was here was simple. Small house, no guest bedroom = she would sleep in my bed and I'd take the couch. Any member of her family and circle (and anyone reading this) who didn't like that arrangement was and is welcome to kiss my rear-end. On both cheeks.]

I knocked on the door, opening it slightly, and calling out her name. She was laying on her side, facing away from the door. She rolled toward me and asked, "Is that you?" We met about halfway across the bedroom floor in the most welcome embrace I've ever experienced. She looked so good, felt so good, smelled so good, her kisses tasted so good. We spent probably an hour in very, very emotional intimacy, just embracing and exchanging gentle kisses. I could see the emotional and mental wear of the previous few weeks in her face, not to mention the physical drain of the trip over, but at the same time, I could see the happiness and relief in her eyes, and could almost tangibly feel her loving me. This was the embodiment of my greatest desire in a mate - someone to come home to, someone whose love welcomed me.

She told me, "Welcome home." I responded, "On this earth, wherever you are is home to me." She smiled.

After an hour, maybe a little more, I begged her to lay back down and get some more sleep. She was so exhausted. I didn't want my presence to demand even more exhaustion of her. She finally relented. I pulled up a chair beside her, held her hand, and stroked her hair until she fell asleep.

Most everyone else was still asleep, so I took the opportunity to get a shower and try to revive myself a bit with a pot of coffee. Soon, my brother's family was all awake, so I spent about an hour or so visiting with them, taking advantage of the moment because I knew that once she was awake, my focus would be on her, and I didn't want my niece and nephew to feel ignored by their uncle Lew.

A little later, as they were all in the kitchen getting some breakfast, I had plopped down in my dad's recliner when she came walking in and nestled in my mom's recliner which sits right next to it. I reached over and took her hand, and we stared into each other's eyes for a bit, having one of those silent conversations. This one was about the last few weeks, and it was a deep one. I could see the tension and mental/emotional exhaustion in her face. After a few minutes of this, she broke the external silence and said, "What are we gonna do, Lew?" I answered, "Whatever we have to do to do the right thing for us, but I don't want you to worry about that right now. None of that stuff is here. None of that stuff is anywhere near here. You can breathe." She had topped an enormous hurdle just in coming here alone and against the will of her father. I didn't want the significance of that wasted on insignificant things. I wanted to redeem this time that we had together.

That was something of a turning point for her visit. From that moment forward, I watched the exhaustion seep out of her face. Within a matter of a couple of hours, I saw her transform from the exhausted, beaten-down (but still beautiful) woman I had awakened that morning back into the vibrant, giddily happy young woman she'd been when I'd last seen her. After she'd eaten breakfast and showered, we spent a few hours visiting with my brother's family together. She was at peace. She was breathing.

That afternoon, she and I went to the local elementary school to pick my mom up from work. Mom wanted me to bring my ex along (if she was up to it) to meet her friends, being most of my mom's closer friends were workmates at the school. My ex was happy to go. I honestly don't know if she'd ever been in an elementary school building before. I wouldn't be surprised to learn that this was her first visit to a public school. I know that she had (and perhaps still has) some strange ideas about public schools. Maybe she was curious to see one up close and personal. I don't know, but regardless, she was a hit with everyone there, and I was certainly proud to show her off. She was great, wanting a hug from each new lady she was introduced to - which, although I had no problem with it at all, kinda took me by surprise. Her family wasn't an affectionate lot - even slightly. I suppose my family's affection, and the affection I showered on her, was rubbing off. I saw this as a good thing. I felt as though the jar was beginning to shatter, even if only temporarily. I fully supported ANY and all shoots and sprigs shooting out toward the sunshine, absorbing however much they could.

She was soaking in everything. April is a beautiful time of year in North Carolina. The azaleas were gorgeous, dogwoods, cherry, and pear trees were all decked out in white blossoms, the hickory trees were dressed in red, and the poplar, oak, maple, and sycamore trees in bright lime-green buds. The weather was perfect. Crisp skies and 70ish temps. She was soaking all of it in, and she was breathing.

Once we got back home, we had supper, and then spent a couple of hours visiting as an entire family, talking about any and everything, making preparations for our party the next night, the two of us caught up in each other continually. We watched a horror movie called "Enchanted" (for reference, I consider Julia Roberts, Sandra Bullock, J-Lo types of movies to be horror films - very scary), but I didn't really pay much attention to the movie. She and I sat on the carpet, backs against a chair, snuggling, cuddling, and breathing. She was here. With me. Away from the madness and nonsense that was her family and friends - and she was happy. I was content. 

Tomorrow promised to be busy, so around 10PM we started to wind down. I went back to the bedroom with her to spend a few minutes of "us" time with her, we said a prayer together, and then had the following exchange...

Me: You don't have to go back so soon. I'd like you to stay a while.
(The ticket initially purchased was a round trip ticket - arrive late Sunday night, leave Thursday morning)
Her: I'm ok with that.


Her: Are you gonna talk to my family?
Me: Not unless you're next to me and involved.
Her: What do you mean by "involved"?
Me: You can't be a spectator to matters that involve YOUR future. This is your life, your future, your decisions, your choices. You have to be involved. We have to do this as a couple.
Her: How do we do that?
Me: Set up a time for us to talk with your parents on the phone. I'll talk to them, but ONLY if we do this as a couple. You have to be with me, both physically and in context. You have to back my words or my words will mean nothing. This is about US - not about me and your family.

I felt like she was willing to, or thought it her place to, sit back and stay out of the fray while other people negotiated her life and future for her. I wasn't gonna have any of that. She had to come to an understanding that the only kind of "talk" I was gonna have with her no-good parents was a "here's how it's gonna be - deal with it" after she and I had decided our plans. As far as I was concerned, her family had long since forfeited any right to be invited to the planning table. By this point in time, her family was welcome to kiss my ass for what they were doing to her/us.

more silence

Me: If you're gonna let them read it, now would be a good time to let my family read your father's letter.
Her: (uncomfortable and embarrassed) But Lew, it's my family.
Me: So you don't want them to read it?
Her: (somewhat sheepishly) No.
Me: Ok. Don't worry about it.

(You folks reading along at home, remember that for future reference - I knew where all of this might go, so I used it at a later date [probably a couple of installments in the future] to illustrate a point to her, a point I don't think she ever got)

After this, there was very little talk of anything California while she was here. I was committed to leaving CA in CA for the duration of her stay. There'd be a few things we'd still have to discuss, like our wedding, but otherwise, unless she brought up her family, I didn't talk about her family.

We changed the subject to happier fare. We shared some beautiful and passionate kisses, nuzzled close in embraces, traded our usual barrage of "I love yous". I rubbed her tired feet, tucked her in, gave her one last kiss for the night, then settled into a chair beside the bed, once again holding her hand and stroking her hair until she fell asleep. As I looked at her there, she was intoxicating.

Once I hit the sofa, I was out. It had been a long day. A long few weeks, really, with little mental respite. I was depleted, but happy. I slept with a contentedness I hadn't known for a while.


  1. All of this breaks my heart for you, Lewis. There's no doubt that she truly loved you. Shame on her family for destroying that.

  2. The anger that wells up in me as I write these isn't something I'm comfortable with. I feel no remorse or guilt for it, it's plenty justified - I just don't like to feel it.

  3. Welcome back, Lewis. Thank you for the raw description of caring for your ex. It is a fine example of ways I need to improve in my own relationship. I sincerely appreciate it.

    In other words, whatever hurt and horrible history has come from this, putting it out here helps others in more ways than one. And I hope, one day, my wife will thank you (i.e. if I follow through).

  4. This post breaks my heart more than ANY you have yet written. Why? Because of the passionate intimacy that you and her shared, and then knowing that it soon gets ripped away from heart weeps for you. =(

  5. I understand where you're coming from, completely. Embrace it as part of the healing process. Grief and anger are part of that process.

  6. (((Lewis)))

    That poor girl. I know that eventually she capitulated to her family and cooperated in the destruction of her own happiness, but I still pity her. It's hard to come up with the strength to run away from slavery, when religion has been used to convince slavery is the "godly" choice.

    I wish you every happiness, Lewis. God sent her the strongest champion possible in you. You are a passionate about doing what's right and as brave as they come. If she couldn't break free with your help, I doubt if she'll ever be free. Very sad.

  7. "The anger that wells up in me as I write these isn't something I'm comfortable with."

    I think a lot of us can identify with that statement.

    Keep fighting through-- you're doing good...

  8. So beautiful. But I can't enjoy the beauty for knowing what is coming. Lewis, you are brave.

  9. Interested bystanderJuly 6, 2011 at 10:43 PM

    So what I can't understand is why would anyone object to her sleeping in your bed while you took the couch. That is what my parents would have insisted on as good manners.

  10. @interested bystander...It's that whole "appearance of evil" thing that very immature, shallow, superficial Christians dwell on. Just spending the night in the same house qualified as "the appearance of evil" to that crowd.

  11. Wow, I have seen things you've posted in the past on the Quivering Daughters FB page, but I just read your story and I am so sorry you went thru all of that! Thank you for being willing to share it so honestly as I am still sorting thru my own spiritually abusive background. You fought so hard for her; I'm so sorry for your loss and her to choice to be lost. I can relate to so much of her mental battle.

    After spending almost a decade in frequent conflict over the craziness surrounding us and being warned about being Luciferian and a Jezebel, I finally told my husband 2.5 yrs ago that I would not attend our church (cult) w/ him anymore even though he was on staff there. He finally agreed at that point to leave b/c he was afraid of losing me and our children, but we were out for over a year b/4 he began to come to grips w/ the reality of what he had been part of. He's completely fallen apart as a result, struggling w/ PTSD.

    I'm still trying to recover from all of the "you're the crazy, rebellious one" messages I got there. I had grown up in a home w/ Gothard influence and, even tho rejecting that, had wound up in a cult which had its own version of craziness. It's been freeing to learn about thought reform/mind control and realize that the tactics are the same even if the specifics of the group change. The worst part is that my genuine love and desire for God always feels tainted by the lingering fears of legalistic echos. I'm at a point that I have to simply sit b/4 Jesus and trust Him to cleanse the stench of the lingering past.

    I appreciate so much that your posts on this have helped me w/ that renewal process. Thank you for letting God release His redemption thru your pain. I pray that your healing will arise in the midst of your courage to discuss this openly. His grace in your life is amazing to me...and I think He's angry along w/ you at the way His nature was so twisted. It's a heart cry of "THIS SHOULD NOT BE!!" If we refuse to feel that, how can we long for Him to make all things new?

  12. These installments are getting more difficult to read, especially this one, because it is obvious that the both of you had feelings of love for one another. No wonder you're so angry. Who could blame you?

  13. despite what George Lucas thinks, anger isn't bad. it's what you DO with it that matters.

    as far as i can see, you're doing the best you can. you're using that anger to try and free other people from the Hell that was forced upon you. and no one - LEAST OF ALL GOD - expects you to do more than you can.

    i wish i had something more to offer. i just feel so badly, both for you and for her - you, because you poured yourself into trying to free her, and her, for not even really ever getting that she WASN'T FREE. i don't know which is worse, actually - they're both horrible, and show some horrible things that have been growing for a while, now :(

    i'm sending you GoodThoughts(tm) [i.e. non-religion-specific prayers] i wish i had something more, something that would "fix" this... but unless a miracle happens, there's no real fix... sigh. i cannot perform miracles, as much as i wish i could.

  14. Lewis,

    My heart breaks for both you and her. I've been in her shoes--not completely, my jar wasn't quite as thick--but I do know just how powerful those emotional and "spiritual" holds are.

    From someone who's been there, thank you so much for fighting for her. That's something that I don't think she'll ever forget, and I'm very thankful that you had the courage and love for her to fight for the two of y'all as long and hard as you did.

  15. Lewis, Thanks so much for sharing your painful, heart-wrenching story. I found your website and started reading it a month or so ago and keep checking back to see if there's any new installments. I think it was partly because of your story that I started studying up on Patriarchy. I was raised in the Gothard program, but my parents didn't subscribe to Patriarchy, so while familiar with the general concept, I was unfamiliar with the extremes of it. Your story came at just the right time, because the week I found your website, I came across the path of a young couple who were struggling with a similar situation in their engagement. Their story seems to be working out much more happily (Patriarchy was on his side, and he's willing to break from his family), for which I am grateful. But thanks for being willing to openly process your pain and hurt, and allow others to learn from your story.

  16. Thank you for being so honest about what is messed up in all of this. My father wasn't NEARLY this bad and my (pseudo-)courtship turned out well in the end as I got to marry my husband, but even though we've been married for 7 years now I feel like I'm still getting over tiny little things here and there that were wrong back then. It really really helps me to hear you explain just how wrong and weird those things were/are. When you described the chaperon issue it was so helpful to see it from a healthy point of view. I'd only heard the teaching that she'd had you see... about "appearance of evil" stuff and all that. When I was describing some of this to my husband he was completely on your side about knowing how wrong all that teaching was, but I've found myself understanding what your ex must have been thinking at certain points. Even though I don't believe that stuff and never was so stuck in it that I wouldn't have broken the jar if it came down to it! It's still in my head! GAH! Anyway, all that to say, reading your point of view is helping me to see these false teachings clearly.

    I'd like to tell you more of my story, but it's probably a bit too long to post on comments.

  17. Man, in reading through this, every time you say the word "ex" my heart sinks. To think that something so beautiful is just gone! It isn't every day that two people love each other so much and it just so sad....

  18. Lewis,

    I got to your blog via a link from to quivering daughters and then to your site.
    Being from Germany I didn't know the background of all this patriarchal homeschool movement. However, soon after I got saved at age 17 somebody gave me a German copy of Josh Harris' book. At the time I had never ever heard of the whole courtship concept and also don't know anyone personally who actually followed it. I have been reading the blog for several years though with a mixture of unbelief, amusement and wonder. So much I could write but for now I just want to thank you for sharing your very personal experience. I read all the installments at once in rapt attention. I am really sorry for what you had to go through and pray that the Great Physician will heal your heart. I understand what you mean by you can't be so vulnerable with anyone again but from experience I can say that God can heal your heart in way that one never thought would be possible. I think it's good you started this blog as a way of working through the experience and also offering inside information, but please try for your own wellbeing not to get stuck in the past.

  19. Lewis - your story breaks my heart. I've reread it a few times and keep hoping for the final installments. Any chance?

  20. Lewis, thank you for your candor, honesty and openness. I wish I couldn't say that, "I feel your pain." I know first hand. I know your anger and frustration.

    The real travesty, spiritual dysfunction, and abuse in any hierarchical/patriarchal system is that it keeps people from enjoying a meaningful and tangible relationship with Christ. I suppose this is why Jesus talked a lot about "stumbling-blocks" with such anger.

    One of the key tenets of the gospel of Christ is Jesus' indictments of just wearing spirituality rather than really having it. I guess this somehow gets lost with the people you have met and the others like them. These folks, to use their own pat pseudo spiritual phrase, need "to read their Bibles" - better yet, though, they need to "open the door" to the One Who knocks.

    Thanks again for your words.


  21. Lewis, you have inspired me to start a blog of my own.