Psalm 139:11-12

If I say, "Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me," even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you. (PSALM 139:11-12)

Friday, December 31, 2010

Two Realities

There came a point when I felt very conflicted about my abuser. He was good, trusted, respected, liked. But there was this other side of him, the person who abused me, took advantage, and betrayed my trust. It was like he was two different people.

I struggled in the same way when my husband revealed to me the secrets he had been keeping from me. There were two realities going on at that time, the one I knew and the secret life he was living apart from me.

It turned my world upside down. What was true anymore? Who was, who is this man?

In my situation, God in his mercy changed my husband's heart. He was done with the lies and the deceit. He was a "new man" and we were working on a fresh start. But the conflict remained because the "changed man" was the same man who did those awful things, but he was not that man anymore. What a head trip!

So we decided to name him. We named the man he used to be. We chose a random name for him. For the blog's purposes let's say it's "Harry" (it's not, but let's just say it is). It's kind of funny, I know. But giving "the jerk" the name "Harry" was a tangible way to describe who my husband used to be while encouraging and supporting the man he is today, the man God always wanted him to be.

Every now and then "Harry" comes to visit. And when I see him coming I tell him he needs to leave. "Harry" doesn't live here anymore. It's a joke, but it's not. I can be mad at "Harry". I can think "Harry" was terrible and hurtful and all those other things.

I like who my husband is today. I want to make our marriage work. I want to heal and grow and love him forever. I am committed to him and he is committed to me. The things from the past are in the past. We are rebuilding the broken trust moment by moment, action by action. I have forgiven my husband. That doesn't mean I don't still hate what he did or that it doesn't hurt when I think about how he betrayed me. But I can focus that negative energy onto "Harry" and be reminded daily that my husband is not that man anymore.

Do you ever wonder how you can ever look at your spouse the same way again? It is possible to recover and move on from sexual betrayal. And this silly technique might just help. It works for us!

"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation: The old has gone, the new is here!" (2 Corinthians 5:17)

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Truth Must Come Out

There is someone out there right now feeling hopeless. Their spouse admitted to having an affair. They don't know which end is up. And as the days march onward more and more details emerge. The truth is dribbling out like a leaking faucet. You just dealt with the last admission and now another one comes and another one. It feels like everything you knew was wrong. Who is this person you married? How could they have done this to you? The questions continue to fire in your head. Imaginations of him with her or her with him come creeping in. This is madness! And it's happening right now, to someone.

This is to all the spouses trying to make sense of it all. It does't make sense. That's lesson number one. No matter how hard you try, you will not make sense of what your spouse has done. Common sense does not apply here. I found that to be especially true when we realized my husband had a sexual addiction. It is a lonely, desperate place that drives a person to do the things they are willing to do for their own self-gratification. And in my case, it was not about me or the other women. It was all about him and that was the problem.

It is my opinion that in order for real hope and change to occur that the truth must come out. The whole truth and nothing but the truth. It was essential for the slow rebuilding of my trust that my husband tell me the secrets he had been hiding. And not just part of the story or a sugar coated version of the story, but the whole stinking secret, especially the parts he wanted to share the least. Vulnerable and desperately honest. This is a hard thing to ask and an even harder thing to hear. Just remember, though, if you ask you must be willing to hear it. There is real hope when your spouse lays it all on the line with you. When they have EVERYTHING to lose and find the courage to tell you anyway. It is a frightening dance because the listener has a great responsibility, too. If you cut and run at the first mention of pornography, how could your spouse ever tell you more? I know what it's like. I danced that dance. When I first found pornography on our home computer I thought that was the worst of it. I didn't know at the time that there was far more and it was far "worse". God helped me righteously and gracefully respond to the first "incident" and that laid the groundwork for what was to come later. I can only imagine if I had "over-reacted" to the pornography, that my husband would never have been able to share the rest with me. And him sharing the rest, was the key to breaking his chains and starting a new, hope-filled life.

I know it is difficult to hear that everything you thought and knew to be true was false. That the man or woman you married could be living a secret life, caught in a hidden sin. And sexual sin can be the worst because we feel like we can't talk about it. There is such perversion and dysfunction about it. We might rather not deal with it because the idea that anyone could do such immoral things is more then we can bear. I believe that this is precisely why there is such an epidemic. The best way to spread this darkness is to keep it quiet and hidden away. Let the guilt and shame eat them up from the inside out so they stop being effective at all, until they lose everything. I think this is the place I came to with my husband. I love him. I loved him then, too. And after the pain and anger lightened, I could see that my husband was suffering. That he was stuck and alone and he needed help. And I could have compassion for this man I married because he had gotten lost. And because it was so hidden he couldn't talk to anyone about what was really going on. I could help him, love him, and encourage him through this despite and in spite of my own pain, with whatever strength I had left.

I don't know how it is with you. I don't know if your spouse is broken, repentant, and willing to put in the hard work to make necessary changes. I don't know if you are willing to work through all of the hurt and betrayal or if you want a future with your spouse. But the vows you made to each other are a covenant commitment, whether or not your spouse has lived up to his or her side of the bargain or not. God has a plan and He is up to something. He can take this pain and evil and use it for good; for your good, your spouses good, for ministering to others. It's hard to see the "good" now. But sometimes you just have to keep putting one foot in front of the other and trusting that God will lead and guide you through this mess.

He will not give you more then you can bear. He is with you and He will never leave you. "No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it." (1 Corinthians 10:13)

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Reclaiming the Losses

I have this mental image from Exodus 7:14-25 when God "sent" the plague of blood to Egypt. The Nile River, ponds, reservoirs, and canals turned to blood. I have no idea how it happened, but I imagine it seeping slowly from the staff, traveling down the river into the other waterways until all the water in Egypt turned to blood. It's in this same way, a slow seeping into every corner and crevice, that sin takes over a life.

Whether it's adultery, sexual abuse, pornography or something else, those choices or experiences can effect nearly every area of life, even the places we least expect it. When you get to a place where you can take a "big picture" look at your life, that reality is hard to miss. Like unraveling the layers of an onion, it may start to feel like you keep finding new areas the betrayal has touched.

Adultery robbed my husband and I of many "first" experiences. They were given away to people that meant nothing. And you would like to get them back somehow, but you can't. Maybe we're overanalyzing it, but anyone who has had to deal with adultery, whether a physical or emotional affair, pornography, or lusting with your eyes (Matthew 5:28), can understand that kind of loss. You can't take back what you've given away, especially when it's your time and affection.

It can feel overwhelming as you discover more and more areas that have been effected. But once again, if you are committed to working things out with your spouse, then the process will most likely take you back to forgiving them again and grieving the losses. As time heals, you may want to consider reclaiming some of the things that are tainted. Whether it's a town with bad memories or a "lost first" experience together, you can create your own "firsts" or atleast a new, good memory. Slowly replacing the bad memories with good ones will help both you and your spouse to move forward. And trust me, your loving, intimate, married experience will trump the other experiences any day.

"What God has joined together let no man put asunder" (traditional wedding vows taken from Matthew 19:6).

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Scars of Abuse

I was sexually abused when I was a child. I kept memories stuffed away for a long time. At one point, when I was a teenager, I approached my parents about what had happened. But it was too close to home for them, I think. They were not prepared and didn't know how to handle what I had shared. We never spoke about it again.

I was married in my early twenties. It was a rough time. We fought a lot. We did not have sex. We tried, mind you, but there was something holding us back. I'm not even sure I can explain how I felt. It was suffocating.

It was clear there was something wrong with me. This was NOT how the "honeymoon" was supposed to go. We were not "normal" or so we kept telling ourselves. Everyone else was having sex. I relented and started seeing a counselor.

Some days it was talking about the memories of my abuse. Some days it was discussing why my husband and I couldn't make it a week without fighting. I didn't know at the time there were separate issues going on there. I don't remember a lot about the "abuse therapy". I know it took a long time before I could get through a session without crying the whole time. Maybe it was grief. Maybe it was relief, to finally be able to talk about it. To get it out of that place I always stuffed it.

It certainly wasn't easy. It was quite painful, in fact. But what I didn't realize as I was busy shoving my memories back under the rug, doing whatever I could to not think about it, was that dealing with it would have been easier then trying to forget it. Because along with the memories, I was also shoving down the lies I had told myself about it. That it was my fault. I should have known better. I asked for it. And the memories and lies infested a deep part of who I thought I was. If it was my fault and I should have known better then I should feel ashamed. The lies also told me that I need to be in control. That I cannot let anything like that happen to me again. That I need to protect and rely on myself.

I was abused by a close relative. He was absolutely trusted. And he took advantage of me. And I went a long with it because I didn't know any better. Because I trusted him.

This deep shame has left a scar on me. It had robbed me of true intimacy with my husband. The shame kept me paralyzed. With hard work and God's help, however, I slowly began to unravel the shame enough to be intimate. Intimacy was scary to me because it meant complete vulnerability, being exposed and allowing myself to be "out of control".

The remnants of childhood sexual abuse are far reaching, especially if you haven't been able to properly deal with what happened and how it has effected you. The crazy truth is you are less alone then you think. The statistics are off the charts. I grew up in a day and age where we weren't really talking about sex or sexual abuse. But it's 2010 and one of the best ways to combat childhood sexual abuse is by shedding light on it, talking about it, becoming informed, and working to keep it from happening to the children in our lives.

There is nothing I can do to change what happened to me. But I can change the choices I make because of what happened. I choose to be a survivor. I choose to talk about it and heal those wounds so that I can live a productive life, free from those chains. It will always be a part of my story. And I believe through it God has taught me some pretty extraordinary things about myself. And he continues to show me the things I still need to work on. I may never be completely free from the "shame scar", but I refuse to be taken prisoner by it.

If you or someone you love is a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, besides good counseling, I would recommend the following books (all of which are available through

"A Wounded Heart" by Dr. Dan Allender
"On the Threshold of Hope" by Diane Langberg
"When a Man You Love Was Abused" by Cecil Murphey

Rise and Shine Movement
Tamar's Redemption

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Taking Actions Towards Healing

But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:7-9)

So what now? If your spouse has confessed and together you have committed to doing whatever it takes to heal the marriage then what does that look like? How do you go on? How do you ever trust again?

Initially, we were in survival mode. We received immediate Christian counseling from someone prepared to handle the depth of our problems. We signed my husband up to attend the "Every Man's Battle" workshop and within a month he had attended it. The conference was critical and was a sign to me that he was actively working to make necessary changes. I read A LOT of books in an attempt to understand what we were dealing with and deep down I desired to know that I was not alone. That there were others out there who understood my pain. Slowly we began to broaden our circle of support by sharing our troubles with trusted friends. We talked and cried a lot, too.

Early on we learned the importance of my husband having an accountability partner. They talk about having one in the "Every Man's Battle" book. We also found a book called "The Accountable Man: Pursuing Integrity Through Trust and Friendship" by Tom Eisenman. This is a great resource for understanding what an accountable relationship looks like and even has sample questions to help steer you in the right direction.

My husband and his friend have met once a week for five plus years. Their commitment to each other and to living lives of integrity are a beautiful model of what community and Christian brotherhood is all about. "As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another" (Proverbs 27:17). For us, there was an open dialogue between the three of us and I know that my husband's accountability partner and I are on the same page. I can trust him to challenge my husband to be the man God calls him to be and to ask hard questions.

In our situation, my husband also has accountability to me. We have a "no secrets" agreement so everything needs to be shared. If my husband has stumbled or struggled in the area of sexual sin, both his accountability partner and I are aware of it, primarily for the purpose of encouraging him, but also to hold him accountable to not fall deeper into sin.

For the most part, the above steps that I mentioned, coupled with action (not just words) are helping to rebuild the wall of trust that was shattered by sexual sin. My trust was in shambles. It took a commitment on both of our parts to rebuild one block at a time. It is still a struggle. But I know the man my husband is today is not the man that betrayed me. He shows me this by who he is (integrity), how he behaves (actions), his accountability to others (responsibility), through consistent effort, and being authentic (being the same man at work, at home, at church, etc.).

Every situation is different, but if your spouse is not taking the necessary steps to rebuild and heal your marriage, then your process will be "slower" then mine. It is God's timing. He knows the path we need to take to have a true, heart change. It may mean a trip to the "pit" and back again to ignite a brokenness about the sin and a deep desire for change. You need to do your part in the process, too. Above all else, trust God to do the work that must be done in your spouse's heart. This is not easy. You are in my prayers.

This is a prayer my husband and I have both used to ask God to reveal the things within us that need fixing or to be revealed:

Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. (Psalm 139:23)

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Years the Locusts Have Eaten

The Lord says, “I will give you back what you lost to the swarming locusts..." (JOEL 2:25)

Do you wear your past mistakes like a chain around your neck? Do you use them to prove to yourself and others what a wretch you are?

Let's assume that your spouse confessed everything to you. Full disclosure. There are no more secrets. You picked up the pieces after it all hit the fan and now you are trying to move forward, one step in front of the other. You are working together towards healing. There has been a HEART CHANGE.

How do you learn to trust again? How do you forgive?

Forgiveness was not quick and painless for me. Unfortunately, it seldom is. The deeper the hurt, the more complicated forgiveness feels. After we got through the crisis moment, the anger, the sadness, the grieving, I had to start the process of forgiving. Moving through the real emotions of dealing with the truth is part of the process of forgiving. But it's best not to stay in any one emotion for too long.

I got very stuck on the saying "Forgive and forget." I thought that's what it was all about. I mean Jesus says "He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west" (Psalm 103:12). He does not hold our sins against us as long as we repent and confess them to Him. And we need to make it right with the people we hurt along the way. But forgetting was always a sticking point for me. How could I ever forget?

Maybe "forgetting" doesn't necessarily mean it's erased from memory. Maybe forgetting means not letting it have dominion over you anymore. Not letting it infiltrate your life in a way that keeps you from being able to move forward. Forgiving is more about grace. Because we don't forgive someone only because they deserve it or earn it. Like grace, forgiveness is a gift given irregardless of whether they deserve it. Forgiveness is like a second chance. That your spouse does not wear the scarlet "A" on their chest all the days of their life. It is not fodder for mud slinging, when you are in a heated argument. And more then anything else, no matter what any of us have done it is all sin. Sexual sin is not any better or worse then any other sin we commit. Yes, there are serious consequences to sexual sin. There is major healing to be done. Trust needs to be rebuilt. But like any sin, with repentance comes forgiveness.

It took some time for me to process through what it means to forgive. I didn't want to tell him he was forgiven if I didn't mean it. I forgave my husband. It does not mean it's forgotten. It is still a big part of our lives, but not the sin anymore. It's a big part of our lives because of what God did in our lives through the sin and struggle. Forgiveness changed our focus.

But it's not enough for the betrayed spouse to offer forgiveness. The one who sinned not only needs to accept the forgiveness God offers, and the forgiveness their spouse offers, but they have to come to a place where they can truly forgive themselves. This has been one of the biggest hurdles for my husband. He struggles to forgive himself for what he did. The guilt and shame have lessoned. But regret, that one is the hardest to shake.

Regret is like asking yourself "what if?". What if you made a different choice? What if you had come clean sooner? What if you went to a different school? Or didn't go to that party? Regret is wishing you didn't do what you did and knowing there is NOTHING you can do to change it. It's wishing things were different. Wishing you could take it back. Wishing you hadn't hurt the person you love. You can no more change the past then predict the future. How do you let go of regret? We're still trying to figure that one out.

Just remember, God is weaving a story in your life. If you hadn't done this or that, your story wouldn't be what it is today. God uses the good and the bad in your life to mold you into a better you. The desire to undo the past is like telling God He made a mistake. Where you are today, who you are today, is okay with God. He can work with anyone. Instead of regretting the past, try committing to a better future, making different choices, and living for Him.

When Your World Falls Apart

It may help if you read "The Crisis" (the tab at the top of the page) so you understand where I'm coming from here.

Have you ever tried to hold your breath underwater as long as you possibly can? Or had the wind knocked out of you when you've fallen hard? There is a moment of panic. When you know you need to breathe, but you don't know if you'll get to the surface fast enough. You want to breathe, but you can't catch your breath.

Can you relate?

I can go back in my mind to the night my husband told me about his affairs very easily. I try not to go there. There isn't really any reason to. Reliving it in my mind without a good reason for it isn't helpful. But I'll go there with you, if I thought it would help. I'm not afraid. Because the "worst" night of my life is also the best night. It was our turning point. Our defining moment. The beginning of a whole new life. The most horrible, painful night was also filled with hope.

Imagine it's storming outside and the lights go out. It is pitch black. You can't see anything. Fear starts to creep in. You fumble about looking for the flashlight you thought you put in the drawer, but the kids moved it so now when you need it it's no where to be found. You get your hands on a candle. Oooh, it smells like mulled cider. But you can't find the lighter or a match, anything to help you to be able to see again. And finally, you find it, pull the trigger, and a dim flicker of light sparks at the end of the lighter. You're in business. Candles lit you can finally see where the flashlight is. It's not much, but it's enough to ward off the fear until the electricity comes back on.

The antidote to darkness is light. You can hide in the darkness. You can't hide (very well anyway) in the light. You can't see anything, no details, no colors, nothing in the dark. You can see everything in the light. That's why I chose "Light in the Darkness" for the title of my blog. Because in my own life, it was the Light shining into the darkness that began our journey to healing. It was something that was once hidden being revealed and seen in the light that gave our marriage hope.

I believe that the truth and the Truth set my husband free. It was transforming from denial to acceptance. Vulnerability. Honesty. True, real, intimacy that can only be experienced when you come clean. This is what I hope for you. When you carry regret, shame, guilt all by yourself it will kill you. When you let the light shine in the darkness you will be set free.

This is a blog about what I've learned on this journey of healing. That what we have experienced can be used to help, encourage, and support other couples struggling to stay married despite sexual betrayal and sin. Everyone's experience is different. Things are working out in our marriage because of how our circumstances played out. Not all couples can or are meant to survive this. But I wish to give you hope. It is possible to overcome this. You can do it if you are both committed to making a change, if you are willing to forgive, and if you determine to have an authentic, truth-filled marriage. No more hiding. No more lies.

A God-shaped Hole

Sexual addiction probably doesn't just happen. You don't wake up one morning as a "sex addict". Like any addiction, I believe it is a symptom of a deeper issue. Humans are not whole. We are broken, messed up, hurting people. I think the only way to be whole is through God. We all have a bunch of holes; a Dad that was never there, a deep loss or death of someone close to us, poor self-image, a critical parent, abuse, and the list goes on and on. We journey through this world looking for something, anything to fill the holes; drugs, alcohol, food, sex, relationships, shopping. When it's all said and done, though, after the initial high there is always a low. A time when we return to reality and the guilt of what we impulsively did. It's in this yucky, dark place that we usually run straight back to the thing that sent us there in the first place. Back to the "hole stuffer". But each time you turn to the food or drugs or sex you need more and more to get the same high. The truth is, we can stuff and shove and ignore what we're doing to fill the holes. We can even live in denial or not even see what we're doing. We can trick ourselves into thinking it's not a big deal. But in the end, it will always catch up to us. And we will NEVER be satisfied. Like an unquenchable thirst, the things we use to mask the pain inside or the people we use or the expectations we make, will never be enough. They will never meet our need. The holes are God-shaped. Like a puzzle piece He fits perfectly into the holes in our hearts and it is through Him and only Him that our holes can be filled and we will find the satisfaction we're longing for.
You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you; I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you, in a dry and parched land where there is no water. I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and your glory. Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you. I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands. I will be fully satisfied as with the richest of foods; with singing lips my mouth will praise you.(PSALM 63:1-5)
I'm not saying you will not be tempted to return to your old ways. We are sinful humans, after all. But there is always hope. Hope in Christ Jesus. The blessing that you are never alone in the struggles. That He will help you. The first step, is admitting you have a problem and letting Him in to the deepest recesses of your soul to the holes you don't show anyone.
If you think you are standing strong, be careful not to fall. The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.(1 CORINTHIANS 10:12-13)
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