Broken Daughters

Picking up the shattered glass of fundamentalism

Training up this child – Part 21 – What’s love got to do with it?


The joy, the tension, the laughter of our families reached our ears long before we reached the back door. As Harry and I entered the house, we saw both our families sitting at the table, ready to jump up for hugs, to admire the ring and to eat the festive dinner my mother had prepared. The little ones couldn’t really sit still, I suppose they had to sit still for quite a while at this point and didn’t know what this was all about. Everybody had a huge smile on their face. Our parents were full of excitement and happiness, the younger siblings had a shy smile full of curiosity. Harry grabbed my hand and pulled me into the middle of the room, standing in front of our families. I took a quick glance at my parents. My mother had a puzzled look on her face which I guess was caused by the fact that Harry and I both had teary eyes still.
Everyone had grown quiet, waiting for one of us to speak up. Harry was the first one to speak up. “Well. I guess, I guess I have an announcement to make.” His voice was a bit shaky and I could see the smiles vanishing a bit off the faces of our families. They knew something was wrong. “After careful and long consideration, Lisa and I have decided that we won’t get married.” The air turned tense, jaws dropped and I heard some people gasp very loudly, a whispered “What…” here and there. My dad spoke up. “Why, what, I mean, are you two sure? Why?”
Harry again took over all the talking, which I was endlessly thankful for. “Well, we talked about our situations and our relationship with God and we realized that we are either not meant for each other, or that we aren’t ready for each other in marriage yet. We both feel like God isn’t done with us in this area and we figured it was better to wait and see where he is leading us before we make a huge mistake.” Considering how things went outside between Harry and me, this was a huge lie. He made it sound like a mutual decision lead by God, which was really the only way to get us both out of the heat for now. Of course, this might have made my parents believe that I was still deeply convinced of our beliefs but it saved us both from a lot of anger at this point.
The situation went quiet again, everyone thought about what Harry said. The silence was dragging, so I ended up saying “I hope you can understand this. We’re not ready for it.” Harry’s mother and my mom both said something along the lines of “It’s okay, you’re right if you don’t feel God is leading your way.” while nodding slowly. I looked at Harry and he looked back and I tried to communicate with my eyes how thankful I was that he was doing this with me, that he lied to save me from questions even worse than these ones. My dad then said: “Why are you guys holding hands then? Are you going to stay in this courtship?” “We will see. We aren’t sure yet. We haven’t had time to discuss this yet” Harry answered. “I don’t think it’s a good idea for you to touch. There’s no point causing more hurt than there already is.” Harry let go of my hand. My Dad announced that it would be a shame to waste all the food and called everyone to the table.
Dinner was painful. There wasn’t much talking, everybody seemed to be in a state of tension, of embarrassment, of surprise. Right after dinner we had a very short prayer time. We prayed for both Harry and me, that we would be shown the path from here on out and that our decision was right. Harry’s parents rushed their kids to get ready and they left in a hurry. As they said their goodbyes, Harry whispered to me: “You know how to reach me. Contact me whenever you need me. Or whenever you feel like it. Nobody will know.” I quickly nodded and gave him a hug, which earned stabbing looks for both of us.
The sound of the door closing sounded as if a stone dropped off my heart. I was relieved. I was happy. For the first time in weeks I felt as if I could breathe again. And I did, heavily, a few times. I turned around to face my family. My mother gave me a look of pity, clearly misinterpreting my sighs as a sign of sadness, and hugged me. My dad was quiet, though not angry. This surprised me more than anything. We went on cleaning the house up, removing decorations, washing dishes and storing leftovers in the fridge. Dad was nice, talking through the plans for the next day for a bit and then excused himself. He needed to go to his office, pray some, talk to God about the night. He said goodnight to us and left – everything seemed so peaceful. I started to believe that it might not be the end of the world, that I still had a chance with my family. Everybody needed time to settle emotions and think, and so bed time came early that day.
As the next morning arrived I felt as if the world was a new place. I was happy, even more, I was cheerful and full of energy. I could turn this thing around! I got ready for the day quickly. And again, the morning was peaceful. No anger. No hate. No punishment. I spent the day with my mother, doing the usual chores around the house. My mother and I talked about Harry. I tried to explain to her that, though he was a great and godly man, it just didn’t feel right. My mother was very understanding, said that maybe that was a sign from God that it just wasn’t time yet. She asked me what I felt God was leading me to do next. Encouraged by her gentleness during the whole situation, I carefully told her that I might look into school some more. However my mother was skeptic of that. “What do you want to learn?” she asked. I told her that I maybe should do some more classes so that I could go to college one day. That was bold of me – too bold for my mother’s taste. “Lisa, just because you didn’t marry Harry doesn’t mean you won’t get married at all. I think you should keep preparing for the calling to be a wife and mother.” Upon hearing that I decided it just wasn’t time to talk about these things yet.
I remember the following days as the weirdest time of my life. I had hours where I felt I was the strongest person in the world, ready to do anything I wanted. I had hours were I regretted breaking my courtship with Harry. I actually missed him and the phone calls we shared. I was all alone, yet again. Then I had hours when I was completely in despair. What should I do? What would become of me? How could my life possibly work out? I had to figure out what to do with my life – just something. I still wasn’t ready to leave, but I wanted a change, that much was sure.


8 thoughts on “Training up this child – Part 21 – What’s love got to do with it?

  1. Wow. Have to say, I admire Harry’s integrity in walking in there hand-in-hand with you, and saying “we,” rather than throwing you under the bus. But oh, Lisa! I can’t imagine the strength it took to tell him no, and face the families, rather than just going along. I am sure I haven’t been that brave my entire life. I’m so glad you made it out and into your own life; I hope other young women may find your story and be encouraged that they can do it too. Keep writing! (You’re good at it.) Peace.

  2. Good stuff, friend. One of the best skills a husband can learn is how to lie artfully for his wife. ;^)

  3. Good man, Harry. I’m thankful that you are continuing to update us on this.

  4. Harry was a good guy to show you support like that. But you were incredibly brave to do what you did. Thank you for sharing your story with us.

  5. Nice to read the next part of your story. Curious, are you still in touch with Beth and Harry? How are they doing? Good luck on your studies and greetings from Switzerland.

  6. How sad is it to hear that when we read, as fundy survivors, about someone choosing something for themselves, like being very simply honest, we must praise their BRAVERY. Is this because we are beaten down by the holy truth, pressured into roles and told that they are God’s will, each of us undermined emotionally, spiritually, physically.
    I was born a male into a Baptist preacher’s family. By age 30, if I had been born a woman in that toxic spiritual cesspool, I would probably be dead now or have given up and become a role, an emptying of life into the blur, a bitter, smiling believer.
    I admire the strength that allows the brainwashed to still read about freedom and independence even as they follow the life of a religious slave. Every step in one more step….. as the AA leaders say to all their groups, One day at a time! This being free, simply being a free person in a normal day, is hard work. The preacher wants you to be obedient and do as the wise male leaders tell you. What an ugly church is the Christian one…. and don’t get me started on that other one under the one true God…..

  7. I’ve really wondered what came next in your story, or if perhaps it was just too painful to talk about. My heart goes out to you both. And as other commenters have mentioned, wow, Harry really stepped up to the plate in that moment. Good for him.

    I hope to read more soon about what came next. You were really brave to do this, and you are really brave still to share it with us.

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