[This is part 2 of a two part series. Part 1 is here]. Surprisingly, I only threw the chapter across the room twice through the course of reading it. The first was the passage about the pastor who is manly because he has sex with his wife, which you read in part one. The second is the casual reveal of his wife’s history of sexual assault.
Previous to revealing the sexual assault, the Driscolls spend four whole pages discussing what they apparently view as the major barrier to Grace’s unwillingness to participate in the sex life of the marriage (yes, we’re still on the sex life. Apparently they had no other issues?). Evidently, very early on in their relationship – while seniors in high school – Grace had cheated on Mark while on a trip. One time. Three or four years before they got married. Mark didn’t even find out about the cheating until seven years into their marriage when he received a vision from God that was – as is characteristic of Mark – explicit in its detail of what Grace had done. Grace confesses to the cheating, and Mark has “righteous anger” (Grace’s words).
Hold up. Rewind it back there for a second. She cheated on him once, before they were even seriously involved with each other, before he was even a Christian, during a time when they were both – by their own admission – a bit loose with their morals, and has not done so in the 11 or 12 years since (the timeline is unclear)…and his anger over this is somehow righteous? The claim is made that this incident, that Grace was keeping it quiet from Mark, was the root of ALL of the problems with their sex life.
I can understand Mark being upset about this issue. But they spend four pages on it discussing why this destroyed trust, why it was the root of all of Grace’s sexual problems (again, Mark never had a single piece of baggage to bring into this?), and how Grace had to spend years working to regain Mark’s trust.
I was trotting along through this section going, “Okay, that’s a bit of an overblown reaction to something that happened so long ago before either of you were even seriously committed to each other, but whatever, it’s apparently how they view the world.” And then I was blown away by this paragraph:
Then, after more than a decade of marriage, a root issue was finally revealed [ed note: previous to this, they were discussing the cheating issue as though it was the root issue, so this statement is rather incongruous]. Grace’s problem was she was an assault victim who had never told me or anyone else of the physical, spiritual, emotional, and sexual abuse she had suffered. Hearing the details of her abuse broke me [Mark]. Reliving her pain with her as we worked through things was healing. Yes, it hurt deeply [ed note: keep in mind it’s still Mark speaking here]. But at least the hurt was from a surgery that would cut out the cancer. In forgiving and walking with Grace, I realized that I was so overbearing and boorish, so angry and harsh, that I had not been the kind of husband whom she could trust and confide in with the most painful and shameful parts of her past. I was world-class at truth telling, but my words would tear her down rather than build her up. I spoke to her more as I would to a sinful guy, but where men stood up to my challenges, she fell down. My bitterness had continued to condemn Grace, and she kept shutting down more. In it all, God was gracious and gave me a deeper love for Grace than ever, and gave her a willingness to forgive and work with me. … As Grace began working on her root issues…
Well. Okay. So at least he admits that he has an overbearing personality and had made some mistakes when it comes to handling his obviously “delicate” wife. But look again at how he discusses the assault – “Grace’s problem was that she was an assault victim. The details of her abuse broke me. It hurt deeply. … In forgiving and walking with Grace... most painful and shameful" (emphasis mine).
He’s identifying her assault as her “problem,” as something “shameful” that needs to be forgiven by him. To put it more plainly: The way in which he phrases and discusses the abuse makes it seem as though she had to ask forgiveness of him for those past things which were not her fault.
Note also that it is still all about him and his reaction. She – even though she is co-authoring this book! – doesn’t even get to discuss her abuse, which is arguably something much more important than one-time cheating on him in high school. And it should be noted: This is all that is mentioned of the abuse. One paragraph that is more about Mark’s reaction to her revelation than how physical, spiritual, sexual, and emotional abuse was hard to recover from and clearly created trust issues. Rather than allowing Grace the grace of being the victim, Mark puts himself in the victim’s shoes, takes on that role, and silences her discussion of it.
Even the way the next paragraph begins is telling, which is why I included it above: “As Grace began working on her root issues…” It’s not “as we began to work together in helping Grace understand and recover from her past,” it’s Grace doing it on her own. Keep in mind, this is a section following four pages of talking about how Mark and Grace had to work together to get over her sin of indiscretion. Evidently, when it’s an issue that affects Mark in a more direct way (her cheating on him), it takes both of them. Something that affects Grace primarily (and by extension of being her husband, him, however indirectly), it becomes her issue to work through.
I Will Not Suffer a Woman to Speak
This last bit leads me nicely into my concluding critique: It’s a co-authored book, but Mark does most of the talking, even about issues for which Grace would have been a better voice – like her assault, for goodness’ sake. It just strikes me as very odd that Grace is not allowed much of a voice – despite her name being on the cover, she seems to be supplemental, only popping in to echo what Mark has to say, rather than actually providing “the woman’s perspective.” I don’t really have any big point to make out of this; it just made me a bit sad to see how, in telling the story of their marriage, she was only allowed maybe three pages of space. It is as though it is not a marriage of two people, but one person and his mini-me.
That said, I do plan on reading the entire book and will certainly report back when I have had a chance to read it all – though I bet I will throw it across the room multiple more times, if this first chapter is any indication.