Tag Archive | redemption

The Case of the Missing Wedding Rings

We were playing Exploding Kittens last weekend. The card game. That I once packed in my carry on luggage and was warned not to mention in the vicinity of airport security ears unless my desire to be detained and patted down was greater than my desire to reach my destination.

But it isn’t the game that is important. It was the hand holding the cards that most caught my attention. Or to be more specific, the ring on the fourth finger of the left hand of the man holding the cards. The scratched, slightly scuffed wedding ring of my husband.

And those little nicks made me smile. Why? Because that meant the ring was being worn. And not taken off. The covenant promise of the wedding ring was being valued.

I never had to wonder if my husband was wearing his wedding ring. And he never had to worry about losing or misplacing it. Because we both knew where it was at all times. Collecting dust in his jewelry box. Where it had been every day since our wedding day. Not so that it would be easier to cheat with other women. Which he didn’t physically do anyway. The reasons he provided me were that he didn’t really like it, and it didn’t fit well. Which was true. But I translated that to mean that the universal symbol for marriage, for our union as husband and wife, was not important enough for him to invest any energy, time or money into rectifying. The wedding ring I gave my husband seemed to have little worth in his eyes.

I did wear my wedding rings. For awhile anyway. I lost the diamond in my engagement ring while doing handstands in a hotel swimming pool approximately ten years into our marriage. I was upset. But even more so when my husband indicated we did not have the finances to replace the diamond. I removed the ring, gave it to my husband and suggested he save money and have the diamond replaced for our twenty fifth wedding anniversary. My ring sat forgotten alongside his.

The one remaining ring stayed on my finger for several more years. Until I removed my wedding band one day to squish raw ground beef into hamburger patties. After I washed my hands, I picked up the ring and instead of twisting it back onto my finger, I placed it in my jewelry box. I don’t even remember when that was exactly. It is not a time stamped memory. Just a moment of annoying inconvenience that the ring was getting tighter to slide on and off. And then the decision to not bother trying anymore. It was a bittersweet recognition that my wedding band had lost its symbolism and become merely another accessory.

Because I did not intentionally remove or return my ring to my husband as a direct response to his sex addiction and infidelity, I cannot pinpoint the time, even to the year, that I stopped wearing it. But I do know that I was ringless for several years prior to our recovery.

After attending my recovery support group for two months, I returned home from a meeting with a seed of hope planted in my heart and mind. I mentioned how one of the other women had recently renewed her wedding vows and had shown us her new wedding ring. My husband looked down at my hand. When he lifted his head, his face was filled with sadness, hurt and confusion that there was no wedding band on my finger. He asked me where it was. I interpreted his question and the pain in his eyes to mean that he believed my missing ring represented a recent disconnection from our marriage.

My heart ached at the sight of his brokenness and the acknowledgement that his behaviour was the likely cause of his ringless wife. But then…….But then my heart began to wrench with my own hurt at the bitter realization that not only had my husband been oblivious to my bare finger for years, but also that he had remained unaware of its absence for the past two months of our healing journey. He had never even noticed it was gone. I felt invisible again.

Three months later, we went shopping together to purchase new wedding bands for both of us. I delightedly chose a ring with tiny, sparkly diamond chips to replace the diamond I lost many years before. My husband wisely chose one that he liked, and that fit him.

One month later, on June 24, 2015, we ceremoniously presented each other with our new rings. Slipped them on each other’s fingers and sealed the new covenant with a kiss.

We just celebrated three years of wearing wedding rings. A symbol of our new marriage. That still makes me smile every time I return my ring to its rightful place after squeezing raw meat through my fingers. That still warms my heart every time I see the evidence that his ring remains steadfastly in place.

Our wedding rings have immeasurable meaning now. They tell a story of pain, redemption, restoration and a hope and commitment for our future. The one is slightly battered, the other glistens. Melded together they are us.

Since they are no longer two, but one, let no one split apart what God has joined together. Matthew 19:6

Advertisements

The Porn Addict’s Wife Goes to the Beach

I went to the beach last week. With my husband. And a multitude of women wearing bikinis. And bathing suits. And barely there shorts. Everywhere. Walking along the water’s edge. Lounging in chairs. Lying on beach towels. Half nude bodies in every direction for the lustful eyes and heart of a man to gaze upon. Or for an insecure woman to compare herself to.

When an outing to the coast was suggested, my first thoughts were of the soothing sound of ocean waves, sand gently massaging my feet, the warmth of the sun on my skin. Majesty. Beauty. Peace. Contentment.

And then came panic. Fear. Dread. Shame. That I might be expected to wear a bathing suit. Somehow, the thought of my husband seeing my body in a bathing suit causes me more anxiety and distress than his viewing me naked does. Quite possibly because I associate my nudity with the anticipation of sex, and therefore I can trust that the idea of my naked body arouses my husband. Perhaps he can overlook my flaws, cellulite and stretch marks because there is a different objective.

Whereas my body in a bathing suit, a too small covering that exposes and magnifies the extra lumps and bumps, will only garner disappointment, disapproval, distaste, disgust. In my husband’s eyes. And in my own. I am quite certain that my body does not look anything like the thousands of naked women that have sexually aroused my husband during our marriage. The women he fantasized about, that brought him enough gratification, that he opted to completely reject all sexual and physical intimacy with me. Giving him a glaring reminder of why he daily chose pornography and masturbation over me scares me in so many ways.

Concealing my body is my misplaced effort to hold onto his love and affection. To calm my fears. To protect my wounds from breaking open again. Honestly, I know that doesn’t work. It hurts me more. And it hurts him. It hinders the healing of our sexual brokenness.

Surprisingly, as I was immersed in the distress of my own body image insecurities, I had completely overlooked the fact that there would be other women at the beach not afraid to publicly expose their bodies.  As I settled into our spot, comfortably wearing my knee length shorts and flowy tank top, my eyes spotted a bikini clad woman. I confess I checked her over. Compared her body to mine. I lost. And then I added more losses to my growing tally. Sometimes I won. Which gave a tiny boost to my own approval rating, together with a mixture of envy and wonderment that these women were somehow free enough to accept and embrace their imperfect bodies just as they were.

And then my chest tightened as I was struck with the realization that if I was scoping all the women, surely my husband was too! I anxiously looked over at him. Lying on the sand beside me. Facing away from the surf. With his eyes closed. Looking much more relaxed than I felt.

It was me that had converted the women into mere bodies. Not lustfully, but essentially viewing them as sexual objects to be appraised and rated for their ability to entice my husband’s desire. I was even guilty of objectifying myself and diminishing my own worth as I unkindly attempted to assign each of us sexual value based on the physical attractiveness of our bodies.

I have heard, I have read, all the assertions that true sexual intimacy and fulfillment is available for anyone regardless of their body shape. That true sexiness begins in the mind and heart. That, blah, blah, blah. I have the head knowledge. But it frequently dissipates on the way down to my heart.

My body is not hideous. It never has been. And yet, my husband intentionally declined to behold, compliment or touch my body while he engaged in pornography and found pleasure in the beauty of thousands of other female bodies. My soul wrestles with that discrepancy. Why he chose them over me. Every day for twenty five years.

My husband chooses me now. He does. But that doesn’t make everything okay. I struggle to believe that he finds my forty eight year old body attractive and arousing when my twenty five year old one was spurned. It doesn’t make sense. But that’s what addiction does. It ensnares the addict and distorts reality and truth.

My husband is healing and finding freedom from his pornography addiction. So am I. Our pace isn’t always the same though. We aren’t always in the same place at the same time. God has us both on individual paths of healing and growth that intertwine and yet are still unique to each of us.

I decided to enjoy our day at the coast. I did what I commonly do to chase away the fears, insecurities and lies that cloud my heart. I sang worship songs. With the warmth of the sun on my skin and sand trickling through my toes, I wandered along the shore allowing the tide and God’s love to wash over me and still my soul. I found promise and delight in each precious seashell I discovered, depositing as many as I could into the pockets of my shorts. Contentment. Redemption. The choice was mine.

For You created my inmost being; You knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Your works are wonderful, I know that full well. Psalm 139:13,14

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

So Glad to Meet You

My name is not Cynthia. Well, that is not entirely true. My birth certificate says it is, but no one has ever identified me by that name. Well, that isn’t entirely true either. When producing my passport, the agent will undoubtedly call me Cynthia as that is the name printed there. But all that does is elicit my blank stare which isn’t at all suspicious when travelling to another destination. And if you were to attempt to get my attention by shouting “Hi Cynthia” to me I would not turn my head, simply because I wouldn’t know that you were. I tell you this so you can stop crossing off the list in your mind of any Cynthias that you may know. I am not her. I also tell you this so that we may begin our journey together today with truthfulness and no traces of deception between us.

I admit that when I read the post introducing me as a guest writer for this blog, I had quite the mix of emotions. It is an absolute honour and privilege to be invited into this valuable blog community where we can heal, grow and learn together. I was completely unprepared for the gracious and kind words used to describe me and my writing. This Cynthia woman sounded amazing. And then came the moments of doubt and fear. Could I really do this? Will I be enough? Will people be disappointed? How could I possibly live up to your expectations when it was me that you were going to meet? And so by writing one and a half paragraphs on this blog so far I have already been shown two truths. One, that the telling of our stories is an integral part of our ongoing healing process and transformation into the person that God created and intended each one of us to be. And secondly, that yes, by the grace of God and through the redemption of Jesus Christ, I am enough.  And so are you.

If you are wondering what I will be writing on this blog, so am I. Because I will be leaving that decision up to God. But what I can tell you now is that you will hear of our mighty God’s miraculous healing power that has redeemed the untold pain and despair of my life and marriage. You will hear how beautifully God has designed every detail of the healing that He has available for us. You will hear that I am a wife of a man recovering from sex addiction and intimacy anorexia, married for 27 years, the last two happily. And I would be amiss if I did not tell you that I am the blessed mother of two awesome young adult children and a beautiful daughter-in-law. But most importantly, I am an extravagantly loved and cherished daughter of God which took me nearly 46 years to discover.

I am Cynthia. But if you are reading this, then quite possibly so are you. Or maybe it is the woman sitting beside you at church, your neighbour, or co-worker. It may even be your best friend, daughter or mother. There are many Cynthias living each day in invisible pain and shame.  Many Cynthias that need to know, and not only know, but believe that there is hope and healing for the wounds and pain they have kept hidden for so long. Because there is. Oh, there is. And my prayer for you is that as we journey together you will open your heart enough to glimpse the hope and healing that is within your reach. No matter how faint the glimmer may be, there is One that can and will take the smallest offering brought to Him and turn it into more than you can ever imagine. I know because His name is Jesus and He has become my best friend.

Look at the nations and watch, and be utterly amazed. For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe even if you were told. Habakkuk 1:5

Safety in the hiding place of grace….

I haven’t written for a while and I admit that I’ve missed being here. In the last couple of months it feels like I’ve been on a journey with God as I faced myself; truly faced some things about myself….my agendas, my weaknesses,  my flaws and my longings.

Working through the book, Grace for the Good Girl: Letting go of the try hard life by Emily P. Freeman, as well as the book, Truefaced: Trusting God and others, with who you really are by Bill Thrall, John Lynch, and Bill McNicol, has certainly not been easy, but it has been healing and freeing as I’ve been throwing off the yoke of pretending, and of learning to forgive myself.
Through these books God once again stripped away something within me….and I believe He is using these authors to strip away something within all of us who long for more……and I also believe that our Father God is blowing upon His children in this hour, with a gentle, yet powerful wind. He is breathing life into us…. and as He blows, the false perceptions concerning our identity, which we have received from the enemy, the church, and even ourselves, will be removed, and we will stand as His mighty servants….His warriors.

As my heavenly Father continues to strip away all that causes me to hide from Him and others, He offers me safety in the hiding place of grace!
And so, in the safety of His grace I have faced my self-protecting ways, my tendency to try and please God rather than trust Him, attempting to live a life of perfection and failing, the fear of making a mistake and looking foolish, and the hiding, not wanting others to see my weaknesses and flaws……but I get so weary of the striving, of beating myself up, of never cutting myself any slack….of paying penance….and I don’t think I am alone in this….God used the authors I mentioned earlier to expose another layer of self-protection and in its place I experienced the wild grace of God….

A friend shared with me a post from the Truefaced blog that was so very timely. With permission from John Lynch I am sharing this very powerful and freeing post.….

Please be sure and visit their blog….you will be blessed and experience much freedom as you journey into the room of grace.( www.truefaced.com/blog)

The Haunting Question

We’ve been spending the last few times together talking about forgiveness. But before we get to the good news-the way home, let me first address this haunting question being asked by many of you:

“What about the forgiveness I can’t give myself? How do I forgive myself?”

Bill and Bruce would do this much better, but they’re probably on some Polynesian island with friends, drinking fun concoctions from the shells of coconuts. So, today I’m all you’ve got.

Ready?

To forgive myself demands I not only trust the shed blood of Jesus to completely purchase my salvation with God in heaven. I must be absolutely convinced it allows Him to never be disgusted with me while I am maturing into who He says I now am. He says I am righteous even though I often don’t yet behave like it. He says I am holy though I surprise even myself with the outlandishness of my selfishness. He says I am absolutely and completely beloved. He is actually unable to love me more and refuses to allow anything I do to cause Him to love me less.

It is stunningly and overwhelming shattering to face that He saw every single betrayal, obsessive repetition of failure, and my repeated hurting of those I most love long before I performed them. And having seen even the degradation I’ve not had a chance to yet act out, He said, “Yes, that one. That’s the one I want to bestow all my love upon. All of it. Uniquely, particularly and with as much unbridled love as I have for my only begotten Son.”

And now, what delights Him most is that I’d just believe it. Not perform penance for Him. Not beat myself up to prove I mean business. Not take the all-forgiving nature of that love as a reason to carry disgust for myself when I fail. Not degrade myself before Him under the self-disdaining groan of “What’s wrong with me? I should be better by now. What a loser!” Those words no longer fit; not for one now literally fused in nature with the God of the universe.

It’s hard to conceive that the very power over the next failure you will not want to not forgive yourself for, is found completely in trusting the power of this scandalous, outlandish, stunning love. Trusting God with my sin, allowing His solution, is the entire basis for releasing the redemptive power of the Cross. Period.

The only thing I might want to be upset at myself for is refusing to take this gift. For me to somehow imagine that I “should be…if I were any kind of Christian”, diminishes the sacred purpose of the cross and thinks far too highly of myself.

It is a choice of humility that says, “I’ve played judge and jury far too long. I’m weary of it. You alone have authority to judge and prosecute. I’ve been dragging around what has never been mine to carry. I’m done fighting this one by myself, foolishly imagining You don’t care enough or have the power to redeem every one of these failures. Either You are God and can fully vindicate, validate, redeem, protect, exonerate, defend, make me blameless, or this whole thing has been a cheap carnival magic show. I’m done with the trite contention that I’m just too failed to be forgiven by You or myself. I’m done demeaning what you did for me. Forgive me for this arrogance most of all my dear God.”

When Paul says in Romans 8 that no one gets to bring a charge, condemn, or separate us from every fiber of His unfathomable love, included in that “no one” is us!!

This all sounds good and well-until you do the one thing you thought you’d never do. The really big one. The one God lovers don’t do. That’s when we may have to go through that dark night of the soul to discover whether we’re convinced the shed blood was that powerful.

No, this does not excuse my sin. Yes, I will need to make things right with those I’ve wronged. Yes, I will need face the reality of what I’ve done, along with the consequences. But there are two things I must not do:

*Refuse His complete, absolute forgiveness and unchanging assessment, love and affection.

*Refuse to accept His complete acceptance, fellowship and delight after what I’ve done.

 

For these, as noble or pious as they might sound, actually deny the efficacy of what Christ did for us.

He has no need of such rehearsal of shame. That day is over. You are free. You are right on time. You are deeply, always precious and front row with Him. And this new life within you will never want to take advantage of it, given the chance to live in it. This magical, all encompassing love, when risked and trusted, forms the basis for real, beautiful, stunned worship.

The Cross was that powerful, your God that incredible.

John-one of the three amigos, part of the ever-growing tribe of grace

Fellow strugglers, thank you for journeying with me….. He is calling us deeper, and invites us to journey with Him and experience His wild grace…..and His gentle voice to us today says this:
“Arise my darling, my beautiful one, and come with me, See! The winter is past; the rains are over and gone. Flowers appear on the earth; the season of singing has come, the cooing of doves is heard in our land. The fig tree forms its early fruit; the blossoming vines spread their fragrance. Arise, come, my darling; my beautiful one, come with me. (Song of Sol. 2:10-13)