Tag Archive | partners of sex addicts

The Lingerie Store Revisited

There was a crazy lady Christmas shopping at the lingerie store again this year. At first glance she appeared rather ordinary. But the growing grief and hopelessness on her face, and dejection in her body as she walked slowly from one display to another, would have been apparent to anyone with a lingering gaze. Tears gathering in her eyes, she paused, but never touched. Size availability and price was irrelevant for something that would never leave the store in her shopping bag anyway.

Not much has changed since last December when I wrote The Porn Addict’s Wife Wears Lingerie (or tries to). It is my most read post, more likely because it contains the words porn, addict and lingerie, than people are interested in the bewildering emotions of a middle aged sexually broken woman. And yet there I was, and here I am again.

A lot can happen in a year. And a lot may not happen. Healing brings breakthroughs, and setbacks, and periods of rest and adjustment. Sometimes longer periods of rest than my anxious heart handles with patience and grace.

Last December, I entered that lingerie store with a twinkle in my eye. The winter and Christmas themed lingerie answering the longing in my heart for sexual lightness and fun in my marriage. But then. The fear of unknown triggers. I dejectedly left the store with that same unfulfilled desire, along with a deepened sense of loss wondering if my sexuality and healthy fantasies would be forever tainted by my husband’s past pornography addiction.

Last week was both the same and different as a year ago. I don’t even know why I entered the lingerie store other than to poke my finger into my own open wounds. I knew before I even crossed the threshold that I would not be making any purchases again this year. But maybe, just maybe, the merchandise could offer me a tiny flicker of hope where I had none. I wanted everything that the lingerie was selling me. Everything that was embodied in that magical piece of clothing.

I felt empty as I browsed the store. And then a profound sadness enveloped me. Even the cozy, fuzzy socks and cheerful penguins couldn’t bring a smile to my face. I wondered why, after another full year of healing and recovery, my response was as filled with grief and despair as if I had just returned the following day and not a year later.

I think my sadness was deeper this time though. A year ago, I was confused. Overwhelmed. Anxious. Still a little raw in figuring out how this whole healthy sexuality thing was supposed to work for my husband and I. But I believed it would work. It just wasn’t quite there yet….

Well, a year later, and the hammer of realization that not only was it not quite there yet, it didn’t seem any closer. It is hard to hold onto hope when you feel crushed. Defeated. Mocked by the lingerie displays and menacing penguins. So I didn’t. I plummeted.

But this is where the benefit of an additional year of recovery was revealed to me. I didn’t stay in that darkness long. I visited, but there was nothing for me in that place. It felt wrong and uncomfortable and self indulgent. And dishonouring to God.

I heard the whisper to my soul. Acknowledging the deep hurt and unfulfilled desires of my broken sexuality. If there was a promise of better things to come at that moment, I didn’t hear it. But the raging discontent in my mind and heart quieted.  And that was enough.

A couple days later, God’s whisper shouted to me from the pages of my devotional book as I read about the healing of emotional wounds. An illustration was provided where several shoelaces were tied together in a knot with each knot representing a different problem in my life. Unravelling the knots and smoothing out my troubles would require time and effort. It isn’t possible for the untangling to happen all at once. I need to remember that although it may seem that I am not making any progress, God is untying my knots one at a time. In the order and way He chooses. Not in mine. My responsibility is to co-operate with God in whatever area He has decided we are going to work on first. And sweatpants just might be more important than lingerie.

I’m impatient. I get discouraged. I whine about what is missing rather than being grateful for what has been redeemed and restored in our decades long sexless and porn ravaged marriage. I want our sexual intimacy healed yesterday. Or more honestly, years ago. But there is much bondage, abuse and sexual sin in this one shoelace alone, even once it has been disentangled from the messy ball of life’s other hurts and issues.

My solution would be to grab a pair of scissors and with a few precise snips remove the troublesome knots leaving a perfectly functioning bow in its place. And I would do that after only a few minutes of frustration. But that is not God’s way.

I know because God continues to carefully and slowly heal my wounds and align the desires of my heart with His. Whether I’m wearing flannel pyjamas, silky lingerie or nothing at all. He won’t quit. He never does. So, I guess I shouldn’t either.

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts. Isaiah 55:8,9

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Your Husband is a Porn Addict, or Maybe Not, and Why That Matters

I’ve been noticing a disturbing trend lately. A jamming together of puzzles pieces that don’t necessarily belong together. The variations of “Help! I found pornography on the computer and don’t know how to deal with my partner’s porn addiction.” I understand the shock and heartache of discovering your partner’s porn usage. I really and truly know that pain well. What troubles me is the immediate assumption and leap that evidence of porn use indicates the presence of an addiction.

Discovering the existence of pornography in your relationship is definitely a cause for concern that needs to be addressed with the user. I am absolutely not minimizing or denying the damage that pornography use inflicts upon the user, the partner or their relationship, or encouraging anyone else to do so. But I am questioning the growing belief, particularly in the Christian community, that viewing pornography equals an addiction.

I believe using pornography is destructive. What it may or may not be though, is an addiction. And I think, as the devastated partner, it is important to determine where on the spectrum your husband or wife falls so you know what you are dealing with. It is not a measure of your pain. It is not an indication of where your feelings of betrayal should or should not be. Pain is pain is pain. But it seems to me that it is possible that assigning a predetermined label to the issue without knowing the facts can add another level of pain that may be totally unnecessary and unhelpful to your well-being and the situation.

Personally, my mind easily jumps to worst case scenarios. This leads to needless anxiety, distress and fear. In seconds, the images or internet searches that shocked my brain have morphed into flashing lights in my driveway as police officers come to arrest my husband. A pregnant stranger appears at my door searching for him. He loses his job. I become homeless. My community shuns him, me, us. My life and future destroyed. I am hopeless, defeated, filled with despair. And I haven’t even taken my eyes off the screen or talked to my husband yet.

Sadly, and awfully, those scenarios do happen. But not always. So, instead of being convinced that your partner is a full blown sex addict and your marriage and life is beyond repair, take a deep breath and begin the process of finding out what you together, and alone, are up against. A curiosity. A bad habit. An early stage addiction. Or yes, an outright, big, fat, ugly pornography addiction.

The computer history will not likely provide a clear answer. And quite possibly, neither will your partner. But accusing your partner of being a porn addict may simply magnify the problem for both of you. If you are prematurely and carelessly slapping a porn addict label on your spouse, you have also affixed one to yourself. And that may be self-defeating to the care you so desperately need. Your perspective will have a significant influence on your personal healing as much as it will on your partner and marriage.

It is important to know if you are fighting to defeat the devastating effects of pornography, or of pornography and an addiction. Overcoming and recovering from an addiction is possible. The battle is not insurmountable. But it is a different battle than unlearning a bad habit and replacing it with healthier behaviour. For both of you. And that matters.

Guilt over one’s bad behaviour may be a motivator for change. But shame seldom is. If condemnation fills either of your hearts, there is no room for transformation and freedom. If either of you believes the bondage is greater than it is, quite possibly an attitude of hopelessness and despair will prevail. The message you feed yourself and your partner matters. Will it be the truth, or a lie that continues to destroy?

The invasion of pornography’s heavy darkness into your souls and relationship is destructive whether the pieces are still being put into place for an addiction, or it has progressed to a compulsive need. That really makes no difference. Wherever on the spectrum your partner may be, the revealing of pornography use is good news. Light is shining through and illuminating a very real problem with very deep consequences. You are being given an opportunity for yourself and your marriage to be healed and restored from damage that you may not have even knew existed. Or why it did.

Your heart has been shattered. Your soul ravaged. And none of it is your fault. There is no blame or responsibility for you to bear when your partner chooses to indulge their lust or medicate their pain with pornography.

Calling pornography use a bad habit or an addiction doesn’t change the depth of your pain or your ability to heal from it. But mislabeling it may magnify or minimize the issue and affect the path that you, your partner and your marriage will need to navigate for healing. And it is your path. Of light, hope and promise to not just hurt anymore, but to thrive.

I know it is possible. I have seen it. And I am living it.

Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. John 8:32

I Hope I Never Stop Being Surprised

Today I am celebrating another victory. Of mine. In my journey to heal from the devastation and abuse inflicted by my husband’s sex addiction and intimacy anorexia. My husband might be celebrating too. Or maybe not. I don’t really know for sure. But it doesn’t really matter because although we were together, this part of our story is about me.

I felt eager anticipation for the weekend’s planned events. And excitement and joy as they unfolded. My heart was at peace. The usual clamor of my conflicting thoughts and beliefs still……

A couple of months ago, my husband purchased tickets for us to attend a concert in a nearby city. The show was scheduled for a Friday night, which meant there would be no work commitments for either of us the following day. My mind began dancing with the possibility of making the date a weekend getaway. Although we often go camping, we have never spent a weekend in a hotel being city tourists. The desire was stirring in my heart to go big on this one. But I was apprehensive to suggest the idea to my husband. In our old marriage, the proposal would have been entirely unreasonable and a long list of excuses provided for why it was impossible. My heart had been wounded so many times before by his unwillingness to spend time or money with me. I wasn’t worth it. Eventually I believed it and stopped pleading for his attention. But now. But now, my wishes kept bubbling to the surface. And I dared to hope that my husband would be a willing participant in a weekend getaway.

I fully expected my request to stay in a hotel after the concert and go to a spa the next day to require some persuasion. To my surprise, my husband responded positively with little hesitation. Nonetheless, I was proud of my accomplishment. I had acknowledged and placed enough value on something that my heart desired to gather the courage to risk conflict and rejection to ask for it.

My next success occurred the night of the concert as I fully allowed myself to relax in my husband’s presence, and feel and express appropriate emotions. I was excited. I was happy. That doesn’t happen often. I haven’t learned to entirely act and speak without caution. The fear of my husband’s disapproval and emotional abandonment still faintly lingers. But that night, I felt safe to be me. In a crowd of thousands, with my husband at my side, I enjoyed my own company.

The real breakthrough came the following day. And I didn’t even realize it until later that evening. Which is what made the victory that much more beautiful. It was natural. It required no mindfulness. It was just me unexpectedly, effortlessly and genuinely being a version of me that I had never met before.

We went to an outdoor thermal cycle spa. A place where we were both unfamiliar with proper etiquette and procedures. A place filled with other couples and women. Where I was required to wear a bathing suit. All day. A situation ripe for producing discontent, anxiety and fear in my heart.

But it didn’t. Not even one little bit for one little moment. Normally, I am distressed and highly self conscious every time I wiggle into a bathing suit. Admittedly, I am just as likely as any man to create a ranking of every female body in the vicinity. And of course, I lose more than I win. But somehow, I was completely comfortable with my body and paid no attention to its appearance or to anyone else’s. It was the first time I can recall knowing the freedom of personal body acceptance.

It was also effortless to control my thoughts and the need to see if, and where, my husband’s eyes were roaming. Every time I looked at him, it was because I wanted to look at him. And always his eyes were on me. Smiling.

I also felt a deeper contentment and connection with my husband that dissolved my tendency to compare our relationship to other ones. There was no longing in my heart to be more like them and less like us. The physical closeness and awareness of our bodies without any sexual pressure, hopes or discouragement was very sensual and created a unique physical and emotional intimacy that was new to both of us.

What I learned as my insecurities and hang ups melted away was that there is something much better waiting to fill that spot. Confidence. Courage. Adventure. Passion. Joy. Acceptance. Love. I found them all last weekend. Most notably in the cold water pool, after emerging from the sauna, with my hand covering my mouth so my gasps and screams wouldn’t violate the whispering only rule. It all felt incredibly daring and triumphant for someone (me!) who refuses to wear a bathing suit and go swimming at the beach in July.

My husband stood there grinning. Cheering on this new me. I wowed both of us. That’s what love can do. Our love. But most importantly, the love of our God who has more than restored our marriage. He has redeemed and rebuilt it beginning with the transformation and healing of the man and woman within it.

My husband is a new creation. But so am I. I have witnessed God’s relentless pursuit of my husband’s heart. As for me, God is mending bruises and fractures within my soul that I didn’t even know needed healing. My transformation looks different than his. But it is just as real. Just as astonishing. Just as beautiful.

Maybe one day I will stop being so surprised at what new thing God is doing in my life. But I hope not. ❤

Blessed is she that has believed that the Lord would fulfill His promises to her. Luke 1:45

I Gave God an Ultimatum

The companion post to Pray Anyway Originally posted June 5, 2017, it provides more of the story of how God transformed a heart……

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

Update: It remains real! Three years, seven months and counting. ❤

Please Don’t Silence the Courage of a Whisper

Apparently my neediness is unattractive. To my spouse. Although he wasn’t the one who told me that. It was a comment left on my last blog post For His Eyes Only. From someone who I will choose to believe intended to offer me helpful advice, as misguided as it was. The words hurt me. They diminished me. Again. And I allowed them to replay through my mind a hundred times more than I should have. Joining the thousands of times beforehand that I had heard and accepted the many variations of “your neediness is unattractive. Even to your spouse.”

And you know what? Maybe my neediness does repel my husband. But if it does, the problem is within his heart, not mine. Because I am not needy. I have needs. And desires. I am human. A woman. And the two go together. Just to set the record straight, I don’t believe my “neediness” does offend my husband. Sometimes he may wrestle with how to meet my needs that are within his realm of responsibility to acknowledge, and yes, supply. But when he struggles, it is because he is trying. Trying to learn how to relate to me and the dance of oneness and separateness that co-exists in a marriage. If he didn’t struggle, it would be then I would worry. Because I wrestle with this too. Discerning what of our own and each other’s needs are my concern and responsibility. And most importantly, what are the longings of our hearts that only God can satisfy.

I do believe that God has created a spiritual void within the human heart that only a relationship and dependence on Him can fill. But those aren’t the needs I am talking about. God created marriage, and a husband and wife, for intimate relationship and to practically meet needs that we can’t on our own.

I have needs that are my responsibility to fill and to protect. I do. And that realization still makes me mildly uncomfortable. Because I have received a life time of messages from those who should have been loving, supporting and protecting me, telling me instead that my needs didn’t matter. Reinforcing that my wants and desires were insignificant, irrelevant, meaningless, shameful. A childhood and adulthood of abusive relationships where the suppression and denial of me was expected and demanded. Where my voice was not only ignored and unheard, it was muted. And it was okay. Even though it wasn’t.

The wasn’t only became clear to me 3 ½ years ago with the full disclosure of my husband’s sex addiction and intimacy anorexia, and the revelation and validation that my entire 25 year marriage was riddled with betrayal and abuse. Emotionally, mentally, financially, spiritually, sexually. I was in an abusive relationship. I was abused. And that is a concept I have not yet completely reconciled within my heart and mind.

I was a victim of my husband and other betrayers. I learned and implemented survival skills that served me well at the time and allowed me to function alongside the unheard screams of my wounded heart. However, as I heal, those survival mechanisms are no longer a protection. Holding onto them now would lead me to be the betrayer of my own soul. The abuse is over. There is no legitimate reason for me to continue living in dark silence.

My voice is still squeaky. Often unsure. But gaining confidence. Continually surprising me. In a good way. The scared, scarred, little girl hiding within me is gloriously transforming into the woman that God created me to be. It is a beautiful experience discovering me. Made all the more magnificent by my husband, and the wonderful recovery community God has blessed me with during my healing journey, genuinely celebrating together with me.

And yet, I have also learned that not everyone appreciates and responds positively when the silenced find their voices. In my experience in other personal and work relationships, as my voice grows stronger, others have resisted, even become angry, at the shifting balance of power. Setting boundaries, standing up for myself, even asking questions has resulted in my reception of displeasure, disapproval and hostility at times. That can still be awfully threatening and intimidating to a person traversing the rocky path of recovery from betrayal and abuse.

I am not doing my recovery perfectly, but my results indicate that I am doing it well. Acknowledging and expressing my needs is an integral part of my healing process. At times the process has been ugly. But learning to value my needs has never been unattractive.

My off tune, wavering voice belongs in God’s glorious choir. It is rising above the cacophony. Soaring to new heights. God has given me a new, beautiful song to sing of praise, redemption and restoration. I was created for good things. I am worthy of good things.

Please don’t silence the courage of a whisper. Bring it a microphone.

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. Ephesians 4:29

He upholds the cause of the oppressed and gives food to the hungry. The Lord sets prisoners free. Psalm 146:7

For His Eyes Only

Mine is the only naked body my husband is allowed to see. It isn’t the only one his eyes have gazed upon. That number would be in the hundreds. Likely thousands. Maybe even hundreds of thousands. There becomes a point where the amount becomes meaningless. The magic number is one. Me. Anything beyond that is inviting someone else into the center of our marriage. Into the core of his heart and mind. Where only I am supposed to be.

My husband has been successfully battling his porn and sex addiction for 3 ½ years. He hasn’t done it perfectly, but neither has he had any serious relapses. Occasionally, I ask him when the last time was he masturbated. Or looked at sexually explicit or arousing images. (You know, just in case we define lust and pornography differently.) I am pleased with his answers and trust their truthfulness. He has received such healing and freedom from his addiction that his heart change is evident. In the way he loves, cherishes, admires, serves me. How he spends time with me talking, hanging out, laughing. The hugs and kisses. His presence emotionally and physically. Our growing intimacy. Behaviours and attitudes that were glaringly and painfully absent throughout our porn ravaged sexless marriage.

One of the most terrifying things I have done in my recovery from sexual betrayal trauma, and at any time in my life, was undress for the first time in front of my husband after twenty five years of his sexual shaming and rejection of me. I fought my fear and anxiety as I vulnerably and shakily removed my bra to expose the breasts that had so often received his undeserved criticism. Knowing that if I caught even a fleeting look on my husband’s face of disgust, disapproval, disappointment or an attempt to conceal any of those reactions, I was risking further damage to my soul and the possibility that any hope of building intimacy could be lost forever.

My husband didn’t laugh, or gag, or cover his eyes, or run from the room screaming. He slowly smiled. Slowly, not because it seemed that he was trying to find an appropriate response. Slowly, as if he was drinking in and appreciating this new sight. I relaxed slightly.

But a problem remains. Mine is the only naked body my husband is allowed to see. And his apparent disinterest causes my heart to ache. Still.

I have asked my husband why I never catch him either obviously or surreptitiously watching me change or undress. Although I don’t want my body to be sexually objectified, I still need assurance that my body is noticed, admired and desired by my husband. I want to feel pretty and beautiful and sexy, not just through my own eyes, but my husband’s as well.

He told me that he is trying to be respectful. It’s hard to argue with that. But I wonder if the reason he offers is just a morally acceptable, and perhaps kind, deflection of a disinterest or aversion to my body. I have also questioned whether it is related to the recovery tools he uses to overcome lust and his porn addiction. That in his attempts to rewire his brain, he exorcises my body along with the fantasies. I never received a satisfactory answer. Which makes the first scenario the most likely. And also the most hurtful.

If, and when, I accept the respectfulness factor as the truth, that leaves me with another shaming dilemma. I enjoy looking at my husband’s naked body. And though I don’t lustfully gawk and ogle, or say anything distasteful or inappropriate, I don’t hide the fact with my eyes or words that I am admiring what I see. But logically, if he believes it is disrespectful to look at my nakedness, then it is also wrong for me to look at his.

Either way I feel shame, guilt and disappointment. That my husband declines to behold my nudity, even knowing that I welcome it. That I take pleasure in the sight of his. And that this is one more way his sex addiction has stolen freedom from our bedroom and my ability to express and experience healthy sexuality.

I no longer take my time openly undressing, hoping to notice my husband peeking at my body with desire and appreciation. I have returned to my old habits of changing in darkness, with my back to him, under the covers, removing my bra without removing my shirt. Whatever it takes to conceal the vulnerability of my physical self.

As we lay in bed talking about our day, I now refrain from strategically lowering the blanket and positioning my body to offer a glimpse of what is underneath my pyjama top. Instead, I tuck the quilt under my chin and over my shoulders completely covering my body from exposure to my husband’s eyes. Ironically, he finds this look adorable.

Mine is the only naked body my husband is allowed to see. My hope is that one day that will be a joy filled reason to celebrate rather than a reason to cry.

Let your wife be a fountain of blessing for you. Rejoice in the wife of your youth. She is a loving deer, a graceful doe. Let her breasts satisfy you always. May you always be captivated by her love. Proverbs 5:18,19

What is Left When the Music Fades

Music is a paradox. At least to me it is. Many of us can attest to the healing power of music. To that extraordinary song that reached deeply into our brokenness like a salve. Possibly connecting our heart with God’s in an emotional and meaningful act of worship.  Or to the song that became a mighty anthem of courage and renewed strength providing the determination to press onward.

But what happens when the healing power of that same special song not only fades, but sends your spirit into a fast spinning downward spiral?

I have long been aware that there is a significant contrast in the way my heart and mind will respond to different songs. Or perhaps more accurately, to the memories and emotions associated with the songs. There are entire time periods of music, and not just a particular song or artist, from dark seasons of my life that I have learned to avoid. Within the first few seconds of hearing the melody and lyrics I am transported back to a time of confusion, bad choices and pain. The flood of regret and shame is instantaneous as I am reminded of how grievously I sinned against myself and others. The darkness threatens to overtake me and the fight to put it all back in the past where it belongs is so tiring that sometimes I allow it to linger longer than is necessary or healthy. And so, I intentionally strive to control the negative emotions that secular music triggers within me.

My husband once asked me why I only listen to Christian music. I don’t believe there is anything inherently wrong or evil with most secular music. But for me, it has the ability to slice through the healing I have achieved and plant poisonous seeds in my heart and mind. And even if it doesn’t cause harm, the weeds seldom inspire or infuse my soul with joy or peace.

But lately I have been recognizing a growing discomfort and aversion to some Christian music that once  soothed, comforted, empowered and energized my weary soul. And I am finding myself needing to disassociate from the memories and feelings they currently evoke.

Firstly, are my old favourites from my teenage and young adult years. One of the same time periods where I find the secular music particularly triggering for me. I feel a pang of emptiness and my body physically reacts every time I scroll through my playlist and my eyes alight on those artists or albums. It doesn’t seem that my mind wants to revisit either the good or bad moments of those years.

Secondly, are a couple of the songs that provided me immense comfort and strength as I began healing from sexual betrayal trauma and the effects of my husband’s sex addiction three years ago. Anointed songs that enveloped me in God’s loving arms where the tears were wiped from my eyes and a foundation was built beneath my feet for the recovery journey ahead of me. Lyrics that once spoke so deeply to my heart that I had them printed out and close beside me on my desk at work available to encourage me throughout the day. Now I can barely tolerate these songs. Maybe it is a case of too much of a good thing. It parallels my twenty eight year aversion to apple juice. I had an extreme case of hyperemesis during my first pregnancy and the only sustenance I received was from sips of apple juice. It nourished my body. The songs nurtured my soul. They both did their job in bringing healing to my sickness. But I’m not sick anymore. And remembering that I was elicits sadness and makes me feel less whole. When I feel less whole, I am easily deceived and susceptible to spiritual attacks. I am quite adept at filling the void with lies of hopelessness and despair.

For me, music is both healing and destructive. It mends my shattered pieces. And it threatens to break them apart again. My spirit may soar, or it may plummet. Sometimes I am aware, and sometimes I am caught by surprise. That is the nature of triggers. I forever must stand on guard to protect my salvation, recovery and ongoing healing journey to wholeness. Some things are black and white. Good or bad. But so much more are caught in the middle ready and waiting to change the direction of my heart. Good or bad…..

Be self controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings. And the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will Himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. 1 Peter 5:8-10