It’s Thursday morning and Gwen is off to visit Lynn, her only friend. Because before she became a Christian and joined Peter’s church she had no friends. Apparently. Anyway.
Lynn’s older children were busy at work in the school room when Gwen arrived. The younger children were playing in the adjacent family room with legos, blocks, and cars. Lynn asked her oldest son to watch the younger ones.
Can attest—this is an accurate description of what a homeschool would look like in this demographic. In fact, this bit rings more true than just about everything else in this book, lol.
Gwen and Lynn sit down, and Lynn asks Gwen what’s going on. Gwen is very cryptic and can’t seem to use full sentences. Lynn asks for context. Gwen is surprised to learn that Peter hasn’t told Aaron about any of this, but apparently Aaron has been traveling so it wasn’t noticed that Peter went incommunicado. Some accountability partner Peter’s got there.
“Where do I begin? Well, I guess I should start by telling you Peter and I are—or I probably should say were—in love with each other.”
Lynn looked surprised, but said nothing.
First, Lynn knew all about Peter’s pining. Seriously. Second, this is where Lynn should step in and explain to Gwen that what she and Peter feel is infatuation, not love. They barely know each other. They’ve spent virtually no time alone together, and what time they have spent alone together has been spent primarily on discussing Gwen’s case. They’ve known each other for less than six months. They’ve never reached the time where they could just hang together, letting their defenses down.
It rather looks like Farris has a very juvenile idea of love.
“Peter blurted out his feelings to me a few weeks ago.”
“But I thought he had a conviction about divorce,” Lynn said.
“Oh, he did. Or does. Or something. Anyway, he told me that he loved me, but that he didn’t feel right about it because of the divorce. He then said he would try to search out an answer from God and let me know one way or the other by the end of October.”
“That was kind of a nasty thing to do. He should have kept his mouth shut if he felt God didn’t want him involved with you.”
OMG it’s about time someone said this.
I’m kind of surprised Gwen hasn’t kept Lynn appraised of all of this. After all, they had discussed the whole marriage and divorce issue before, and Gwen told Lynn what Peter had said about not being able to marry divorced women, and that Peter had done things that suggested interest in her. Lynn had been super confused as to why Peter would even mention the divorced women thing, but hadn’t been much help on Peter’s interest—looking back, it looks like she asks Gwen what she feels about that and then lets it go, simply letting her know that divorced people are forgiven by God, and not second-class citizens. But if Lynn and Gwen are supposed to be such good friends, why didn’t Gwen let Lynn know about Peter’s confession and his end-of-October deadline?
Anyway. With Peter’s craziness established, things move in. Gwen says she has been “very fond of Peter for a long time,” which is odd given that they’ve only known each other for a few months. She tells her about Gordon’s harassment and brings the timeline up to Gordon’s death. Then she tells Lynn about her suspicions about Peter, which she calls “crazy” and “awful.”
“Had Peter ever done anything that was legitimately suspicious?”
“No, of course not. But he had said some things. Like one time he said that he wished Gordon would die, but afterwards he said it was an evil thought and he would pray for Gordon. Anyhow, I pieced together a string of isolated comments, added two-and-two together, and got forty-seven.”
Lynn seems to accept this. And then Gwen says something really interesting:
“I told him these crazy thoughts. I told him I couldn’t really believe them, but somehow it just seemed unbearable to go into a relationship with someone who had ever wished Gordon was dead, especially when Gordon did die. Things like that. I was talking craziness.”
That is not what Gwen told Peter, but it’s something she should have told him. Not wanting to be with someone who had wished your ex was dead, especially after your ex actually dies, is perfectly legitimate. You might well spend your whole relationship remembering those words. It’s just icky all around. But that’s not actually what Gwen told Peter. It’s certainly what she should have told Peter.
Gwen tells Lynn that Peter has been completely avoiding her, and very cold toward her, and Lynn says that’s not like him and Gwen says she can’t blame him, after what she did. Several commenters pointed out last week that Peter has managed to completely turn this whole thing around onto Gwen. Peter spent months leading her on and wishing Gordon dead. When Gordon actually did die, it was only natural for Gwen to remember Peter’s wishing him dead. But now, Peter has made her out to be the problem, and has succeeded in making her view herself as the transgressor.Peter’s inability o deal with both conflict and with, well, people actually acting like people (and not like stock images) should be seriously concerning to anyone considering a future with him. Peter might have benefited from dating around for a while (something he appears not to have done), practicing his relationship skills and learning what is healthy and what isn’t. Not everyone learns what they need to during this process—some people hone abusive skills over time—but ideally you should come away from a relationship asking what you learned from it, and what you will do differently in the future.
But Farris, remember, doesn’t believe in dating.
Farris does, of course, recognize that Peter’s behavior is inappropriate. He just doesn’t appear to see it as inappropriate for the same reasons I do. It’s maddening to watch Farris set Peter up for a fall all the while being pretty sure that Peter is not going to learn the wrong lessons.
Here is Lynn’s response to all of this:
“Let me make some observations. First of all, Peter bears primary responsibility for all of this. He had no business falling in love with you and especially telling you under these circumstances. He is a mature Christian and knows better. You are a young believer, and while you did some unwise things, it doesn’t seem all that bad under these circumstances. And I hate to say this, because I love Peter like a brother, but he is being a real creep right now. There is no explanation for his decision to hold onto the hurt after you asked forgiveness. He’s just plain wrong. Men!”
Um. Is that last bit like a parody of what how Farris thinks women talk about men? I mean I have said “Men!” in that tone before, but never with no real connection to what came before. That epithet generally belongs to statements about things that most men do, usually because they were socialized to do so. For instance, a woman might say “Men!” after complaining that men don’t seem to even notice the dishes, or the laundry, or other things that need doing, or after complaining that men try to fix things rather than just letting us vent. And even then, yes, it can be essentializing and fall into over-generalization. I’m not defending the epithet, I’m noting the way it’s typically used.
For Lynn’s use, here, to make sense, she would need to be suggesting that men, specifically, have a habit of holding onto hurt when others have asked for forgiveness. Yet she does not say anything to suggest that before that last word. Rather than “He’s just plain wrong” she could have said “That’s so like his gender.” That would have made her “Men!” exclamation at the end make more sense. As it is, it reads like Farris trying to guess at how women talk about men, and as such it’s almost funny.
As for the rest, I would quibble with Lynn’s assigning any blame at all in this to Gwen, but I appreciate her calling Peter out for his actions. There’s only thing I can picture a friend that existed before this book started doing that Lynn doesn’t—a friend unconnected to Peter would probably tell Gwen that she was well rid of him, and that she should steer clear of him going forward.
“Are you saying that to make me feel better?”
“No, Gwen. That’s what I really feel. I can’t believe Peter! What has gotten into him? I’m going to have Aaron straighten him out as soon as he gets home.”
“Please Lynn. Don’t do that. I just feel uncomfortable about that. In fact, I almost didn’t come to you because I thought you might want to do that. But I simply didn’t have anyone else to talk to. If Peter comes back, I want him to come back on his own.”
How did Gwen have no one else to talk to?! This may be the most unrealistic thing about this entire book. Even if she has trouble making friends, she has her parents, her sister, and her fellow nurses. And note, again, that because Lynn is Peter’s friend, she’s condemning his current actions but not telling Gwen that his behavior suggests concerning relationship skills that might give her reason to pass before getting further involved with him.
But then, Lynn may not see the problems that I see. Why is Peter upset with Gwen, after all? He’s upset because, right after learning that her ex, Gordon, had died tragically, in an accident likely related to brake failure, Gwen recalled that Peter had wished Gordon dead, and that he’d had the opportunity to have messed with Gordon’s breaks. Don’t get me wrong, I’d be upset if someone accused me of murder, too! It would likely make me questions two things—first, how well that person actually knows me, and second, what I could have said or done to make them think something so horrible of me. That’s not where Peter’s mind goes, though.
This whole kerfuffle makes several things very clear. First, Peter and Gwen may fancy themselves in love, but they don’t actually know each other. Second, Peter has crap relationship skills. And third, Peter’s whole wishing-Gordon-dead-so-he-could-marry-Gwen is so twisted and messed up that it really should forestall any relationship in and of itself. Gwen saw that, for a moment—but that was before Peter turned everything around and made her the bad guy. Lynn sees it, sort of, but she still sees this as something that can be fixed.