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)

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

This Is My Solemn Vow

"I take you to be my (husband/wife), to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, for as long as we both shall live. This is my solemn vow." (traditional Christian wedding vows)

The day I said these vows I meant them. The beauty of them tearfully spoken. A promise. A commitment. The day couldn't have been more perfect. I was marrying the man I had dated for over five years. We were excited and ready for this new chapter.

Intimacy did not come easy. Years of "don't do it" and "wait until marriage" suddenly changing to "it's okay, you're married". I was obviously thinking about it completely wrong. There wasn't a lot I knew about being someone's wife. My only examples my parents and other married adults I had known throughout my life. Some good examples, I suppose, but we are all just doing the best that we can after all. I felt ill-prepared still torn between the life and family of my youth and this new life I was beginning with the love of my life. "Leave and cleave" was much harder then I had ever expected.

He was patient some of the time, but there was often conflict. I guess I never realized how insecure I felt with him. There was always something sort of off with us and it didn't take long for things to start falling apart. What I realize now, is there were secrets eating away inside of him at that time. His heart wanted a "happily ever after" with me, but sexual immorality was stealing away those dreams. If you have visited this blog before, you already know the details (or can easily read them for yourself).

God works in the midst of the junk. He knew what was going on, but He also knew where He was taking us. We weren't necessarily walking strongly with the Lord back then. We were Christians meaning we believed in Jesus and we occasionally attended church. I knew He was around somewhere and although I don't remember asking Him for help, I know now that He was certainly helping whether I had asked Him or not.

The strength of my faith today I can humbly thank God for. It was because of the yuck we were forced to deal with that God became the focus and foundation of our marriage, a place He should have been at the beginning, but we didn't know any better. It is often a difficult journey this thing called marriage. With the everyday stresses, young children, work, school there is so much to contend with. Finding our way back to each other and changing our priorities and shifting our focus onto Him was easy and challenging at the same time. The challenge lies in changing the way we think and act in our marriage; having courage to seek wise counsel and see our hearts as they really are, broken and helpless. Condemned to a life of struggle if it weren't for God sending Jesus to redeem us and save us from this brokenness.

Saved from doesn't mean we don't still feel broken sometimes. It doesn't mean that we don't struggle anymore. It IS a life of hope, that we can weather any storms and He will be with us in the midst of them.

And all of this just brings me back to those vows. Whether said in earnest or under a shroud of secrets, it doesn't matter because God brings man and wife together and we CHOOSE whether to stay that way or not. If it's for better or worse it might mean staying and working through your biggest nightmare, but God will meet you there.

"I take you to be my (husband/wife), to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, for as long as we both shall live. This is my solemn vow."

This is what living and walking with him and Him looks like.

Monday, January 17, 2011

When You Raise the White Flag

School lunches need to be made, noses wiped, diapers changed, grocery shopping, laundry and are a Mom, after all. And yet the busyness of your day can only drown out the questions for so long. Why? How could he? How could He? Will I ever trust him again? Do I even want to stay married to him? How can you love him let alone live with him?

Where do you find the answers? Where do you find the answers to any of life's questions? Unless you have been down this road before I don't think anyone truly understands or knows how to overcome it. Like a "Dear Abby" letter I've been asked many questions. It's been many years since the truth came out and the light came on and I remember how we managed; at that time we were stumbling through it, reaching, grasping for anything we could use to hold us together.

Then came the Truth. That was the glue. And the tremendous grace He bestowed on us, bringing us to what we both needed and still need the most...surrender. You are fighting, fighting, fighting and you realize you can't do it anymore. You're tired and beaten down, weak and confused. Have you reached the point where if you don't raise the white flag in surrender then you know you're going to die? Maybe not physical death, but maybe you will just give up. Hopeless is a desperate place to be.

Whether you have stopped trusting your spouse or you have stopped trusting yourself. When it all seems lost, there is a moment, when you get to choose. Is it about you? Or is it about love? Is it about Him?

It is easy to make this all about your spouse. What choices they made that hurt you so much. When they aren't who you thought they were. There comes a point when all the anger and bitterness can turn on you if you can't see Him in the struggle with you anymore.

Are you ready to surrender? Can you give up trying to understand why? Because what feels like another betrayal may be the door for you to see things a new way. To see things within yourself that need changing. What does your heart look like? When everything is going well in your life it's easy to love God, but when the trials hit, that's when your true heart for Christ is revealed.

Are you willing to let His light shine into your darkest places, too?

There was a moment when this suffering felt like it was about me, my pain, my betrayal. How could God do this to me? He knew about my childhood betrayal so why would he allow this? Why did he not allow the one thing my heart had always wanted...a man to love and cherish me the way I deserved? This was a poignant moment because I realized (with help) that this suffering was about me, but not in the way I first thought. It was about my heart and who I was; who I was as a spouse, a mother, a woman; who I was in my relationship with Him. God could have kept the light out. The secrets could have remained secrets for all of time. We could have lived a status quo, unhappy married life and passed that example onto our children. Could the painful truth coming out actually be FOR ME? out of love for me? Was this the way, the ONLY way, out of an unhappy marriage? Was this His way of giving me my heart's desire?

When the light came on and the darkness exposed, God had brought my husband through the pit. God graciously convicted him to the point that he was done with the lies and he repented. By exposing the darkness, the secret sin could be dealt with, worked on, and healed. The Light is desirable. The Light is love. The Light filled my husband with the desire to love me and our children more perfectly. Something I had always desired, but feared would never happen in our marriage.

So allow yourself the freedom to experience ALL that this crisis has for you. Be angry, sad, disappointed, or worse. Forgive and forgive again as often as you need. But I pray that when God brings you through He will also soften your heart to all that He has in store for YOU, all that YOU need to see in yourself.

"I can tell you these things because I have been in dark places -- which is the only way any of us ever learn to love the light." (Tony Woodlief, "Somewhere More Holy")

Monday, January 10, 2011

Intimacy Issues

"Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm, for love is strong as death..." (Song of Solomon 8:6)
"Intimacy in marriage is a love bound by promises, pure and unwavering...This love in a holy, God-honoring marriage is as strong as the powerful (but negative) experience of death." (Dr. Harry Schaumburg "Undefiled")

Sometimes I feel like I'm the only one. And it's true! No one has had the same experiences I have had. Sometimes I feel lonely, like there is no one else that understands how I feel. I know that is a lie. Jesus struggled. He suffered. He has been where I am and where I am going. Still, in the quiet of our struggles it is easy to feel very alone.

My reactions to my childhood sexual abuse were unique to me. I did not become promiscuous. I did not act out rebelliously. And although I do believe there had to be signs that something was awry, they were not significant enough for my parents to think anything of it. As an adult, who has been dealing with the ramifications of the abuse for many years now, I have always wished there was a blatant sign or a red flag that would have initiated counseling or help. More then anything I think my parents just weren't equipped to understand it and people weren't really talking about it back then either.

The symptoms stemming from the abuse have become more or less a private struggle for me. Intimacy, specifically physical intimacy with my husband. For others, emotional intimacy with other people. Whether physical or emotional, intimacy issues can get in the way of God's relational plan for you. And it only gets that much more complicated when you throw in sexual betrayal by your spouse.

God's plan sometimes seems comical to me. For someone who prior to working through the sexual abuse stuff wanted nothing to do with physical intimacy to marry someone whose sexual desires were off the charts in the addiction side of things is crazy and amazing. In many ways, the fact that my husband and I were on the extreme ends of the sexual spectrum has helped us both with our sexual issues. But it has also made it very difficult. Sex has become for us our number one struggle in marriage.

A sexual addict is not looking for intimacy. Schaumburg's book "False Intimacy" discusses how it is an "intensity over intimacy" thing. Sexual immorality has nothing to do with intimacy. It is not about being known and it's not about love. It's about using others for your own satisfaction.

Likewise, someone who was sexually abused as a child by a trusted person may as an adult decide (perhaps subconsciously even) that they don't ever want to open themselves up to being taken advantage of again. Intimacy is a scary proposition because you must fully trust and allow yourself to be known completely, hopefully without shame. In my case, it is not for lack of desire. And through a lot of hard work, my husband and I have been able to have meaningful intimacy together. But so far, the struggle has not left me and I want to understand what it is deep inside of me that makes me feel like being known, exposed and unguarded, is not okay.

I often wish I could find someone else that feels the way I do about intimacy so that I don't feel so alone. If you struggle with physical or emotional intimacy, I would like to hear how you have overcome or dealt with it in your life/marriage. Would you consider emailing me?

"Real intimacy for the glory of God has a built-in secondary vital purpose of protection from sexual temptation. This doesn't work if you're only having sex for the sake of sex, which always leads to the lust for more and possibly for illicit sex. It will never work as a prevention if the wife feels like a sexual object and lacks interest. It will powerfully work if a couple is "on the same page" sexually, spiritually, and relationally, enjoying the interpersonal harmony of God-given passion." (Dr. Harry Schaumburg "Undefiled")

Wednesday, January 5, 2011


I started reading a book by Harry Schaumburg called "Undefiled: Redemption from Sexual Sin, Restoration for Broken Relationships". My first encounter with Dr. Schaumburg was reading his book "False Intimacy: Understanding the Struggle of Sexual Addiction". He is a speaker, author, and counselor and has been "pointing people away from sexual sin to restored intimacy with God and others" for nearly thirty years. I'd say he knows what he's talking about.

I bought the book hoping it would provide the "break through" I was looking for. I'm a little over half-way through the book and I haven't given up hope for that yet. He has a very honest, biblical perspective that I appreciate. It's not always easy to hear, but I appreciate it. Reminds me of reading "The Wounded Heart" by Dan Allender...a whole lot of truth and conviction. That's what we need, though, someone who is telling us the truth, even if it hurts or challenges our thinking.

In a nutshell, Dr. Schaumburg makes the point that the "path to freedom, purity, and restoration" are through sexual redemption. Perhaps I'll share a little more about that in another post (once I've finished the book), but for now, I'd like to write some quotes from the book that really struck a chord with me AND encourage you to read this book at some point, particularly if you and/or your spouse are struggling with the ramifications of sexual sin (pornography, adultery, or even childhood sexual abuse). This book assumes that you have a desire to have "sexual and relational healing".

From a biblical perspective, we are all sinners. Every day we are making choices that go against God. The choice to commit adultery, view pornography, lust...are because we are sinners. This is not a justification. I'm merely saying that when we ask "why did this happen?" or "how could they have done this to me" the basic answer is because we are sinners.

(emphasis added)
"Sin is a failure to let God be God. Ultimately, sin results from placing ourselves and our desires ahead of God."

"Sexual sin is enslavement to sexual activity, a state of mind, a self-centeredness that pushes away the truth. Even negative consequences of sexual sin do not produce change because they lack the ability to effect repentance."

"Conviction is a deep spiritual sorrow for sin. It is not disgust or shame of being caught."

"Without conviction and the application of grace the best we can hope to achieve is frustrating, long-term behavioral management versus authentic and lasting heart change."

"Behavior can be managed to a degree, but real change from the inside out is essential and is always the work of God."

"Repentance is what happens on the inside; it is not an effort to change behavior through a process of steps or choosing to look away when tempted to lust."

"Past experiences, good and bad, shape us, but they don't dictate or make us do what's wrong."

"...there is an Ultimate Reality greater than our painful situations. At all times we are to pursue the path that glorifies God."

"God in His judgment at the beginning of time and in His providence allows pain to come out of our experience of life. At the very beginning of time, Adam and Eve stepped out from under God's authority in an attempt to enhance their lives. Their rebellion led to God's judgement for both of them--pain, frustration, and futility. To this day we seek to avoid the reality of God's judgement. We choose a different path to deal with the profound disorder of all of life. The arrogance in us all that attempts to get control over all the difficult circumstances of life by our own efforts is a foolish attempt to question or replace a sovereign God."
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