The phrase “What a difference a year makes” comes to mind as I study my daughter’s school picture. Or when my toddler demands, “I want a great snack, Mom,” when only a year ago he muttered a simple, “ack.” Friends have moved in and out of our transient college town over the past year. Our old, faithful dog’s graying snout makes me wonder if he will still be with us in a year. The span of 365 days can bring about so many noticeable changes.
However, for those whose spouses are in the midst of sexual addiction, a year or more might not reveal any changes.
That was my story. The years weren’t making a difference; in fact, it seemed they were only serving to harden my heart: a heart that started as tender and soft toward my husband in the beginning of our marriage became angry, bitter, and eventually apathetic, as it endured the sting of sexual betrayal one too many times.
Each year I hoped things would be different, but as the years went by, I believed it probably wouldn’t. With each betrayal, I fell further from my Savior’s arms and into my own familiar patterns of control and resentment. My ever growing fortress of self protection blocked out the memory of Jesus and the salvation message I’d learned as a child. His death so I could live. Casting my cares on Him. Grace. The resurrection. The cross.
Evenings of Anguish
While wondering what things God had in store for me in the New Year, I was abruptly stopped in my tracks by my husband’s addiction, the sting of betrayal going deeper than it ever had. This revelation battered me with unanswered questions. Why would God bring this to light just to leave me here alone? How could I have been a better wife? Why wasn’t I enough for my husband? Is my marriage even worth all of this?
I stuffed these raw emotions down as my days filled with my children’s voices and activities. Each night, on the other hand, I was suddenly slammed with a scary silence. All of the frustration, hopelessness, and despairing thoughts I’d set aside during the day instantly flooded me as the sun went down. God used this moment to push through my fortress of questions and illuminated my husband’s sexual sin in a way that left us both broken. God drew me back to Him, back to the cross.
Jesus says in John 10:10, “The thief comes only to steal and destroy; I have come that they may have life and have it to the full.” How could fear, control, resentment, passive aggressive comments, and self-hate really be living fully?
Nights of Wrestling
Each night, in the darkness of my living room, I began to visualize the physical act of handing over the broken pieces of my life – every pain, lie, and event that was keeping me from experiencing full life. As I listened to the song “Once and For All” by Lauren Daigle, I could feel my fortress, the one I’d protected for years, start to crumble.
Oh help me to lay it down
Oh Lord I lay it down
Oh let this be where I die
My Lord with thee, crucified
Be lifted high as my kingdoms fall
Once and for all, once and for all
Each night, I would meet Jesus in this place. The pieces I held, which were like shards of glass, cut me deep. Jesus would gently, lovingly ask me to hand them to Him. Though I was bleeding and in deep pain, through tears, I would tell Him I was scared. These pieces were part of my life. I’d carried them for years, some of them since my youth. He would respond, “But I have come to give you life. These hurts, these lies from the enemy, they are not life. Let them go. Surrender them to me.” As I clutched them, He would remind me of the cross, the greatest act of love. His death gave me freedom and helped me see myself as my Father does. I was not inadequate in His eyes, not unworthy of love, not damaged. The Father looks at me and sees His perfect Son, as His child, as simply His.
The words of the song sang to me:
There is victory in my Savior’s loss, from the crimson flowing from the cross
Pour over me, pour over me
I can find victory in my Savior’s loss. Victory from the resentment, the bitterness, the lies, the insecurity. Victory over my own painful past. This victory is mine, and it is real, no matter what my husband does or does not do, no matter what I feel or what my emotions tell me. Hallelujah.
Oh let this be where I die
As I hand over the pieces, I’m bleeding and still in pain, but Jesus takes each shard. Some He keeps and reassures me He will make them new again: my husband’s heart, my heart. Some pieces must be tossed: the lies I believe about myself in the deepest, darkest places. Then He takes me in His arms and He begins to heal me. He speaks over me: I can trust him, I can rely on him, I can rest in him.
He has, after all, come to give me life. I met Him there, night after night, releasing the broken pieces I had picked back up during the day and handing them to Him all over again. And one day, I started to see some light again. Life was coming back.
Difference of a Year
So what difference does a year make? It’s full of pieces God has made beautiful and pieces he’s helped me release.
Progress and setbacks. My identity in Christ. Tears. Hard healing work. An amazing anniversary trip with my husband. Evidence of His love in the ocean sunrise. More progress. More setbacks. Repeated boundary conversations. Daily Ephesians 3:20 prayers. Talking about porn like we talk about what we are having for dinner. Amazement at what God has done. Questioning what God is doing. Finding this incredible support system of women who get it. My husband calling from his work trip to tell me he overcame temptation.
A different trip where he tells me he really struggled. More tears. More grace. Transparency. Vulnerability. Learning to be a team. The anxiety I feel when I see how far we have to go. The grateful astonishment when I see how far we’ve come. The small cross tattoo I now have on my wrist to remind me of who God is, how much He loves me and who I am in Him. Times of deep pain and sweet victory.
But most of all, I see the cross – the difference it made in my year.
Time and Brokenness
I don’t know if your years are bringing any change. They may be slow and you’ve given your pieces to Him, but they don’t yet resemble anything beautiful. The damage may seem beyond repair. But even so, He has come to give you life.
Maybe you are working day in and day out on your healing, but your husband’s heart is unchanging. You feel alone as your hope dwindles each day. But He sees.
Or maybe you are watching your husband’s heart change before your eyes, but the what ifs loom large and your anxious thoughts get the best of you. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this.
Triggers and reminders of the broken times may play in your mind daily. But My grace is sufficient for you.
Dear Sister, place your broken pieces with Him and stand in His love as you wait to see the difference He will make. By His wounds we are healed. God’s promises still stand, no matter what crumbles in our own marriages. May we boast only in the cross of Jesus for our victories and place our hope in the cross of Jesus when our disappointments seem endless. He can handle both. Year after unchanging year.
*The sole purpose of HER Story is to provide an opportunity for those who have walked in our shared experience of betrayal to tell their stories and open their hearts. These stories are meant to be personal testimonies from women who are still unpacking pieces of their hearts and looking to the one who is the ultimate Healer. Our God is creative and no two journeys look the same. These posts are authored by women at various places in their journey towards healing and hope, so please understand they are in process like all of us.
We encourage you to use self care when reading other’s testimonies. These blogs are not meant to “tell you how to do it,” but are meant to encourage and provide hope for others, wherever they may be in their healing process.