Our Redemption Story: Feelings, Prayers, and Declarations – Part 3

Prologue, Part 1, Part 2

I have my husband’s full support and permission in sharing the details of our story. He and I are completely different people now and are eager to share our story of redemption, because our desire is that God would use it to give others hope.

I had a lot of various feelings and thoughts as I watched Will get deeper in his addiction. When sex was good, I wondered if it was because of something he had seen. Was he fantasizing about other people during sex? Would he ever have an affair or leave me for someone who will participate in this sin with him? I’m a worrier by my human nature. My biggest emotion was worry, worry to the point of not sleeping well, feeling sick every time I found out again, and then worry that our unborn son’s development would be hurt because of my worry. Each night he worked late, I’d make myself ill wondering if he was coming home after work.

Sometimes I wanted to quit my job. I’d come home to find that he had finished work early that day and decided to shut himself in the bedroom. If I didn’t have to work, could he still find a way to feed this addiction? Other times, because he was depressed, if we were invited somewhere, he wouldn’t want to go. I knew that if I went without him, he’d have the opportunity to act on temptation. At times, I chose to stay home. Other times, I’d go but have this sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach the whole time.

The hardest part was that because there was so much secrecy and shame wrapped up in a sin like this, I didn’t have many people that I felt I could go to for counsel or prayer. Will’s hope was to be one of the worship leaders at church. We felt that even if we walked through this, if other pastors and leaders knew, he may be looked down upon and never be given that opportunity. Our home group pastors, counselors, my family, and a few close friends knew. It was lonely, especially for Will because none of his friends or family knew what was going on until I left. Even if we had shared with a lot of people, not many people in the church talk about going through something like this, and the world doesn’t usually have a problem with it, so we both felt like we were navigating in uncharted waters.

When we were engaged, God gave me a verse for Will. “Being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ.” Philippians 1:6. Because I had been hurt by him before and during engagement, I wasn’t sure I trusted him completely. I knew this verse was a promise to me for his life. I said, “God, I’m not sure I can trust that he will always be committed to you and to me.” God responded, “OK, if you can’t trust him, can you trust me? Can you trust me IN him to complete the work that I started?” I held on to that for dear life. According to that verse, the responsibility was God’s.

Like I mentioned before, Will often fell deep into despair. He would mess up, cry to God for deliverance, mess up again, and hate himself, thinking he could never get free. Often he would withdraw from me, and that’s how I knew he had fallen again. He often threw himself pity parties, speaking aloud his false beliefs about himself. When he did this, I would remind myself of that verse, then I’d tell him all of the things that I knew were true about him. He was a man after God’s heart. He was an anointed worshipper, he had an amazing destiny, one that Satan tried to rob in an abortion room. God had a marvelous plan for him. Sometimes, I’d tell him why I loved him, which, besides what I already mentioned, were reasons like his love for children and family, his singing voice, his guitar playing, his looks – especially his eyes, the way he would run after God without compromise (when he wasn’t entertaining his addiction). He usually wouldn’t respond, or end up falling asleep. He is an all or nothing kind of guy. If he’s on fire for God, everything about him – his actions, his countenance – changes. When he’s depressed, he is quick to give up on everything and quickly falls into despair; he acts like the exact opposite of who he truly is.

On many of my lunch breaks at work, I spent a lot of time praying, sometimes using The Power of a Praying® Wife. I would pray such powerful prayers and leave that time so encouraged. Wouldn’t you know, on the most powerful prayer days, I’d come home to a husband who felt hopeless, because it happened again. That was always a huge blow to my hope.

Something that I learned through this process, and I share with every wife that God gives me the chance to encourage, is that because God made a husband and wife one flesh, as wives, our prayers have the greatest influence over our husbands. Did you get that? Out of all of the people God could move on to pray for your husband, you have the most authority and the most influence in the spiritual realm when you pray for him, because you are flesh of his flesh and bone of his bone. So when your prayers are full of faith and the opposite happens, take heart! They really are effective! (James 5:16 “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.”) Another verse I want to leave you with is 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 “For though we walk according to the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God…”

In my next post, I’ll pick up where I left off in part 2.

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Our Redemption Story: Addiction -Part 2

 

Prologue, Part 1

I have my husband’s full support and permission in sharing the details of our story. He and I are completely different people now and are eager to share our story of redemption, because our desire is that God would use it to give others hope.

     Whether or not he was coming home that night, I was leaving. On the nights when our 7 week old, colicky baby who rarely napped would finally sleep, I slept fitfully, worrying when or if my husband would come home. I was exhausted. My pastor’s wife invited the baby and me to sleep over so she could help with him while I rested. They were having home group that night, and we hadn’t been there in a few weeks. I knew if I showed up our friends would wonder where my husband Will was, but though I was ashamed of the answer to that question, I was too weary not to say yes to the invitation.

     I took a nap during the Bible study, but when it was over, once again I hardly slept. I wished with all of my heart that Will would come home after work and worry about the baby and me since I didn’t leave a note. I wanted him to get a taste of what it was like to wonder where your spouse is when they should be home. He never called. I called the house multiple times in the middle of the night just to get the answering machine. When I returned the next morning, he came home after me, never to have had the chance to worry.

     Let me back up a bit. At some point during our yearlong engagement, Will told me he needed to talk to me. I knew it was serious, and I was a little afraid that he might call off our engagement. After all, he had broken up with me once already. He told me that his roommate urged him to come clean after he had found pornography on the computer. Will cried. He said he had had this addiction before he was saved, and it recently reared its ugly head once again. He told me that he would do whatever it would take to get free, and I agreed to help however I could. I got rid of the internet in my apartment, so if he came over to work on school work while I was at work he wouldn’t be tempted. We went to our pastors for counseling. They gave us a few books, some counsel, and referred us to another couple who had walked through addiction. Things were looking good, and the few times Will would get caught up in porno again, he’d always tell me and repent.

     Though we didn’t have sex, we did not stay sexually pure before marriage. I was helping him feed that sin, and I didn’t even know it. I didn’t understand how those two things were related, because in my mind, one was fantasy, and one was real life. I thought they were separate sins. James 1:14-15 says, “But each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.” We were trying to heed to our counseling and “starve the beast” by getting help for Will to stop his addiction, and at the same time, we were participating in things that fed it, giving birth to death rather than freedom.

     I was naïve. I wouldn’t realize until later the power addiction can have over a person, even over someone who desperately wants to be free. I thought he could repent, get counsel, and it would be behind us. A few months after we got married, it started happening more often. First, he’d secretly keep one of those AOL CDs that would come in the mail, and he’d download the internet without my knowledge. Then he’d buy a TV and hide it in the attic for a few days before telling me. One night, I found a tape he had bought and watched. It made me sick to my stomach. While he was at work, I walked down the street and threw it in someone else’s garbage so he couldn’t find it.

     This is how the cycle went. He’d mess up for a few days, tell me, ask for forgiveness, and then desperately beg God to be free. He read every book we could find on how to be free from sexual addiction. He saw multiple counselors. He thought he must be more messed up than most guys since he couldn’t kick this. He’d fall into a deep depression, then eventually have a good week. We’d move on with life hoping this was behind us, until, boom, the cycle would repeat itself. In another post I’ll talk about what I did during these cycles.

     We got pregnant with our first baby 7 months after we got married. Sometime during the second half of my pregnancy, there were times Will wouldn’t come home after work. He would leave his late night serving shift and drive up to Canada to go to a strip club because, “They are allowed to do more than they can do here,” he told me with remorse one day.

     I remember calling my mom close to Thanksgiving and crying. Our baby was due in about 4 weeks, so the doctor didn’t want me travelling, and my parents lived 5 hours away. I was trying to figure out if I should make the trip and stay with them, transfer my medical records, and plan on having the baby in their town. I decided to stay home for the time being. Then, a few weeks before our son was born, I heard Will come home in the middle of the night. He fell asleep on the couch, but I woke him up and asked, “Do you realize the stress and worry you’re causing me? I’m really worried that it will affect the baby somehow. What am I supposed to do if you are hours away up in Canada, and I go into labor? Do you even want to be at the hospital when the baby’s born?” He said he didn’t know.

     When our baby boy was born, he was so happy to be a father. He loved our little guy so much, and the excitement of all the newness carried him for about a month. Sometime during my maternity leave, he quit his fulltime job and picked up more hours at the restaurant. Our plan was for me to be a stay at home mom as soon as my maternity leave was over, but the pressure of taking care of and providing for our new family was too much for him. Depression hit, and he fell deep in the addiction once again.

     Sometime before Valentine’s Day, I called my parents and asked if our son and I could stay with them for a while. I decided that it was one thing to hurt me, his wife, but I wouldn’t let him hurt our son. I didn’t want to raise a baby in that kind of environment, and knew it was my responsibility to set up healthy boundaries whether or not my husband would change. My dad rented a car so he could later help me drive down to their house, drove the 5 hours, and helped me pack up what we would need for a few weeks. We would come home for my baby’s next doctor’s appointment and make more permanent decisions after that.

     Will and I had been staying in a house my parents still owned in our city. To my surprise, my dad told Will he’d have to find a new place to live while we were separated. He scrambled to find a room to rent. I left him with no apartment, no working car, and after closing our joint bank account, little money. Oh, and I was taking his 2 ½ month old son away from him. He was so angry. He was sure divorce would be our only option, because he knew he could never forgive me. I didn’t want to divorce him, but living together would be condoning his sinful behavior, and as a wife and mother, I couldn’t stand blameless before God if I did so. My desire was that a separation would help us work toward an eventual reconciliation. The problem is, as I had learned during our break up, he had free will. He could choose not to work toward reconciliation.

 

Our Redemption Story: Part 1

Prologue, Part 2

I have my husband’s full support and permission in sharing the details of our story. He and I are completely different people now and are eager to share our story of redemption, because our desire is that God would use it to give others hope.

    It was a few minutes before midnight on Valentine’s Day. We had been studying for an upcoming test in our college Spanish class together, and I walked him to the door. Will turned around and timidly asked me to be his girlfriend. I was so giddy! He was my first boyfriend.

     We had both decided we didn’t want to date unless we were going to pursue marriage. He had had a few relationships before becoming a Christian, and until he met me, he was not looking for a girlfriend. I was set on marrying a youth pastor, so when I first met him, I just thought he was a nice guy I could be friends with.

     We spent the next two months in mental turmoil, him more than me. Many times he would question if I really was “the one” for him which would make me second guess our relationship, then a few days later, he would decide we were on the right path. And so we went, back and forth for a couple of months.

     Finally, we decided to take a day away from each other and pray, asking God to reveal to us if we were to continue our relationship or not. I went to a park, and God confirmed to me that it was OK to marry Will. That evening, I confidently drove to his house, and we both joyfully told each other we had heard from the Lord that we could walk toward marriage in our relationship.

     A week later, out of the blue, he broke up with me. He said he felt like he wasn’t ready for a commitment, that he needed more time to grow in his relationship with the Lord. Will went through a time of trying to run away from his relationship with God. He felt like if he was wrong when he heard I would be his wife, then he didn’t know how to hear from God at all. He had a hard time having a relationship with a God he couldn’t have communication with.

     I was devastated. I knew I had heard from God, but I also knew that people have free will. If Will decided not to date me, there wasn’t anything I could do about it. We went to the same home group with people from church. I saw him there on weeks his relationship with God was on again, and I worried for him the times he didn’t show up. When he did come, we often led worship together. Everyone said we had a special dynamic, an anointing, when we led together. Can I just tell you how hard it is to have powerful spiritual experiences with someone you aren’t dating anymore?? There was a connection there that I tried hard to not let my heart feel.

     As I said, I worried a lot about Will as I watched him come in and out of church activities. I knew he was struggling, and I really wanted to see him get his life right with the Lord. I’m pretty sure if I had sought counsel that I would have been told that my next decision wasn’t a wise one, but I decided to buy the book The Power of a Praying® Wife and pray through it, inserting Will’s name in the prayers. My deep desire was still to marry him, but I wouldn’t do so if he wasn’t firm in his faith. I knew that God could bring someone else along my path before Will stopped straddling the fence. I chose to give God my desires. I told him, “Yes, I’d love to be his wife someday, but more importantly, I want him to walk with you with his whole heart. I’m going to use this book to help me pray for him to become the husband you want him to be someday for whoever his wife will be.”

     During this time, I met with a friend who mentored me. My goal was to work on me and find healthy ways to get over the heartache while finding out who I really was. We studied a book called A Woman of Strength: Reclaim Your Past, Seize Your Present, and Secure Your Future (Women of Confidence). It really helped me. I remember that I also really wanted hope. When I found the verses Romans 5:3-5, I was upset and said, “why does hope have to be last on this list?? Hope is what I really need to keep going.” The verses say, “…we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” God used that time, through Bible study and book study to develop character in me that wouldn’t have been there if I hadn’t suffered a little.

     Through various events, Will knew that I was concerned for him and praying for him. He saw that I was able to put my feelings aside and remain a loyal friend. About a year after we broke up, our pastor’s wife told me he still had feelings for me. I said, “I really don’t want to know that. Please don’t talk to me about this until I see that he has made some life changes and there is commitment behind his feelings.”

     That summer, we started hanging out more often, first with friends, and then alone. He confided in me that he wanted to marry me someday after he got his act together. We talked about the far off future and about things he needed to work on before we could be in a relationship. You know those TV shows where someone says, “I love you,” and the other person says, “Thank you?” That was us. I didn’t say, “Thank you,” but I didn’t say it back either. He knew I loved him, but he also knew I was looking for a lifetime commitment before I would open my heart completely to him again.

     Back then, every summer my parents would go to a revival camp meeting in Virginia. I told Will I was planning on going with my dad, and I invited him along. They often had signs and wonders there that I hadn’t seen anywhere else, and this was my way of seeing what he was open to spiritually now that he was trying to walk with God again. Of course, I also wanted my dad to get to know him better. When he had broken up with me, my dad’s Papa Bear’s heart hurt for me, and he didn’t want to see me get hurt again.

     While we were there, Will committed himself to pursuing me completely. He confessed a lot of things from his past and from the year that he was floundering. He even told me about a few times he had almost had sex with someone that year, but because of various circumstances (sudden sickness, declined credit cards, etc.), their plans were thwarted. He told me that each time it happened, he knew it was because his future wife was praying for him, and he was so mad, mad at her and mad at God. What a testimony to my faithfulness to pray for him and his future relationship with his wife!

     We came home from camp in an official relationship again, ready to get my parents’ blessing for our future.

     Ladies, he wasted no time! He set up a time to talk to them within a week. They told him, yes, we had their blessing, but could we please wait a little while, take things slow, and not get engaged right away? Well, he wanted the whole world to know that he was completely committed to us, so he proposed the very next day! One year and a day later, we were married. And that, my friends, was the beginning of our journey which would only get rockier.

If I Told You My Story – Prologue

Over the next few weeks, I’m going to do a series of posts called “Our Redemption Story.” I believe we all have a story to tell, and when others hear it, it can bring hope, encouragement, healing, and can even break chains. Revelation 12:11 says, “They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death.”

The story my husband Will and I have includes a break up, surprise babies, addiction, separation, restoration, and transformation. When I hear this song, I think of all of the amazing things God has written into the story of our life together, my very favorite story!


My Story

Learning to Become Who I Am

I am an angry, miserable, not fun mom. I yell, I have a tone when I shouldn’t, I don’t laugh enough, and I see my children mirroring all of my shortcomings.

God says that if we are followers of Christ, we are a new creation. Paul often wrote about the difference between living in sinful nature and living in the spirit. The person I described above most often lives in the flesh, or in her sinful nature. I’m supposed to be dead to that nature, dead to me, and alive in Christ. Hmm.

Ok girls, I know I’m not alone here in this quandary. I want to live in the spirit as a new creation. The Bible says a whole lot about who I am in Christ; I just don’t see her very often. How do I get from point A to point B?

I think the biggest step is getting what my brain knows into my heart. I know so many verses and have declared many times who God says I am. Sometimes things just become so familiar that we don’t take time to really chew on the meaning or the reality of those verses. If God said it about me, he’s describing the real me, the me he made me to be! When I describe myself, the person I am day in and day out, it looks different, because the truth isn’t getting into my heart in order for me to continue to transform into that new creation.

Not very long ago, I blew up at my daughter’s behavior, realized I wasn’t calm enough to handle the situation, so I yelled to my husband, “I can’t do this right now!” After he spoke with her about her behavior, he confronted me. He told me that there are things that I do each day that make me less approachable and that is why we are seeing certain behaviors in our children. He wanted me to work on me, and I wanted his help to come up with consequences so in the future I could discipline without blowing my top. He told me working on me was more important than what I wanted. Ouch.

So, I started reading the book, Triggers: : Exchanging Parents’ Angry Reactions for Gentle Biblical Responses. It is a daily devotional to help moms react and respond biblically  instead of with anger toward their children. The book has two parts. Part one gives ideas for handling our children’s behavior that pushes us over the edge, and part two talks about internal triggers, what’s really going on inside of us that makes us react angrily. I started reading part two first, because I knew I had to fix me. I’m not done with the book, and I will go through it a number of times, I’m sure, before I can implement many of the suggestions. But that first day I picked it up, I found hope.

One of the authors was encouraging us moms that we don’t have to worry about how our kids will turn out or if they will run to therapy because of the way we have been parenting. Instead, we can have hope, because if we let God transform us, our kids will get a front row seat in seeing the power of God make us and change us into who he says we already are.

So between working on me and getting help with some parenting strategies, this summer is “Operation Mommy Transformation.” My kids, by the grace of God, are going to start to see me bloom into who I was created to be.

A few weeks before I picked up the book Triggers, we sang a song in church called “Ever Be.” Please take a listen. 

 

The chorus says, “Your praise will ever be on my lips.” As we were singing, my prayer was that those words would be true even when I am home parenting my children. I want my words to be seasoned with love and grace toward my children so every word and tone I speak can be an offering of praise to God.

Remember Claire’s post, Broken With Him? The “Motherhood is my worship” quote she posted with it is now my motto. Lord, let each part of my mothering be a form of worship to you.
I have hope, because God says I’m a new creation. I’m becoming who I am.

Triggers: : Exchanging Parents’ Angry Reactions for Gentle Biblical Responses