Regaining Emotional Clarity—Eight Steps to Healing (Part 6)

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.

I’m here for you.

Love,

Sara

Regaining Emotional Clarity by Moving On–and What That Really Means (Part 5)

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.

Seeing God changes everything.

Regaining Emotional Clarity with FORGIVENESS (Part Four)

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 cried.

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.

Every day, say it aloud, “I choose to forgive.”

Keeping Emotional Clarity: Don’t Run with the Boundaries Concept (Part Three)

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).

I quote:

“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!

Regaining Emotional Clarity by Finding Help (Part Two)

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.

Love,

Sara

Regaining Emotional Clarity, Introduction (Part One)

Going through a divorce and an-over-three-year-long court process has been anything but fun. But as is His nature, God is redeeming everything by allowing me to encourage others going through similar things.

My heart could faint a little at the stories I hear from both men and women. You see, girls, this is not just a male problem. I’m hearing of far too many women using the same nasty tactics on their men.

Narcissism is a human problem, not just a guy problem.

One man writes of his wife leaving him after years of neglect.

A young woman writes of her husband blaming her for not trusting him after he actively broke her trust.

Another wife asks me if she should have sex with her husband if he’s with another girl.

Humanity is groaning under the weight of a heavy humanistic mantle that shrouds the beauty of simple goodness.

“I don’t love you anymore, so I’m not going to have sex with you.”

“I’m not happy anymore, so I’m going to divorce you.”

The things we experience and are told really do affect us. I’m not here to tackle all of it, but the one thing on my heart to take us toward is how to clear our minds from years of psychological manipulation where we’re told things we know aren’t true, yet lodge in our heads as if they were.

Does that wake you up a little because you can relate? If so, this series is for you.

I’m going to walk you into personal scenarios of my own or others (anonymous) lives so you can see and relate clearly. Then, I’m going to take you step by step through the experience and out of it to the other side with the opportunity to have your mental sanity restored or intact.

The grace and goodness of God promise peace rather than confusion.

I don’t have a counseling degree. I simply share my experiences with those who ask advice, what I’ve learned, how I found freedom and clarity after years of confusion, and of course, the Jesus I know and love Who talks to me personally and through His written word.

God is the author of peace. Let’s take a look at that peace when our lives have thrown us the opposite.

How does a person keep mental sanity when someone throws curve balls that spin us into confusion because we can’t reconcile what’s being said and done one day, to the person who does the opposite the next day?

Being held and hugged one day to being torn apart the next day is confusing and doesn’t line up. We desperately want to believe the problem lies with us because we know we’re the only ones we can fix. We’re ready to repent and ask forgiveness.

For some of us it may take years to see that the problem doesn’t lie with us, and there’s something we can’t fix.

As ready as we are to shoulder blame, as much as we’ve done it for years, it seems a foreign idea floating somewhere in outer space that maybe—just maybe—it’s not our fault after all.

But that sends us into greater fear because at that point, we realize how powerless we are to change anything.

I remember reading some blog on narcissism and being blown away that I could relate so readily to what was said. Like someone finally gave a name to my experience. I took a page of notes, then threw it all away.

Like a cancer diagnosis, realizing the truth of what’s going on in your marriage can be more terrifying than closing your eyes and going about your day.

It can be easier to give, give, and give than to wake up to the truth that no matter how much you give, you will never be enough.

If you have to admit you’re married to a narcissist, you also have to realize they probably won’t change.

Remember, sin is not a gender problem; it is a human problem.

I was a bit like the person who knows she has a tumor growing on her chest but avoids seeing a doctor because pretending is easier than getting a scary diagnosis she may not be able to heal.

But the tumor is still there, and it is growing.

In the same way, faking peace in your marriage without dealing with the real issue is like turning a blind eye to a tumor while it grows steadily into something fatal.

It didn’t matter that I cried alone while my husband went out to bars at night, nor that I shut my mouth when he told me to submit to it. It didn’t help, save, or heal our marriage; it merely pacified him while the problem festered and he knew I’d always do what it took to keep his disgust at bay.

There was “peace” but there was no peace. I lived with a gnawing knowledge that there were deep underlying issues we needed help to get to the bottom of. That didn’t happen, and once again, I was told to submit rather than bring up the need for counseling one more time.

Everyone’s situation is different. But the underlying theme I keep hearing is what prompts me to write this blog series. Men and women are suffering greatly with spouses who pull off abnormally wrong behavior but want to be treated as if nothing is wrong.

This does a number on people.

When a man breaks a woman’s trust by asking for a threesome, then treats her as if she’s stupid for not trusting him, that’s a wrench on her mind.

First of all, she has to come to grips with the fact that her husband actually wants other women in her bed. (For the record, ladies, not all men want multiple women. I know a lot of good men who would cringe at the thought of a threesome because they wouldn’t want to wreck the special connection with the woman they love.)

And secondly, she automatically wonders if she’s the problem. She’ll most likely double up on sex, buy new lingerie, and try her best to “trust”–all the while taking responsibility for something that is not her problem at all.

Did you know it’s humanly impossible to trust someone who hasn’t earned it? Like, that’s not even something you should try to do because you are incapable of doing it. Not because you’re incapable as a person, but because two plus two is not five; two plus three is five.

If your spouse is giving you two plus two, wanting you to say “five” as the answer, you cannot honestly say “five”, but will say “four” instead.

If your spouse at that point gets upset that you are not giving them a “five”, whose fault is that? How can you possibly give a number that is not honestly feasible to give?

At that point, you will need to express the impossibility of what they’re asking. If they become upset with you, you will need to calmly ask for a two plus three so you can give them their desired “five”.

The truth will set you free regardless of their anger with you. This is what I want you to see in the blog series I’m giving over the next months.

We will be rerouting our brains into truth.

We will be owning the truth of all things, whether it’s the truth of our pain, their wrong, our faults, our fears, or simply our utter incapability of giving them what they’re asking, and how terrified we are of losing them.

No denial can exist in a healthy brain.

I didn’t realize how unhealthy my brain was, how I had never learned to think for myself, and how that only fed into the problem in my marriage.

A man may want control and he may want you to submit when he’s wrong, but deep down he will respect you far more if you’re not desperate to keep him. My addiction to my marriage was sickening and it wasn’t broken until long after he packed his bags.

My desperation to please my husband put me in an impossible wrench. We must never be desperate for anything other than Jesus and His truth, allowing light to shed clarity on even the most painful things we’d love to avoid.

We are going to draw a line in the sand between ourselves and falsehood.

Until next time, stay in grace. To those who are asking me, I promise you there is help, hope, and peace.

God is who He says He is—even when, and especially when, people are not.

How I Found Wholeness in the Breaking of Divorce

Divorce is an epidemic in our twenty-first century culture.

I remember my children being in public school and realizing that most of their friends no longer had both sets of parents in the house. It blew me away.

Divorce was not a word in my vocabulary. When my marriage hit the rocks, I refused to sign the papers he wanted because I knew divorce was not the answer. When reality forced me to agree with the divorce and even to want it (because of his teen-aged girlfriend living in our house with him),I knew I no longer lived in the world I wanted to live in. I had joined the club.

A few years earlier, my heart had fallen to my toes when I greeted him at the door with a smile, looked down, and saw books in his bag on how to do divorce well. Then and there, my world was never the same.

He wanted to be friends and have a friendly divorce. But to me, there was nothing friendly about divorce and betrayal.

That was almost three years ago and our divorce is just now being finalized.

I had to see the girl a few weeks ago, had to be in the same court room as my now ex-husband and I sat for trial over things we never should have needed to decide.

Then, it was over. I joined my friends for brunch, started crying, and couldn’t stop for a few days. Every ounce of strength I had gathered for the past three years flew out the window and I cried ugly in my father’s arms.

I’m a single woman. Not just a single woman, but a christian single woman intent on staying faithful to the God I know, intent on finding out more of His true heart for women, and determined to continue healing.

Many years ago when the first huge ugly in my marriage started rocking my inner world, God taught me that He not only came for the sin of this world, He also came for the pain of this world. I found Him in ways I had only heard of before.

I found Him greater, stronger, and more powerful than what was rocking my boat.

If Jesus Christ died to SAVE, that not only means my sins are forgiven; it also means that sins committed against me are forgiven and have no real power over me.

If Jesus Christ is the Giver of Life, that means nothing deadly on this passing earth can take eternal life out of me.

And if He cares for me as He says He does, that means the past three years of tears will be redeemed because He weeps with me, then offers life to me.

I can sink or swim. I happen to believe that we were not meant to go down in the storm, we were meant to ride the waves.

It sounds cliche`. The honest truth is that riding waves often looks like swimming in tears.

Let the tears roll. They will purify your soul and cleanse you from pain so you can be washed in life. Let them roll for three years, if need be.

Jesus weeps with you but He doesn’t merely commiserate with you; in the end, He liberates you.

I want to walk with you, not ahead of you or behind you, but beside you. I want us to be community and that means sharing the good, bad, and ugly for each other and with each other.

We are human and life is real.

But God is also God and He is eternally alive. He is Victor over all, through all, and in all. Allow Him to walk with you, then lead you.

Beauty for ashes may not mean your circumstance becomes beautiful, but it does mean your soul will merge into beauty in ways you’ve never known before.

Your pain has led you to glory because even though pain speaks, it cannot have the final say.

Friends, don’t be afraid of the thing you don’t know how to survive. Just make one good choice after another even when you don’t know which is the best one. Trust God to make up for your mistakes as you do the best you know and ask Him to lead you. I promise, He will.

My heart is healing from the inside out. I trust yours will, too. And in the process, I am here for you.

All is grace.

Love, Sara