Losing Arlynne was very, very difficult. It changed me in more ways I can’t even explain. I am not the same anymore. I started this blog so that I would have a place to express my thoughts, pain and struggle after having to bury my daughter. I prayed that they would help someone else. I also knew that there were other areas in my life where God took terrible circumstances and changed me through them. I wanted a place to be able to address them too.
I was raised in a Christian home by Christian parents. I was brought up to believe that marriage was for life. I got married relatively young (22 years old). I had 2 beautiful daughters. Then I got divorced.
I am not a victim. I was the one who decided that I couldn’t live with my husband anymore. Do I recommend divorce? No. It is messy. It hurts. Its consequences can last far longer than the marriage did. Please don’t misunderstand me. I believe that any person who is in a dangerous situation needs to get him or herself out of it in whatever way possible. I was not in this circumstance. I was selfish. I was sinful. I stopped trusting God and started making the rules for my own life. I wanted out. So I left.
When I met Pete, I was suffering under the consequences I created for myself. I believed that I was used and unrighteous. Unredeemable. I may be forgiven by God but I probably just snuck through. I would never amount to anything. I didn’t believe that a good Christian man would ever consider me an appropriate wife. I was shocked that Pete would even want to date me. He swept me off my feet. Needless to say, I idolized him. He loved me. He loved my daughters. Even when he didn’t have to. Even when he knew that someday they could reject him. I was hooked.
We had been married a number of years. We had had 2 kids together by then. In fact, I had just lost our 3rd child together. I had been at a prayer meeting with one of my friends that cold February evening. We were lying in bed, in the dark, when Pete said, “I need you to pray for me. I am addicted to pornography.”
If my life ever changed in an instant, it was then. I reeled. I had had almost no exposure to pornography at all. As far as I know, it was never in the home I grew up in. A girl at college had passed around a magazine once. A few R-rated movies. It wasn’t much. I had no idea what I was getting into. I had no idea what Pete was into.
The next few weeks I learned more and more. I learned about all the things that were going on in my home that I had no idea about. The evil he had invited in. I learned that Pete had been struggling with this problem for years. Years. His innocence had been taken from him at the time he had started losing his baby teeth. It went down hill from there.
I don’t believe that the circumstances are important. I don’t believe that anyone needs to know every detail. I know too many. I have a couple of very close friends who have walked beside me. What is important, though, is how his addiction changed me.
It seems hard for me to believe that I am finally, finally working through some of the fall out now. It has been over 7 years. 7 YEARS.
The first thing I learned through this experience is that I had Pete in the position in my marriage that God deserved. I worshipped him. I always believed the best in him. My devotion was unshakeable. Then I found out that he had been misusing the gift that God had given us. Whether he had “stepped out” on me or not, he had traded the gift of sex that God had given us and made it primal. Lustful. Sinful. He had traded intimacy for intensity. He allowed the enemy of our souls to convince him that he needed outside forces to satisfy him.
I fell hard and fast. I felt betrayed. Some would say I was. Jesus says, in Matthew 5:28 “But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”(NIV) My feelings were justified.
I cried. And cried and cried. I thought I might drown in tears. Then I cried out to God. While my husband had disappointed me I found out the True Lover of my soul couldn’t. He wouldn’t. Regardless of how anyone treated me, my Father God would hold me in His palm and speak words of love over me. He was faithful. He couldn’t be otherwise. I realized that all the things I had looked for in life, on this planet, were satisfied in my Heavenly Father. He knew how to touch my heart because He had made it.
When I started putting my marriage in the proper perspective, I started to change. And that is what has taken me 8 long years to figure out. I have been blessed with a good friend who has had to deal with the fight between what she wanted to do and what she should do (like Pete was doing) in her own life. Speaking with her, hearing her heart, has opened my eyes.
Our church at the time was very quick to condemn Pete. They seemed to want to put him on a “time-out” for his own sinful behaviour. Like a little boy. The sin that he had confessed. He hadn’t been caught. He had come, seeking to change his life. Desiring more of God and knowing that this needed to be dealt with. He needed help. He didn’t get it.
As his wife, I needed help too. I felt undesirable, alone and heartbroken. I was certain it was my fault. I wasn’t enough for him. I couldn’t see that the problem was his. I was just an innocent by-stander. I was not unaffected but I was not responsible. I also longed to reach out to other women in these terrible circumstances. I knew that I needed another flesh and blood friend who could stand beside me and hold me up. Who could understand my pain. I was told that that wasn’t possible. The woman whose husband dealt with this type of sin would not risk exposing him. She just had to suffer in silence.
And I did suffer. I don’t remember how much weight I lost then. Or how black the circles under my eyes were from long sleepless nights. I felt like I was wearing my suffering on me like a cloak. It weighed me down.
We like to classify sin. We like to think that some are “better” than others. But the truth is that sin is sin. It is all the same. It is all flesh (our desire) battling spirit (our desire to do what God wants us to do). And it all leads to death. Separation from God. I can stand on my sanctimonious soap box pointing at the liar, the adulterer, the murderer while I allow pride, hypocrisy and self-righteousness flourish in my heart. It is all the same to God. In fact, it is worse. Jesus told the story in the Bible of 2 men that were praying in the temple. A Pharisee and a tax collector. Pharisees were the religious leaders of the people. Tax collectors were the scum who worked for the Romans and stole from their own people. The Pharisee prayed loudly, patting himself on the back for being better than the tax collector. The tax collector pleaded with God for mercy. Jesus said, “I tell you that this man (the tax collector), rather than the other (the Pharisee), went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” Luke 18:14(NIV).
I have been humbled both by Pete’s and my friend’s pursuit of God. I have been inspired by their courageous fight between flesh and the spirit. I have been changed by both of them. I have had to look at myself and find the sin, the hidden sin, that plagues me. The unforgiveness. The pride. The self-righteousness. Those less obvious sins. I am guilty of all that and more. I don’t know if I would have faced it if it hadn’t been for them.
I told Pete that I was not going to ask him to leave, 7 years ago, when he confessed his sin to me. Many people would probably understand if I had. I gave him grace instead. I told him that if it happened again, our marriage would be over. But it did and we are still here. In fact it has happened a number of times. There are longer periods of sobriety every time. It doesn’t get as bad before the Holy Spirit starts nudging him. I am so glad for that. Pete could harden his heart, close his ears and keep sinning. But he doesn’t. He can’t. He wants too much of God for him to stop pressing in.
It is not easy to hear that he has slipped again. I hate it. But I am reminded how many times I disappoint God. If I were to tally them up, they would equal a lot more times than Pete has sinned against me. His sin isn’t even against me. And God keeps giving me mercy and grace. In fact, He has thrown away the score card and just looks on the righteousness that I am cloaked in. His Son bought that righteousness for me. I couldn’t earn it. It was a free gift. How could I deny giving grace and mercy to Pete when he asks for it? That is the key. He does. And I do.
You may be tempted to believe that I am exposing Pete by this post. I suppose I am. But I have his blessing. He read it before it ended up published on my blog. (It made him cry–always a good sign!) But he is also a firm believer that our hidden sins become a lot less powerful when they are exposed to the light. I admire him for that. It would be easier for both of us if I kept my story to myself. What I want, what I believe God has called me to, though, is to tell those parts of my story that I am ashamed of so that I can reveal His faithfulness. Jesus is the reason that I can get up in the morning. His love is what keeps me pressing on, pushing closer. I want to be so close that the dust from the hem of His cloak is all over me. This life is so hard but He is there. For me. And for you. All you have to do is ask.