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)