husband

The Ridiculousness of Forgiveness Part 2

Dragging myself to bed, it was nearly 1am. Day 4 since the exposure, and 5 hours since The Whisper called me to forgive. Fan humming, my two sleeping girls recharged their bodies with every inhale and exhale, but for me it would be another sleepless night with our unborn. My son tumbling warm in his womb, chiming in to my quiet whimper with the nudge of his heel,  and I am unable to deny that God grows life in the midst of sorrow.

Jesus, I welcome you into this violation.

Hand rubbing belly, the inward conversation began. I had not spoken to the Lord since yelling at him on the porch, but His hovering wouldn’t go away, for where could I go where His presence would not be (psalm 139:7)? “Jesus, I see that cross you are asking me to bear. Its not what I want, but I remember that you also asked our Father for another way (Matt 26:39), to the point of sweating blood. I don’t understand, and haven’t a clue how to do this, because I am not sure I have ever really forgiven anyone of something this costly. Nonetheless, I invite you into this violation.” 

I begin sobbing.

Hot tears streaming down my cheeks, my belly begins to contract. Dehydration was having its way with my body, as stress was making it difficult to drink water without feeling nausea. I may not be sweating blood, but my pain, it matters. I matter. For the first time in my life, I could see how costly it was to forgive my sin upon the cross, and how much I must have mattered to God, that he would take my transgression and suffer in my place.

“I am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins.” (Isaiah 43:25)

I close my eyes and The Lover of My Soul shows me my cross.

Written on it was the entire affair in all its gory detail. Countless hours of flirtatious conversation, the exchange of many photos, lies upon lies, the double life. Its heavy, full of sensual demise, and I am wondering how its even possible to pick it up, let alone carry it.

Don’t forget the nails. Or the hammer.

Long metal rods driven in by hammer would be every time I chose to hold back taking vengeance into my own hands; every time I chose against reminding Burris of the “great mercy” I had for him by granting pardon (self righteousness); every time I chose to pursue him warm and tenderly instead of avoiding him or being frigid; every time I chose not to diminish him in the presence of others; every time I refuse to ask people to “pray for him” in the spirit of gossip.

Oh, and the spear in the side.

The finale would prove most difficult for me; The refusal of playing back the offense in order to keep the loss fresh in my mind. It would mean relinquishing my fleshly desire to see him suffer, in exchange for the Spirit within me who prays that he would be restored in repentance.

He is not my enemy, but my brother, friend, lover…

Now 3am, I sleep, knowing that my husband would be set free, with great cost, and in no way would I ever be alone in my suffering.

Ashley Madison and The Gospel

Just as divorce lawyers are foaming at the mouth for massive profit from those being exposed on Ashley Madison, a website founded on its slogan, “Life is short, have an affair”, I too, find myself standing in that line, offering the same people to save their money and become rich themselves.

Betrayal as painful as adultery has a way of wakening the soul with a type of despair that is unlike no other.

I would know. It has been nearly one year since I found out that my husband was pursuing another woman outside of our Christian marriage. My once apathetic soul, was awakened by agony.

Anyone who is made in the image of God, watching the desolation of their marriage via unfaithful spouse, will endure a despair that the heart of God knows personally. This pain reveals an inner groaning in the core of our soul, no matter who you are.

We never rejoice over sin, but we rejoice at the exposure of it, as sin is our one contribution and requirement for salvation.

People. Matter.

We never, ever, EVER, rejoice over evil. Marriage is under a special kind of assault, as it is a tangible expression of the relationship of the Trinity (Father, Son, Holy Spirit). I know first hand that God exposes sin in order to save us, as sin is the only requirement on our behalf to receive salvation. People matter so much to God, that sometimes on this side of heaven, he exposes personal sin in order to draw people unto himself. 

A sort of wake up call. (Lord, revive your people)

God is always poised to pour out his mercy upon those who repent.

Many of my friends are not Christians. I love all people deeply. If you are reading this and are walking through this painful time, you are not alone. I meant what I said about saving your money for the divorce lawyer and making you rich. It doesn't mean that you won't end up divorced, it doesn't mean that you will end up divorced. It means that regardless of what happens in this time, you will have a hope to cling to. 

You are never out of reach to receive mercy.

What can Christians do?

Position yourself. Remember that, according to God's standard, every spouse has committed adultery. That is not explicit to sexual lust in the physical sense, but includes lusting over the imaginary spouse you have made up in your head, that you wish they would be. Any thought that doesn't honor them, at all times, is lusting. Wanting something in place of them. 

Yes. That is harsh. But I say that in order to strip you from thinking you are above this (or any) sin. God has truly stripped us from the ability to judge sin; we are all in the same boat, having received a mercy that none of us deserves. The moment a believer places himself above any other person, they become non-effective in the advancement of God's kingdom. The Enemy wants you to to see yourself as a better person, keeping us from preaching the gospel.

Remembering why Christ died for you, positions you to be compassionate.

Position others. You may haze zero experience in this area, to the degree that hurting people in the wake of the AM exposure are, but there are believers who can help, like myself, who are walking through this dark time in the light of Christ. Send them to people and resources who will be a giver of hope.

Pray. I love this teaching by John Piper;

God Has Preserved All the Prayers of All the Saints

Look at Revelation 8:3: "And another angel came and stood at the altar, holding a golden censer; and much incense was given to him, that he might add it to the prayers of all the saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne."

Notice: it is the prayers of "all the saints" that have been piling up on the altar. If you wonder where your prayers go and what God does with them, here is one of the answers. They go onto an altar before his throne. If mere human beings can invent a microchip that holds millions of bytes of communication, it is not difficult to imagine that God has no trouble at all devising a way to preserve on his altar every prayer that has ever been prayed in the name of Jesus.

Your prayers matter and are being stored up by God himself.

It is no surprise that people are cheating on their spouse, what is surprising is how powerful sin exposure can be, and how God is always poised to pour out his mercy upon those who repent. Today if you hear his voice...

The harvest is plenty, but the laborers are few. Lord, strengthen the laborers.

Speculation: Cause For Separation or a Tool for Glory?

5 a.m. I woke from a nightmare. 

I headed downstairs to boil water for french press, feeling insecure and furious. I hate dreams like this. They tend to set the tone for my day, rousing irrational anxiety, making it difficult work to find joy. I need grounding. I pull out my bible, open the Mac and begin documenting. I won’t go into detail, but the nightmare involved a woman I follow on Instagram, and a certain man I get to snuggle every night.

Yeah. One of those dreams.

Since we have been doing the hard work of reconciliation, there are some boundaries, that with lots of conversation, are becoming more flexible these days. When we lay in bed, Burris will grab my phone and scroll through my social media. We laugh at viral videos, read controversial blog posts, and talk about some of the crazy photos you all are posting. 

Ok, back to the dream. The girl is an old aquaintance who can be found snapping photos of herself in her bathing suit, mini skirts, high heals and the like. Which, whatever. I like the girl. She is obviously hurting and desires validation (what human doesn’t). We used to go to the same church. But in light of what happened nearly a year ago, recounting my REM caused my heart to thump a little faster.

I stop and begin to pray.

“Lord, I am feeling anxious and curious this morning because of that dream. Did my husband click on her profile and look through her photos? Is this a dream of warning or fear? Is this irrational thinking? I know he sees her posts when looking at my feed, because I see them. Please help.”

”Ask him.” replies the Familiar Whisper.

“Ask him!? But what if he did? How can I endure that kind of pain? What if he didn’t, and my asking rouses anger? It is 7am, this could ruin our morning and set a dark tone for our day.” I plead.

”I AM at hand.”  He reminds.

Speculation between spouses, or anyone for that matter, is cause for separation, and God is always about the work of reconciling people. When we are willing to engage with our fear and ask the person in question, it is another building block to the foundation of trust. Specifically, when two believers stand in conversation, any wall of offense has been removed because of the finished work of Christ; they can talk about ANYTHING. 

Isn’t that just like the Lord? Unwilling to waste an opportunity to restore a marriage, no matter what messy tools (even nightmares) we have to offer.

And the Whisper comes again;

“do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7

My soul laid bare before them, I chose a road less traveled, facing the fear of inquiry. The three of us stood in that kitchen addressing the nightmare and turns out, he was feeling just as awkward about her photos as I was, uncertain how to process it himself. His eyes lingering with mine, speak apology, redressing again, my seeping wound.

We prayed, and kissed long. 

Moments of redemption like this mean everything.

 

The Waiting Room - An Update

Next month marks one year that our marriage, deemed dead, was made alive.

With Burris in his chair, and me in mine, Sunday morning was a familiar sight. Three children running around in diapers, coffee in hand, and a messy yet profound sense of gratitude in the room.

Yes, resurrection sure looks good, this side of heaven.

 

But it sure isn’t easy.

What has the True Physician been up to in our lives since our dead body of a marriage began miraculously breathing?

I looked at my husband sitting there and wondered where he thought our marriage was today in medical terms; Are we in the ER? Surgery? ICU? Physical therapy? Out patient care? Dare I say, hospice?

 

“the glory of the Lord will be revealed,
    and all people will see it together… 
He will feed his flock like a shepherd.
    He will carry the lambs in his arms,
holding them close to his heart.” 
                                        Isaiah 40: 5&11

“Les, if I were to gauge, we are in the waiting room, and our marriage is having open heart surgery.” He looked at me deeply. “This is a very risky procedure and we are not out of the woods, but thankfully this procedure has been done thousands of time before. God knows what he is doing, and His skilled hand is having his way on our heart. The center of our marriage.”

I looked away. 

Feeling disappointed, my assessment had us sitting up in bed, looking forward to physical therapy!

“We are doing well, but we are not out of the woods.” He replied.

“How will we know when the surgery is complete and successful?” I ask.

“When we stop checking out from one another, and engage.  We have been trying these tools out, but are not convinced yet. When we jump in fully, that will be a sign that the surgery is complete. The rest of our lives are spent in recovery. Of course, we will be finally healed when we are in eternity with the Lord, but there is a process on this side of heaven.” He grinned.

We will always be in recovery.

 

How freeing is that? We don’t have to arrive to this sort of marital bliss destination that is somewhere down the road in a few years. Instead, we get to share in these tangible redemptive moments together, where we know that God, the Perfect Surgeon, is opening up the blockages of our heart in order to see to it our earthly marriage thrives on what it was created to; rely on Christ alone.

Call it sanctification, if you dare, a holy recognition that this life, spent together as husband and wife, is but a mere dress rehearsal for a perfect marriage to come.  Sure, it is painful recovery, but after this year, I cannot imagine missing out on the milestones that derives from healing wounds.

“He never grows weak or weary.
    No one can measure the depths of his understanding.
 He gives power to the weak
    and strength to the powerless.
 Even youths will become weak and tired,
    and young men will fall in exhaustion.
 But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength.
    They will soar high on wings like eagles.
 They will run and not grow weary.
    They will walk and not faint.”
                                     Isaiah 40:28-31

So we sit, hand in hand in the waiting room, with strengthening knees, getting a taste of the hope to come. Knowing that our time in the ICU is coming, a beautiful gift this side of heaven.

Here’s to another year of seeing what is in store for our crazy clan.

Grief in the Discovery - Part 6 - The First Laugh

It's that awkward moment of grief, when you feel so full of hopelessness, angry tears flowing, when suddenly something makes you...laugh.

Here's a great example of the grief cycle in a short 2.5 minute clip, taken from one of my favorite movies of all time, "Steal Magnolias".

 

Just look at the expression on Sally Field's face when her crew begins laughing, at her daughter's funeral! That scene still gives me a strange feeling in my belly, and I wonder whether or not I was supposed to be laughing at that moment. While laughing is not a stage in the grieving cycle, the first laugh has to happen eventually, and when it does, it might feel awkward.  

Grief had a way of swallowing me up so deeply in pain, that when I laughed, I questioned whether or not it was appropriate. 

I had only been home for two days, after the two week separation from my husband, when we experienced this awkward moment.  The kids were tucked in bed, and Burris and I had enough arguing and crying for the day, when we turned on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. 

With my husband on one end of the couch and I on the other, we didn't even make it half way through the monologue when Fallon was able to get a chuckle out of us. We made eye contact, and the question came as instant as the flip of a light switch, is it ok to laugh?

A couple of thoughts came to mind in that moment on the couch. First,  I wasn't sure if I was honoring my pain by laughing. That sounds silly, I know, but I couldn't deny that laughing felt good, and I had been feeling so hurt for such a long stretch that it caught me off guard. Second, and perhaps this is where I felt I was dishonoring my pain, I didn't want to communicate to my husband that my laughing meant what he did was "ok". 

It was not ok, but man, did it feel great to laugh.

Those first few times I laughed and played with my husband again, taught me some big lessons; 

  1. Laughing doesn't cancel out grief. It just gives a momentary break. It's a gift. Enjoy it.
  2. When the laughing is over, you might go back into heavy grieving again. Just because you laughed or had a good day, doesn't mean that you should be "over" your grieving. This is where it is imperative to receive the compassion of Jesus for yourself.
  3. Laughing in sorrow is a picture of the hope to come. Jesus says in Luke 6:21 "Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh." Most of us are aware that life here is hard and painful, but for those who are in Christ, there will be a day where there is no more sin and we will laugh in joyful perfection. 

Grief in the discovery will usher us into our first laugh, and may the laughter be like a cup of cold water to a parched soul. Thank God for his kindness in all things funny, even when a part of us feels like it has died. 

Do you have a memory of laughing for the first time in the midst of grief? How did it make you feel?

 

In the Counselor's Office - Part 7 - How to Handle Triggers

With boundaries and expectations up and running at home, and my feeling a little safer with them in place, it was time to get a handle on triggers. It was around our fourth or fifth visit with our counselor, when it was evident that I needed some help coping.

“I just don’t understand, one minute I am talking to my wife, who is sad but functional, then out of no where it seems like I am talking to a completely different person. She begins to panic and asks me to re-answer all the questions about the affair. We end up fighting, a lot. I feel hopeless because of it.” my husband told our counselor.

We had reached the point in our recovery that I was having a few “good days”, but those good days would quickly turn into terror when I was triggered.

I explained to the counselor that, one day, earlier that week, I remembered feeling hopeful most of the morning, when prepping lunch for my children triggered me so badly that I called my husband and asked him for the details of the affair all over again (I found out about the affair around the same time of the day, while feeding the kids).

Triggers, though extremely painful, began to lessen over time as we worked through them.

The counselor, in patience and kindness, reminded us that triggers are common in light of sexual betrayal, and using this five step process (that can be found in his wife’s brilliant workbook on amazon), may be the helpful tool we needed for working through triggers in a healthy manner.

(The following are cited from the book ‘Rescued’)

  • Step one - Identify potential or past triggers. What situations remind you of your spouse’s hurtful behavior?
  • Step two - Identify how this trigger makes you feel and why. The why is important here. Does it connect to something from your past?
  • Step three - identify what you need in order to feel safe. Anything goes. If you are having a hard time coming up with what you need, you aren’t alone. This is one of the harder steps.
  • Step Four - First, identify what assistance, if any, your spouse can give you in working through the trigger.
  • Step five - Allow God’s truth to speak into the trigger. What would He say?

I walked out of the counselor’s office that day, with these tools in order to gain a sense of control when panic flooded my thoughts. My husband walked out with an understanding of how a trigger works. However…

Tools are helpful, but the power to change a person's heart is a result of God alone.

The days and weeks to come, with this list in our possession, proved that we were powerless in our feat to conquer triggers, unless we ran to the One who made us and reconciled us to Himself. I never thought that something as powerful as a trigger, could actually be the thing that would drive me closer to God, allowing me to rely on him during my deepest feelings of hopelessness. 

As we continued to face the difficulties that triggers bring, God was softening each of our hearts toward one another, producing within in us a patience that only His Spirit can produce in us. It would take months, but eventually the triggers became less frightening. And strangely, somewhere along the way, they went from having the power to cripple me, to being a key component in rebuilding trust with my husband. 

 

"And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit." (2 Corinthians 3:18)