I still remember how my body hummed as I shoved the last box into the back of the Jeep. It’s funny what is important to you when you are leaving. Forever. For me it was all the holiday items I had gathered over the years. That’s all I took with me. Not even my KitchenAid.
I shut the hatch and drove away.
After five years of an abusive marriage, I had finally accepted that nothing was going to change with me in his life. I had turned myself inside and out, prayed every prayer, attended every bible study, trying to fix what was broken. So that maybe perhaps he might love me again.
The plan. I would drive from Colorado to my parents house in Tennessee. I would stay there a few weeks and begin my life in Maui. Again. I felt free. Free at last, free at last. The windows were down, the music was mine and there was an open road before me.
To say I was fragile would be an understatement. My body was still humming, something it had been doing constantly for over a year. On it’s own. I can’t quite explain it. I think it was something it had started doing in order to cope. I had finally become numb so that nothing would hurt me anymore.
I stopped at a Cracker Barrel somewhere in Kansas. To pick up a book on CD and indulge in some Southern fare. I was seated next to a lovely older couple enjoying a Sunday afternoon. I remember thinking that our tables were awfully close. Somehow, like in a movie, we started chatting. I don’t recall what we talked about, I don’t recall much from that season of life. I do know that I never said a word about what I was leaving behind.
The conversation came to a close.
They finished their meal and left. I lingered, savoring the sweet tea and freedom of never having to sit through another meal with him. Pretending.
As I went to pay, the cashier informed me that the sweet couple had payed for my meal, just like a movie. And standing in the middle of the Old Country Store, the humming stopped.
Their kindness broke me.
I kept it together as I bumbled from the restaurant. I made it to the car, shut the door and sobbed. Openly. Loudly. For all the years. The lost dreams. What could have been. What should have been. It was not pretty but it was beautiful. I remember saying, “Strangers were kinder to me than my own husband.” Over and Over. And over. Just like Dane Cook talks about in his bit on crying. “They were kinder to me than my husband.”
And as the tears poured down my face, the humming was replaced with hope. Because I knew, once again that I was making the right decision. And that I would be o.k.
You see, when someone is leaving an abusive marriage, no matter how much they know it is the right thing to do, the doubt and fear is debilitating. It’s why so few of us actually leave.
I had become a shell of the girl that I once was. I had learned to exist in the most non-offensive way possible as to not awaken the anger. To keep the peace. And it became my normal. Even though every fiber of my being knew it was not normal. Maybe that is what caused it. The humming. It was the fabric of my being rejecting this way of life.
And God allowed two lovely strangers in a Cracker Barrel, somewhere in the middle of Kansas, to reset my normal with a simple act. They reminded me what love and kindness felt like. And to them, I will always be grateful.
This month marks eight years since that road trip. And God has been faithful to me.
During what I call my five years of captivity, I really thought I had ruined my life. That it was over. I had made a huge mistake and now I just had to suffer the consequences. And I was willing to to do it. That is why, when God set me free, it was such a shock.
It was like I was a prisoner of war, jammed into a tiny bamboo cell. Eeeking out an existence. Accepting my fate. And then all of a sudden, a Black Hawk helicopter appeared in the sky. A rope ladder descended. And Jesus was there. To rescue me.
And He did. He rescued me out of a life of bondage. Of captivity. It was unexpected. Undeserving. And it was glorious.
Over the past eight years, he has truly given me a crown of beauty instead of ashes. And a stunning ball gown of praise instead of a spirit of despair. Because she who has been forgiven much, loves much. And she who has been forgiven much cannot keep her mouth shut because of how incredible God is. She wants everyone to know that freedom is available.
I write this blog, not for sympathy, but to give others hope. What might feel raw as you read it, has actually been healed at the Cross. It has taken time. And work. Because as my girl Wanda Beth says, “Time does not heal all wounds. God does. Time will tell.”
My prayer is that you would know, that no matter what you are going through, our God is a God of redemption. He can redeem anything. Nothing is wasted in Him. Not only that, He can use the most random moments and people to heal you. To remind you that He is actively pursuing you. He loves you. And He is especially fond of you.
It is why he sent Jesus to rescue you. And me. I am living proof that even good girls need to be rescued.
Love, Love, Love
The Girl Who Lives In My Head
P.S. This whole post was inspired by this post. To the Strangers Who Surrounded Me in Whole Foods After News of My Father’s Death. At the bottom, the blog asks for submissions about strangers who showed kindness. And here we are.
P.P.P.S I must say P.S. A LOT because my students ask me all the time what it means.