Tag Archives: addiction

God calls the broken to be his chosen

It was a bitterly cold Tuesday night when I met Jared. We were both volunteering at the temporary homeless shelter that our town sets up every year from November – March, the coldest months in the Shenandoah Valley. Our church was that week’s location for the shelter and Jared and I introduced ourselves to one another in the kitchen as he brewed pots of steaming coffee and I began to cook enough baked beans to feed a small army. I found out he attended service at our church’s downtown campus, which is why we’d never met, as I attended church at our northern campus. We, along with the other volunteers, fell into an easy rhythm of loading trays and passing plates, as you tend to do when there is work to be done. Other than saying things like “how many more plates of peach cobbler do we need?” and “have all of tomorrow’s lunches been made?” we didn’t really talk too much.

At the end of our volunteer shift Jared asked if anyone could give him a ride a home. I asked where he lived and since it was pretty much on my way I volunteered to drop him off. It was only a ten minute drive, but it’s one I’ll never forget. As we were pulling out of the church parking lot he shared with me that he was about five months clean. It was his second time getting sober after becoming addicted to prescription pain medications many years earlier following an accident and surgery. This last time he’d hit rock bottom. He hadn’t been able to see his 8 year old son for months, and he was days away from being homeless. “That’s why doing things like volunteering tonight are so important to me. Once you’ve been an addict and hit rock bottom, all of your self-worth is lost. This…well it’s kind of a way to get that back.” He was planning to go back the next night, and the next.

In that brief ten minute drive that seemed to last much longer, we talked about the goodness of God’s grace and how unfailing His love is even when we don’t deserve it. He talked about getting to see his son again, and I could tell it meant everything to him. Then he said something that I will never, ever forget. “In a way, being an addict and hitting rock bottom was the best thing that could have happened to me, because if I hadn’t lost everything, I never would have turned to God to save me.” And I knew, right in that moment, it was no accident that this guy was in my car and I was giving him a ride home and we were having this conversation.

There are so many moments in the Bible where we see that God uses the most broken people to speak the most explicit truth. Moments where He uses the most devastating circumstances to reveal ravishing beauty and unmitigated joy. And there is so much good. I think of how He chose a prostitute, filled her heart with faithfulness and made her the great-great-grandmother of a king, and part of the family tree of a Savior (Joshua 2:10-11, Matthew 1:9). Or the Roman centurion who felt he was completely unworthy to be in the presence of Jesus but had faith that caused Jesus to be “amazed” and declare it was unrivaled in all of  Israel (Luke 7:9-10). I remember how a boy stolen from his home, sold into slavery and sentenced to jail became a revered and respected adviser to a Pharaoh and saved an entire country (Genesis 37:28, 39:20, 41:39-57). And I remember Paul’s words written from a jail cell, “Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel…Because of my chains, most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly” (Philippians 1:12,14).

Like Paul and Joseph, I know what it’s like to be in your darkest, lowest moments and have God use those moments to change lives in a way you could have never imagined. Like Rahab and the centurion, I know whats it’s like to be broken and afraid, to feel unworthy of God’s grace, but still be saved and healed and loved beyond belief. Like Jared, I know what it’s like to have the worst moment of your life become the best thing to ever happen to you. I think back to that dark time when I was a scared 13-year-old girl, violated by someone who was supposed to take care of and protect me and then, worse, accused of fabricating a horrible story and forced to keep it a secret. I felt fear and shame, unloved and unworthy, and painfully alone. But that was not the ending God had written for me. And out of that darkest moment came a shining light. I found my way to Jesus. I came to know what it meant to be in relationship with Him. And there was love. So much love. The love of a father and step-mother, the love of a pastor, the love and support of a few special friends, and the unfailing love of a Savior. Eventually there was healing, forgiveness and restored relationships. And then God did the most unexpected thing. He told me to break my silence and tell my story. He said others needed to know, needed to be comforted and loved.

God heals and redeems. He takes our brokenness, our fear, our rock-bottom moments and He wraps His arms around us, picks us up, and creates healing and love and light all around us. He did it with Rahab and Joseph, Paul and the centurion, Jared and me. He healed us and then called us to be His servants. Whether it’s serving food to men and women with nowhere else to go on a cold night, telling our story to others who are broken and hurting, preaching the Gospel to millions, or standing with Kings, God calls the broken to be His chosen.

“For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.” – 2 Corinthians 4:6

*I have changed the name of the young man in this story to protect his identity.

 

photo credit: electrees hope via  photopin (license)

Why it hurts whenever I hear the words “if my husband ever cheated on me, I would leave him”

[Author’s note: I am incredibly grateful to my husband for encouraging me to write about and share this very personal part of our story. He believes, as do I, that God has called us to use our past to encourage and give hope to others. For his selflessness and bravery, I love him all the more.]

Friends in cafe
Copyright: peus / 123RF Stock Photo

There we are, sitting at a table in a busy restaurant, enjoying a “mom’s night out”. The talk at the table turns to a friend of a friend who is going through a painful divorce. Her husband had an affair and she is, of course, devastated and trying to pick up the pieces of her life. And then it’s said. That one sentence that I know is coming. “My husband knows if he ever cheated on me it would be over!”

Around the table heads nod in agreement and friends chime in with their unanimous support of this statement. And I shift in my chair uncomfortably. I pretend to study the menu a little more closely. I sip my drink until there’s just ice. Anything to avoid eye contact or weighing in on this conversation.

I know my friends have no idea how hard it is for me to hear this statement. How much it hurts. I know because ten years ago I could be found sitting around a table of girlfriends saying the same thing.

But that was before.

Before I knew what it was really like to be faced with that reality.

Growing up I saw the devastating effects of infidelity in my parent’s marriages. As a child I felt the repercussions. I also saw and lived through the life-altering effects of divorce, and at times grasped for a life-ring in the wake of the pain and destruction it left. From my child’s eyes it was so simple. I would never, ever get divorced, I vowed. That is…unless…he cheated on me. I mean, after-all the Bible gives us an out on this. As Christians we can say this in mixed company and no one will judge us. Everyone will agree.

But then.

Then your life, your marriage, doesn’t always go the way you plan. Hell, does anything go the way we plan?

We had been married for 5 years when I found out that my husband had been unfaithful. It was the most devastating experience I could never have fathomed. The air was sucked out of me and I was living a bad dream, just waiting to wake up. While it was a one-time occurrence, I found out that it had been triggered by a spiraling addiction to pornography that my husband had managed to keep hidden from me for the 9 years we’d been together. An addiction he’d struggled with since he was a boy. As with any addiction, it escalated, sending him down a dark rabbit hole and dragging him deeper and deeper until it was completely out-of-control. The shame, guilt, and fear he lived with everyday…well I can only try to imagine.

When the truth came out I was in a state of shock for weeks. I didn’t know what to do, what to say, or where to turn. But I knew two things. 1. My life would never be the same, and 2. I didn’t want to pack my bags and leave like I had always thought I would if faced with this news.

I saw before me a broken, hurting man. The man I loved so dearly. Yes, I was angry. Yes, I wanted to scream and yell and hit him, and sometimes I did those things. But mostly I wanted to love him.

Once he confessed it all, he immediately offered to go seek the help he knew he needed. We both went to counseling, separately. Him to face his addiction, and me to deal with this new reality.

I told only two people in my life what had happened.

I prayed. A lot.

I went through days where everything seemed fine and normal, and days when I just cried for hours, barely able to get out of bed. I questioned him over and over again. What else had he done? Who else had he been with? What wasn’t he telling me? All trust was out the window and gone and I was scared. So, so scared that it would never be there again.

I won’t sugar coat it. It was hard. We went through some excruciatingly dark periods. For a while I had the number of a divorce attorney in my Rolodex at work, and many days I thought, ‘today is the day I will call’.

It took the better part of two years of counseling to get through the worst of it. And at least another two years before I really started to believe we were going to make it.

I recall one night lying in bed after an argument with my husband, crying and pleading with God. “How will we ever get through this? Will I ever truly be able to forgive and trust him again?” And I remember so clearly, as if He was in the room with me, God whispered in my ear and said “If I can forgive him and love him, so can you. If I can forgive you of all the wrongs you’ve done, how can you not also forgive him?”

I didn’t wake up the next day and find everything had magically fallen into place. But, after that moment I was able to see my husband as a beloved, hurting child of God who was worthy of forgiveness. And over time I was able to forgive him — really, truly forgive and let go — and eventually trust him again.

It’s been 9 years since I found out about my husband’s affair. I tell you the truth when I say I love and respect this man more today than I did the day I married him. He spent over four years in counseling working through his addiction, his past and all of the hurt and pain it had caused in his life. I am amazed at his fortitude and all he’s overcome.

Our marriage is far from perfect. We argue, and get on each other’s nerves, and sometimes…every once in a while…when we’re not communicating as often as we need to I still feel a little bit of the old worry and doubt creep in. But over the years this happens less and less; maybe one day it won’t happen at all. Or maybe it will always be there on some small scale as a reminder of where we’ve been and just how far we’ve come. I don’t know.

What I do know is that this does not define us. My husband’s addiction and sin does not define him as a man or a husband. Being the wife who was cheated on is not my label. Being the couple who survived infidelity is not who we are. We are so much more than this. We are sinful, broken children of God who are doing our best to live the life He called us to lead. To be the husband and wife He knows we can be. The parents He has blessed us to be.

Please, please know that this is our story only. I share this not as a model for what I think all couples who are facing infidelity must do. I cast absolutely no judgement on anyone who has walked away from a marriage broken and hurting. Everyone’s circumstances are different.

I write this and share it with all of you because I want you to know there is hope. If your marriage has been broken, if you are facing an addiction, living with shame — there is hope. You must want it, and you must work for it and, above all, you must be patient and trust the Lord to heal you and your relationship, but it can be done. Whether the relationship survives or it doesn’t, the Lord will mend your heart if you let Him.

Just promise me…next time you’re sitting with a group of friends talking about marriages and infidelity, try to remember that until you’ve been there and walked that broken road, you don’t really know what you will choose. And, God forbid, if you ever do find yourself in that situation, know that there is no shame and no weakness in choosing to stay.