Thursday, April 20, 2017

Breathing in the In-Between

C. J. writes:

If your heart is broken, you’ll find God right there; if you’re kicked in the gut, He’ll help you catch your breath.
– Psalm 34:18

“Someone has to be very close to you to be able to get near enough to kick you in the gut. Don’t be surprised when your greatest pain is caused by those you’ve loved the most. Only they have the power to truly, deeply wound you and break your heart.”
– Christine Caine

I remember the feeling of being kicked in the gut by the person I love the most. The feeling of gasping for air but the air does not come. The feeling of my heart shattering more and more with every word. I remember it like it happened just yesterday.

It was a gorgeous Saturday in October. I had spent a fun day downtown with a friend, and he had spent the day at a seminar for school. I was already home when he walked in the door. He came and sat down with me on the couch, and we talked about our days. It was calm and peaceful. It was really, really nice. I remember thinking that it had been a while since we had had the time to sit down and just to talk to each other and smile at each other.

“I need to talk to you about something.”

No one likes those words. No one ever in the history of the world likes to hear those words come out of someone’s mouth. I remember my whole body stiffened, and I weakly said, “Okay.”

“I’ve been struggling with an addiction to pornography for a while. Since high school, probably. And I’ve never told anyone. I’ve tried to stop a lot of times, but I never confessed it to anyone. I’ve wanted to tell you, but I didn’t want to make a bad day even worse or ruin a good day.”

Have you ever had the wind knocked out of you? It takes a second to catch your breath; it takes a second to figure out what happened before your body breathes again. That’s what this felt like. I didn’t say anything to him, I just stared into the eyes of the man I thought I knew. But with every word out of his mouth, I quickly realized that I had been lied to. Betrayed. Tricked. I couldn’t breathe. I felt like the room was a thousand degrees, but I pulled a blanket over my legs and hands so he couldn’t see how much I was shaking.

He talked to me for probably thirty minutes about everything. That it had nothing to do with me and everything to do with his brokenness and his sin. A “stupid habit that started when he was a dumb boy and never stopped.”

Somehow, that didn’t make it hurt any less.

When he was done talking, he asked me what I was thinking about. I said something along the lines of, “I mean, I don’t hate you. I’m not going to leave you. I shouldn’t be surprised, really. It’s so easy in this world and pretty much every guy does it.” I didn’t really know what I was saying. I didn’t really know what to say. I didn’t cry. I didn’t do much of anything. I was honestly just trying to figure out how to breathe normally.

I now realize that I was just in shock. I always thought, Not my husband. Not my man. That’s not our story. He loves Jesus. He loves me. He’s one of the good ones. And he is still all of those things. But sometimes, Satan doesn’t care if you’re a good one. Satan doesn’t care if you love Jesus and your wife. Satan can still get what he wants.

We went to Dairy Queen that night. I sat in the passenger seat and stared out the window as we drove. I was quiet. He felt better. He was in better spirits than I was. He had finally come clean from a disgusting, damaging secret. I’m sure it felt like the heaviest weight had been lifted from his shoulders. I don’t think I knew what I was feeling yet. I remember feeling sad. Sad for him, that he had been struggling. Mad at myself, for never asking and never seeing how big of a secret he was keeping from me. Sick to my stomach at the thought of how I was going to still live and be married to him. I think I barely ate my ice cream without puking it back up.

As we laid down to go to bed that night, I began to lose it. It was the first of many nights to come where I would lose it. Lose all of my grounding and just cry and cry until I finally fell asleep. He asked if he could hold me, and I said no. I can still hear the tone of his voice saying that he was sorry. Over and over again.

But I didn’t believe him. I didn’t believe anything he was saying to me anymore.

It took years to build the trust that held us together, and that trust was shattered in a split second. Actually, it had been shattered all of those years I thought it was being built. I just didn’t know about it yet.

It’s been six months since that evening in October. I have looked at what feels like every blog post, book, video on marriage and trust and betrayal, and everyone tells you what happened in their story and most of them are happy endings. A lot of them even say things like, “It’s been 10 years now and we are stronger than ever.”

But what about the years between finding out and being stronger than ever? What happened during those years?

I wish that it was a quick fix. I wish that it only took one, “I’m sorry for doing this. You can trust me now, though,” to be able to trust again.

But it doesn’t.

Six months later, and he has given me no other reason to not trust or believe him. He has done all that I’ve asked of him.

So why does my heart still ache? Why do I watch where his eyes go when we’re out in public and around other women? Why do I fight the urge to check his phone whenever he leaves it laying around?

Why can’t I respond when he says he loves me?

When I have really hard nights, the kind where I lay on the floor screaming and crying and clutching my chest, trying to make the ache in my heart go away, those are the nights where I wish I had someone to tell me that it is okay for healing to look like this. That sometimes it’s an ugly, crying mess. That this is what the “in-between” looks like. This is where God restores.

I wish that I felt that, on my darkest days. To be honest, I wish that I felt that even on better days.

Sometimes, I think that God is silent. And that’s okay. And even if this healing process doesn’t feel like much healing is happening, I will trust that, someday, I will be able to look at my husband and realize we are stronger than ever. That my heart doesn’t ache anymore. And when he says that he loves me, I will actually believe him.

I trust that my God is bigger than the both of us. And that even though the pain is unbearable, even when I feel alone and broken, He is here. In the midst of this, He is here and He is holding us both until we are strong enough to hold each other again. And what a glorious day it will be when that happens. When Satan doesn’t get to claim another marriage.

Because although he might try to get want he wants, and he might do a crap ton of damage to two people, Jesus still wins.

“Someone has to be very close to you to be able to get near enough to kick you in the gut. Don’t be surprised when your greatest pain is caused by those you’ve loved the most. Only they have the power to truly and deeply wound you and break your heart. It takes time to catch your breath when you’ve been winded. Give it time and remember God is with you, even when you can’t feel Him. One breath at a time, one step at a time and you’ll get your rhythm back. Guard your heart, don’t harden it. Just because it happened to you does not mean it was about you. God sees. God knows. God cares.”
– Christine Caine

~ C. J.