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Detra’s story

Part 1

“I wasn’t the first preacher’s wife to run away. There had been three more. One met a man on the internet. Another went into a life of drinking; she posted pictures on Facebook. And the third was Mary Anne. One Sunday morning Mary Anne was singing in the choir of her husband’s church. She walked down from the choir loft, through the middle aisle, out the back door, and nobody heard from her again. I made my own escape seven years ago. And in the Old Testament—seven years means completion. We were driving through the part of Arkansas where bluegrass runs through the hills like blood in the veins. It was dusky dark. And you could cut the tension with a knife. We’d just come from a visit with a ‘church mediator.’ I asked a few questions about our family finances, and the man accused me of ‘usurping my husband’s authority.’ My husband was a meek man. But I guess the meeting had given him courage, because on the way home he said: ‘Detra, you need to get back on my side.’ Right then something snapped. I hadn’t said a cuss word since the age of ten, when I got a whipping for saying ‘gosh.’ But I called my husband a ‘son of a bitch,’ right there in that burgundy suburban. He pulled over to the side of the road. He got right in my face with his finger, and said: ‘Satan! Don’t speak through my wife anymore!’ For the first time I didn’t cower. I didn’t grovel. I grabbed my purse, opened the door, and stepped out onto the side of Interstate 40. I knew I was crossing a line of no return. It was always clear what would happen to a woman who left the church. In our homeschooling textbook there was a picture. It shows a giant umbrella—and that umbrella is God. Beneath ‘God’ is a slightly smaller umbrella—’The Husband.’ Beneath those umbrellas are the wife and children. You can see the rain, and the rain is Satan. But it wasn’t raining the night I escaped. It was clear and dusky dark. I said: ‘Well God, I finally did it, and I wouldn’t mind a ride.’ Up in the distance I saw a car pulled off the side of the road. And the passenger door was open. I had no idea what was in there. It could have been a killer. But I knew whatever it was—had to be better than what I’d known.’”

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