Wednesday, January 16, 2008


A week ago last Sunday at the Daniels Run Church*, where I'm preaching this month, a woman approached me during the coffee hour. She introduced herself and said, "I'm a published author!"

"Oh!" I said, suitably impressed. "What have you written?"

"I wrote a book about a woman who escapes from an abusive marriage. Maybe you'd like to buy a copy? It might be useful if you were counselling someone in that situation, you know."

I agreed it would be. But I didn't have the cash on hand at the moment.

"Oh, don't worry about it!" the author said. "I'll give you a copy!" And then, "Actually, the book is about me. I changed my name in the book, and I used a different name for the author. But it's about me."

Standing there, she told me briefly of the escape she'd made from her violent and manipulative husband. How she'd always considered herself a strong woman who'd never get trapped in a situation like that, and then she did. How she hoped what she'd written would help other women in similar circumstances. Hers sounded like a compelling story, and I was interested in reading more about it.

This past Sunday, she gave me the book. It was a slender volume, put out by an unfamiliar publisher.

I read it yesterday. And it was sad.

Sad in the basic story it told, of a woman trapped far from home by a plausible but false and cruel man, who for his own sick gratification worked first to undermine her mind, self-image, and emotions, then to injure her body, and then to destroy her relationships and place in society.

Sad, because the manipulation and abuse did not end once she had fled the husband and the home, but threatened her safety and compromised her relationship with their infant child.

And sad, because her story could have been told so much more powerfully, so much more feelingly. It is a story that begs to be told, but it wasn't, not in this little book. My author never ventured below the surface of her subject. You never get inside her skin, feel her fear, or rejoice in her ultimate recovery. It was like a conversation overheard at the next table at a cafe, one woman giving another a rundown on her latest news. Reading the book, I learned and felt nothing more than I had chatting with the author over coffee after church a week or so ago.

Is it simply that she cannot write? Or-- sad again! that even a decade or more after the experiences recounted, she cannot yet truly face them? Is there great pain still lurking there, and much healing left to do?

If I were the permanent pastor of this church, I might find out someday and be of help. But with me merely providing pulpit supply, I can't presume to suggest it. It'd be an intrusion; perhaps even a new form of abuse.

And that's sad.

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