Tag Archive | hope

Hope and Contentment Collide

I want my hope back after all.  Once again, God has shown up to give me a kick in the butt. Good thing He is God, or His foot would be awfully sore by now considering how many times He has had to forcefully propel me out of my comfort zone because I willfully chose to ignore the gentle nudges.

As I was whining to my mentor and friend about my discouragement and the seeming hopelessness of building mutually fulfilling sexual intimacy in a once sexless marriage ravaged by porn addiction, emotional abuse and infidelity, I said to her, “I sound like a broken record, don’t I?” The slight pause on the other end of the phone was answer enough. Which was the honest response I needed.

One of my personal flaws and weaknesses is my impatience and frustration with broken records. I am passionate about the healing wonders of recovery and of God. The two together fill me with awe. And so I confess, that when I think the answer to someone’s dilemma is apparent, and yet they remain immobilized, it tends to exasperate me.

My lungs deflated and my heart sank as I humbly realized that I was my own irritant. That motivated self reflection. And that led to the recognition that up until now, I had fully embraced my own personal recovery from sexual betrayal trauma and my own adultery. I had actively pursued and utilized many resources and materials available to partners of sex addicts: counselling, a recovery support group, workbooks, a 12 step program. I was intentional in separating my ability to heal and grow personally and spiritually from my husband’s recovery. And yet, now I was waiting for him to bring me the healing of our sexual intimacy.

Of course, healing a sexual relationship does need to involve two people. And it’s not as if I did nothing at all in the last three years to mend my own broken sexuality. I have read many great books and blogs and worked through exercises both on my own and together with my husband. I even branched out from my sexual addictions recovery counsellor and had a couple of sessions with a Christian sex therapist. But then I somehow determined that there was nothing else I could do. That things were out of my control now and I just needed to learn to be thankful and content, accepting the level of intimacy we had managed to build. Stop wanting and expecting more. Being satisfied with less.

And then I read this, from The Sacred Romance by Brent Curtis and John Eldredge: “Sadly, many of us have been led to feel that somehow we ought to want less, not more. We have this sense that we should atone for our longings, apologize that we feel such deep desire. Shouldn’t we be more content? Perhaps, but contentment is never wanting less; that’s the easy way out. Anybody can look holy if she’s killed her heart; the real test is to have your heart burning within you and have the patience to enjoy what there is now to enjoy, while waiting with eager anticipation for the feast to come.” This excerpt was taken from a book about drawing closer to the heart of God, not a marriage partner, and undoubtedly the intention of the authors was not to reignite my sex life or anyone else’s. But still, the parallels struck me deeply. And really God can, and does, use anything to get our attention. The fact that I was reading this page, in this book that had been sitting on my bookshelf untouched for months, the same week I was struggling with the definition of hope and contentment, well, that was a God-incidence.

And then God began to fill my heart with conviction and courage. A new strength and boldness is growing within me. And I am letting it. In answer to my prayer the week before for clarity and a vision for our present and future sexual intimacy, God is preparing me to find out.

This is a catalyst of sorts. Change is about to happen. One way or the other. My sexual needs and desires do matter. And I’m going for it. Accepting the challenge to begin expressing myself sexually and more openly in the bedroom. I’m giving myself another pep talk here.

One of two things will happen. We will receive an encouraging promise of freedom from the joint fears, insecurities, and inhibitions that have remained an unwelcome third party in our lovemaking. Or we will panic, stumble and be forced to address the elephant in our bed that just pushed us out and onto the floor. Either way is a breakthrough from the bondage currently entrapping us.

I anticipate a win-win situation. Now I just need patience while I wait for my miracle.

Being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:6

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My Fight to Reclaim Sexual Intimacy from Porn

Last week I prayed for God to take my hope away. I was walking down the street, chatting with Him when it happened. It wasn’t one of those times when my eyes were blinded by tears and I was in danger of walking into parked cars or falling into a ditch. When the words silently appeared on my tongue, I wasn’t expecting them. It wasn’t a total surprise as I had been struggling to hold onto hope for awhile. And yet I wasn’t in a place of desperation or undue distress. Mostly my heart was weary of waiting.

I tasted the words for a few moments. Unsure of whether to allow them to remain or to quickly retract them. I felt a twinge of guilt, and perhaps hypocrisy, at the realization that I love to offer hope, encouragement and support to others, particularly women healing from the devastation of sexual betrayal trauma and abuse. And yet I was ready to give up.

I allowed my prayer to linger on hold a bit longer. And then I decided it could stay. Which interrupted my conversation with God as my spirit tried to make sense of what to do or say next. I felt sadness, but also relief. In my mind, if hope was removed from my heart, it was possible that the disappointment, discouragement and anxiety woven through it would also leave. I imagined that once hope was eliminated that would also take care of the longing in my heart for more.  The possibility of contentment and fulfillment was within my reach if I could just lower my expectations, be grateful for what I currently had, and just let whatever would be, be.

And by “whatever” I mean sexual intimacy. There I said it. It is hard for me to say. It is still challenging for me to admit that it matters so much to me. That my soul aches for a physical, emotional and spiritual connection with my husband. That my sexual desires and needs continue to hurt me and bring me shame. That my broken sexuality may never be satisfactorily healed. That I may never know what is supposedly so amazing about sex.

I’ve heard and read that sex is fabulous, blissful, rapturous, fun and even sacred. But I’ve never experienced that. Or maybe I have, and I just don’t know it. I wonder about that sometimes. If sexual ecstasy and fulfillment is just a product being expertly sold and I am expecting an outcome beyond its capability. Consequently, when I open the packaging, my unrealistic expectations inevitably lead to disappointment and frustration. Just like the marvellous kitchen gadgets on The Shopping Channel. Too good to be true. So you put it back in the box and place it in the corner of the basement with the shadows and spiders.

The only problem with that scenario is that I can’t reasonably return my sexuality to the stifling darkness it emerged from three years ago when I began healing and recovering from the soul crushing effects of my husband’s porn addiction and intimacy anorexia. There are times that I want to return to the safety of our previously sexless marriage. Where there is comfort in the anguish I know and not have to learn and adapt to a new pain. But with the recovery both my husband and I have made, and the incredible healing in other areas of our marriage, suppressing the fact that I was created and designed by God to be a sexual being just isn’t possible.

And really, I don’t want to. Most of the time I deeply desire the emotional, spiritual and physical intimacy of sex with the man I love and married. I yearn for a one flesh union with our bodies and our hearts. And because of that, there is a battle in my mind and a conflict in my soul between the longing for something I so desperately want, and the despair of believing it is unattainable.

Sexual intimacy is a gift uniquely designed by God for marriage with the intention of bonding a husband and wife to each other. And like any gift, neither I, or anyone else, is entitled to it. Our sexuality and intimacy has been reclaimed from the clutches of pornography and infidelity. But that is not the same as restoring it. It is somehow caught in the land of in between. No longer there, but not quite here. Just like resignedly biding time in an airport terminal. It makes no difference what city you are in, or even if you are coming or going. The journey started, and although you have a destination, you aren’t on the plane.

A few days ago, I prayed again. But not for hope. Rather for a vision and clarity of what is, could be, and never will be.  An acceptance, I suppose, of the amount of time and effort to put into nurturing and building a sexual relationship that perhaps has a limited distance. If my destination is further abroad, I want to enthusiastically run for the boarding gate tightly gripping my husband’s hand. But if my ticket is for right here, I need to find joy and contentment in the place I am, where we are together, and not resentfully and enviously look out the window at where the other couples are landing.

My husband is my gift from God. Freedom from his addiction an abundant blessing to both of us. My healing an unimaginable testament to God’s grace and power. The love, laughter, and joy of our rebuilt marriage a miracle.

My heart rejoices in God’s glory. Again and again throughout this journey to wholeness. I don’t want to lose sight of my numerous miracles because of the one that hasn’t happened. Yet.

Maybe I do want my hope back after all.

I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. John 10:10

Counselling – Three’s a Crowd

I am responsible for healing my pain. I am not responsible for the pain my husband and his sex addiction inflicted on me.

He loaded the gun, pulled the trigger, and fired the poisonous bullet that ripped through my body. Leaving shattered fragments of myself along its path. Lodging the shards in the very center of my being. Infecting me.

He caused the damage. Allowing him to poke and prod at my wounds to “help” me would only compound the injury. He cannot fix me. Only I can do that. But I am wise enough to know I can’t retrieve the bullet on my own. That job is for someone who knows what they are doing. Which is not me, and certainly not my husband. This requires professional help.

This is where it may get tricky. One size fits all counselling does not exist. It may take time to find the right therapist. It did for me. This is very frustrating in a crisis situation. But don’t give up on all therapy because of a disappointing encounter. The bullet may be twisted and pushed in deeper, but it still needs to be removed.

I began therapy with a female Christian counsellor. I thought I would be most comfortable with my own gender. I also felt safer with someone I trusted to have similar beliefs and values as my own. I did not particularly trust a male therapist to know how to care for my heart.

This assumption was a mistake. I learned from it and moved on after three visits. Turns out she left an abusive marriage. Told me there was no hope for mine. I wasn’t there looking to save my marriage, but neither was I there to end it. At that point, I just wanted to stop feeling crazy and take back control of my spiralling mind and life. I really didn’t care about the future status of my marriage, and yet her taking away hope and declaring its death stung more than I anticipated.

On my third and final (although neither of us knew this yet) visit to this therapist, she told me about a Christian sexual recovery therapist whom she thought could be helpful for my husband. Whether or not my marriage survived, my husband was the father of my children, and it mattered to me that their dad be as healthy as possible. Whatever that was. And so I gave my husband the information. Without tears or pleas, threats or ultimatums to make an appointment. Just handed him a piece of paper, said “I heard about this guy, maybe he can help you.” And I left it at that.

My husband called. My husband went. My husband came home and told me had a sex addiction and intimacy anorexia. I listened and said nothing. I was confused. Troubled. Didn’t know what that meant. The pieces didn’t fit together. I knew about the porn, but a sex addiction didn’t make sense for someone who avoided sex.

I searched this counsellor’s website. There was information about partner’s sexual betrayal trauma. I wanted to know more about all of this, so I set up an appointment for myself.

I didn’t know what to expect at my session. I walked into the room a messy, broken woman. I walked out messy, broken and validated. My voice was heard. Supportive words of kindness and grace were spoken to me. This was not my fault. I did not cause it. I could not fix it. Nor was I expected to. This counsellor gave me hope for my marriage, and for my husband, but most importantly he gave me hope for me.

I was told that I had a bad marriage. These words unsettled me. Made me uncomfortably squirmy. It was an odd sensation to hear these words of truth spoken out loud. I knew I didn’t have a good marriage, but I had never considered that it was bad. It just was what it was. The realization that I had a bad marriage wound its way from my head to my heart and landed as a heavy weight in my stomach.

The therapist outlined for me the recovery program that he would be introducing to my husband. I resignedly asked what I was supposed to do to help him. “Nothing,” he said. “You don’t do anything except give him to me.” What freedom I received at that moment! He went on to explain that my husband’s recovery was his to do, and mine was for me to do. And after we both had several weeks of individual therapy, we would then meet together to see how things were going and if we were ready to proceed with marriage counselling.

To have my counsellor give me the freedom and permission to put my husband and marriage aside to focus on my pain and healing was life giving.

To put a name to my experiences and pain …… betrayal, trauma, intimacy anorexia …… lifted some of the shame that this was a real thing beyond me. Not just a manifestation of my failures, flaws and weakness.

My heart began to hope that day. January 3, 2015. I was offered the gift of recovery and I accepted it.

Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls. Jeremiah 6:16

Things I Didn’t Know About Being Married to a Sex Addict

Being married to a sex addict, there were a lot of things I did not know.

I did not know the destructive nature of pornography and its far reaching, devastating effects on the lives, families, homes, churches, places it touches.

I did not know that the presence of pornography in my home had invaded my husband’s soul, and was a root cause of our damaged marriage and my utter brokenness.

I did not know that my husband had chosen pornography, masturbation and fantasy over intimacy with me.

I did not know that pornography was a form of betrayal.

I did not know that my husband was able to blatantly lie to me.

I did not know that the rejection of my heart, soul and body was not my fault.

I did not know that my body was fine just the way it was.

I did not know that I was likeable, desirable or loveable.

I did not know that I was deserving and worthy of a husband who loved and cherished me emotionally, spiritually and physically.

I did not know that God’s heart was breaking to see me, His beloved daughter, mistreated and broken.

I did not know that God was waiting to draw me close, hold me in His arms, and wipe the tears from my eyes.

I did not know that God created and designed me intentionally, wonderfully, perfectly.

I did not know that there was beauty within me to rise from the ashes.

I did not know that the blood of Jesus washed away my shame as well as my sin.

I did not know that God had a plan to redeem and restore myself, my husband and our marriage.

I did not know that my story would be filled with God’s wonders and miracles.

I did not know that God’s goodness and healing power in recovery would fill me with gratitude and joy.

I did not know that I would fall as deeply in love with my Abba Father as He has always been with me.

I did not know that my heart would be filled to overflowing with God’s love and a desire to share it with others.

I did not know that I would.

Being married to a sex addict, there were a lot of things I did not know about myself, my husband or God. Now I do. And my heart sings a victorious song of praise and thanksgiving for God’s gift of recovery.

“For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you declares the Lord, and will bring you back from captivity.” Jeremiah 29:11-14

The Lord is My Strength and My Shield

When God sets our feet on a new path, He will never leave us directionless to flounder on our own. God has provided us with His glorious love letter, the Holy Bible, to teach and guide us, encourage and lift us towards Him.

God has the amazing ability to lead us to the exact words of truth that our heart needs to hear from Him. Whether it be tender whispers and promises of love, healing, grace, peace, redemption; the nudges and conviction of confession, forgiveness of sins, necessary change, the testing of our faith; or the inspiration and joyful celebration of abundant and everlasting life, God will find a way to speak those words into our thirsty hearts.

I am continually in awe at God’s creativity and persistence in revealing His words to me. And a little embarrassed at how often He needs to bonk me on the head so I pay attention. Sometimes it is opening the Bible to the perfect passage, a devotion sitting in my inbox waiting for the right day to be opened, someone’s Facebook post, a friend just wanting to share a verse with me, a fridge magnet…….

It was in the rawness of my pain, as my marriage and security crumbled, that God planted Psalm 28:7 in my heart. Our tears mingled together to water the seeds. And throughout my recovery, we have watched them grow and blossom into a beautiful miracle.

 “The Lord is my strength and my shield; my hearts trusts in Him and I am helped.” Psalms 28:7

 Oh how these simple, straightforward, magnificent words broke through the emotional and mental fog of my anguish to bring me assurance of hope and healing. With only a few repetitions they became easily imprinted in my wounded heart and readily available to fortify me at any time.

The Lord is my strength.  Yes, God provided me with His supernatural power to get out of bed every morning and face the uncertainty of my day and future. Today He gives me the strength and courage to leave the pain of my yesterdays in the past in exchange for hope in all that lies ahead as I embrace the hard but worthwhile work of recovery.

And my shield. My shield. These words deeply resonated with my battered spirit. And still do. The Lord is my protector, defender, security. My personal warrior taking the brunt of the assaults and deflecting the attacks against me. Absorbing the pain and damage intended for me. Guarding my heart, spirit and body from further injuries allowing healing to occur.

I have a beautiful image of my mighty God tucking me closely in beside Him, secure under His strong yet gentle arm. He holds a brilliant shield in front of us. We walk steadily across the battlefield, arrows falling at His feet and being crushed beneath them. Nothing can get in the way of my Abba Father triumphantly leading me to a blessed place of safety and rest.

My heart trusts in Him and I am helped. In giving my brokenness to God, offering Him whatever flicker of hope I regain, He will help me. A promise of restoration for today, tomorrow, the next day. The moment I trust God with my bruised heart He will tenderly hold it in His hands, caring, protecting, healing and breathing new life into it.

The Lord is my strength and shield, and He also wants to be yours.

“But you, Lord, are a shield around me, my glory, the One who lifts my head high.”       Psalm 3:3

Hope is the Lump in Your Throat

You can live in hope or you can live in hopelessness. Or you can merely exist in numbness devoid of hope in any form. This was my chosen method for fifteen long years. Shutting down my emotions eased the agony of an emotionally abusive marriage. Some days I could almost forget it was there. I learned how to hide my scars and secrets. I functioned well. I did the best I could to protect my children. I didn’t know from what at the time. Just that I needed to be more than enough for them.

For me, numbness relieved some of the suffering some of the time. That is what made it a viable survival technique. However, it also reduced my ability to experience positive emotions. You cannot choose which feelings to avoid and which ones to embrace. It is all or nothing.

Unlike the day I chose numbness over hopelessness, I did not make a conscious decision to leave numbness behind in search of a hope filled life. It was my Heavenly Father that set me on that path. But before I could find hope, it was necessary for me to sink into the despair of hopelessness again. You see, God can and will reach down and pull us out of the miry pit, but He can’t do that if we are content to be stuck in the sludge. Often God will set a plan in motion that brings us to our knees in desperation where our only option is to call out to Him.

It is overwhelming and terrifying to have the bandaids pulled off your carefully concealed wounds and watch the bleeding resume all over again. The pain is just as intense the second time around. I wept. I prayed. Or more accurately, I brought the broken and shattered pieces of my heart to God. I did not ask God to mend the fragments. I did not ask God to heal my pain. I simply cried that I didn’t want to hurt anymore. That was it. No requests for love, joy, peace or hope for my future. That was an impossible prayer, a far away dream that I didn’t dare put into words able to betray me. Asking not to hurt anymore was difficult enough.

I recently read a description in Brene Brown’s book “Daring Greatly” of what vulnerability feels like. Someone described it as “A lump in my throat and a knot in my chest.” And I thought, yes, that is also what the beginning of hope feels like. When hope was first offered to me it emerged as a tiny ball in the pit of my stomach, ascended to my chest, my throat, and finally became a pressure behind my eyes that I fought to keep there. Behind my eyes. Where I could deny it and push it away again. Not betraying me by leaking down my cheeks to be seen and felt. My mind fought the possibility of hope, but my body believed and responded before the rest of me was able.

At one time or another you have been advised to listen to your body. Pay attention to its signals. Sleep when you are tired. Eat when you are hungry. Drink when you are thirsty. So, I ask, why not hope when your body is desiring the promise of healing?

Hope is challenging. Hope takes courage. But hope will not disappoint when you place it in the hands of our Abba Father, the One who will wipe every precious tear from your eyes.

Now hope does not disappoint because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us. Romans 5:5

Hope is Scary

Hope is scary. Hope is risky. Hope hurts. Sometimes excruciatingly.

Hope is often a neatly wrapped up package extended to us, the broken and hurting, to offer encouragement and comfort. Just as I did to you in my first post on this blog. And sometimes that works. But I know all too well that hope is not always the promise of delightful butterflies, colourful rainbows, sparkling unicorns and cuddly kittens. Hope is a nice word comparable to love, faith, joy, peace. Inspiring expressions that confused and frustrated my deeply wounded soul. The very idea of hope brought me despair and pain because that is what experience taught me. Hope was useless.

I once had hope. Dreams. An expectation of a happy life. And then I got married. At age twenty, along with our four month old baby we became an instant family. Two days after the wedding, I moved 3,000 km away from my family, friends, church and all that was familiar to me. New adventures awaited us all! It didn’t take me long to discover these “adventures” were beyond the imaginings of any new bride.

We did not consummate our marriage on our wedding night. Or the night after. Even though my parents had gifted us a hotel room for the weekend and babysitting services. I had naturally expected that we would. We had not been together for several months. I was disappointed. He wasn’t. My disappointment grew in the following days, weeks, months. His didn’t. It soon became apparent to me that I was no longer desired sexually or otherwise. Therefore, I was no longer desirable or lovable. I felt helpless to improve the situation. Nothing that I said or did changed anything. During the next ten years, hope faded away until there was nothing left but despair and the immeasurable pain of a despondent, broken spirit. I was now hopeless.

A person cannot live in hopelessness forever. There will come a time when something needs to change. Ten years into my shell of a marriage, I celebrated my thirtieth birthday. I looked back at the previous decade of my life, grieved the loss of my twenties, and decided I was not able to continue living in hopelessness any longer. My marriage was destroying me.  I was disappearing.

I did not choose hope. That would have hurt too much. Instead, I chose numbness. Numbness was the safest way to protect myself. Hope would have involved change and required me to open my heart to a possibility of something, of anything, of I didn’t know what, and that idea was incomprehensible and frightening to me. My shattered heart was too fragile to seek something so unknown and uncertain. A flicker of hope? I snuffed it out before it even had a chance to ignite.

You see, I understand that sometimes hope is just too hard. Hope is risky. Hope is scary. And so, when I tell you there is hope, it is because I have found it to be true.

There is surely a future hope for you, and your hope will not be cut off. Proverbs 23:18