Tag Archive | church

No, I Didn’t Bring a Pot of Soup

I made a church lady gasp in disbelief. And I admit I liked it. Occasionally, I wonder if I should be confessing a sin for delighting in her astonishment and discomfort. Three years later, I still giggle in amusement at our encounter. It was a significant moment in my fledgling recovery and journey to wholeness that I gleefully celebrate.  Because sometimes setting boundaries and saying “No” with a church lady can be just as daunting as with a husband addicted to pornography.

Three months into our recoveries from my husband’s sex addiction and intimacy anorexia, our church’s youth group held a soup and pie fundraising luncheon. Every year, I dutifully supplied my contribution to the event. One year, I brought a pot of chili and called it chili soup. I have never been mistaken for a soup connoisseur, but I was always obliging.

But this year was different. All my energy was being consumed by my efforts to claw my way through the devastating effects of sexual betrayal trauma. Knowing that I would be anxious all week about whether I could classify chili as soup again, or if I needed to recklessly attempt an unproven recipe, or when I would have time to hastily create a culinary masterpiece, added a stress and burden that needlessly overwhelmed me. I decided to be kind to myself and forego bringing anything but myself to the lunch. I was learning and practicing self care.

That Sunday after the church service, as we waited for lunch to begin, I was provided with my next opportunity to practice the skills I was gaining through my recovery program.

Resulting from a life time of low self esteem, it was always my natural inclination to silently blend into the setting around me attracting as little attention as possible. Avoiding eye contact was essential, lest it seem like an invitation to acknowledge my presence and commence an awkward conversation. And yet, somehow that day, I saw The Church Lady approaching and I could not hide or stop the dread and unease from forming.

She probably said hello, and engaged in small chit chat, but all I remember is the alarming question: “What did you bring?”

“Nothing.” I replied.

My answer clearly confused The Church Lady. She looked at me incredulously, and then asked me again, (in case I didn’t hear her properly?), “You didn’t bring anything?!?”

So, I said again, “Yes, nothing.”

And then she waited expectantly for me to say more. To explain my negligence to her. I didn’t. I watched her squirm a little. I wish I could say I wasn’t squirming too, but I was. I had never opposed a church lady before. I was proud of myself for not offering a lame excuse.

At the time, I was certainly not going to tell her the real reason. But afterwards, my amusement grew at what might have happened if I had.

“Well, I didn’t make any soup because:

I am trying to navigate through the aftermath of my husband’s sex addiction.

All my time and energy is being used to heal my shattered heart and broken marriage.

I have no appetite to eat, so cooking food would just upset me and make me nauseous.

I can’t sleep at night, so getting dressed and going to work is my day’s accomplishment.

I thought the addition of my tears to the broth might make the soup too salty.”

And then I imagine God standing behind The Church Lady laughing and giving me a wink. I know, I just know, that my Abba Daddy delights in the stretching, growing and healing we are doing together. In all my relationships. In all areas of my life. Healing and wholeness reaches far beyond the confines of my marriage and home.

What may seem like the tiniest of baby steps, or not even a step at all, was actually a risky, giant leap over the gaping pit of my insecurities, fears, and feelings of worthlessness. I celebrate that on that day, I glimpsed myself through God’s eyes and I was enough just as I was. No matter what measuring stick I, or anyone else held. It was a victory for me to be able to sit and be still in my season of rest and healing, and ignore the outside clanging trying to distract me from my purpose. From God’s purpose.

Self care and extending grace and kindness to ourselves is essential to mending a wounded heart. As lovely and refreshing as gifting ourselves a pedicure, bubble bath or flowers can be, self care goes deeper than that. Self care is setting boundaries to protect and guard our heart and mind. It is learning to say “No” to others, and to ourselves. It is learning that “No” is a complete sentence and requires no justification or explanation. Self care is listening to that still, small voice that prioritizes how, and with whom, you will share the limited and valuable resource of your time. For me, that changes from day to day, and from week to week.

I am gaining the ability, and granting myself permission, to acknowledge and accept my limitations at any given time. Finding a balance is healthy, not selfish. One time I might say, “No, I cannot bring a pot of soup.” Other times I offer an alternative that will work for me, “But I could pick up some buns.” And sometimes I say, “Yes, I would love to help in that way.” Regardless of what my answer is, it has become an intentional decision which frees my heart from anxiety, bitterness, resentment and the stealing of my peace and joy.

I choose to celebrate every baby step. Every accomplishment and act of courage. They have all added up and joined to become beautiful stepping stones on my winding path to healing and recovery.

For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline. 2 Timothy 1:7

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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

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

How to Tell

My mom was careful to hurt me in ways that did not show.  During those years we attended church three times a week.  We sat on our pew with clean clothes, neatly combed hair, and Sunday morning smiles.  Mom was an enthusiastic Sunday school teacher.  She was eccentric, but accepted.I was surprised when one day she made a mistake.  She hurt me in a way that was as plain as the nose on my face.  One day, in a fit of rage, she pinned me down and rubbed all the skin off my nose and cheeks.  The wound was large and the wound was obvious.  They could Tell.The long looks I took in the mirror removed any lingering doubt.  Someone would notice.  Someone would ask.  That knowledge filled me with an indescribably twisted mixture of hope and terror.We went to church as usual and of course we pretended my wound wasn’t there.  And like the emperor’s new clothes, when we pretended, everyone else did too.  Everyone pretended except for my youth minister.  I’ll call him John.John pestered me about my nose.  He ignored all my brush-offs and dodged all my lies.  He told me it didn’t look like I fell.  He told me bumping into a door couldn’t possibly do that.  He told me he wanted to know.  He wanted the truth.  He begged me to tell him.So for the first time in my life, I Told.  I Told everything.  John inhaled with a short, swift breath.  Then he was quiet for a long time.  A look of curiosity flashed across his face, then confusion, and finally he smiled.”Good”, he said.  “You probably deserved it!” When John walked away that day I made one of the biggest mistakes of my life.  I Believed him.  More than two decades passed before I ever Told again.