I sat with my eyes glued to the computer screen, unable to wrap my head around the images in front of me. My heart grew tighter and tighter inside my chest as I stared back at my reality, and there didn’t seem to be enough oxygen in the room to fill my lungs. My limbs seemed too heavy to move, and my mind reeled as I tried to put the pieces together.
He said he was done. He said it wouldn’t be a problem anymore. He seemed so convincing…or maybe I just so desperately wanted it to be the truth. My heart told me there was more going on, but never before had I wanted to be wrong this badly. Yet here the evidence was staring me right in the eyes.
My whole world was caving in and I couldn’t do a thing about it. My thoughts were full of the same questions that haunted me since the first time I had caught my husband looking at pornography…questions of my inadequacy…the inevitable why. I needed to make sense of it. I needed to understand. I needed answers. I needed someone to put out the fire that was taking down my house – every tainted memory of the past, all my hopes and dreams for the future, and my current reality – which was all going up in flames before my eyes as I stood by and watched alone and helpless.
Who could help us? Who would possibly understand? We had already talked to our pastor who sent us out the door with a prayer and a loving pat on the back. Our marriage and our lives were looking more and more like smoldering ashes, and we needed much more than encouragement. We needed people willing and able to get into our mess – we needed “firefighters and rebuilders.”
But I was too afraid to tell anyone for fear they would judge us and look down on us. We were active in our church and truly loved God…how could this possibly be our reality? This is the way things continued for years – my husband occasionally reaching out for help and receiving little; me – becoming little more than a shell with a painted smile.
Beloved, if this sounds at all familiar, if you are the shell, scraped raw and hollow, mourning the loss of what you thought life would look like, know you are not alone. Through the next several weeks, I will take you through some of the healing and hope that filled that shell back up in the most miraculous and incredible ways. Although I will be specifically addressing pornography in a marriage, there will be truths that are universal to healing in a variety of contexts. If you are not one of the “shells,” you are likely friends with one, working with one, or sitting by several of them in the church pews. Growing in knowledge and understanding can open your eyes and possibly allow you to come alongside someone to point them to healing and our great Healer.
PATH TO HEALING
I could write a book entitled, “How to do Everything You Can Not to Heal.” I spent over a decade practicing painful and destructive principles that became like overgrown weeds covering up the path to healing. I eventually gave up any hope of healing and felt I was broken beyond repair.
But the brushstrokes that painted the ugly portrait of those years are such an unbelievable contrast to the masterpiece God created to display the indescribable beauty of His transforming power in the last several years in my life and marriage. Feeling like your life has become a pile of smoldering ashes may not seem like a great start, but for God, it is a blank canvas. Our Creator God is so good at bringing beauty out of the most unlikely of places, and scripture tells us, ashes are no exception (Isaiah 61:3).
No matter what your circumstances are or what your husband is choosing, your healing can begin today. Several years into my husband’s addiction, I began to realize the depth of what we were dealing with and began to understand he may not want to stop viewing pornography just because he was telling me he did. It finally hit me that he may not recognize his addiction for what it is or be willing to get help. Although this was a difficult realization, I began to understand that even if he chose not to change, my heart and mind could change. I did not have to wait for him to surrender this for me to surrender it.
When you hand God your blank canvas, He is ready to go to work to create something new. It isn’t always easy to surrender, and it may require some painful exchanges, but there is already pain, so it may as well be pain that leads to healing and hope.
We will dive into those painful but healing exchanges next week, but first, there are some very important truths to let sink deep within your core:
- This is not your fault. If your husband is struggling with pornography, you are not the cause. It is not because you are not good enough, attractive enough, or because you do not give him enough attention or sex (no matter what he or anyone may tell you). There are underlying causes that lead to pornography addiction that were likely present before you even came into the picture.
- You are not alone. Pornography is labeled the “fastest growing problem in the Church today.” For middle-aged Christian men (ages 31-49) “77% looked at pornography while at work in the past 3 months,” “64% view pornography at least monthly,” and “18% admit being addicted to pornography” (Barna Group, 2014 Pornography Survey and Statistics, Proven Men Ministries, http://www.provenmen.org/2014pornsurvey/). These statistics indicate there are many wives out there who are also suffering and confused, many of them hiding behind fake smiles, feeling alone.
- This does not define you. Sometimes our circumstances feel so daunting, it is difficult to remember it is not our whole life. God created us with a plan and a purpose (Jeremiah 29:11), and His plan does not include being consumed with fear and worry, obsessing about the problems in our marriage, or playing the role of the “porn police.”
- Seek God wholeheartedly. Our God is a God who “makes all things new and beautiful in His time.” Just last week, I was so blessed to hear a woman give thanks that she had gone through the pain she had. She felt the pain she was experiencing was worth the beautiful way God had changed her heart and life through it. As you pour yourself into God’s Word, ask Him the questions you have, write out prayers, allow Him to “transform you by the renewing of your mind.” Your circumstances may seem out-of-control, but your heart and mind can be covered in His perfect peace (Isaiah 26:3).
- You are precious. Although there is no quick fix, there is tremendous hope when you allow God to lead you down this path of healing. As we tackle those painful but beautiful exchanges next week, be filled with the knowledge that you are so very precious to God. He loves you more than there are words to express, more than your mind can even begin to wrap around. This is a perfect time to let God love you in new and unexpected ways – ways you didn’t let Him love you before or ways you didn’t even know He could love you. His plans for you are not on hold. By giving Him your blank canvas, you show Him (and yourself) that you truly trust Him – with your life, your marriage, your circumstances, and your future. You get a front row seat to watch Him as He creates a masterpiece from the mess.
**As God transformed Mel, her husband Mike, and their marriage over the past several years, they have mentored many individuals and couples, blogged, and spoken at youth groups, marriage and men’s retreats, church events, and recovery groups about God’s amazing ability to restore lives and marriages, even in what seems to be impossible situations. Mel would be happy to get you connected with resources or a support group, or let the LifeTime Remedy team know how we can be praying for you or your marriage. Taking steps toward healing is brave, and prayer is one way we would love to come alongside you!
– Mel Anderson