January 29, 2013

Ministry & Secret Sin (Part Two)

Is the God who raised Christ from the dead not able to raise a dead marriage? Is He not able to help a person completely change? Is He not able to break the chains of addiction? When we submit to Him and go His way, He is able to bring healing and redemption beyond imagination. That is my friend Ana's story, the one she began sharing in my last post. She shared about the initial days after her minister husband confessed his sexual sin. Today she answers my questions about how they moved from brokenness to restoration.

Q: Looking back to before your husband confessed his sin to you, how do you see now that his sexual sin had been affecting your marriage? What signs, if any, did you miss that he was struggling in this way?
A: I hate using the cliché “hindsight is 20/20", but it’s so true!  I definitely felt there was a “glitch” in our communication and intimacy.  He didn’t always want to pray with me or talk deeply about much.  I interpreted this as apathy and laziness, but I didn’t dig too much myself. Perhaps I feared the truth, or knew in my spirit I didn’t want to go there.  When he would lead a bible study or minister to other men, he would speak with such power.  I longed to listen to him speak the Word and minister because that authority was missing at home.  I now know God bestowed such grace to have His Word spoken in truth even when His vessel was secretly struggling.

I know there were signs along the way I missed, but mostly I thought anything Brad had told me about his past had been dealt with.  I did not really recognize that things in his past could used as weapons to steal, kill, and destroy him and his future marriage and ministry. I believe I thought because he was a believer, this stronghold could no longer have such power over him.  Boy, I had that backwards!   

Q: When you found out, what were the best things that you did in response? What do you wish you would have done differently?
A: My response?  Wow.  When he confessed to me, I believe I reacted as most wives would: I totally freaked out!  I cried until I was literally sick.  It was just so unfathomable to me…this man God chose for me.  How could he do this to me?  How could he do this to our son?  How could he do this to those whom he ministered to? 

The best thing we did in response was seek immediate counsel.  Looking back, I am so proud of Brad for having the courage to step out and be honest like that.  We met with our pastor two days after Brad’s confession.  I didn’t want to be there.  I was still so shocked (not to mention embarrassed), but Brad was ready.  He had been keeping this to himself for so long, that he found freedom and peace in obedience.  It felt as if he was halfway through the journey and I was just figuring out what to pack for this long, treacherous trip.  He was at peace for the first time in many years and I was in mourning. It was an odd time.  

One thing I wish I had handled differently happened in my own personal healing with the Lord.  I allowed myself time to mourn the loss of what I thought our marriage was, however, I hosted my own pity-party for way too long.  I had opened the door for Satan to whisper untruth to me and I began to agree.  “What if I had married So & So instead of Brad”, “What if I left him now, what would my life be like?”  I wish I had sought more counsel to deal with these thoughts instead of indulging in them.   So, if I could change one thing about how I handled things, it would be to pray, shout, and sing out praise in defense of these thoughts (Proverbs 4:23).  I would have spent more time stopping them in their tracks instead of letting them float around in my heart to deal with years later.   

Q: What enabled you to forgive your husband and how did that forgiveness process play out over the months after his confession?
A: More out of obedience than anything else, I had no other option than “I forgive you.” I knew there was nothing he could do to make God love him more or less.  If the Father was extending him this kind of grace, can’t I?  If the Father bestows this kind of grace over me, can’t I give it to Brad?  The actual words “I forgive you” weren’t hard for me.  I would repeat them in my head “I forgive him”.  Brad has been justified by faith, just like me.   

This sounds simplistic, but it really was just my choice.  I choose to believe him.  When we sat in our pastor’s office and he said, “Now is your chance to confess anything else.  If you confess something new tomorrow or the next day, you will lose her trust.  Do it now.”  I chose to believe that in that moment, he was telling the truth.  I have chosen to trust him since then because of safeguards we have in our marriage now.  I chose to trust that he would not put our marriage on the line like this again.  I chose to trust God’s provision for my life and that He was my strength and shield, even if I did lose trust in my husband again.

Q: What would you encourage wives to say or do in response to their husbands, especially those who seem unrepentant and unwilling to confess their sin to anyone else?
A: The first thing I would say is this: There is hope!  Don’t lose heart in praying for your husband.  Don’t grow weary in crying out to the Lord.  And don’t keep it to yourself.  You must tell someone and let another bear your burden.  Exposure of sin is key. We know darkness cannot survive in the light.  As embarrassing and shameful as telling someone is, start with a wise, godly, trusted woman.

The second thing is this: Know who YOU are!  Understanding your identity in Christ is vital!  God created you perfectly, loves you wholly, and only has good things in store for you.  He does not define “eternal/abundant life” as constant fret and worry over your husband and your marriage.  This is absolutely NOT what God wants for you.  You are chosen, you are royalty, you have been called OUT of darkness! 1 Peter 2:9

I would also say that if your husband is in ministry and you are silent, the enemy has you where he wants you.  Satan has made no qualms about stealing, killing, and destroying ministry, marriages, children…our entire lives.  He literally wants to destroy our ministry as well as our circle of influence.  Privately struggling with pornography is not a “thorn in the side”, it is not the end of the path of sin.  Satan is not satisfied with pornography. It will only progress from there, into the depths of unimaginable sin.  We are kidding ourselves if we begin to think that any kind of ongoing sin and ministry can coexist.    

Again, don’t lose hope.  God can and will move this mountain!  He longs for your husband’s heart to turn to him.  His arms are not too short to save!  (Isaiah 59:1) Keep praying.  Pray and cry out to our Father day and night.  Praise. Praise when you don’t feel like it.  Praise when you don’t even believe the words you are saying. Cry out and preach to your own soul….David did this all the time…see Psalm 42 & 43.  Preach to your husband’s soul, too.  You may not want to do this while he can hear you, but preach.  Cry out “rise up man of God!”  This might sound a little wacky, but again, David (man after God’s own heart) did it all the time.  Make declarations of truth over your husband.  If you don’t know where to start, ask God to reveal to you who HE says your husband is.  Write it down, make a list, and don’t stop declaring these things God has revealed to you until you see them manifest.  

An unrepentant heart and an unwillingness to confess is not too much for God to handle.  Pray.  Pray for your husband day and night.  And, praise.  Praise is our weapon.  Revelation 12 says believers have been given the authority!  We need to use it to defeat our enemy!  David used praise to defeat his enemies, Paul & Silas’s praise broke chains.  Psalm 22 says God inhabits the praise of His people…I can tell you I felt this in my guest bedroom 9 years ago.  When I would begin to speak praise, God inhabited that place and brought peace. 

Q: What kind of safeguards or structures do you have in place that benefit your marriage and your husband’s ongoing victory?
A: The major safeguard is, of course, accountability.  He meets with men every Friday morning.  And believe me, they do not shy away from asking the tough questions.  We can’t lull ourselves into thinking that “meeting for coffee” with someone is enough to “guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7).  I choose to trust Brad’s accountability group, and I know he is continually seeking out intimacy with the Father.  We will never claim to be above sin and proclaim, “We’ve got this”.  We acknowledge that as soon as we believe we will “never” be in that kind of pit again, we’ve opened ourselves up to pride, and we all know what happens after pride (Proverbs 11:2). 

Q: What resources have been helpful to you and your husband as you have walked through repentance and restoration?
A: The best book I read during my own healing was “Love Must Be Tough” by Dr. James Dobson, at our pastor’s suggestion.  The sexual sin described by the book did not line up exactly what was going on with us, but the biblical truths held.  I already mentioned “Every Man’s Battle by Aterburn and Stoeker.  There are so many great marriage development resources out there. We should be constantly tilling this soil.  “Love & Respect” by Dr. Emerson Eggrich and “Five Days to a New Marriage” by Hargrave & Stoever are both great books.  Beth Moore’s “When Godly People do Unglodly Things” study is really good, too.

God speaks to me so powerfully through music and worship, so here are a short playlist I would give anyone dealing with a marriage mess right now…
“I Have to Believe” by Rita Springer
“I Knew What I Was Getting Into”, “I am Yours”, “Favorite One” by Misty Edwards 
“I’d Rather be with You” by Julie Meyer
“Restoration” by David Brymer
“Praise the Lord” by Kristene Mueller

Q: Where are y’all in your marriage and ministry now? How has God used your story?
A: The biggest thing about our marriage today is that there is complete trust and freedom.  Brad went through some counseling a few years ago and God literally went back and redeemed some things in his past.  Again, I choose to believe my God is this big.  He is not in our time, He is over time.  Do I believe He can create light from dark?  Man from dust?  Do I believe He can silence a storm with a word?  Do I believe He can heal the brokenhearted?  Yes, I choose to believe.  We have been given such freedom in our marriage.  By this, I mean freedom from torment, worry, and fear.  I do not think about Brad’s past…ever.  I am in a place where I fully trust him to hear the Lord’s voice and respond in all manner of our lives.  

In the past few years, God has given both of us opportunities to speak for groups, retreats, etc about His work in our marriage.   It’s amazing how many couples out there are struggling and stuck.  God has been faithful to bring hurting couples to us and allow us to minister and speak hope into them.  We are so thankful to have so many years of testimony to share.  Often, believers jump to share the sin without the journey of healing…we are grateful for the 9 years of redemption within an 11 year marriage.  We also believe the more we share, the more God receives the glory and Satan looses power.  Brad and I have chosen to believe there is no more condemnation in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1)…therefore, we must be bold in proclaiming what He has done.  He is good!  He is faithful!  He is mighty to save!  

I praise God for His ability to redeem and heal! Thank you, Ana and Brad, for sharing your story with us. 

Join us for a link up party starting this Wednesday, January 30! We're sharing how God has used church planting or ministry to change our hearts. If you'd like to participate, just write a post on your own blog, come to the blog anytime between Jan 30 and Feb 4, click on the "Add your link" at the bottom of my Jan 30 post, and follow the prompts. One linker will win this necklace from The Vintage Pearl.
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I'm linking up with Christine over at Grace Covers Me today as she releases her book, The Church Planting Wife: Help and Hope for Her Heart, and collects heart stories from church planting and ministry wives. Join us?