Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Healing Comes

A spirited conversation  debate with a group of strangers on Facebook has prompted me to blow the dust off my blog! Whew!

A few days ago a popular Marriage site posted a reader question on Facebook. The reader, married for 14 years, had discovered her husband had been unfaithful. She asked, “What should I do?”

Now I started to keep scrolling right on past the question. Altho I have the Infidelity T-shirt and have been very free and vocal about sharing our experience (with the blessing of my precious husband), sometimes I just don’t really have the energy for it, ya know?
But something wouldn’t let me scroll past. I hit the “comment” button and briefly shared my/our journey thru infidelity.

Soon after I posted, several women began to question (more like challenge) my decision to reconcile with my husband. One of them kept writing about how women are *expected* to accept cheating. She repeatedly called me and women *like me* a “doormat.” Another one took issue with my saying that infidelity is way more common than we want to believe. She wrote about the (8 year) relationship she is in with her *fiancé* and how she KNOWS they will NEVER experience any unfaithfulness. You should have seen the rocks that went flying when I told her that unless she is with her man 24/7/365 she doesn’t know *for sure* what he has or hasn’t done. But that is the hard reality of relationships. We cannot control others. We do well to control ourselves.

It has taken me a few days to process the intensity of the discussion. Why did my personal story upset these women so much? I have some ideas about why but what I really want to do here is give an update, a sort of FINAL WORD from my own infidelity journal now that we are just about six years out from discovery and reconciliation. I can write this because I have no bone to pick with anyone. I’m not mad at anyone, not my husband or the two ladies he was briefly involved with. In fact, not only am I not mad, but I actually feel LOVE in places within my heart where there was once only intense PAIN.  

Now here are two truths I have learned about infidelity. Two freeing truths.

Infidelity is a spiritual suicide attempt.

Especially for those who profess a faith in God. It is what can happen when a person reaches a state of emotional/spiritual bankruptcy. It is the decision of a soul that is severely emotionally and spiritually compromised.  We can't commit physical adultery until we have first committed spiritual adultery. We have to walk away from the truth of our faith. Infidelity is the enemy's answer to the deluded heart.

“For from out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, all sexual immorality, theft, lying, and slander.” (Matthew 15:19)
As wonderful as a spouse can be, husbands and wives make AWFUL gods, ya'll. Infidelity is what happens when a person expects a mate to do for them what only GOD can do. When the mate fails to be God  for them (i.e., their Perfect Need-Meeter), they jump off the proverbial cliff into outside dalliances. A popular Marriage & Sex author/blogger sought to examine the causes of infidelity. She wanted to address the (false) assumption that infidelity only happens in “unhappy marriages,” in marriages where one or both of the spouses is somehow unsatisfied. Many people have spent a lot of time searching for the place to lay blame, often in an attempt to try to ensure that it won’t ever happen to them. I get that. Because indeed “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” The problem is that apart from Christ there are no foolproof guarantees. And even if we have a firm grasp of Jesus, we still have to FLEE sexual immorality (1 Corinthians 16:18). It’s just not something we can play with! I am the poster child for Marriage Education and Marital Security but it is truly naïve to believe that you or your spouse is incapable of infidelity. We had to learn that! My husband will tell you that cheating is something he believed he would never, ever do. For 18 long years, he didn’t! I myself – in all my Christian piety- briefly entertained the idea of getting into an illicit relationship with a guy on Facebook back in 2010.  (Revenge affairs are the ultimate of bad ideas!) As unsettling as this truth is, our hearts are fickle and we are ALL at risk.

Infidelity is less about the marriage and most about the condition of the heart of the infidel. 

Which of King David’s seven (7) wives and ten (10) concubines wasn’t on her job the night David took Bathsheba? Which one(s) weren’t *meeting* David’s *needs?* How many outside women was it that Tiger Woods *entertained*? There are all kinds of names and excuses (lust, high libido, sexual addiction etc) for it but the simple truth is David and Tiger and you and I are all subject to be tempted to use sex as a substitute for the real love and unconditional acceptance our hearts crave. David couldn't (and didn't) find it in the beds of 18 women. Neither did Tiger.  And neither can we.  Infidelity is not about love. People in infidelity are using, not loving, one another. It’s not about faulty marriages. All marriages made up of faulty people(that's all of us) will and do have struggles. Yes, there are gaps in our marriages. Every marriage has them. The bigger issue is the gaps in our souls. The infidel is disillusioned with the life partner *they* chose. The infidel is disillusioned with life itself. Instead of turning to the Person of the Lord Jesus, the infidel turns to another person.

As I’ve said, I can write this because it’s not personal. I’m not pointing fingers at anyone and if I was they’d be pointing at most of us, including myself. The hard truth is, fidelity begins BEFORE marriage and most of us come into marriage as infidels. Unless we go into marriage as a virgin marrying a virgin, if we have had any type of consensual sexual involvement, (I’m not speaking of situations where a person has been raped or molested) we have already become infidels. We have given away to another(s) something that belonged only to our spouse!  Even if we only had sex with the person we eventually marry, we’ve still put the cart before the horse and *used* them to meet our emotional/sexual needs. Sex was designed to be the COVENANT SEALER. It was created to be the emotional/spiritual equivalent of signing on the dotted line. In the sex act we sign our lives over to the person with whom we are joining ourselves. I read a quote just yesterday that stopped me in my tracks. It said:

“God invented safe sex. He calls it marriage.”

Five months after our reconciliation in 2009 my husband and I rededicated our vows to one another during church service. One of the things I said publically to him was, “I’m sorry I didn’t wait for you.” Oh, how I wish I'd known how precious and valuable I am when I was a teen and young adult! How I wish I'd understood -- and accepted-- GOD'S thoughts about love, sex and relationships. I would not have traded myself for the attention and empty words and promises of guys who were mere *randoms*..

It has taken me a few days to try to understand the beef one of my Facebook strangers had with what I was saying. From my vantage point I was trying to share that infidelity is a vicious and common threat to every marriage.  But I think this woman only heard me saying, "'All men cheat' so we should just accept it." Perish the thought! Of course I wasn't saying that at all. I was merely attempting to do what I often do: warn people of its potential. I wasn't saying that infidelity WILL happen.  I was simply saying that infidelity CAN happen. And we all need to be on guard!

A third commenter took issue with my saying that the pain I felt after my husband’s infidelity was WORSE than the pain of our son Bryant's death. She thought it was awful that my husband was “more important” to me than my son. It is probably a silly thing to try to *rate* pain but when I tell people my husband's betrayal was even more painful than my son's death (it was), I do so to exemplify just how devastatingly awful infidelity really is.  Suppose I was in an accident that broke both of my legs. If I said that my right leg hurt worse than my left leg, would that mean my right leg was *more important* to me than my left? No, of course not. Not at all. I was only trying to describe the level and depth of the pain I felt from the infidelity. Up to this point in my life it is the worst pain I have ever endured. But my heart just leaped as I wrote that last line and a little tune rings in my ears saying, "I can see clearly now, the pain it GONE!" Healing comes my Beloveds!

Glory Jesus, Healing comes!

Writing has been like free therapy to me for most of my life. In late 2012 I got to add cancer to my resume of experiences and since then I have felt a bit scatterbrained. I don’t feel like the words come to me as easily as before. My prayer is that this update will help somebody, even if the ideas here are a bit paradigm shaking. I just want to give people HOPE. Hope that there IS LIFE after the most horrific of life experiences. I wouldn’t wish infidelity on my worst enemy. But we’ve come thru it. Better for the journey. There is peace and rest and freedom and joy on the other side when we let the Lord bring us out. I can promise you that... Healing Comes.

 “But for you who fear My Name, the Sun of Righteousness will rise with healing in His wings. And you will go free, leaping with joy like calves let out to pasture.” Malachi 4:2  

Thursday, August 23, 2012

True Confessions: I want to sex you UP

So I was thinking it was time to give you a real-time update on where we are in this Redemption process. There have been times when I have really questioned my choice to take this journey public. Baring your soul to the masses can be brutal. Alot of folks love *reality* on TV but the IRL reality often seems more than people want to be deal with. But as I began to write this post took a different turn. If you are here, please stay with me to the end. I really need to be heard.

I think I mentioned before that my childhood dream was to become a doctor. It has finally occurred to me that I have become a Christian Dr. Ruth. Ha! It’s never too late to walk into your destiny! :D

I like the topic of sex. Not in a weird way. There just seems to be so much mis-information out here. I was certainly ignorant sexually for the longest time. There is such a schizophrenic general cultural attitude about sex. Sex is nothing. Sex is everything. If sex is nothing (or whatever we want it to be), why do we even need the term “casual sex”? We chase the ghost of true intimacy in “casual sex.” But something within each of us testifies that we were meant for more...

Because sex is such an integral and important piece of the Gospel. Sex is how we all got here ( I know you know that. :D) Unless I missed something even the in-vitro babies require an ejaculation! But people just don’t seem to know what to believe. I saved a random comment from a HuffPost Blog where someone named Eric (perfectly) stated, “People confuse the mixing of genitalia with intimacy.” People will use the words sex and love synonymously. ( Have sex?, make love?) But they are not synonyms. I don’t care how much or how loudly the message of “free” sexual expression reverberates, there is no such thing as “free love,” i.e., sex without commitment and/or consequences. Author Lauren Winner says that with sex "your body makes a promise even if you don't." Sure you can do it without marriage. You can do it with a stranger. You can do it with whomever but without covenant it is a counterfeit. I will say it again, love and sex are not the same thing. They are designed to be related, but they are not the same. At the heart of the sexuality issue is the the truth that we all, men and women alike, want love. We want intimacy. We want connection. Ultimately, we want God.

Man and woman are the image of God. Sex was/is God's tangible gift of expression-- an image and representation of the wonderful, out of this world UNION that He has in store for Christ and The Church (those people who will accept God's love and responsibility for their lives). Sexual union is a taste, a picture of the beautiful things to come.

Our ideas, beliefs and behaviors about sex are an indication of our faith, a mirror of what we believe about God.

So yeah, I have officially picked up my degree. The PhD in All Things Sex. I know I seem credential-less, until you count the 32 years of *research* I have on the subject. Experience makes all the difference. The world wants to dumb sex down. To make us think that our sexual practices don’t really matter. That we can do it however we want. But I want to sex you UP. To ask you to consider why you believe what you believe. Let me tell you what "free love" imitation sex got me.

I was pregnant THREE times before I married. THREE.

It has been 30 years. But I remember that autumn day in 1982 like it was yesterday. It was just three months into my sophomore year at Spelman College…I was nineteen, happy, eagerly preparing for a bright future in medicine. I remember walking off campus early that morning, alone, to board a MARTA bus for downtown Atlanta. My destination: Planned Parenthood. This was in the days before Dollar Stores and First Responses. Once there, the whole process took less than half an hour. I can hear the woman’s cool voice even now. “Well, you’re pregnant,” she said.

I broke down and cried.

Several days later I boarded another bus, this time a Greyhound heading home to Alabama. I’d called and told my mother and (against her wishes) scheduled myself an appointment at a local Women’s Center for that next Saturday.

It’s funny. Until today, until right this moment I hadn’t realized that that Saturday 30 years ago takes a three-way tie for the worst day of my life.

Pregnancy termination with only local anesthesia costs much less expensive than with a general anesthetic. As my frugal self lay there on the table I could not stifle my reaction to the terrible pain. Responding to my screams the nurse (?) attendant kept saying, Charlene, Charlene, calm down Charlene. Amid my loud cries my mouth was unable to whimper what my heart and mind strained hard to declare, “My name is Sharmayn... My name is Sharmayn.”

I say all the time that there is a reason we are a world with a billion dollar pharmaceutical habit. Our lives are broken. Our souls have fallen and they can’t get up… Without Jesus.

I want to have to raise the bar of sexual understanding. I just have to. The only safe sex (the only REAL SEX) is covenant (MARRIED) sex. No “protection” is needed.  Hear me one more time-- Everything else is a counterfeit, a fake, an imitation.

I’m gonna go ahead and say it so that I can get free. This is a part of my story I have not previously shared publicly. Abortion is not a choice. Well, it is. It is a choice to murder. Everything we do as humans in these physical bodies has a spiritual implication. Some deceased philosopher has said, “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.”  Truth.

I did this. I am just now — 30 years out — investigating some of the many agencies and ministries dedicated to healing the post-abortive woman. I wrote before  about how so many of us Christians are forgiven, but not healed, because we simply won’t/don’t confess. When we confess we agree with God. Confession is the doorway to healing.

So here is my public confession, three decades after I took the like of my child.

Dear Lord God,

i know that You forgave ALL of my sins in Jesus Christ, Your Son, long before i was even born. i confess (and repent) that i acted in complete ignorance and rebellion to You in the fall of 1982 when i ended the life of my child. i agree with You that it was wrong. Evil. A grievous sin against You, my child, her father, the man i eventually married and my other children. i am so sorry for what i did. my child had a right to be born, just as i did, just as anyone does. Thank You for forgiving me God.

Now please heal and deliver me, Lord. Free me from the sabotage that i allowed into my life when i made the *choice* to disobey Your command against murder. i understand that we cannot break Your laws, we only break ourselves against them. i understand that Your commands are good. That we are not punished for our sins are much as we are punished by them. i agree with You that it was murder. Abortion is murder.

Now God, please use my story to free those who believe abortion is ok from their complicity and blindness. And free those women (and men) like me who chose this life altering path from their grief, regret, pain and suffering. Give them healing and deliverance Lord.

Lord God, i further ask that You would give me a bold and strong voice to continue sharing the Good News of Your precious plan for Covenant Marriage and the sexual relationship. Enable me to help others to not make the foolish choices i did. Sex was Your idea and invention. Thank You for it. Thank You for how You have redeemed Travis and me and how You are making us one. You have given us a beautiful Promise in Your covenant with us and our covenant with one another. You have given us Yourself. i do love You Lord God because You first loved me. You are great. You do miracles so great. And there’s no one else like You. No one else.

Thank you for cleansing me with Your hyssop and washing me clean. i am Yours. Fully Yours.

In Jesus’ Sweet and Perfect Name I pray.

"There is therefore now no condemnation to them who are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit."  Romans 8:1

to be continued...

Friday, June 8, 2012

On Overcoming and Some New Friends...

I have a question. I like questions.  Do (end of the) Baby-Booming, African-American, stay-at-home moms blog?  I suppose I ask this question because I spent several days this week becoming cyber BFFs with Tonya Ferguson and Jami Nato. I'm not sure why I am wondering but here I am with my at-home, blogging, brown skinned, four kids aged 23-7, closing-in-on 50 self, really connecting with some young women who look nothing like me. Does any of that even matter?

Please meet my new *friends*...

Tonya is beautiful. Her story is beautiful. She is the kind of girl that I wish I had been growing up. Tonya has known, truly known and loved, God from childhood. And she took following Him seriously. Tonya made a conscious decision to live her life listening to and following the Lord. She had a happy, fun young life. Her parents (obviously) modeled a genuine Christian life and Tonya followed their lead. She wasn't after perfection but her direction was (is) consistently God-ward. Her parents allowed her to date at 16, but she chose not to date. Wowza! Tonya waited to give her heart ( and her body!) to her husband.  [That is so B.I.G. It has become the message of my life to young people.] She eventually met the young man who would sweep her off her feet. He was a Believer and madly in love with Tonya. They had a sweet courtship and she married the man of her dreams at 20 years old. There are some twists and turns in their story. I was teary reading how God brought them together. Tonya and her husband now have four of the most adorable little Fergusons.

Jami is a lovely woman also. She is a witty and intelligent story teller, magnificently sketching her life with powerful prose and amazing pictures. (Both Tonya and Jami are excellent photographers.) Jami is the kind of woman that I would like to be like today. She has a profound grasp of the Gospel and the ability to communicate it so well in writing.... I love the (quirky) way she shares her story. Jami will give you laughs! Like Tonya (and me), Jami wants to live this Christian life authentically. She says frequently on her blog, "We are all jacked up!!" She is definitely my true soul sister! Jami is a married, stay home mom as well. She and her handsome husband have three darling little Natos.

These two beautiful young women are women after my own heart! Tonya and Jami are more than a decade younger than I and they are both in the first decade of marriage but I feel such a kindred spirit to them. Perhaps a better term for what they have become to me (instead of cyber BFFs :p) is an online support group. As young and beautiful as both of these women are, as much as their marriages were built on the Christian faith, both Tonya and Jami's husband's have been unfaithful. These two girls and their families are on the same redemption journey as I and my family.

I've been pondering their stories this week. And opening my heart so that the Lord can teach me a new thing or two. Every infidelity story is unique but the PAIN is universal. Doesn't matter if you are a believer, non believer, make believer or fake believer, a one-flesh union has been ripped apart. It is a living death. A living hell. The realization and discovery of such is EARTH SHAKING and LIFE ALTERING. All the details, how it comes out (confessed or caught?), how the offending spouse initially handles the revelation ( remorseful, repentant and truthful ? Or proud, blameshifting and continuing to deceive?) makes a critical difference in whether there will be reconciliation and to the healing of both the spouses and the relationship. Jami's discovery day was just a few months before mine. The Nato's story mirrors ours very closely. Like Travis and me, they married within 6 months of dating one another. There were actually two affairs, a 6 week separation, and the aw-ful dreaded trickle-truth (when the truth isn't confessed all at once but comes out in stages. This is a terrible hindrance to healing and rebuilding trust). Jami shared how one night their 2 year old son said that he "didn't have a Daddy anymore." Similarly, during the first week of our separation our 4 year son woke up one night screaming, "Where is Daddy?! Where is Daddy?!"  Reading Jami's words is like reading my own journals.

Both Tonya and Jami are really blessing me. I'm about old enough to be their mother but these girls are teaching me some things. I thank God for them. I don't know if there are any other Baby Boomer bloggers out there; I just know I'm grateful to be here. I will write about what I'm learning soon.  #Overcoming

"The one who finds his life will lose it, and the one who loses his life because of Me will find it." Matthew 10:39 (ISV)

"They overcame him because of the Lamb's blood, and because of the word of their testimony. They didn't love their life, even to death." Revelation 12:11 (WEB)

Friday, May 4, 2012

Deconstructing the Scandal

Like many of our contemporaries Travis and I have been following the new TV series Scandal. It is now our standing Thursday in-house date night. The dinner dishes are done. Travis has prayed with the kids and gotten them tucked safely and snugly into their beds. Then the two of us cozy up on the sofa and tune in to what is an intriguing contrivance of twists and turns. We are fascinated…

What is up with her team? The seemingly tormented Huck? Harrison, a former inside trader who seems to also have a audio-genic mind? The mousey Quinn who had no identity before 2008? Stephen? And Abby who brings just the right amount of *off* to complete the crew? Interesting indeed.

And the preview for next week’s show. Oh. My. Goodness. It was titillating (pun intended), complete with a parental advisory warning. Quite provocative stuff…

Now you must know that I am tracking hard with this *romance* between Olivia and the president (small p on purpose). I mean that is the way this thing is being played. We have been led to believe that she and the president have been gettin' it on. I think it was in episode 2 that the president actually told Liv that he loved her. Even tho he had a “fling” with Amanda Tanner, and (not to mention) he is MARRIED. It is Olivia that he really loves. The flotus (his wife) even seems to KNOW that the president has been involved with Olivia but is otherwise disinterested and/or unbothered by this. Wow.

I have had this theory for many years now that everything we do and believe has its roots in some basic, fundamental need of our heart. There is always a “need behind the deed.” Just as our bodies need and crave food and drink, there is a hunger and thirst within every heart, every soul, every life. If I take a physical drink, I was most likely thirsty, although perhaps WHAT I drank was not actually what I was thirsting for or even what my body really needed. This, I think, is one of the biggest challenges of this life, knowing what it is we are really after, what it is we really desire, what our hearts are calling for.

Who’s got the Power? and The reality – and recognition-- of the Counterfeit

A big draw I see in Scandal is the power play between Olivia and others. Liv is larger than life. She is the FIXER. She can make all things right. I mean she has direct access to the president for goodness sake. One time last year when Travis and I were at the movies a line in a trailer tattooed itself onto my psyche. A female character said, “Women get to say if there will be sex. But men get to say if there will be a relationship.” I have thought about the truth of that statement so often. The woman holds the final say on physical intimacy but the man holds the final say over the companionship. I call this the balance of power. Generally speaking men want sex and women want relationship. “He’s got what she wants, she’s got what he wants…” (In the words of the O'Jays, “They were made for each other…”) A man and a woman fit together like parts of a two piece puzzle. It is the essence of our being. An intelligent design. Altho the story is still unfolding, Liv and the president (who is MARRIED- to someone else) seem to make the perfect power team. Their onscreen chemistry is as potent as their positions. Powerful stuff indeed.

The real life problem we face is that since the beginning of time humanity has had to contend with counterfeits. Fake power brokers--- substitutes, imitations, stand-ins, knock offs. All because of a little transaction between a snake (the spoiler) and the first man and woman. You know the story. We had REAL fellowship with our Creator. Intimate, face to face, naked and unashamed, enthralling connection. But we gave it up for a little knowledge (of good and evil). For the chance at becoming imitation gods (Genesis 3:5). We traded our true image bearing lives in for a parody.

Thousands of years later people are still battling to choose between fact and fiction. Truth and lie. Right and wrong. Accuracy and error. We never get a break from this. Every transaction in life has to be assessed and weighed for its truth capacity. Years ago when Travis worked for the Federal Reserve Bank, in order to identify counterfeits he would study REAL bills. You have to know what’s real in order to detect the fake.

Life is so not about having all the answers. It is more about asking the RIGHT questions. Why did Olivia get involved with the president? What is an adulteress/adulterer really after? What is the need behind the deed? Would a president actually risk his own life and the safety of his country for a few minutes with his *forbidden* love? That is the lure (and lie) of adultery. That a person would throw all caution to the wind for a few stolen moments -- that someone would risk everything important to them for a chance to be with you. It is the ULTIMATE counterfeit. Did you catch the look on Liv’s face as she opened the door and found the president of the united states standing at her door? She had to be thinking, “Certainly I must matter if you would do something so extreme. Surely I am important. He really loves me…”

The most profound deception.

We love a love story, especially these kinds of forbidden love stories because deep down we know that love is costly. And that is the point at which we have to be able to discern the hoax. The cost and sacrifice of true love takes the form of honor, integrity, a genuine concern for the welfare of the other, truth, a self-less-ness that brings good. Forbidden (read: counterfeit) love is costly in that it is only concerned for itself-- producing much destruction, devastation and even death. Amanda Tanner is dead. Liv may try to tell herself that Amanda was only the president’s fling, but if he would so easily *do* his Aide, what does that make Liv? She has to ask herself that question. (A friend of a friend on Facebook asked, “Why does Olivia always look like she is ready to throw up?” She does, doesn’t she?) Perhaps she already has. And then she needs to realize that the president loves only himself. The whole purpose of marriage and the true love within it is to establish a relationship that includes the TWO spouses and EXCLUDES everyone else. It’s not love that sustains the commitment; it’s commitment that sustains the love. The president has proven that he is incapable of the pure, sacrificial love that says, “I am committed to only you. I only have eyes for you.” He could change but it is highly unlikely.

The adulterer’s motive – the need behind the deed – is ALWAYS selfish. But here’s the deal: When a woman goes for (or after) another woman’s husband what she is really desiring is her own Husband. (Isaiah 54:5) [Stop. Read the verse and let that last sentence set. ] She may pretend to be a progressive woman, she may even profess to *want* to be the ‘sideline event’ in a married man’s life but I submit to you that she is self-deceived. She has accepted substitute as real. Her heart and soul are crying out for a Man who will give up everything for her. The hu(man) she is using (and being used by) is an imitation. A fake. A phony. A counterfeit. A fantasy.

I think that is one reason we, men and women, are loving Scandal. It is a tale of the desperate heart within each of us. The heart that desires to be loved, cared for and connected to something powerful. It is a testimony to the call of our souls for something (Someone) bigger than this life.

There is a real and true SCANDALOUS Love out there. One Who did give up EVERYTHING to be with us (Philippians 2), One Who has all the Power, a FIXER who makes all things right. Unlike the beautiful, powerful, onscreen lovers Olivia and Fitzpatrick, we had (have) NOTHING to offer Him. And He loved us anyway. He loves us just because. His self-sacrificing love is pure, pleasing, abundant, life-giving, Un-adulterated. There is no fallout of pain and destruction, no need for schemes and deception, when He loves you.

Our minds enjoy the stuff of fairy tales but our hearts are calling for true love. I’m going to keep watching Scandal, unless and until the Lord tells me to stop. I just say, don’t ever settle for the substitutes. Don't get it twisted. May we not be fooled.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Sense and Sensibilities

That is a topic that has been on my mind these days. Hearing. Seeing. Feeling... What to do with these senses of ours? What to do? What to do?

I started another blog last year... I'm not sure exactly why. It felt like the *sensible* thing to do at the time. But I have come to believe that I'm not finished here.
Today is May 1, 2012. One third of the year has been spent. It's been more than a year since I penned anything here. Where does the time go? Anyhow I know I needed to write today. To begin writing again today. There are so many thoughts roaming around in this head of mine. I'll be back.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Woman in the Window

Over the course of the last 20 months since my decovery of my husband's infidelity ( Yes, I am still talking about it), he has been asked a few times, if I have "gotten over it"  (or when I am going to).  Stay with me now...

As a follower of Christ I get to see my life story unfold in the most amazing ways. Last week I heard a psychologist say that people of (true) Christian faith are forgiven but often we are not healed because although we have entered into 1 John 1:9 (confessing our sin to God and being purified of it), we are slow to access the healing that is available from James 5:16 (confessing our sin to one another and praying so that we can be healed).  We don't want to confess our stuff. Oh yes, we want to be forgiven. But because we are not yet secure in our FORGIVEN and WASHED identity, we run from the sins of our pasts ( both those we have committed and those that were committed against us). When we are not anchored in our new identity, (forgiven and washed), we still equate (to consider, treat, or depict as equal or equivalent ) the sin with the sinner. And often the pain is too much to deal with.

I see that it TOTALLY throws some of the people close to our story off that I can continue to speak of my husband's betrayal while simultaneously confessing my deep, enduring, growing and everlasting love for him. It seems that in their minds these two things are incongruent. Some Christians have suggested to me that continuing to talk about the infidelity means I have *not* forgiven my husband. And that I am only fooling myself if I think that I have truly forgiven. They say God forgives us and forgets our sins. So therefore forgiving means forgetting-- never speaking of it again. I've written some about this before and I plan to write again on the subject of forgiveness but for now I want to share a small illustration.

My family likes to watch the Biggest Loser on TV. When you hear about a person's tremendous weight loss what is the first thing you think? I know for me, I want to see a picture. I want to see the before and after. Almost every time I hear of a fantastic weight loss story, the person shows their before picture, a pair of pants, something with which we can see the AMAZING redo and difference in their life. ---My marriage was magnificently restored,-- it was re-freshed, re-vitalized and RE-NEWED. I want everyone I know to have what I have ( i.e., a great marriage-- if they want one). My story of surviving infidelity is like holding up a pair of size 54 pants. It is the "before" picture. It is the point at which my marriage should have died. Infidelity is usually an INSURMOUNTABLE deal-breaker for any marriage. But here I am, tightly bonded to my hubby. We are better than ever, free to love one another and eager to tell our story to whomever might be interested. I continue to hold up my "infidelity" pants not to smear the faces of the people who betrayed me but to show what is possible when you invite God to be the glue of your marriage, ...when you've invited Jesus to be the Lord of your life and invited His Holy Spirit to heal your wounded soul.

I've said before that I have no formal training in anything...  If you're not familiar with it read John 9. Jesus heals a man born blind and then the religious rulers demand information on how the man was healed. The man basically says,  "I don't have the information you want, all I know is that I met a man and He completely HEALED me of my lifelong blindness." Like the blind man, my only credential for sharing with you is that I was healed of the lifelong blindness that fatally effects every human born. I am convinced that so many people are sick, depressed, medicated-- legally and illegally-- oh my goodness and addicted because we are determined to and intent on suppressing (and repressing) things that we need freedom from.

Suppression: To keep from being revealed, published, or circulated; To deliberately exclude (unacceptable desires or thoughts) from the mind

Repression: The unconscious exclusion of painful impulses, desires, or fears from the conscious mind; the activity of managing or exerting control over something; the classical defense mechanism that protects you from impulses or ideas that would cause anxiety by preventing them from becoming conscious

(Yesterday I heard renowned Christian apologist Ravi Zacharias say that scientists have learned that the brain is very fragile. He said they've found that things that are impressed and imprinted upon the brain in our young years will forever haunt us.  He went on to say that it used to be that the average age for a boy to be exposed to pornography was 12 years. He said that number now is 5. FIVE years old. I have a 5 year old. I cannot imagine him or any child his age being exposed to pornography.  Dr. Zacharias said that all the precious things in life require COMMITTMENT and that exposure to porn greatly reduces a man's ability to bond and stay committed to his wife. But that is a topic for another time.)

My point is just that the things that happen to us in our young lives stay with us forever. And I believe that one of the most basic reasons so many of us are not well is because we have failed to deal with our issues -childhood and otherwise. Hear me now. You cannot fix what you won't face. I cannot heal what I won't feel. We are masters of suppression. And it is killing us.

Now there are all kinds of spiritual implications for this. Walking in the light means you are free to let God heal your broken places. But first you have to be willing to admit that you are broken and need help. There is a force among us whose sole purpose is to counterfeit everything God intended for good. Just as our eyes eventually adjust to walking in the darkness, our souls eventually adjust to living with our pain.... to our suppression (repression) of the hurts in our life AND of the truth that is within us as image bearers of our Maker. We will find substitute comforts... but we were made for more.

People who ab-use ( to use abnormally, apart from the way it was intended to be used) sex are in a desperate search for God. I know this. I have no research but I do have the Tshirt. We are looking for a supernatural connection. We are a sex saturated world because we are a people desperate for DIVINE union. (We had this relationship in the very beginning [ Genesis 1] but we lost it.) This HEART need is intrinsic to our design. We hear all the time, "sex sells." Sex is everywhere because in its natural (unrestrained) form it is an imitation, a counterfeit of both the genuine connection that it was intended to be between two COMMITTED (read: married) people and it is a counterfieit of the authentic connection that it was meant to illustrate between the individual and our Maker. (Ephesians 5:22-32) I read somewhere that it's no wonder people often say "Oh God!" "Oh God!" at the moment of culmination! (We are prone to use that phrase in times of utter despair and in times of ecstasy. Why do you suppose that is?) 

In July of 2009, just three short years after the most traumatic event of my life--- finding my 14 year old son strangled dead in his closet--- I discovered that my husband of 18 years and 11 months had been cheating on me. Now this was no ordinary cheating. Not only had there been TWO "affairs," both these affairs were with women I knew. The first woman had been like a sister to both me and my husband for about 4 years previously. I had kept this woman's children, had her in my home, broken bread, and prayed with her. When I learned that there had been an infidelity between the two of them I had something of a seizure. It was just too much for my little heart and mind to comprehend. I have read a mountain of books, online resources, and spoken to others who have endured this and there are just no words for what betrayal does to a person. If you are reading this and have been on the receiving end of it, you know exactly what I am talking about. It is like the worst and most horrific death in your soul only you are still living and the pain in beyond description. It completely demolishes your ability to trust... your spouse, people in general ( why would a person willfully and knowingly do this to you?) and your trust in yourself ( how could I have not known? I thought I knew you.)  Add to this agony the anguish that our culture is uninformed and often, often blames the betrayed spouse for causing the infidelity, alledging that the injured spouse was in some way a defective mate. It is a mortal wound.

Infidelity is the one definite Biblical ground given in the Bible for marriage dissolution. It is the one reason that the Bible explicitly gives as being an acceptable reason for divorcing. I have asked God repeatedly why this is so. I think I have a good understanding of why. But I won't go into that now. I really want to talk about why I stayed.

I think I mentioned before that the love I felt for my husband ( after the intial shock of the revelation) surprised even me. It wasn't a desperate, "please don't leave me," "and I'm telling you I'm not going" kind of love. It was a patient, compassionate, "we belong together but I respect your right to choose" kind of love. One memory is forever etched in my brain. Big T and I were separated for about six weeks after D-day (discovery day). I remember one day, late in the second week of our separation, he had come by our townhouse on the hill to pick something up. We spoke briefly and then he got ready to leave. I went upstairs to our bedroom after I'd said goodbye to him. I stood in our bedroom window longingly watching my husband walk down the sidewalk, down the stairs and then to his truck and I thought to myself, " God, have you allowed me to experience this separation to give me a glimpse of the pain YOU feel when we walk away from Your love?" 

It was a profound moment. From that point on, my agape ( unconditional & undeserved) love for my husband began to grow and grow. It would be a few more weeks before my guy would come to his senses and decide to come home but I was always waiting for him.

I read a piece from my cyber-friend Shellie Warren (Pure Heart) (Shellie Stuff) yesterday where she said so often we chase what we (think we) want at the risk of losing what we need.  My husband sought relief (escape) from the suppressed pain in his life through two adulterous relationships. In the beginning I suppose that seemed like a good idea. In the end it produced much destruction. Listen to me: You don't need a "hook up" to soothe your soul. You need the Healer.

Forgiveness is not forgetting.  We have just entered the Lenten season, ( the 40 days before the commemoration of Resurrection Day).  A dear FB friend recently reminded me that when Jesus returned to earth He returned with His scars. (John 20:19-31) He had been beaten (whipped) and nailed to a cross. And when He made His short return visit back here He returned with His scars (as proof I suppose of what He had endured). My wise FB friend told me that the suicide of our son and infidelity in our marriage are our *scars and stripes*. He said that like Jesus', our scars are meant for other's healing. And that, my friend, is true for all of us.  The hurts and pains in your life are not there to destroy you. ( 2 Corinthians 1:3-7) Hardship is a fact of life. Our parents were imperfect people who are going to mess up. Our siblings, other family members, friends, co-workers, strangers, we are all imperfect people who are going to mess up, dissapoint, neglect, offend, betray, and even sometimes abuse us. We must accept this fact. And then we must accept the truth. The TRUTH ( John 14:6).

Ignoring and repressing our issues, medicating our pain and problems to keep them quiet will enslave us in the darkness and poverty of our own souls. But in the Hands of God, our trials will be made into triumphs. You will be able to hold up your size 54s and tell the story of how you got free! That is what I want you to know.

I imagine God peering thru the window of Heaven longingly waiting and watching  for us to come home to Him. He loves us with a "we belong together but I respect your right to choose" kind of love. Won't you let Him love you?


"Confess to one another therefore your faults (your slips, your false steps, your offenses, your sins) and pray [also] for one another, that you may be healed and restored [to a spiritual tone of mind and heart]. The earnest (heartfelt, continued) prayer of a righteous man makes tremendous power available [dynamic in its working]." James 5:16 (Amp)

"May the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ be blessed! He is the compassionate Father and God of all comfort. 4 He’s the one who comforts us in all our trouble so that we can comfort other people who are in every kind of trouble. We offer the same comfort that we ourselves received from God. 5 That is because we receive so much comfort through Christ in the same way that we share so many of Christ’s sufferings. 6 So if we have trouble, it is to bring you comfort and salvation. If we are comforted, it is to bring you comfort from the experience of endurance while you go through the same sufferings that we also suffer. 7 Our hope for you is certain, because we know that as you are partners in suffering so also you are partners in comfort."  2Corinthians 1:3-7 (CEB)

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Fairy Tales, A Birthday...

(And Hope for Hard Times)

My son Bryant was (is) a special kid… Now I happen to think that ALL kids are special, each in his or her own way. Children are  given  loaned to their parents to nurture, teach, encourage, discipline and prepare so that they are able to make their positive mark on the world.

If only we parents fully understood this. Shortly after Bryant’s suicide, Travis and I saw a grief counselor. His instructions were the same as the flight attendant who informs air passengers in the event of emergency to secure the oxygen mask on yourself before you attempt to help a child or anyone else. The counselor advised us to do everything we could to stabilize ourselves so that we would be able to help our other children process the loss of their brother.

I think this is a good principle for the parent/child relationship in life in general.

It is true that you can’t give what you don’t have. So it follows that a healthy (mentally, emotionally, spiritually, relationally) parent will be best prepared to pass that good health on to their child(ren). An unhealthy parent will not.

(I feel the need to say that there are also no guarantees. There is no absolute formula for success in parenting. Like playing the stock market, there are general guidelines that usually produce a favorable outcome. But there are no guarantees. You can be healthy, do a good job by your children and still have things turn out negatively. I also know of many “success” stories of children who made it, despite having had unhealthy parents and all kinds of terrible odds against them.)

Last night Travis and I read thru the journal I started keeping for Bryant when he was a little boy. Over the years I wrote periodically to him about our life, about his specialness to me and what I hoped his life would be like. (Tears)

I read thru the journal again this morning. Today, on his 19th birthday, 229 weeks (exactly 1604 days), since he left, reading about his life makes me smile. He had a short but wonderful life. In just 14 years he: received the “Daniel Award” in Kindergarten for the boy in the class with the best character; attended Flight Camp and flew a small plane with his instructor; swam/fished in the Chesapeake Bay @ Boys Camp in 2000; cut the Ribbon at the Grand Opening of KIDS Inc.; went to Disney World twice with his grandparents (thanks Mom & Pop Stoves); toured the Nation’s Capital; waded in the Atlantic Ocean; spent a week touring New York City (just a few months before the Towers fell in 2001); observed a bear in the wild in Gatlinburg Tennessee ; built a bird house and model car at Home Depot Kids Workshops; participated in Debate Training and Tournaments; performed in church and community plays; was a talented shooting guard in Basketball; danced in the rain at age 12 --just because he felt like it :D; was the undefeated family champion at Putt Putt Golf; was a fierce UNO, Connect Four, Flinch, Phase 10 and Monopoly player during family game times; was a history buff, especially the Civil War and an avid reader— BRYANT read EVERYTHING, the USA Today, all kinds of books, a favorite title was, “The Watson’s Go to Birmingham” & anything on Greek Mythology; was an accomplished piano student and swimmer; Old School music lover; his 8th grade SAT complete battery score was “Post -High School”; was the #1 Auburn & Indianapolis Colts fan. And last but not the least bit least, all time world record holder for most CHICKEN eaten!

He was bright and funny. He loved life. He had a rich life. We miss him so. Why did he have to leave? Sometimes life seems to make no sense.

One weekend a few months ago my family and I were having a leisurely afternoon in a Books a Million bookstore. I ended up settling comfortably in a chair with a stack of books on one side of the store. Travis took the kids over to the youth section. A few hours later as we were getting into the car to go home, Travis began to tell me about an experience he’d had inside. He was reading and the kids were playing when he noticed a cute little blond headed boy, about 3 years old, playing with our kids. The boy’s dad sat down near Travis and they eventually got talking. The boy’s father, a man in his late 30s asked Travis about the book he was reading. It was a book on faith and they discussed it for a few moments. The man told Travis that he hadn’t been to church in a great while and that he was in quite a difficult spot these days. He shared that he’d lost his corporate job more than a year previously. The wife, also corporately employed, had moved out of their home and they were currently splitting custody of their son. She wanted a divorce. Their family home was in foreclosure. Travis began to talk with him about his (our) own struggles and the faith that has sustained him. He said the man began to cry. Travis encouraged the man, assuring him that God cared. That all was not lost. That our struggles come. to. pass. That he could make it, that he would make it. They finished talking and the stranger gathered his son to leave. Travis said that the man got almost to the door with his boy when he turned, came back and said, “Thank you. You just don’t know. Thank you.”

Just a few days ago I was at a nearby library. I was sitting at a table looking thru a few books. I also had with me the library’s copy of the Bible. There was an older African American man, (I’m guessing mid to late 50s) sitting near me as I was reading and writing. He probably looked older than he was. You know the kind of person who looks like maybe they’ve had a tough time in life. The man was with two boys who were working on the library computers not far from us. One of them looked to be about 12. The other boy was well over 6 feet and looked about 16 or 17. I noticed them because they would periodically come over to the man and their interactions were noticeably respectful…

The boys finished up on the computer and it seemed they were about to leave when the man (their father) saw the Bible near me. He spoke to me saying, “Are you a Christian?” I answered that I “most certainly” was, then he said, “Well I’m trying.” I said, “Brother, you don’t have to try to be a Christian. You just make a decision for Christ and stick with it.” He said it was hard. He began to tell me about his life. He said the factory where he worked had shut down earlier this year. He was separated from his second wife and everything in life seemed to be upside down. I began to share a little of my life, in contrast to my KNOWLEDGE and UNDERSTANDING that God is good no matter what. I told him about Bryant’s death and how life often makes no sense but that God is always God. I told him that God knew about what was going on with him and that God cared. That he just needed to call on Him. (Jeremiah 29:11-13) He shared some more. He and the boys were sleeping in their car. School had started. He was trying to figure how to get them registered without proof of an official residence. He began to cry. Right there in the middle of the library.

People are hurting.

In this country and worldwide. Right next to you in your office or cubicle, in your neighborhood, across the screen on the www, across all socio-economic and cultural lines,...in the library and at the bookstore. I was praying once earlier this year and I began to ask God why there was so much suffering in this world? His response came quickly and clearly. He said, Sharmayn, I made this world and filled it with goodness, with everything you would need to have a good life. Then I put you (mankind) in charge. Most of the problems the world is facing are not because I don’t care. They are because YOU (mankind) don’t care.” (Genesis 1)

Travis met a woman at work last week. She, her husband and three children are career international missionaries. They have just returned here for a 6 month sabbatical from some part of Russia. Travis told me she said they had been on this last assignment for 7 years. She said that in all that time NOT ONE PERSON accepted faith in Christ. NOT ONE. She said that there is such a heavy “darkness” – a resistance to the things of God – there that even the young children are permitted to regularly view pornography. (I will surely be discussing that on another post.) This family has worked faithfully to try to help, regardless of the outcome. They are living for something more than personal happiness and satisfaction.

I have said before that we are not here for what we can get. We are here for what we can give. I think one of the reasons our country has experienced this economic slump and national hardship is to remind us of this truth. Somehow we decided that life was all about getting stuff.  When in truth and actuality, life is really all about our SOURCE-- and not our resources. All our stuff-- our ability to produce, acquire, store and maintain stuff, is an unsure foundation upon which to build a life or place our trust. Here today, maybe gone tomorrow. If all my hope is in my job, my bank balance or financial portfolio, (or even my earthly relationships) the stuff I can put my hands on, what happens when Bernie Madoff has made off with all my money? Or my job is gone? When my marriage ends? Or my child is gone?

This time last year when I was apart from my husband, I was praying and asking God to fix our mess, to give Travis a change of heart and bring him home to his family. I felt God say, “My Daughter, I have heard your prayers. I allowed Travis to explore what he thought might be the answer to his troubles, I allowed all this to bring him to the end of himself. I permitted him to fall (and fail) so that he would have to put down his idol-- his ego and pride... his foolish attempts to make and find his own way. He tried to make you his god. When you failed, as you surely would, he decided that he would be his own god. Now My child, you are not to take up that idol and attempt to make Travis your god. I know that you love him and want him to come home. But  I Am the Only One you can’t live without.

Too often we have believed the fairy tale of life. That there really is such a thing as an American Dream. And that it is ours to be had.  That we should have it. A perfect family, a white picket fence, a dog and not a trouble in the world. It is the stuff of make believe.

The things we see have been made from what is unseen. (2 Corinthians 2:14; Colossians 1:15-16) The unseen things of life are MORE REAL than the seen. The Bible says that we should “walk by faith and not by sight.” (2 Corinthians 5:7) That just means that we are able to recognize the difference between the facts and the truth. There is a big difference between the two, you must know. Jesus said, “In this world you will have tribulation” (fact), He goes on to say “But take heart (be of good cheer), I have overcome the world.” (truth) (John 16:33)

Four years ago when my son died, I had to have something deep and real to anchor to. Or it would have been too much to bear. Last year, when my life was again blown apart, there had to be something – SOMEONE – to believe in, a TRUE King who COULD put humpty dumpty together again.

Life is hard. But I am a witness that God is AWESOMELY GOOD. Come what may, Jesus is the only one I can’t live without. He is real. He wasn’t just a good man. He was fully man and fully God. (Philppians 2:5-11) His Spirit (RUACH) is my comfort always. May He be yours as well.

Happy 19th Birthday to my sweet baby, Bryant Colin Stoves! Looking forward to seeing you again one day soon!


“ Comfort, yes, comfort My people, says your God.” Isaiah 40:1

“ Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort; Who comforts us in all our tribulation that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” 2 Corinthians 1: 3-4 (NKJV)

“All praise to the God and Father of our Master, Jesus, the Messiah! Father of all mercy! God of all healing counsel! He comes alongside us when we go through hard times, and before you know it He brings us alongside someone else who is going through hard times so that that we can be there for that person just as God was there for us.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 (Message Version)

"So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal" (2 Corinthians 4:18).