This week my husband and I celebrated thirty two years of marriage (and survive to tell the tale), and as always at this time of year, I take some time to reflect on marriage and why I value it so highly.
Before I go any further, let's get this out of the way first. There have been times I could have cheerfully throttled my husband and made off with all his money (what little he had)but I loved my kids too much to force them to live under visiting rights. (By the way, the closest I ever came to such an act was throwing water over him when he had the audacity to sleep after one of the first arguments in our marriage. No, I'm not proud of the fact but I doubt I've learnt to handle arguments any better since then either.)
Ours has not been a happily-ever-after story. There have been ups and downs. There have been struggles. There have been years when there was never enough money to pay the bills and times when we relied solely on God to put food on the table. There have been health issues. And now there is 'the change' (the time when every husband deserves a medal). There have been babies, and children, and schooling, and graduations. And more recently the next generation of marriages and babies. There are elderly parents where we have to play a balancing act between maintaining their freedom and independence and doing what is best for their own health and/or safety. There have been times when we felt madly in love - and times when it was the vows that we made that kept us hanging on by a thread. There have been tears. And laughter. And shared memories.
And I wouldn't have it any other way.
All this begs the question, why then write a book about domestic abuse? The answer is less complex than the issue. Firstly, I wanted to explore a Christian response to domestic abuse. If it sounds easy, I'm here to assure you that it's not. I was horrified (and don't mind admitting it) to learn that there were some Christian leaders who believed and actively taught that a wife must stay with a husband who was physically abusive, and furthermore, must not discuss her situation with anyone because by doing so she would be engaging in gossip.
Let me see if I understand this correctly: a woman - and most likely her children as well - were to continue to be placed in physical harm at the knowledge of her pastor and nothing would be done about it? The woman was the one in 'the wrong' for seeking help and talking about it and not the man who was the perpetrator of the abuse?
Despite what was claimed, I don't believe this was a biblical response. The Bible places a higher value on human life than that. An eye for an eye, a life for a life ... would the abuse of a woman and child really go unnoticed? And while I'm sure that abuse happened in Bible times just as it does now, we must remember that sin was just as prevalent then as it is now. Jesus spoke about the hardness of His hearers' hearts that they allowed divorce - and contrary to the Law of Moses. I find it difficult to believe that He would turn a blind eye to a wife and children suffering abuse at the hands of the one who had been given the duty to love and cherish them.
Secondly, I wanted to explore my own (rather complex) views on divorce and remarriage. I identify with Madi's struggles in this area. While being sympathetic to Madi's plight, I found I needed to remain true to my own values and beliefs - all which created tension. I handled this in a way that satisfied me, but whether it will satisfy my readers is another issue altogether!
I will admit that this was not an easy story to write. While I enjoy writing - and, yes, enjoyed writing this most of the time - I would often find myself feeling rather 'blue' afterwards (actually, that's putting it mildly). It wasn't until I was going through the final editing drafts that I made the connection and put strategies in place to protect my mental, emotional and spiritual states. I hope and pray that this story doesn't have the same effect on my readers. (So far I have not had anyone complain that they have experienced the same effects.)
While I have not personally experienced domestic abuse in my marriage, I believe that almost all of us have some painful experience in our lives that has shaped us one way or another. I wrote out of that pain when I wrote The Scent of Rain. Perhaps this is why I included so many personal details in the story - details that only family members would recognise such as Marcus not eating garlic - to keep it light-hearted.
My plan was never to write a story of darkness or despair but one of hope and redemption. I hope in some small way I succeeded.