She Pushed the Door Open and Walked Through

She Pushed the Door Open and Walked Through

In the previous blog, Making War on Everything, I mentioned I’m reading Sacajawea by Ann Lee Waldo.  Charboneau, Sacajawea’s husband, was an abusive man.  Sacajawea’s thoughts during and after her final beating were an inspiration to me:

She thought of her own words, “If you whip me again, I will leave, and you will not see me again.”  Ai, she would leave.  There were other lodges, other people for friends…

Another blow came, and her head felt large with pressure.  She came up gasping as the lash uncoiled around her.  A warm trickle ran down her side under the shredded tunic.

Two more blows came with long pauses; they lacked vigor.  Did Charbonneau hold back, or was it the strange, kind smile and look of exultant triumph in his woman’s eyes that made him stop?

…Like someone driven by an unconquerable obsession from which she was not yet freed, Sacajawea mechanically gathered up her blanket and placed it beside the door.

…He had never seen her like this.  She seemed to tower high above him.

Sacajawea saw his shoulders beginning to sag.  She felt pity, but pushed it away.  She had pitied him before.  She carried the bag to the door, found some steel firesticks, and picked up the folded blanket.  She pushed the door open and walked through without looking back…

Facing the sun she said, “Thank you, Great Spirit, for giving me the courage to leave my man at the time he was no longer safe to live with…”

My heart goes out to those who stay in abusive relationships because of pressure from the institutional church, where they are taught that it is a sin to get a divorce.

There are other forms of abuse that leave no visible scars but create an environment that is emotionally unsafe, that can slowly kill a person one day at a time: Addictions, selfishness, greed, harsh words, indifference, etc.

Sometimes God gives us the grace to endure – perhaps to separate without divorce.  People can change, after all.

May God give us the wisdom to know the difference between an unhealthy relationship that is not beyond repair and a toxic relationship that is physically or emotionally unsafe.

Sometimes God gives us the courage to walk away.

  • Mary Vanderplas July 14, 2013 at 6:20 am

    What a powerful story of deliverance from the shackles of a loveless marriage – and of the triumph of good over evil (“…..was it the strange, kind smile and look of exultant triumph in his woman’s eyes that made him stop?” “She seemed to tower high above him.”). I agree that her example is inspiring, even if the details of what she went through are hard to read.

    I agree with what you say about feeling sorry for those who stay in abusive relationships because they’ve been indoctrinated that divorce is sin. In fact, as Jesus defined obedience to the law of God, sin is not simply failing to adhere to a legal code, but failing to give oneself in love and compassion to others. Thus, a marriage that is characterized by abuse in whatever form, or even by a failure to give oneself to the partner, is disobedience, is sin, even though on the outside the relationship may appear to be “faithful.” Clearly, according to Jesus’ interpretation of the law, inflicting harm on one’s spouse is sin.

    I like what you say about there being different forms of abuse and neglect. I agree that staying in the marriage (or as you say, separating without actually divorcing) in the hope that the partner will change might sometimes be best, though I also think that sometimes people change only after they’ve lost what it is they took for granted and squandered – and that in some cases the “change” is more the result of regretting the loss of the security and status of being married (i.e., the person is lonely) than it is a genuine owning of one’s failures and resolving to be a different person. Wishing to be married, after all, is not the same thing as loving someone. In any event, I would hesitate to tell anyone who has divorced her/his spouse that s/he should have stayed in the relationship, especially when the person expresses no regrets about her/his decision.

    • Mary Vanderplas July 14, 2013 at 7:42 am

      To expand a bit on the comment that the “change” is the result of regretting what the person has lost, what I mean is that the change is superficial and self-serving – i.e., not focused on the good of the other, but calculated to get back what the person him/herself wants. When this doesn’t happen, the person responds, often, by becoming bitter and angry (and sometimes vindictive).

      • admin July 14, 2013 at 12:22 pm

        I agree. Sometimes I think that knowing your spouse continues in relationship you because he/she chooses to (not because he/she must), and that he/she can and will refuse to be in a relationship that is not characterized by mutual respect, strengthens the relationship. Sometimes the only way for the offending spouse to know this is for the offended spouse to refuse to be in relationship, for a time – not to manipulate or change the offending spouse, but to demonstrate that he/she can and will refuse to be in a relationship that is not characterized by mutual respect. I think that the beauty of separation without divorce is that the offending spouse has the time and space to think things through and decide what he/she really wants. But I don’t judge people who skip this and go straight to divorce. Sometimes the hurt goes too deep.

        • Mary Vanderplas July 14, 2013 at 8:47 pm

          I think you’re right about people opting for divorce without first separating for the reason that the hurt is too great. I also think that some opt for divorce simply because there is scant evidence (over time) that the spouse is motivated by anything other than a self-serving desire to “get what I want” – comfort, security, social status, sexual pleasure – not by an earnest desire for the good of the other – which is the essence of love. The one seeking a divorce has little reason to hope that the other will ever demonstrate the self-sacrificing love that defines a good marriage.

  • Lanny A. Eichert July 17, 2013 at 7:32 pm

    Haven’t you girls read Hosea?

    I will betroth thee unto me for ever; yea, I will betroth thee unto me in righteousness, and in judgment, and in lovingkindness, and in mercies. I will even betroth thee unto me in faithfulness: and thou shalt know the LORD.

    For the children of Israel shall abide many days without a king, and without a prince, and without a sacrifice, and without an image, and without an ephod, and without teraphim: Afterward shall the children of Israel return, and seek the LORD their God, and David their king; and shall fear the LORD and his goodness in the latter days.

    I say then, Hath God cast away his people? God forbid. {Romans 11: 1}

    God will never divorce Israel, ethnic Israel; neither should a spouse divorce a spouse in following God’s example. Long time separation is okay as necessary.

    His disciples say unto him, If the case of the man be so with his wife, IT IS NOT GOOD to marry. {Matthew 19: 10}

    As long as the former spouse is alive on the earth, remarriage causes everybody involve to commit adultery. There is only one just cause for divorce {Matthew 19: 9} and that is fornication which can only be done among unmarried folks. So when the marriage is consummated and one of the couple is found to have not been a virgin, the other may divorce, but never again marry since the first marriage was consummated and they no longer are virgins. That’s why the disciples said it is not good to marry. You only have one chance to get it right and if you don’t you have ruined your chances for the rest of your life.

    For each man God created, He create one special woman especially designed for him. Whoever marrys the wrong woman causes the man for whom that woman was created to either not get married or he marries the wrong woman which causes the man for whom she was created the same trouble as the second man; and on and on it goes messing up God’s whole plan of who’s to marry who. See what a mess you two women made of God’s creative work?

    Know ye not, brethren, (for I speak to them that know the law,) how that the law hath dominion over a man as long as he liveth? For the woman which hath an husband is bound by the law to her husband so long as he liveth; but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband. So then if, while her husband liveth, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress: but if her husband be dead, she is free from that law; so that she is no adulteress, though she be married to another man. {Romans 7: 1 – 3}

    The wife is bound by the law as long as her husband liveth; but if her husband be dead, she is at liberty to be married to whom she will {1 Corinthians 7: 39}

    The Law still applies even though Christ has fulfilled the Law, otherwise we would not have this church doctrine from the New Testament.

    Since abusive spouses don’t quit even after separation, counseling, and therapy; they ought to be exterminated, executed, killed. Since the same is true of homosexuals, they, too, should be exterminated, executed, killed. Treat them like murderers and kill them.

    • admin July 18, 2013 at 8:48 pm

      I am so glad you aren’t in charge of the world.

      • Lanny A. Eichert July 18, 2013 at 9:00 pm

        Alice, you’re also glad the Holy Bible is false, too, are’nt you.

        • Stephen Helbig July 19, 2013 at 11:16 am


    • Mary Vanderplas July 19, 2013 at 6:37 am

      The law needs to be understood in the way that Jesus interpreted it, not in a moralistic, legalistic way. Obeying the law isn’t merely a matter of external conformity to a legal code. As Jesus made clear, obedience to the will of God is a matter of the heart, of loving God and neighbor with our whole being.

      The Bible says nothing about God creating one special woman for each man. The fact is that we have been given freedom when it comes to choosing whether to marry and whom to marry. The fact is, too, that because of human sin, relationships sometimes fail, marriages sometimes fail – even ones in which both persons are believers. God’s mercy and compassion extend to those whose marriage has failed. Whether or not divorced persons choose to marry again, God is merciful and forgiving; and the divorced can experience healing and a new beginning through God’s grace. They are not bound to live out their days in shame and regret – nor are they bound to a defunct relationship until one or the other of them dies.

      • Lanny A. Eichert July 20, 2013 at 10:22 pm

        Mary, your doctrine is NOT found in Matthew 19 in Jesus’ teaching on marriage and divorce. You set aside Jesus’ teaching for your own tradition, so why would you want to be called a Christian?

        Matthew 19: 8 Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so.

        From the beginning is the way it is supposed to be: NO DIVORCE. If two don’t want misery the two will make it work when there is no such thing as divorce. Failure is because the two won’t make it work. If you want it your way, then never marry. Love is a decision to make it work no matter what. “Eat crow.”

        The seventh of both Romans and 1 Corinthians reinforce Matthew 19, Mary, carrying it over to the church. Grace doesn’t make it obsolete.

        • Mary Vanderplas July 23, 2013 at 6:23 am

          Attached to this absolute prohibition of divorce in verse 8 is an exception (verse 9) – suggesting that the teaching of Jesus regarding divorce needs to be interpreted and applied, not turned into a rigid law.

          Yes, God’s ideal is that there be no divorce. In a perfect world, divorce wouldn’t happen. But given that we humans are sinful and that consequently marriages break, or fall far short of God’s intention, ending a marriage is not always the worst thing; it might, in fact, be the best thing under the circumstances. Not all broken or distorted marriages can be fixed or made to work. Instead of judging the divorced and assuming (without knowledge of the factors that led to the decision on the part of one or both persons to end the marriage) that, if only they had tried harder, their marriage could have been salvaged, we need to demonstrate acceptance and compassion – trusting the God of boundless love and mercy toward all of his frail children.

    • Lanny A. Eichert July 19, 2013 at 7:12 pm

      Alice, I’m only telling you what God’s Holy Bible says that He gave us to know how to behave. I am not in charge of anything and you know it, but when you write July 18, 2013 at 8:48 pm I am so glad you aren’t in charge of the world, you show your unwillingness to be governed by God’s perfect Book, and I know you’d reply certainly not Lanny’s “interpretation” of it, thus showing you would “interpret” it favorable to your own desires. Dear girl, it says what it says and that’s what I told you and you don’t like what it says. That’s what makes an unbeliever who will die and go to hell like the rest of the family that’s gone on before such a one.

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