I’ve had a week of soul searching. Of examining the cobwebby crevices of my heart. I am tired now. Genuinely evaluating my emotions, attitudes and beliefs often brings me unsettling answers that don’t comfortably agree with the reality I have created for myself. Staring at my own unhealthy and sinful behaviours is deflating. It requires change of me. More healing. Growth. Effort. Energy. Exhaustion.
It began at my Life group meeting last week. We are currently studying a book called The Bait of Satan by John Bevere which deals with offense, the pain of betrayal, and the effects of unforgiveness. Leading myself and the other women through these lessons has been challenging. There have been some really tough issues for all of us to tackle.
This week I entered the wrestling ring. Shaking my understanding of where in the process of forgiveness I stand with my husband. Doubting my certainty that I have forgiven him for the deep pain his pornography addiction, intimacy anorexia, emotional abuse, and sexual betrayal and rejection have inflicted upon me, our marriage and our children.
I have received and claimed an unexplainable forgiveness over these past wounds. A release and fading of the painful memories. The past pummeling just doesn’t matter anymore. I very seldom return to those times, because although they have contributed significantly to the woman I am, they don’t define me. And they don’t define my husband either. We are a couple recovering from his sex addiction, not living in the throes of it.
The lesson asked four questions warning of the possibility that I may still be harbouring unforgiveness in my heart. Even through a stubborn insistence that forgiveness has been extended.
- Why am I compelled to tell my side of the story?
- How can I fight thoughts of suspicion or distrust?
- What can I do to stop rehearsing past hurts?
- How can I regain trust after someone deeply offends me?
These are warning signs. None of them, or even all together, indicate the presence of unforgiveness, merely the possibility. As I answered these questions as honestly as I could, it was number three that pinged at my heart. What can I do to stop rehearsing past hurts? Rehearsing past hurts. Rehearsing. Past. Hurts.
But I don’t really think I am rehearsing past hurts. The hurts I am revisiting are current. From the last few years of our marriage. Not the first twenty five. I have extended grace and forgiveness to both of us for our inability to comprehend the depth of sexual betrayal and destruction we were allowing and inviting into our home before D-Day and recovery.
But now. I have an entirely different set of expectations and boundaries. We both know now what we didn’t know then. The healing process, the journey, is filled with intentional decisions. And when many of the choices my husband makes now to avoid communication and sexual intimacy continues to hurt me, it is a new pain. A fresh gash running alongside the scab. My tears are for today, not for yesterday.
Perhaps there is unforgiveness mingled in with my disappointment and discouragement at what remains broken. At what is being withheld from me. It’s more about what is than what was. With healing, effort, and intentionality I can release the hurts of the past. I have. Forgiveness towards my husband has flowed relatively easily for me.
Forgiveness doesn’t spring from my heart as readily when the stinging blows of rejection keep coming. Even with all the recovery tools and resources I have gained and utilized to heal from his addiction. Even with a deeper understanding of what forgiveness is.
I’m not refusing to forgive my husband. He is just as deserving and worthy of forgiveness and mercy as I am. I’m not waiting for a magical moment, for that something to happen, or those words to be spoken before I release my feelings of resentment. I’m just recognizing that forgiveness is not a one time occurrence. It is a deliberate decision that I need to make daily because new offenses will come. They just will. Perfection is not attainable for any human.
And so I ask myself:
Have I forgiven my husband for the devastation his sex addiction and intimacy anorexia inflicted upon me for the first twenty five years of our marriage? I believe I have.
Do I still hold unforgiveness in my heart for the remaining fractures and new bruises? I reluctantly admit that I do.
Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Psalm 51:10