Tag Archive | Christianity

Breaking Bread and Broken Hearts – The Morning After

Our first communion together. After 25 years and 6 days of marriage. Four days after my husband’s salvation. And less than 24 hours after shared disclosures of our sexual history, sin and betrayals.

The day before, I heard details of my husband’s sex and porn addiction behaviours. He was blindsided with the stinging news that his wife (that would be me) had an affair many years earlier.

The morning after had arrived. In the two months that my husband had regularly been attending church with me, we often left home separately, as he served on the worship team and needed to be at church early for practice. This Sunday was different. There were guests leading the worship service. He would be operating the sound system but had set it up the evening before. In God’s grand design, we drove to church together. Raw. Quiet. Each of us immersed in our own unrelenting pain. Separate yet united.

We walked into the sanctuary. He headed for the sound station. I sat with a friend. Disappointment weighed heavily on my heart that we were not able to sit together as a couple for our first communion.

The immensity and weariness of our brokenness kept me from singing. My heart was breaking that even here at church, circumstances and seating arrangements were disconnecting us on a very special occasion.

I decided that once I had received my bread and wine (or rather grape juice and cracker) I would go and stand beside my husband at the sound station. There was enough division in our marriage. This would not be another time.  God’s sanctification and redemption was for us to claim.

I was too late. A movement beside me. I looked up and there he was, joining me on my pew! He said we had to be together for his first communion. It was a bittersweet moment. The joy of partaking in our first communion together was covered with an overwhelming sadness. We could not move. Or sing. Or pray and reflect. My husband had his arm around me. I had my head tucked in his shoulder. And we just cried together. Walking to the front of the church for prayer was not a possibility. The weight of our pain immobilized us. Our pastor came to us. Never before or since have I seen him approach anyone seated in their pew for prayer. Nothing was ordinary about that day. After a bit, my husband went back to work the sound system. The rest of the service was a blur. Except for the words of one worship song that resonated deep within me:

The sun comes up, it’s a new day dawning

It’s time to sing Your song again

Whatever may pass and whatever lies before me

Let me be singing when the evening comes.

(10,000 Reasons)

The morning after the most difficult day of our marriage, with the day stretching darkly ahead of us, these words brought me a glimmer of hope and light. The sun had come up. And nothing would ever be the same again. We were both now fully aware of all the “whatevers” that had combined to ravage our hearts and marriage. The devastating effects of sexual sin and betrayal were very much our present. And would be daily for a long time to come. But the actions and behaviours were in the past. It was the “whatever” lying before me that remained unclear. And yet it wasn’t. Unknown where the details and timing of God’s plan to rebuild our lives and marriage. Known was the commitment to the process I felt during the communion service from all three of the components in the trinity of my marriage – God, husband and wife.

God gathered a broken man and woman to Him that morning. In the brilliant setting of a communion service. Where we were called to remember the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ as He bled and died on the cross for me. For my husband. For every one of us. Where extravagant love and overwhelming sorrow were forever united at Calvary so they could one day join us on our church pew. Cleansing. Purifying. Transforming. I am forever humbled and grateful.

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. Lamentations 3:22,23

Advertisements

Sometimes “Happy” Anniversary Isn’t

Two very special friends from my recovery group for partners of sex addicts had wedding anniversaries this weekend. I first wrote the word “celebrated” but replaced it with “had.” Because although one was a celebration, the other, not so much. And I can’t stop thinking about the transformation that has occurred in my marriage from the not so much to the celebration.

The first friend wrote in an email “We have plans to celebrate our anniversary this weekend.” Even included a smiley face. I responded with “Happy Anniversary! The best part is that it really is happy, isn’t it?! A joy and gratitude filled celebration.”

I learned of my other friend’s anniversary via my Facebook newsfeed. As I scanned the messages of “Happy Anniversary to a wonderful couple!” my heart sank. My first reaction was “Uh-oh.” Because I know, oh, I know, the sting of those words that do not always bring joy. I knew in this instance, that as they had for me, each proclamation would be a poke and twist into the wound of unhappy days behind and uncertain days ahead.

My wedding anniversary became a mocking reminder of just how long I had been mistreated, neglected, unloved, in pain. With every congratulatory acknowledgement I received over the years came the assumption that I had a happy marriage. Or that I would at least have a happy time celebrating it for one day. I failed at both.

Anniversary cards would come in the mail from our parents and church. Some years I opened them and left them out for my husband to see. They might garner a quick glance. Or a snicker at the corniness. Nothing more. No sweet sentiments for my starved soul from him. Other times I would open a card, hold back tears and throw it in the garbage. The words inside too hurtful and so far away from my reality that they didn’t have a place in my home.

For our tenth wedding anniversary, I received a commemorative Precious Moments plate from my parents. It made me cry. As a teenager growing up in the eighties, my bedroom was filled with Precious Moments figurines, many received as gifts on special occasions. This is what my mother thought she was doing now. It should have been a perfect gift, but instead it was so very wrong for my wounded heart. I kept it for another seventeen years. This spring I threw it away along with the painful memories it generated.

My parents and in-laws were the only people who celebrated our anniversary over the years. Not the husband and wife within the marriage. It was another bitter rejection that my husband was not willing to sacrifice one evening of his year to spend with me. The one day, that maybe, just maybe, he would choose to be with me rather than the television or computer or his fantasy world. It seldom happened. Once or twice if there was something he wanted to do. We went to a movie once that he wanted to see. Cast Away. I remember because we don’t go to movies together. There is no theater in our town. It requires a drive to the city. Which would also require spending three hours with me in a vehicle. As it also happens, there are no decent restaurants in our town. Going out for dinner was never an option in his mind. The food choices seemed to be more important than the company (me). It didn’t take long for my mind to make the connection that I was not worth his time.

Less than two months into our recovery for his sex addiction, our 25th wedding anniversary occurred. A momentous milestone with every possible conflicting emotion attached to it. The week before, I mustered up the courage to tell my husband that I wanted to go out for supper. We would have a date for our anniversary, and I would pick the restaurant. He agreed. Now that I had dared to communicate my need, panic set in. My mind was spinning with choosing the “right” restaurant. I was still wary of his disapproval in my selection and trying to find the balance of keeping him happy while staying true to my newfound desire to use my squeaky little voice. And honestly, I knew he wouldn’t want to drive a long distance for our date, but I wasn’t sure that I wanted to spend that much time in a vehicle together either. Supper conversation would bring us enough unease for the evening. I researched restaurants and menus in nearby towns. I hummed and I hawed. But I didn’t discuss it with him. As challenging as it was, it was very important to my recovery (and in retrospect his) that this decision be mine, not his.

We observed our 25th wedding anniversary together. Celebrated would not be quite the right word. It was not a light, party atmosphere in our section of the restaurant. We were both self conscious and uncomfortable. Conversation was awkward, tentative, but very polite. As an added bonus, we were keenly aware that less than a week later we would be sitting in our counsellor’s office hearing his disclosure. And what I also knew was that he was about to be blindsided by mine.

The pain between us was palpable that evening. We shared it. Each of us holding more secrets in our hearts that would soon be exposed. Each of us searching for hope in each other’s eyes.

We have returned to that same restaurant now to celebrate our 26th and 27th wedding anniversaries. It is never too late for a bride and groom to begin new traditions.

Maybe that evening was a celebration. Maybe God was looking at us with a twinkle in His eye. A smile on His face that His plan for redemption was in motion. Because it was. It most definitely was.

He has taken me to the banquet hall, and His banner over me is love. Song of Songs 2:4

Sundogs and Rainbows – or When God Sends a Hug and a Promise

I’m going to let you in on a little secret. God sends me rainbows. I’m not kidding. Or imagining things. Rainbows have shown up too many times, at just the right moment when my heart needed reassurance of God’s care and presence in a situation for them to be a coincidence. Sure, rainbows have randomly occurred on days that are just any other days for me. And then I can smile at how marvellously God has designed every aspect of creation for our delight. There is always a message in the beauty of creation for my heart to receive.

And then one day I received a sundog. Disclaimer that this is not scientifically correct, but the most understandable way to describe a sundog if you haven’t seen one would be that it is a rainbow on either side of the sun that is formed in cold weather by ice crystals. Winter’s rainbow.

And so it was, that frosty January afternoon as our truck left town and turned onto the highway, a brilliant sundog appeared ahead of us. This was only a few days after hearing the words from my husband “I am a sex addict.” The reason we were unaccustomedly in a vehicle together going to the city, or anywhere for that matter, was for individual counselling appointments with a sex addictions recovery therapist. My first. His second.

The atmosphere inside the truck was as heavy and still as the frigid air outside. But we were together. And that meant something. Especially when I looked up and saw the sundog. God’s hug in that moment. For me. God’s promise that He was with me holding my hand on this journey He was setting before me. The unmistakable sign that I was not alone. That whatever may or may not happen, God was with me. I would be okay.

God has signs all around us all the time. Some are obvious. Others we don’t recognize for what they are. But the miracles and wonders are there. I call these “God moments.” A friend describes them as “God-incidences.” God knows exactly what will speak words of comfort, peace, strength, courage and hope to my soul and to yours. He knows what will make each of our hearts smile when we need it most. A hummingbird, a smile from a stranger, a flower growing in an unexpected place, a meaningful compliment, a starry night……. a sundog on a desperation filled day.

Did the knot in my stomach untangle? No. Did the lump in my throat disappear? No. But the warmth of God’s embrace allowed me to take a deep breath, look heavenward, and thank God for the inevitable and much needed change that was beginning in my life. And as an added blessing, He brought my husband along for the ride too.

For I am the Lord , your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear, I will help you. Isaiah 41:13

I Gave God an Ultimatum

I gave God an ultimatum. Not sure if that is an okay thing to do, but I did it, and I am still here to write about it. I know it is more than okay to bring God our messy dirty selves. He can handle the anger, confusion and anguish we throw at Him. As the Psalms show, King David did it frequently, and he was a man after God’s own heart. But to be theologically correct, I don’t know if David actually gave God an ultimatum. A tantrum or two for sure. But I would like to think that wasn’t what I was doing.

I wept. Well, more like blubbered. And I am not a crier, so the depth of my grief manifesting in ugly sobs was a betrayal that bewildered me. It was not a pretty sight. Or sound. But it was just me and God and He was okay with that. He was the One who broke me after all. Often that is what God needs to do before we are able to admit defeat and run into His outstretched arms. When He says, “Finally. I have been waiting for you to come.”

The garbage I threw at God was my marriage. I “let it go” before I even began a formal recovery process and acquired a new vocabulary. No one had to tell me to let it go and give it to God. I didn’t want it. I didn’t want my marriage as it was. I didn’t want my husband as he was. I was done with it all.

I clearly remember the words I used that day. “God, you know the desire of my heart is to have a godly, Christian husband. And I don’t know what that means right now. If this marriage has to end for that to happen, so be it. Otherwise take my husband and do something with him. I can’t do this anymore.”

God chose to take my husband and do something with him.

Although I was a Christian, my husband was not. Therefore, not only would God have to heal him from his sex addiction and intimacy anorexia, He would have to lead him to repentance and transform his heart. God would be required to break my husband and build a brand new man. That would be a mighty big task.

As God would have it, the Sunday following our first counselling sessions, a group of young men from Teen Challenge were taking over the church service. Teen Challenge is a God centered recovery program for people with substance abuse and addictions. They had been to our church previously, so I knew it would be a time of powerful testimony and authentic worship.

I invited my husband to come to church with me that morning. He did. We talked a little about the service but not much. We were both too immersed in our own pain of the early days of recovery to have the energy or desire for conversation. However, God used the vulnerability and rawness of these men to speak deeply to my heart. And apparently to my husband’s as well. To my surprise, he emerged from the bedroom well before his usual time the following Sunday morning. When I asked him what he was doing, he said he was coming to church with me. I hadn’t invited him, so I wasn’t quite sure what to make of this development. I was curious and skeptical of his intentions, but we went to church together again. And then again. And then again.

My husband, a gifted musician, was welcomed onto the worship team. An extraordinary outreach from our church body to include a non-Christian in this role. God just kept laying down stepping stone after stepping stone for my husband. This should have made me happy, but I was still too numb to care and appreciate the miracle that was unfolding right before my eyes.

Two months into recovery, knowing nothing of our marriage crisis, our son, a campus missionary, brought a team of students to our town for a ministry weekend at our church. Our house was home base for the team, with several staying here. Being surrounded by passionate God loving young adults and witnessing them living out their faith all weekend, my husband experienced an outpouring of God’s love. It culminated in Sunday morning’s service as God broke him and he fell weeping into the arms of our pastor and our son.

This is an amazing testimony of how God answered the prayers of our son for his father’s salvation.

It was not a happily ever after moment for me. I was emotionally disconnected from the scene playing out in front of me. It could have been anyone at the altar. I watched numbly, feeling near, but very far away. Cautious. Guarded. My heart just didn’t know what this meant. I didn’t know what I wanted it to mean. Sure, I had prayed for God to do something with my husband, but I wasn’t sure that this is what I wanted Him to do. I was getting an answer that I was afraid to hear and that troubled me.

What continued to distress me was the numerous people who approached me to encourage and celebrate with me in how my prayers for my husband’s salvation “all these years” had been answered. I tried my best to smile and nod while my heart screamed. Firstly, I did not pray for my husband all those years. I didn’t care enough anymore to do that. Secondly, his salvation did not make everything okay. I was still broken. Certainly these people were unaware of his addiction, but there was an assumption that now everything in my world was right. And I still didn’t know if it ever would be.

My husband’s salvation story is bittersweet. It has been two years and three months now. His behaviour is believable. He is a new creation. It is real.

For my husband and hero: And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart. Ezekiel 36:26

For you and me: In my distress I called to the Lord, and He answered me. From the depths of the grave I called for help and you listened to my cry. Jonah 2:2