As before, throwing a book launch party this month had me terrified. I can write and speak, but marketing is another story.
(Yeah. There it is. You’ll probably never find me in multi-level marketing because the thought of trying to sell stuff sends me into a panic. I’d rather hug someone than try to convince them to buy something.)
But God was asking me to push through, trust Him, and do the thing. So I did, and He came through with all the right friends for all the help I needed. Amazing how we’re all good at different things and how wonderful it is to just be ourselves and do what we’re good at with rest and grace over it.
So here’s just a little spin on the new book:
Being a third born child in a family of ten children had me well acquainted with taking care of babies, and I entered the mothering world eagerly. There was little adjustment to having my own babies because I had helped my mother take care of my younger siblings for as long as I could remember.
I was going to do just what she did: home school, always be a stay at home mom, and be my daughters’ best friends even in their teen years.
I drove an old mini van so I could afford to be a stay at home mother. I home schooled, and did the whole bake-your-own-everything kind of lifestyle. And I loved my children like none other.
Then, my world fell apart. The years of doing everything “right” had to be replaced for a trust in the only One who is always right.
After years of turmoil, my husband had packed his bags, driven away, then pursued a romantic relationship with a sixteen year old girl only a year older than our daughter. There are no words for the turmoil this placed on my children, nor for the after math of devastation on all our lives.
I went to work and the children went to public school. They reeled, I struggled—but we survived, and we learned, and we knew that, though life can be altered by another, it can never be destroyed by another.
In the past three years I’ve told my children many times over, “No one can ruin your life except you. You have the strength to get back up and live a beautiful life.”
I had to hold them while they cried, face their deep hurt and anger when it erupted, and drive many hours to counseling sessions.
After a few years of struggle, I made a move from the west coast to the east, landing in the dead of night in a major airport with myself and the children to start life over in an area where we knew one other family, settled into a house we had never seen, and started searching google for maps to the closest schools and grocery stores. Covid- 19 hit right afterward, and the rest is history.
Along with my children, I struggled to survive until I was set free from the grief that would have destroyed me.
There, I learned all about Grace.
There, I learned that Jesus wants to be trusted more than we trust certain methods.
There, my eyes opened wide to the fact that God was moving in all kinds of places and people—and that the answers are not the same for every mother.
Home school was no longer an idol.
I bought food rather than made it.
And Jesus became altogether lovely in the face of tragedy.
Regardless of your circumstance, I invite you to gaze with me into the face of Jesus Christ, Who alone can bring life into your car while you drive the children to school, or wait with them for the bus, or teach them at your kitchen table.
Jesus wants to be everything for us mothers.
Parts of this book were written while I was in one world, and parts of it written while I was in another. Jesus Christ met me in both. He steadied me in both. He taught me that grief and gratitude are friends, interlaced, working together with one purpose—to behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world and overcomes the affects of it, as well.
And He comes to each of you, inviting you to overwhelming peace in a life not your own. The Son of Man will always rise over everything that goes down.
It remains then, that your greatest need as a mother is not a perfect method, but a deep understanding of a Perfect Master.
As Eric Gilmore so beautifully says, “Jesus Christ is greater than His gifts, more wonderful than His wonders, and more precious than His promises.”
It’s weird how we can sit in cafes or walk streets, expecting everyone to be kind, even though most are complete strangers to each other.
We all just kinda know how humans are supposed to treat each other.
Most of us wouldn’t be too impressed with someone yelling at a customer or someone receiving a favor without saying thank you or showing appreciation of some sort.
We’d probably wrinkle up our noses and be happy we can walk on. Some people are just yuck and make us glad we don’t have to be around them.
And if someone continuously criticized a friend, that friend would probably either confront the problem, or quit hanging out as much.
Negative actions usually cause negative responses.
But, this simple principal seems to be forgotten by many spouses. So I’m writing from my heart here, and just asking this:
1. Do you ignore your spouse—yet get hurt when you’re not pursued?
2. Do you avoid conflict—yet remain bothered that your spouse doesn’t know how you really feel about something?
3. Do you continually give negative or correctional responses when your spouse shares an idea or simply vents his/her feelings—yet get hurt when they close off and don’t want to talk?
4. Do you avoid helping out—yet carry a grudge when your spouse doesn’t help as much as you want him/ her to help out?
5. Do you ignore them when they speak—yet feel hurt when they don’t look at you when they speak, but choose to focus on another person in the room?
6. Do you make your dislike of them known—yet become hurt when they don’t pursue you in the bedroom?
7. Do you treat them as little more than a room mate—yet complain when they don’t date you well on special events?
I’d like to call attention to the fact that people often treat strangers better than their own spouses. Strangers who may be a million times worse than your spouse, strangers with whom you have no connection—hear this carefully—are getting better treatment from some of you than your spouses are getting.
That very stranger would keep distance if you treated him/her as you treat your spouse. Withdrawing to avoid more pain is a natural response of the human heart.
There’s a story of a man who greatly disliked his wife and went to get counsel. His therapist told him that he could divorce her after three months IF he tried the following recommendation first.
He was to go home and treat her as if he genuinely LIKED her.
We can picture what this meant. Smiles, kind words, acts of service, hanging out, and all the things we do with our best friends.
His therapist waited in vain for the man call, then finally called him. He was ecstatic. “I treated her as if I liked her, and everything changed”
You better believe there was no divorce for that couple! Simple, basic human kindness and dignity re-ignited their love when it would have otherwise been snuffed right out and the courts would have seen one more broken couple filing divorce papers while their children’s eyes take on a whole other look than the care-free, joyful ones they previously had.
So I’m here to say to every unhappy spouse who is married to a faithful, albeit imperfect, person: Just take a big, bold dare to love them, and show it. This can be the bravest thing you do. And sometimes, this dare to actively show love does more than many hours in a counselor’s office.
(To those who’ve tried this and nothing changed, please know that loving is something we do because we’re connected to God more than because we’re connected to our spouse. Sometimes, loving well doesn’t change a drastic need in a spouse. In those cases, we simply do what God asks us to do, then leave the rest. We are not responsible to change another; we are responsible to love well, then trust God with the results.)
Remember this–we love because God loved us first. Loving well is something every person does who sees the value God places on each human being.
Loving well is not optional when we see the great love God gives us personally. Loving well is part of our own dignity, character, and value. In Christ, it is who we are. Someone else’s character cannot rob us of God’s character and grace within us.
Treat your spouse as well or better than you treat your best friends, and watch what happens! If you know what it takes to stay a friend to someone, please know it takes the same kind of thing to create a happy marriage where both of you find the companionship you crave.
(Co-Authored by a man with a heart for Christ centered leadership)
I’m not sure I’d want to sit under a tree named after myself, judging the tribes of Israel.
I most certainly would not want to join an army—and if the battle was won, I probably wouldn’t sing a song describing myself as the mother of Israel.
The thought is almost funny.
Yet, scripture is written for our edification and instruction. The story of Deborah tells us a lot.
She was a WIFE.
She heard from GOD.
She was a PROPHETESS.
She sat under a palm tree named after herself, “The Palm of Deborah”.
She summoned a man to her station and delivered a WORD FROM THE LORD.
She gave detailed descriptions of what Barak needed to do during this war.
Somehow, she had gained the utmost respect of Barak, who was a leader and commander, most likely a type A man with great abilities of his own.
After victory, she gave glory to God, and included herself in that story.
In a patriarchal culture, she reminded a strong man that the battle would be won by a woman.
God Himself chose to use two women to execute victory in a battle fought by men.
Deborah wasn’t trying to DO EVERYTHING a man could do; she was fully BEING EVERYTHING she was called to be as a woman. (please note the difference here).
When Barak asked her to go with him into battle, she agreed to go.
Barak was not too proud to ask—and she did not disqualify herself from a place of great importance in this story because she was a woman.
Both man and woman did exactly what God wanted them to do by working together to perform what He asked.
Then there is the awe-inspiring, Proverbs 31 Woman! A woman can expect to hear the words “You’re such a Proverbs 31 woman”, —when she arises early to pack her husband’s lunch, do his laundry, or prep his dinner. But there is more that we need to be teaching our daughters.
I want to take a deeper look at this distinguished woman from the book of Proverbs. The Proverbs 31 woman also:
Had a husband who trusted her decisions.
She made intelligent business moves that put their estate at an advantage.
She didn’t just shop locally, but sought out the best purchases from around the country. This meant being well informed and knowledgeable.
She had maids to free up more of her own time.
She purchased real estate.
She took care of her body and strengthened it.
She knew that her business was profitable.
She helped the poor.
Her clothing was fine linen and purple.
She created, sold, and distributed her products to merchants.
She was marked with strength and dignity.
She opened her mouth with wisdom (which meant she had wisdom others heard and received).
She spoke with kindness.
She looked after her household WELL (and that also meant knowing her limits by hiring maids).
Her husband, who was an established, productive leader, PRAISED her.
Notice, she excelled personally, at home, at business, in her community, in the market place AND she was PRAISED by her husband.
While we see far reaching extremes from oppressive patriarchal “Christian” cultures for women, all the way to brash, feministic, non-christian culture, it is clear from the examples of Deborah and the Proverbs 31 woman that both of these extremes are a far cry from the good, loving heart of our Heavenly Father.
I’d like us to take a quick look at Sarah, who is mentioned in 1 Peter 3. Sarah is described as a woman who obeyed her husband and called him lord. Unfortunately, this passage is often taken so out of context that it has produced a cult-like, oppressive environment for women, where, in all honesty, if she operated like a true Proverbs 31 woman, she’d be labeled as “too much”, “too strong” or even “rebellious”. Scripture never contradicts scripture, but actually compliments scripture. If it appears to contradict, we must simply look further or deeper at what God is saying as a whole, which can involve context and further study.
I have seen women who are struggling in painful marriages, yet afraid of “dishonoring” their husbands by getting help and exposing the real truth of his actions and words behind closed doors, The husbands expect their wives to quietly “find a solution” that protects their reputation, which usually looks like the (already submissive) wife being “more submissive”.
In many of these marriages, the problems are quickly blamed on something a wife does or doesn’t do while the man refuses to own his need simply because he’s “the leader”.
There are times where the topic of lust and purity is a matter of how a woman dresses more than that of the man’s own heart.
Some of these men are content leading in minor material areas of life (or being the admired leader/authority figure) of their homes while leaving the most important (relational or spiritual) areas to their wives.
It’s become more of an emphasis on Position and Authority than being the reasonable, responsible and respectable leader by God’s standards. The aftermath of this “authority” focus is devastating on women.
For example, there are women still weeping over sexual abuse after many years because they’re told to forgive more than told that God is angry with what has happened. (forgiveness can only happen when you know God is just and will bring justice). In some of these cases, a perpetrator is still allowed to live freely among the women he violated. (Even a minor can be removed from the girls he wronged).
At times, if women become “too upset” because they are NOT BEING HEARD, they’ll be labeled as being “bitter” or “rebellious” and told to submit. The men of the church will decide what should and shouldn’t be done—which sometimes, means the perpetrator is allowed to stay. I realize this would be unthinkable to many good and Godly men, but this is the reality for many women in some religious communities.
To add Insult toInjury these same women are strongly admonished to: Serve their families, especially their husbands; Be eager for sex; Continue admiring of their husbands; Stay silent on what matters most—unless the husband agrees. At most, she can very gently and “submissively” broach the subject but cannot make strong statements on things even as great as what to do with a perpetrator.
The Result?? Christian men, many of your women are weeping. Some of them are becoming emotionally distraught by the lack of true friendship and loving relationship.
It’s time for God-Inspired Leadership. What does it look like?
Listens – the cry of every woman, (person really) is “to be heard” – Do you value her voice?
Leads by example – Purity of heart, sacrificially, does the hard things, NOT just the fun things.
Lets her function in her gifts, too – She has God-given influence – can you “allow” her, or even better, HELP her accomplish her goals, pursue her gifts and talents?
Lavishes her with goodness – Give to her & help her, provide for her, be generous to her.
Lessens her Load – Help her with the kids, share in household responsibilities, hire a maid…
Loves Loudly – Leave no doubt in her mind of your love her, let her hear it often, and see it always …Love hard!
This is what Godly Leadership in our homes should look like! A man is a covering, not a lid. We cover what we love and want to protect, we cover what we value, we cover what we don’t want any damage to come to.
Recently I asked one of my happily married friends if she would defer to her husband if a major decision needed to be made and they did not agree. She immediately said “Oh, yes!”
I asked her because I noticed that they were mutually happy in their relationship.
I asked her because I noticed her countenance was joyful.
I asked her because I noticed she lived without pressure, and her atmosphere spoke of peace rather than stress.
Let me assure you that I’m still in love with 1 Peter 3, where Sarah is spoken of as an exemplary woman, one we would do well to follow.
But, the leadership we often see in Christian churches is destructive for men as well, because it is producing women they don’t want to produce. Unknowingly, men are digging their own graves to a happy, fulfilling relationship—all in the name of “Biblical” teaching. Women usually won’t be happy and fun unless they are treated well, with differing roles but with equal value.
Satan laughs while women weep. He’s successfully taken a beautiful, God-given plan for the family and turned it into a damaging, patriarchal system of selfishness and hierarchy.
Godly leadership will make a good woman COME ALIVE.
Before I close out, I want to thank every man who’s shown us what it looks like to love a woman well. I sincerely hope some of you speak up in the church, for the church, for your sisters who are suffering in ways you have no idea and would come to arms if you only knew.
My faith in men stands strong because of you. And my faith in God’s plan remains unshaken as I continue to pursue a culture of honor. Perfection is never expected on either end. But mutual effort, open and kind communication, love reciprocated, and mutual honor for each other.
As one Godly man said, “It looks a lot like team work!”
“Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the Word, so that He might present the church to Himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.
In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church.
……….Let each of you love his wife as himself.”Ephesians 5:25-29, &33a, ESV
It was seven years ago, but doesn’t seem so long ago that I got the call from my sister asking if I had heard about our brother.
I knew instinctively that he had died, and it was my first experience with numbing grief. I’d never before gone basically immobile where all I could do was cry. And in the days that followed, my usually active self could barely move to serve those around me who were also grieving.
I learned a lot in those days.
We flew to Honduras to try to find his body in the beautiful lake he had disappeared into, and on the third day, as professional divers, friends, and family called it quits one more time, his body suddenly floated up to the surface right beside the boat.
The sight of my brother’s body on news headlines, being drug out of the water, was almost too much for me. We buried him on a dark mountainside in Honduras, our questions unanswered. All we knew was that he was a good swimmer, yet went under quickly.
No struggle, no resurfacing. And because we were in another country, the autopsy we desperately wanted didn’t happen.
Our questions remain unanswered. Now, when others are wrecked with grief we try to remember all we learned in those days, try to reach out to others in ways that will help them rather than hurt them even more.
A few weeks ago one of my dearest friends lost her husband. The grief was great, even for me, and I felt I needed to be there. But I remembered—did she need me now, or later? Sure enough, she told me she had lots of people at the moment and would need me in a few weeks more than now. Loving my friend best meant waiting rather than rushing into crisis.
When my cousin Susanna Kauffman died a few weeks ago, I wanted others NOT to do or say some things that had happened to us. I wanted to spare the family from questions asked at the wrong times, from news links broad casted across social media before they could even process what was happening, and from well meaning people hurting rather than helping them.
None of us always know what to do or say to someone in crisis. Do we speak or stay silent? Do we go or stay?
But as I walked personal grief and watched family members process in their own ways, I learned some things on what to do or not do. And I’d love to develop a community of well-taught believers who walk grief with others in a healing way.
1. Be okay with unanswered questions.
A funeral, memorial service, or even the days prior and after are not the days to ask a crisis family all the questions on your mind. Don’t ask numerous questions of how they died, why they died, exactly what happened, etc. Reality is not always sinking in for the family and there is plenty of time for questions to be answered in the future.
2. Be okay with just showing up.
I just walked into a room to see one of my best friends weeping, bill in her hand for $38,000 (Her husband had just lost his job along with the accompanying insurance, and his life flight alone was this much). She was playing worship music as she wept, telling me that it’s all paid for. Not by the Go Fund Me page where almost that exact amount was given, but by another source. I wrapped her up and wept with her.
Showing up can be in person or with your pocket book. Many people show up with words, yet those in crisis often need tangible presence or help more than verbal help.
You don’t have to know what to say. Most of the time you don’t need to say anything. Just show up. Just be there. Just do the thing without much ado, and make sure they are covered.
3. Don’t overwhelm weary minds with your own crisis stories.
That is not the best way to “be relatable” at a funeral. I remember standing before a long line of well-wishers, listening to someone else tell us of their own death story. We were too exhausted to stand there, much less listen to stories of another crisis. If you come to a memorial, keep your words calm, sympathetic, and short. Presence is better than speech.
4. Don’t crowd into their home after the funeral.
The family will be exhausted. They won’t need to sit for hours, answering questions and processing for or with you at that time. DO visit them in the following weeks and months as reality settles in.
5. Notice what they need, emotionally or physically.
People in crisis often find it hard to eat and even harder to cook. Take them baskets of ready made food and leave it sitting on the counter with flowers. You can come and go in a few minutes, leaving a note or a hug.
If you see a sink full of dishes, perhaps wash them quickly if the time seems right. Keep your eyes peeled for what might mean most to them.
People process differently. My friend needs quality time and someone to just sit on her couch and process with her. One of her daughters is the same, and joins us there. Her other daughter needs to move and talk, stay busy, and keep up with school work. Reality may hit her a few months down the road.
There is no right or wrong way to process grief. Don’t try to force your own way of healing onto someone else, but rather take note of each person’s make-up and go out of your way to accommodate their way of grieving. If someone needs to talk or do something, go with that flow and take them out for an activity. If they need to sit and cry, make sure your presence is there—really there.
6. Remember to mention the passed loved one in the coming months and years.
People often don’t mention someone who passed away because they don’t want to stir unnecessary grief. But the family is mourning whether or not their loved one is mentioned. A smile with a story of what you loved about the person will soothe their hearts a little. This opens the door for them to talk, process, and share about their loved one if they want to. They will probably pull out photos to share, and will love any detail you have of a pleasant memory.
It is very difficult to live a new reality. When others never mention a loved one, it can feel like you’re in your world alone.
7. Make sure all their physical needs are met.
If you see a need somewhere, just fill it. No need to ask a ton of questions. The less they have to think about and take care of, the better. They may not have the energy to thank you then, but you will be remembered as someone who truly helped. Stay tuned in for a long time, remember that months later can be more difficult than the immediate shock. Pray, stop by, and help financially or in any other way you notice they need help.
8. Don’t quote Bible verses to try to “get them out of grief”.
Be okay with grief. Cry with them. Never quote a verse about joy or say things like “Your loved one is better off with Jesus” or “You’ll see him again some day” or “Things will get better.”
Jesus stood weeping with Martha and Mary before he called Lazarus from the tomb. Even in His Godhead, where He stood ready to do the miraculous, He first made time for mourning. He didn’t have to, but He chose to.
Remember that many deaths are traumatic. Not only is a family grieving loss, often they are also trying not to remember how someone died. Pray healing over their minds—and as one friend put it to me a few weeks ago, pray that they would process what God wants them to process, and leave the rest to Him. There is grief, and there is excessive, destructive grief. Pray that they would grieve with Jesus so despair would not get in.
Let’s choose to love in ways people need us to love them. This is all about them, not about us. In this way, the God of HOPE will come into our atmospheres and change the way we sit with others in their grief.
Love to all,
“Bear one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ.” Galatians 6:2, ESV
When people reach out to ask what the most helpful things have been for soul-healing, my brain does a spin while my heart pauses.
Healing was long, difficult, and multi-faceted with no assurance I was ever going to get there. Divorce and betrayal so deeply devastated me that I couldn’t know then what I know now.
My sister would tell me, “Sara, you won’t always feel this way. You won’t always be this sad.”
I could smile, yes. But I couldn’t shake that deep despair and dread threatening to engulf me with each waking morning. This lasted, much of the time, for a few years. So I can relate to the person whose spouse has cheated and he or she lives with debilitating despair.
Jesus Christ healed me as only He can do. It was not a simple fix after someone glibly quoted “The joy of the Lord is your strength.” (Don’t ever do that to a grieving person, by the way.) My healing was long, on-going, and needed to happen from every angle. It came bit by bit, and God was okay with that. But after 3.5 years, I knew it had happened.
The spirit of God touched me at a conference and I knew then that I was free. Weeping on a church floor does something to you. Staying there helplessly, like a child, letting God take your everything while filling you with SOMETHING (rather, SOMEONE), allows the tension to dissipate while your soul sinks into a peace not known by natural circumstances.
To those asking me about healing, I want you to know a few things:
1. God is okay with your process.
Others may think you’re not “spiritual enough” or “surrendered enough” if you continue grieving, but Jesus never said that.
When Lazarus died, Jesus didn’t rush to resurrect Him, though He knew that’s what He would do in the end. Get this, friend—Jesus stood there, weeping when He could have rushed to call Lazarus from the tomb. I believe Jesus wanted Mary and Martha to know He was engaging in their grief.
Isaiah 53:3 calls Him a “man of sorrows and acquainted with grief”.
One of the first and most important steps to healing from grief is to first engage it honestly. This might look like a day in bed, months where you watch Netflix more than read the inspirational books you used to read, or anything else that helps. A traumatized soul means a weary brain. And a weary brain needs to rest in order to rebuild itself.
Accept your grief, accept your weakness—and be okay with staying there for awhile. Just make sure you invite Jesus to stay there with you. That makes all the difference because He won’t leave you there.
2. Do things you’ve always wanted to do.
Since my divorce I’ve been on my best and longest mountain hikes (with some of the best people), I’ve gone sky-diving and allowed my body to hurl out of a plane two miles in the air, I’ve jumped from 100 foot towers, and learned dancing (which I’ve wanted to do for years).
Stepping out for things you love is vital to healing because it removes trauma from your brain for a short while. Like a shocker, you’re reminded that there are other aspects to life than the part that makes you curl up in a ball, weeping. You get glimpses of hope even if you may not stay there. These small glimpses give you courage to keep going even if despair rolls back in.
Whatever it is that makes you come alive, do it and keep doing it.
3. Engage your anger, but don’t turn into an angry person.
My nature, I am not an angry person. But I had to accept that feeling angry over betrayal was a good thing. I tried various outlets including burning garbage and old furniture, cleaning out all the remaining belongings of the person I was hurt by, and I even tried breaking glass jars one day. Seeing my husband with a teen-aged child did something to me that I can’t describe and I needed outward outlets for the inner pressure. This is not wrong and can be helpful.
But after releasing anger, choose to forgive. Bitterness will only cage your own soul in. You deserve more than to turn into an ugly person because of the ugly someone else threw your way. And I have to say, there are few things as ugly as a bitter woman. I was determined not to turn into one, and I realized I didn’t have to. There was so much good to immerse my soul into, that was more powerful than the one bad thing I could have sunk into.
4. Immerse yourself in a culture of honor.
Simply put, you need people to surround you, be there for you, and call out the best in you during the worst time of your life. My community of friends saved me. They believed in me. They rallied for me. Before, during, and after the divorce they treated me the same—with more honor than I had ever received in my life.
Find yourself friends who lift your soul rather than drag you into more depression. Find friends who know your heart so well that they don’t even need to ask about anything else. Sit with them and let them love you. Go out to dinners with them as you’ve always done. Cry with them and let them weep with you. Whatever you do, make sure you have a community who lifts your soul.
5. Choose forgiveness.
I asked it for years, “God, what does forgiveness look like? What does it feel like? How do I know I’ve forgiven?”
When I realized how much Father God hated what was done to me, I realized how much I could trust Him to take care of what was done to me. Seeing God changes everything. God does not blithely pass by one of His daughters in distress. You will get to stand still and watch Him fight for you.
When you realize you can hand your offender into the hands of God, you realize you’re okay with however God chooses to handle that person.
At that point, any gaps in your feelings become less than the focal point. God has taken over. You’ve chosen forgiveness, you’ve chosen God, and as the years pass by He will take you deeper into that secret place where you know what forgiveness feels like. Until then, trust Him with your lesser feelings as you choose Him for His greater LOVE.
6. Repent and own your mistakes
I remember when a friend reached out with these words, “Sara, you don’t have to be perfect.”
At the time, she knew why she said that more than I knew. I was so devastated by the divorce that I felt like I had to be perfect. Slowly, I realized no one can possibly be perfect and it was not only okay for me to acknowledge my imperfections; it was also important. I owned my mistakes in life without taking ownership for the divorce.
This set my soul free from the bondage of needing to be a perfect woman. I realized it was impossible, and it was fully okay to be human and to verbalize areas of growth that needed to happen in my life while in no way agreeing to or owning the divorce. (Of course I agreed to it later as the affair became obvious and ongoing).
For everyone in every season of life, a God-awareness of personal need is a gift. I learned to bask in the love of Jesus and talk to Him about all of it, telling Him I was sorry for any and every failure, and asking Him to help me change. Here, I learned how very much He loved me and was with me even when I wasn’t perfect. What a gift this became to my soul!
7. Stay on track.
In times of grief it is easier to lose sight of who we are, but so important to stay on track. If you’re a faithful, God fearing woman, keep right on being one. If you have children, keep prioritizing them. Remind yourself that keeping your home clean, serving your children, getting out of bed when it’s hard to do so–all of it will pay off and will help you keep building your life even as parts of it crash. Wash your face, clean the toilets, cook dinner for the kids–do what you’ve always done to create a lovely atmosphere for your family.
Above all else, keep your morals. Be careful with men. Vulnerable women can still be faithful women. Don’t allow the devil to rob you of even more by giving him space in this area of your life. The rewards for faithfulness are great and it is a vital part of your healing.
8. Never stop seeking.
I promise you. You who are in the depths of despair—I promise you that if you seek Jesus, He will heal you. Perhaps not in your time or way, but He will—and that’s all that matters. And while you feel no hope, I speak hope over you, to you, for you, and into you.
Never give up. Sooner or later, your soul will rise to the Son of Man who has already risen with healing in His wings. (Malachi 4:2)
And if you want to talk, find me in the contact page and I will get back to you. I will weep with you, stand in the gap for you, speak things over you that you cannot yet believe for yourself.
Most people, when they mention moving on, are referring to a readiness to get into another romantic relationship.
But moving on can be so much more. I’m here to tell you that you can “move on” without moving into the arms of another man. For me, moving on means finding soul-freedom from my past more than it means finding human love.
Letting go of a person when he’s dead can be difficult, but letting go when he’s alive can be brutal. Death brings finality and closure that cannot be avoided; divorce brings rejection and betrayal that, by all means, could and should have been avoided.
Divorce brings the death of a dream. It wasn’t only a marriage, though that would be enough. For me, divorce also brought the death of my children’s security, my dream home, my friends, the mountains and sea that I loved with all my heart, and my church. My ex didn’t think the loss would be so great, and wanted me on good friendship terms while he slept with our daughter’s 16 year old friend five minutes away. In his mind, we could live a good “friendship’, co-parenting life style in close proximity with each other.
When I realized how his brain really worked, I realized how confused mine had become. Narcissists are good at that—love bombing while tearing you to shreds—and if you don’t enjoy it, they’ll tell you that something must be wrong with you for being so sad.
Divorce taught me to see God, but it also taught me to see a lot of other things. Facing my grief with God allowed me not only to see His hand move on my behalf, but also His Love so pure that it was nothing like the “love” I thought I had with my ex-husband.
Seeing God means you own up to what He’s saying about everything. You start seeing evil for what it really is while you see goodness in ways that take your breath away.
Yesterday when a friend asked me how I’ve moved on, I had to stop and think. How has all that not destroyed me?
By choice, I don’t have a boyfriend. So I can’t credit healing to finally being in a healthy relationship.
It sounds clique to say that it was God’s presence that allowed me to stay intact and learn how to thrive again, but it’s true. I learned how to live autonomously before Jesus Christ and see what He said over me, to me, and for me—completely apart from any other human being.
You can lose everything, yet still hold on to the most important thing. This is because Jesus’ death on the cross annihilated not only sin, but also the effects of sin. Salvation was not only meant to take your sin away, but also to remove the affects of another’s sin toward you.
I took years to process the fact that my husband would walk away. I took even longer to process the fact that he wouldn’t come visit his children, and my little boy hasn’t seen his father in almost two years. Trust me when I say the processing included many tears, more grief than anger, and that devastating realization hitting hard when I woke each morning not wanting to place my feet on the ground.
So I’m not offering you some magic formula of moving on. It’s more like a solid refusal to go under no matter what you might feel in a day. It looks a lot like reaching out for help, like processing long and hard, like talking to God through it all, about it all. It looks like owning your own faults, while recognizing that the divorce is not your fault.
Moving on takes some hard-knock-life stuff. Avoidance or oblivion may make you feel momentarily that you’re moving on, but in reality, you’re only shutting down. Be willing to engage every day, even if you have a few where you don’t get out of bed.
Some of that hard-as-hell stuff in life will knock you flat for life unless you get hold of the delight Jesus Christ has over you. He says to me, to you, “I loved you before marriage, I loved you during marriage, and I love you just as much after marriage.”
The purity culture has good to offer, but we often end up idolizing the perfect romantic relationship, thinking that our well being is tied up in another person. We are much less prepared than the world is, to be cheated on and discarded. We find our identity in serving and submitting to a man, and try to perfect ourselves and our relationships as much as we try to have a relationship with God.
Slowly and unawares, a man becomes God to us. We really don’t think we can be okay without a good man in our lives.
The best women can be wrecked the most when betrayal happens, or even when marriage is less than it should be. But I want to tell you that your man is not your God. Your man is not your Savior. And your man will never keep your heart full of pure, unadulterated joy before God.
Idolizing marriage puts you in a cage of your man’s perfection—which he will never attain to, and if you expect him to be perfect for you, you’ll spend each day griping about one thing or another.
I’ve seen women gripe daily over good, faithful men as if they cannot live autonomously before God and find soul satisfaction on their own. As if it takes their men seeing a need and fixing it before they can fix their own hearts. As if their entire well being is contingent on their men treating them perfectly.
Heaven help these men if they’re trying hard, yet aren’t filling the quota their wives place on them to fill.
Coming out of abuse and the worst kind of betrayal allowed me to see the idol marriage was to me. Surrendering that to the Lord allowed me to take hold of His love, plan, purpose, and design for my life. No man can wreck that up—the only person who will ever wreck God’s perfect design for your life is YOU.
Seeing God changes everything.
Moses knew there was a burning bush in his vicinity, but the Lord started speaking to Moses when He saw that Moses turned aside and looked.
Moving on doesn’t have to mean moving into another relationship. The best moving on comes when we turn to face what God is doing—first, in grief, sorrow, pain, and anger. We don’t run from these negative emotions, but process them facing Jesus.
As the Lord started speaking to Moses when He saw Moses turn aside to really look, so He will speak to you when you stop everything to look at His face.
If you really face everything with God, you’ll find more soul freedom than many find who never have trauma but live a relatively easy life.
Facing God with our emotions is the only way to heal properly. Denial is not healing; it is debilitating.
As we face God with our grief, we begin to see God do things to help us. We credit God for His works as we move aside to see God.
I knew it was God who helped me run a successful AirBnB.
I knew it was God when I paid for my car in cash.
I knew it was God when I craved chicken and a widow lady called me up to ask if I could help her eat a larger amount she didn’t need. Somedays, small things meant even more than big things. They showed me God was watching closely.
I knew it was God when I found a house online and moved within three weeks from one coast to another.
Friends, God is always doing things for us, yet we are not always turning aside to see God and give Him credit. Many times we are stopping in our tracks to gripe over what we don’t have, and missing out on the marvelous works of God on our behalf.
“And Moses said, ‘I will turn aside to see this great sight, why the bush is not burned.
When the Lord saw that He turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, ‘Moses, Moses!’” (Exodus 3:3&4, ESV)
God spoke when Moses turned to see.
Friends, if you’re seeing devastation in your life, imperfections in your spouse that leave you empty and wanting, make sure you turn aside to see God and His works even more.
He will come to you.
He will work in you.
He will work for you.
Though your spouse may never change, remember that the gift of Life is autonomously given, no man can take it, and, just as importantly, no man can give it.
Recently, I got a text from Verizon telling me that I qualified for $800 off an i-phone 13. Usually, I rush about my days in true Sara fashion and ignore things like this, but this time I decided to drop by Verizon on my way home from work to see what was up.
Sure enough, I qualified for an i-phone 13 and before long, I was choosing between the few colors they had on hand—black or red.
I groaned inwardly because what girl wants a black or red i-phone? (Ironically, my daughter does choose black over pink!)
“Wait a minute,” he said. “There might be a pink one in the back.” And he returns with the most lovely pink which I accepted immediately.
A few minutes later the young man started talking life, his wife, and their baby on the way. Making a comment on something men are good at, had him stalling and apologizing in an effort to assure me he’s not sexist or anything.
I smiled and told him I’m quite okay with gender differences and I think they’re important. Which brings me to the topic often pressing on my heart.
I’ve been reading Genesis and blown away with the account of creation, how God made man in His own image, how man was to care for the garden, and then, how man was alone and God knew that he needed a helper suitable for him.
God created man from the dust of the earth, but He created woman from man’s rib, a place close to his heart. Literally, woman was created by God from there, when she could have been created from dust.
Let that sink in just a little. Man was formed from the dust of the ground, while woman was created from a rib close to man’s heart, designed specifically to complete that which was lacking in man.
Man and woman were different from the start. Eve’s body was designed to grow children inside her womb. How amazing is that? Yet, she needed Adam to place his seed inside her because she didn’t have what it took to create a child on her own.
Adam gives his seed, Eve gives her womb, and a human life is born into this world.
Man cannot grow a babe in his body, yet a woman cannot even begin to grow one without part of a man.
Every part of man was created to come together with every part of woman, and vise versa. We are different, with different roles, yet equally important.
But our bodies aren’t the only things we differ in. Why did the Verizon tech instinctively know I might love a pink phone?
And why, when war breaks out, do women instinctively look to men for protection?
Who rushes to front lines first?
But who tends to wounded soldiers when they return?
I’m watching society shift from celebrating and honoring gender differences, to wanting “all humans equal” (as if we’re not already equal in value).
I’m watching women lose femininity and frankly, I think this adds to the problem of gay or lesbian couples. Why would men be attracted to masculine or abrasive women, and what in an effeminate man draws a healthy woman?
I’m watching women lose respect for men and think it a prideful thing that men would crave respect. And I’m watching men wilt under a constant scrutiny of quick judgment for anything that could be labeled as “too much masculinity”.
I’m watching women lose their beauty, their life, their nature in an effort to be “as good at everything a man is”.
But truth be told, sister, there will always be more men driving dirty pickup trucks and picking up guns during hunting season. If you let them be good at their thing while you cultivate your own thing, the world will have what it needs. Of course some girls hunt as well, but we’re making a different point here.
Twenty first century women are killing what they crave. The more our society removes honor from men, the less real men we will have.
Scoff at men long enough and you’ll end up with a society void of manliness. You want milk toast men who won’t offer to change your tire or lift that heavy sack of dog food into your car? Scoff at men, dismiss the unique qualities a man has, turn down his efforts to help and protect—and you may be looking around wondering where real men are the next time you need one.
Yes, you’ve been hurt.
Yes, some men are real, live jerks.
Yes, some men are merely boys in adult bodies.
But there are also many, many real men who deserve a place in society where their leadership is applauded rather than dismissed.
Never allow the abuse of one man to make you dismiss the goodness of many men.
Tell your world we need no gender differences, but I will tell that same world that if we remove a woman’s femininity or a man’s masculinity, we remove from the world exactly what it needs to thrive.
A lesbian couple will NEVER make a balanced, complete parent team.
The more masculine one will never be a man, neither will she fill the role of a man well. She will always be a woman even when she despises it, and she will never be a good replacement “dad” for a child who needs a healthy father figure in his or her life.
Homes need one man and one woman.
Children need one mother and one father.
Churches need couples.
The world needs families.
Ladies, you can emasculate a man merely by dismissing the very qualities that make him a man. If enough of you are out to prove you don’t need men, society will suffer from lack of men willing to stand up, step up, speak up. Men are becoming timid, afraid of insulting women by offering help.
I’m grateful that I still know real men who don’t hesitate to step up for me. I’m grateful my daughters see that. I’m grateful that some men won’t allow themselves to be pushed into something they were never meant to be.
A real man will never trade his masculinity for a watered down, twenty first century, feminist view of his gender. He will be kind, humble, honoring—-but he will be a real man.
It’s time to wake up and bring back into our culture a genuine appreciation for masculinity, for their natural ability to protect, provide, lead, and love. It’s time to celebrate manhood.
Our daughters are looking for real men, and discouraged at the effeminate boys they see all around them. When a man opens a door for you, look at him with a genuine smile and thank him sincerely. The same instinct that makes him want to open your door is the same instinct that also makes him want to protect you in crisis.
Will you scoff at his manhood in one moment, yet ask for it in a moment of need? A man cannot shut down and rise up as you want him to. A man needs to be able to be a man, 24/7. If you let yourself receive it, you will learn to love being a woman.
And if you’re married, don’t be shy about expressing honor, just as you don’t want him to be shy about showing love.
The twenty first century needs real men and real ladies more ever. Girls should still look like girls, and boys should still learn the guy stuff. Balance to our world will only come when we align ourselves to creation the way God made it to be.
Take general human kindness one step further and look into how men are created, how women are created, why that is, and what each gender needs most. Let children grow up to see men and women cultivating themselves rather than trying to condition themselves to be like the other gender.
Let them see whole, healthy families, and they might see school shootings less.
Because sometimes, living out God’s design does more for change in a society than trying to remove guns. Men were born to hunt, and they need guns. That’s a whole other topic, but I’m just saying.
And lest any feminist thinks I’m categorizing women and putting them into a box, come on by sometime and I’ll show you how fun it is to shoot an AR-15, free-fall from a plane two miles in the air, or run a chain saw.
A healthy world starts with healthy men and women who can raise children in God ordained families. No one will ever improve God’s design.
Forgiveness allows the pain in your past to propel you toward the purpose in your future—but only a true understanding of forgiveness can do that. Let’s talk about one of the most misunderstood principals in the Christian world.
I will never glibly tell a betrayed, angry person, “You need to forgive” or “The joy of the Lord is your strength”, or any other Christian quote people like to throw out when they’re uncomfortable with humanity’s mess. I will not say that until I’ve sat with her or him through the hurt of it all.
Jesus was angry.
Jesus said it how it was.
Jesus didn’t pretend nothing was wrong when everything was wrong.
Jesus didn’t pretend he wasn’t hurt; He actually experienced hurt on a human level so we could see Him in our own, and take courage.
Get this—the Son of God felt pain. And, He experienced anger so strong that He overturned tables in the temple when He could have just nicely asked religious people to leave.
The pain you feel is a good thing, in that it lets you know something is wrong.
The anger you feel is a good thing, in that it aligns you to the heart of God who is also angry with what has been done to you.
When you feel pain, grief, or anger, don’t run from it. Embrace it, reckon with it, and process it carefully because when you talk to God about your negative emotions, He walks you through them and teaches you a lot in the process.
Reckoning carefully with negative emotions brings us closer to the positive. Many people do the opposite. They shut down and deny negative emotions out of fear and discomfort—but I’m here to assure you that dealing with it all is the only way to clarity.
Seeing my (then) husband ride around town in a big red truck with his sixteen year old girlfriend brought me pain that almost made me numb. Why? Because it was wrong and my heart was letting me know that when it tightened in protest with my emotions.
Many of us run from pain rather than stand before it, asking why it’s there at the moment.
We shove it aside, as if that will make it go away rather than fester and grow.
We try to deny it, as if reality changes with our reckoning of it, or not.
Humanity was created for unity with God, which is all things love, joy, and peace. We are created to react negatively to wrong because we’re created in the image of God with a high propensity for things that line up to the character of God.
We enter the world, eager to experience the best in life, love, and liberty. But a fallen world means there is evil all around us, people with freedom of choice, and sin greater than we can handle in our own strength.
The aftermath of sin can be staggering, life-altering, and painful enough to make one need years to move on.
I don’t believe in clique christian quotes, glibly pouring from mouths who have no idea what it’s like to walk hell on earth. I don’t believe God does everything. I don’t believe in the age old saying of “God will never give you more than you can handle.”
I believe in reckoning with every form of human emotion, head on.
I believe some things are so evil that God most certainly did not do it, cause it, or want it. But because He’s good, He will work in spite of it, through it, and absolutely overcome it.
And, I believe that life does give us more than we can handle. This is when God pulls us toward His strength and we get to experience supernatural grace. A very real depiction of the fact that life is too much for us sometimes, is watching people end up in mental institutions with no where to go but a deteriorating brain because the trauma is too much for them to handle.
Or, watching others grasp hold of divine Grace where God always over-rides trauma and shows us that love wins. We just need to get close to the heart of God and access divine love.
Because God is good, I believe in forgiveness.
Because He heals my heart, I believe in love.
Because He is all Grace, I believe I can get through anything.
In Christ, we are unstoppable.
My (then) husband’s on-going affair with a girl twenty-two years younger than me led me through things I never imagined I’d go through. But it also led me toward other things.
Having everything taken from me allows me to learn that I’m entrepreneural at heart, that I can do business and investments, learn, grow, and ask advice from those more knowledgeable than I.
Having my husband leave opens my eyes to the idol marriage was for me, and sets me free to experience life, love, and grace in spite of the loss.
Forgiveness is a personal choice that sets me free to see beautiful again.
Forgiveness allows something that would have wrecked me to turn into my greatest growth, instead.
True forgiveness doesn’t hide sin, but exposes it and deals with it. Only then can you properly release it.
When you hide or deny what’s been done to you, you keep and hold the event in your heart as something permanent. Bringing it to light allows you to hand it over to the Giver of Light where nothing is hidden and all things will be manifest one day. This process is imperative to keep you on track with your purpose.
Seeing the goodness of God allows me to let go of the depravity of man.
I can forgive my husband. I can forgive the girl I used to mother, right along with my own children. I can forgive them.
I can know there’s a baby coming, and I can withhold bitterness toward the child who will rival my own children’s attention from their father.
Seeing the goodness of God changes everything.
Because I trust God, I can give the situation into God’s hands, knowing that God knows all, sees all, and has wisdom for all circumstances. Giving my ex-husband and his girlfriend into God’s hands allows me to walk away internally and not have to look back for anything.
I don’t have to get revenge. Walking around with a chip on my shoulder is unbecoming to a daughter of the King who knows she is loved and cared for. It is what it is—but God is also who He says He is—and He doesn’t take it lightly when His sons or daughters are trampled on.
I’m in good hands when I’m in the hands of God.
And when I ask myself for the hundredth time, “What does forgiveness look like?”, I can know that Jesus knows what forgiveness looks and feels like when I don’t know.
I still feel angry sometimes.
I still cry sometimes.
But all of it leads me toward grace. Enter your grief and engage your anger for a season, but allow both to pull you toward God where He engages both in a mighty win over death, hell, and everything in between.
Forgiveness allows my pain to propel me toward my purpose. On the other hand, denial would push me into numbness where I would feel no anger, no grief, and—hear this carefully—I would also feel no passion, no pleasure, and no purpose.
Trying to stay righteous by denying anger is the death to true life. You were meant to feel angry over some things. You just can’t allow anger to push you to bitterness. Jesus never asked you to feel no anger; He did ask you not to sin when you’re angry. (Ephesians 4:26)
True holiness never renders a person numb and silent; it always pulls a person toward life and purpose.
As Lysa Tuerkurst so beautifully says, “I choose to forgive; and for whatever my feelings will not allow, the blood of Jesus will cover.” (Forgiving What You Can’t Forget by LT).
Engage your grief and allow it to pull you into GRACE.
Recently a friend and I were discussing the divorce epidemic, and how it seems many people are justifying divorce without proper cause.
Both men and women are taking Dr. Henry Cloud’s teaching on boundaries out of context, and the results are devastating. I do believe there are times where divorce is inevitable, but I’m addressing something different, here.
I can’t put the dilemna into better words than he did, so I’m going to revise his words a bit and share them anonymously (with permission).
“Dr. Henry Cloud’s boundaries have their place, but people start misapplying these principals, and it’s comparable to deciding to get chemo and radiation treatments when you need a much less aggressive or invasive treatment.
So many people are taking that teaching and saying things like, ‘I’ve been telling my husband I need help around the house for years. He always apologizes and promises to help more, but it only lasts for a couple of weeks. Then he slips back into the usual. I can’t handle these broken promises, continual apologies, yet no lasting change. If he loved me, he’d change and help me more around the house. I deserve better. I’m putting up boundaries; no contact, no connection until I see lasting change. I’m so hurt, maybe I should even separate from him until he sees what he has and changes for good.’
Then enters some man showing kindness, attention, money, etc. They are already disconnected and the grass looks greener to her. Boom—marriage done.
It’s like all the “You deserve to be happy” and “It’s your time for you” folks grabbed that boundaries teaching and boxed it into a “mental health” box with pretty new wrapping paper on it, and started selling their same old secular, selfish-minded philosophy in a way that opens minds to a deceptive way of thinking.
In my opinion, it is hell’s new form of psychological warfare on believers.”
“Mic-Drop” was all I could think when I read this.
For some years, I’ve been hesitant to share parts of my story because I didn’t want people to take what I say, run with it, and keep hollering the “Stand up for yourself” cry.
But I also saw the other side of the planet where women can’t say anything without being told they’re not submissive enough. This was me. This is many, many women—and it is for these women that I write.
On the other hand, there are many men and women who take truth and twist it into self-serving, humanistic approaches to gain what they want by taking the easy way out of a marriage that has issues to work through. For these men and women, I write this caution.
Emotional health and mental clarity will never come from selfishly applying boundaries to good-hearted spouses with needs you don’t like. Your health will come from obeying Jesus and loving your spouse as you love yourself.
My parents are still married after forty-three years, not because my father fills all my mother’s emotional needs, or because my mother fills all my father’s needs. They are still married because love and commitment over-ride an entitled view of themselves that would make them ditch each other for “something better”.
Their home is established on more than unmet needs; it is established on the Word of God, the God who promises to be more than they will ever need. With grace, they love each other and help each other grow. With even more grace, they accept each other’s flaws and choose to keep loving–whether or not the other changes.
I signed my divorce papers for one thing only—and that was my husband’s ongoing affair with a minor child almost the same age as our oldest daughter. Today, the girl is pregnant and they are still together, albeit not legally married.
Hear me carefully when I say there were many things I could have divorced him over. I had no lack of “reasons” I could have used. But I refused to sign divorce papers until it became undeniably clear that there was no other way.
I am divorced with a good conscience. My plea to everyone out there is this: love your spouse, stay with your spouse for better or for worse unless it is simply impossible and your spouse’s sin meets the criteria for divorce as said in the scriptures. Don’t take this teaching on boundaries to mean you can put up walls for everything hurtful in your marriage. You will not heal your heart like this; you will hurt your soul, your spouse, and your children. You will be selfish, refusing to love until your own needs are met. This is not the way of the cross.
In God’s kingdom, the way up is the way down. Get on your knees, ask God how you can love your spouse best, and learn what specifically speaks love to him/her.
Somewhere along the way you will be surprised with inner soul freedom that is so much greater than you’d experience if you quit and ran for something you thought was better.
It won’t be better.
Every good marriage has at least one partner who is willing to love extravagantly even when the other does not deserve it.
My challenge for all of you today is this: take your spouse’s faults and choose to love extravagantly, anyway. Give 100%. Love the person you once fell in love with, and love them hard. Find out what makes your particular spouse feel loved, and just do it, without question.
What speaks love to your spouse may be entirely different than what speaks love to you. Study your spouse, ask questions, and go all out for the growth of your marriage.
You will never regret it!
Stay faithful, and God will faithfully clarify your thoughts, bring healing to your soul, and help you grow—even if your spouse’s faults continue.
Never give up unless, as in my own case, your marriage is no longer possible. Cheers to all beautiful, committed souls who grow, grow, and grow a marriage!
The day I walked into a professional counselor’s office started the change in my life.
It was hard, and I wanted to disappear. I had chosen an older, christian male counselor because I desperately wanted to know if I was wrong. He looked at me kindly and said, “So, you’re a strong woman, aren’t you?”
All I could do was whisper, “I hope so”, then cry for the next hour as years of pain surfaced and I shared the dilemna I was in with my husband’s repeated suggestion that perhaps marriage should be “open”. He’d promise me that he’d never live it out unless we were both okay with it, and he didn’t know where he stood on the matter as of yet. But it threw me into turmoil, and lots of it.
I remember asking myself if I was selfish for wanting to be the only woman in my husband’s life.
I wanted God’s will, I wanted to please my husband, but when it came to this topic I would have rather been alone than be in an open marriage.
For many years, I kept hearing things like “Maybe God designed men to have multiple women and that’s why they struggle with lust.”
Or, when seeing one man surrounded with three beautiful ladies at dinner, “See? Isn’t there something exemplary about that?”
I’d shake my head and want to gag. No, that didn’t look exemplary to me; that looked needy and sinful to me.
The pornography topic wasn’t even mentioned in our home as a problem until one night, out of nowhere, I was prompted to ask him about it. The answer I got put me in turmoil for many years.
“I’ve been looking at some to pray about whether or not it’s right to view. I can’t lie about that—and you shouldn’t have asked me about it.”
At that moment, my inner reality changed while my outer world kept spinning as if nothing happened.
Amish girls are raised with the three big S words: submit, serve, and silence.
So, though my stomach tied in knots, that is what I did. Obviously, with the three other S words, there came a fourth S word: SEX.
I absorbed blame in our relationship and took internal responsibility very quickly. Saying “I’m sorry” was much easier for me than learning how not to say “I’m sorry” while asking for what I needed and deserved in a relationship.”
Writing about all this sickens me because I see who I used to be. Pathetically naive and dependent, with no ability to see beyond the perceived safety I felt in marriage to a man who would confuse my brain, then leave me with four children to figure life out on my own.
I thought he was good. I idolized him as good. And I was determined that nothing in all the world would wreck our marriage.
I should have known, right after marriage, when he told me I wasn’t allowed to go home to see my parents and siblings “because you’re addicted to them”, that something was dreadfully wrong. But, I wasn’t raised to think—I was raised to obey and serve.
I don’t know if I had even heard the word narcissism.
I had watched little to no movies or television, so I operated with an incredibly small worldview. I had never traveled out of the country or lived on my own. From working hard to please my father (who is a good man), to working hard to being a good wife and mother, this is what I knew to do.
The Jesus I know now was more of a God to please, back then. I didn’t know I could trust Him fully to love me unconditionally. I had no idea of a relationship where I didn’t have to perform in order to be loved and accepted.
I had little autonomy, but even while married, I began to see that something was off balance. God used friends to show me what could be, and I embraced it eagerly. I was beyond excited that God had a beautiful balance for women, somewhere between the door mat thing I saw in one world, and the feministic attitudes I saw in another world. Slowly, I learned that it was ok to be myself, that my voice really mattered, that I could think, reason, and be alive with or without the approval of others.
The voice of God was strong enough to start changing me while I was still in an almost hopeless situation that only got worse with time. As with everything else, I started writing out what I was learning, so when my publisher asked me for a book, I hesitated, then gave her that file on my laptop. I have no regrets in letting her publish it, even though my marriage ended afterward.
The only thing any one of us can do is change ourselves. We have no responsibility or ability to change another person, but growing ourselves up is imperative.
I thank God for healing me, for loving me, for giving me a voice to use, for giving me life apart from any man on this earth. I thank God that I now know this one thing—I am as important to God as any man could ever be. He loves me, and I trust Him.
But many years ago, though my heart was crushed over the answer I received about the pornography issue (many years before my husband left), all I knew to do was pretend nothing happened. Hear me carefully—this brought fake peace while it allowed the problem to continue until one day, years later, I received an email telling me that we disagreed on this matter and I was free to leave him.
“I might come back to you in five years,” he’d tell me and others. The pain and confusion of it all rocked me.
I continued to fight for our marriage until he packed his bags six months later and told me that he doesn’t want to sleep with other women while he’s married to me, but after the divorce he’s not sure. In reality, it was only a very short time until he was sleeping with our daughter’s friend, a few long years before the divorce was final.
Do you see the confusion here? And you, men and women whose spouses are acting up in similar ways—- know that freedom comes when you no longer try to make sense of the mess. Evil is often confusing and doesn’t make sense. Give your brain a break.
Hear this carefully—for many years, I was too frightened of the trouble that would come if I didn’t “submit and be silent”. Are any of you in that place? Please know that you don’t have to stay there.
No one has to suffocate under a religious definition of “submission”.
The patriarchal system gives the picture of a perfectly loving man IF the woman does everything right. “If you give your husband lots of sex, he won’t be tempted to have an affair.”
“If you submit to him well, he will never raise his voice.”
I tried it, friends. I tried to be “perfect” so the end result would line up with what I was basically promised—a kind, loving husband who would adore me and treat me well.
That never happened. Outward, public chivalry, yes. Holding my hand, yes. But emotional healing, mutual respect, love in the places of my soul that were hurting, no.
Anyone can pull off decent outward behavior. Only some will wound your soul with moral issues while they hold your hand, pretending the problem doesn’t exist.
Before I go further, let me assure you that I’m a firm believer in the goodness of sex. What I’m calling our attention to is something different—and that is, either partner shutting down vital parts of their emotions in order to function well in the bedroom. Marriage should be a safe place for body, soul, and spirit together, with neither part of us shutting down but all aspects of us becoming better.
When either partner is breaking trust, it is not only right to discuss and work through the pain of it all; it is vital.
But many of us do the opposite. We shut down our brains so our bodies can comply with our inner false responsibility to give and enjoy sex while the other partner breaks trust. We do this out of fear and a desperation to connect on some level.
I was determined that if my husband was into pornography, it wouldn’t be my fault.
If he ever left me, he wouldn’t be able to say it was because I didn’t give him enough sex.
So, I did what it took with my emotions so that I could keep doing what I thought constituted a “good wife”.
I kept the house clean, home schooled the children, cut the grass, did the grocery shopping, laundry, packed his lunches and cooked his dinners.
But, I hurt my heart and soul by not validating the pain. I didn’t know how to live as if I was worth something, too.
Later, the truth met me that there were some things no one can fix, no matter what they do. That truth saved me.
“Am I selfish for not wanting to study open marriage with my husband?” Is he right that we should be able to discuss these things together?”
My husband ordered a book for us to study on the topic, which I agreed to study with him. I was desperate for his approval and reasoned that God could keep me in truth by His Spirit.
But when the book arrived, I could read one page before begging him to remove it from the house. My husband was disappointed and said that time was the best time of our marriage as he felt we could talk about everything.
Do you see the number this put on my dependent brain? He wasn’t mentioning SIN; he was talking God’s will, an open mind, best time of our marriage because we could communicate about everything.
He used everything I wanted most to pull me into the thing I wanted least. Hear me carefully on this—this is a very, very common tactic for narcissists to use.
I needed help to keep my head on straight. And whether or not your situation is as drastic as mine was, you need the same help. The kindness we get one day mixes with the abuse we get another day, until it is very difficult to think clearly on our own.
Keep your brain sharp. Keep your mind above the fog. Reach out for help. This is point number three. Please don’t do what so many men and women do—stay silent out of “respect” for their spouses. That, my friend, is not respect; that is fear.
Those who truly love you will assure you that you’re not selfish to want answers. They will tell you that you’re right on track. You need to hear truth verbally, whatever it is—and you need it now.
This time, don’t walk to a closet to cry it out–walk to a counselor’s office to find answers. Trust Jesus and His heart for your emotional healing and mental clarity, trust that others will surround you with love, trust that you can and should reach out.