I remember the feeling of darkness come over me as I stumbled upon Adam’s browser history discovering his addiction to pornography. He had been introduced to it in high school and it quickly became his vice.
It made my stomach sick. This was a darkness I feared. This distorted view of sex was where I had come from, had been wounded by, and had been healed in many ways. Why would God be asking me to step back into my deepest pain? All I wanted was for a man to want me, love me, protect me. I wanted to know that I was enough for him. Porn threatened all of that.
I thought the only way to win back his attention was through my body. 'Give more of myself to him' was the lie I told myself to cure the ache in our marriage. But my body had nothing to do with his addiction. He had his own things to work through, as did I.
Shortly after, I became sick with an autoimmune disease, my body shut down overnight. My joints blew up with inflammation causing me a lot of pain. I lost weight and became weak. The power I thought I had with my body and my desirability was being taken from me. The very thing I thought could save my marriage was quite literally out of order.
I was confused why all of this hardship was upon us. Didn’t God think I had enough on my plate raising a daughter with special needs? Didn’t he know that I already healed from old wounds concerning childhood abuse and trauma from college? Why was I here, insecure in my marriage and in physical pain?
It was in this season of desperation as a young wife and mom that all I knew to do was to wake up a few minutes before my kids and spend a moment on the couch with Jesus. In these quiet mornings I began to see that all of my life I had gone to men to validate my worth. I would bring them these big heavy questions such as, “Am I pretty enough, desirable enough, what you want e n o u g h?”
I began to see that these questions would have never been answered by a boyfriend or spouse or anyone outside myself and God. The breaking in my marriage was a breaking for my good.
“ ‘But you trusted in your beauty and used your fame to become a prostitute. You lavished your favors on anyone who passed by and your beauty became his... You went to him, and he possessed your beauty.” Ezekiel 16:13-16 NIV
Although the language of “prostitution” is a little strong in this example, I see this as a metaphor for what I was doing with my sense of worth. These questions are only ever answered in the deepest parts of our soul, and anytime we go outside of that space it becomes easy to get hurt, even in marriage. You see, these questions are for us to answer.
As Brene Brown explains, our sense of belonging starts with us. “Your level of belonging, in fact, can never be greater than your level of self-acceptance.” I began to steward the job of owning my worth and accepting myself, especially loving the unlovable parts of my story. In doing so was able to accept the mutual gift that sex is.
God was showing me that my worth was not dependent on my desirability. My worth was foundational in my being on this planet as a child of God. I began to let love in. I began to agree with what God said about my worthiness as his beloved.
One morning I was gently reminded of the stories of trauma from my middle school & college years. I realized there were a few holes in my healing narrative. Yes, I had already gone through counselling and had experienced the first layers of recovery, even from an eating disorder. Yet, there was a lingering question in the back of my mind that sounded like, "If God really loved me, then why did I go through trauma in the first place?”
It wasn’t until I was at this point, desperate for answers and solutions that I was open to a reexamination of this narrative. Through prayer, I felt like I was being sent back to an original memory- the memory where distrust began. It was there that I saw the things that were being done to my heart, were being done to Jesus. It was there that I saw that my pain was being taken on by a Love bigger than I could imagine, and it was there that I knew I no longer needed to carry it.
It was there that I realized I had to forgive God for allowing me to go through the darkness. It’s not that God did something wrong, his ways are so much higher than my understanding, but the evil that was done to me caused me to blame God for going through it. In this place, forgiveness brought me back to life and I began to trust God in a more profound way.
Even in the face of evil, God declares that He will never leave or forsake us. The memory and the image that helped me heal showed me that God was taking on the pain. He was hurting with me. He was sad with me. I needed to know that Jesus wept for my pain. I needed to know that he saw how much it hurt me in the past and how much I was hurting now.
We may never find out why bad things happen, but if we’re open to seeing it, God has been at our side, he is with us in even the darkest places. He’s holding our hearts.
Our tears then become a trail back to Eden. Our painful memories can become a catalyst to find redemption in the very worst of situations, because that’s what Jesus loves to do. He takes the broken things and restores them better than we first imagined they could be. He’s extravagant when it comes to making ALL things new.
If we can bravely walk back to Eden where we remember how it was supposed to be before sin and evil entered the story then we begin to encounter our original radiance and beauty, seeing ourselves and God and others all the more clearly.
"Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame." Psalm 34:5 NIV
Once I could take my eyes off my own pain, I could see Adam’s heart more profoundly. I could offer him grace and be on his team. I could see that his addiction had nothing to do with me. He was on his own journey to discover freedom, and I couldn't get in the way by adding to his pain or shame. I knew I needed to stand with him and for him so that I could watch him experience redemption. It was Adams weakness that drew him to rely on the strength of God. His addiction began to loosen its grip.
I know stories don’t always end up like mine has. Please don’t think everything is now a walk in the park either. We are still figuring out how to create a life together. But my validation as a woman no longer hangs on my husband as his responsibility. I no longer have anxiety that I'll go through the same pain I experienced before. I know healing is possible and this is part of the reason I feel called to even share this story. Maybe there is one lady out there that needs to know it's possible for her. I see you sis. Liberation is knocking at your door.
Questions to ponder/journal:
So where might you be feeling God's pursuit right now in one of the messy stories you're living?
Is he inviting you back to a old place in your heart where he wants to show you a new perspective or the depth of His love?
Does Jesus see your pain?
“Yet I will remember the covenant I made with you in the days of your youth, and I will establish an everlasting covenant with you.” Ezekiel 16:60 NIV