Naked and Unashamed Testimonies

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Mine is a three-part story.

Violated
When I was 16, I didn’t even recognize an incident as sexual assault (by a church “friend”) until recently – I just knew that what he was trying to do with me was wrong. And he stopped before it became rape. But when I was raped at age 41 by a “friend”, I hit a low in my life. I told some acquaintances who didn’t know what to do but I had a close Christian friend who heard the despair in my voice and told me to get professional help. I felt dirty but could not bring myself to make a complaint against the individual. I was embarrassed that it happened. But I had to tell my bosses because I was extremely emotional, crying, unable to focus at work.
I was given a counselor in a county program and relieved to have a woman who understood my trust in God. My bosses gave me time away from work to assess my personal situation and be in a safe environment. And I had Christian friends praying for me. I would not tell my family because I was too embarrassed at what had occurred.

My time with the counselor enabled me to phone the individual who raped me and confront him with my anger and hurt. And he took it – he truly believed I had consented and when he realized I had not he apologized. I have not seen the person since the incident. And the mutual acquaintance that brought us together reminds me of the event so I avoid her. We weren’t close friends then and I chose not to tell her what occurred. I just backed away. My counselor recognized that my quick recovery – in less than a year – was due to my faith and the faith of others praying for me.

I held a celebration at my church with friends about my life. In the previous year of this event, I had returned to active involvement in church after many years of minimal interface. I began a daily relationship with God. My true friends were key to hearing God’s voice of love in my life. He told me the rape wasn’t my fault, but I did need to be aware of who my companions were.
There are times I am reminded of the rape incident. And for many years I could not participate in conversations related to the topic of rape or sexual assault. But God has used these experiences to enable me to understand what others are experiencing. I am able to share that it can happen to anyone and healing is the key to moving on. Professional help may be needed and if so, it’s important to take advantage – although not every professional is the right counselor. The love and prayers of friends and family who listen, support, and don’t judge also speed the healing. I told my parents I had been raped two years after the incident. Somehow my mother already knew, but I know she had been praying for me for whatever I was facing. Her prayers, as a prayer-warrior were part of my healing, even though I did not know it at the time.

The scars are still present but instead of scabs ripped off when discussing this topic I can feel the numbness of a scar and not relive the events.

Casual sex and marital infidelity
These behaviors also peppered my life. I was unfaithful to my partners and my three husbands over a period of 20 years. I would be okay for a year or two and then I would
stray. I craved physical touch and somehow equated it to “love”. Confused, I thought encouragement, positive words, and somehow, sex met that need. It didn’t really.

My first marriage crumbled and with it my relationships with my parents, siblings and friends. I told lies to my parents before marriage, lies during marriage to my husband and parents, and lies on the way to divorce. I lost hope in God and my parents when I experienced physical violence from my husband, being told that I deserved what happened because of my infidelity. My mother conspired with my husband to make me stay in the marriage because it was embarrassing to my parents’ status in the church if I divorced.
Emotional blackmail and physical violence pushed me away from the church and family. I continued a course of having inappropriate relationships with married men with no thought to the consequences. I married again – a wonderful Christian man. But I could not accept his unconditional love. I felt unworthy so I cheated again. This time I acquired genital herpes – a significant impact regarding future relationships. My husband gave me the divorce I requested but remained my friend.

Again remarried, I lasted only a short time and was cheating but I remained married for much longer. While I was active in church and having a daily relationship with God, I was faithful [to my husband]. When I took my eyes off God, then I went back to my cheating ways. So I divorced again. But even in single relationships I could not remain faithful.

Redeemed
I finally realized I needed to have a full-time relationship with God and Jesus and so I slowly moved into that relationship. Today I am married to a relatively new Christian who is slowly developing a relationship with God and Jesus and leading our marriage. I have been faithful to him since we started dating. More importantly, my relationship with God has stayed the course. He has given me the vision of love I have so desired.

I harmed many marriages through my actions, maybe even destroyed them. I hurt my family and still struggle with internal family relationships. I always felt dirty and unworthy with my parents when we discussed marriage. And even today, I feel my sister judging me for my divorces. My older brother forgave me the first time, the second time and the third time. He told me he didn’t like what had occurred but loved me just the same. He was God’s voice of healing.

Another woman became my friend after I shared my lifetime of affairs – despite her own raw emotions from her husband’s infidelity. Sharing our experiences and experiencing God’s forgiveness forged a special friendship. It allowed both of us to heal.
There are consequences yet today associated with my infidelity and active sexual life outside of marriage. My sexual relationship with my husband has been inhibited, but God has sent several books my way to help me work through that and become the Christian wife I need to be for my husband spiritually, sexually, physically and emotionally. God knows my needs.

My infidelity has also impacted my professional opportunities as I was honest about what occurred. But God used that honesty to put me elsewhere and have different opportunities. I can understand what others can’t – how someone throws away a wonderful relationship for something outside God’s plan. I
understand how someone thinks no one will know, I won’t get caught, no one will get hurt, I deserve to take care of myself – with no thought to the consequences.

I will live with my consequences until I meet God. But I am grateful that God forgives my sin and uses it to His good. Praying friends and family, friends who loved me despite my mistakes, leaders who gave me another chance, and people sharing because God told them to, are the ones who got me through. God hearing my pleas and offering forgiveness in return for loving others as they work through their sins keep me moving forward.

Psalm 32:5: “Finally, I confessed all my sins to you and stopped trying to hide my guilt. I said to myself, I will confess my rebellion to the LORD.” And you forgave me! All my guilt is gone.”

I heard my bedroom door creak open and I immediately felt sick to my stomach with dread. I knew exactly what this meant. Next I would hear the whisper in my ear that it was o.k. and just to stay quiet so I wouldn’t wake up mom or dad…But at age 8, I couldn’t say no to my 16 year old brother that I knew loved me. I trusted him. So after the first few times, I learned to survive these episodes through a sort of out of body experience. My body would be present, but my mind and spirit would be gone. I don’t know how many times this happened or when it stopped. I quickly blocked it from all memory, only to remember parts of it when I was 16 and became a Christian. And while I was in counseling in college because of promiscuousness that I couldn’t seem to control, I knew I needed to confront my brother to try to get some answers and offer him God’s forgiveness and mine. And during that conversation with my brother, I discovered that when kids grow up on pornography that was so easily accessible in our home, curiosity and experimentation are bred and all healthy boundaries are destroyed.
I grew up in an explosive alcoholic home and starting about age 10, pornography became a reliable friend for me. Coming home from school with the rest of my day unsupervised, pornography would fill the hours of boredom and provide an emotional escape from my reality. After a while, I wouldn’t even need the films or magazines as the mental re-plays became my drug of escape. Sitting at the lunch table in high school, I wondered if anyone else escaped their reality sexually like I did. I was pretty sure I was the only one. Because of that, I would never tell anyone. And my behavior continued.

Molestation and pornography gave me a sexual education beyond my years. And I quickly realized that the boys my age were very happy to find me. What I misinterpreted as their love would temporarily fill all the empty places in my soul. It also provided me that rush of adrenaline that allowed me to escape, at least until the feelings of that relationship would go away. And then it was time to find another boy.
I knew boys were not the answer, only a temporary fix. And when I was 16, I met the first Christian I had ever known. His joy and sense of purpose in life was contagious and I knew that I wanted what he had. I gave my life to Jesus and I finally found the family in God that I had always been looking for. God began healing my life from that point. I began to learn about who I was now as a child of God. And He began bringing memories to the surface – memories of the molestation that I had endured so that through Him, my actions could start to match my identity. But I discovered that old habits die hard. Although I was now a Christian, I would frequently find my life back in the same rut that was carved into my life by years of pornography and abuse.

In college, I would become friends with boys intending to share Jesus with them, but when they would make physical advances, I always gave in, unable to say no and slipping right back into who I used to be. My Christian friends that saw me coming out of yet another boy’s room became disgusted with me. I was disgusted with myself. But I couldn’t seem to stop. I knew I needed help. So I went to counseling desperate for help and there we turned back the clocks. I realized that being molested and frequently viewing pornography had destroyed all healthy sexual boundaries. I was taught by these experiences not to say no and my well-honed sexual skills in relationships could help me fill—at least temporarily—the empty and broken places that still remained. But my promiscuity now only brought shame and disgust. As I became aware of the root of my sin, I was to talk it through with God and friends and my physical life started to align with God’s best for me. But I never took control of my thought life.

Years later, married to a wonderful man, I no longer viewed pornography. But I still frequently accessed the mental pornographic movies, not knowing how to respond sexually to my husband without them. And male attention continued to be my drug of choice to escape the monotony of day to day life with young children. Believing that my thought life was harmless, this mental medicating started to cycle out of control. And every quiet moment was filled with fantasies about the most recent man that paid attention to me. I continued to feed these “harmless” little secret thoughts for the first 10 years of our marriage. One day, while my husband was deployed, my thoughts became my reality.

The man living across the street, also temporarily single by deployment, had become my only friend in the neighborhood. Before deploying, my husband mentioned to me that he felt uncomfortable with this man’s friendship but I assured him that this man was the only friend that I had in the area and my feelings for this neighbor were completely platonic. I was also leading the women’s ministry in our chapel at the time and believed my faith was solid, so there would be no problem. This relationship with the neighbor remained just a friendship for several months as we would spend time jogging, making dinner, or taking the kids sightseeing together. I even brought him to church and read scripture with him in an attempt to share my faith. But my fantasizing about the attention of other men continued. One evening when this man across the street, who I had not yet had romantic feelings for, leaned in to kiss me, my fantasies became my reality. The boundaries protecting my marriage had been made completely powerless by my fantasy life.

In the early days of the affair, as I laid there in the arms of another man, I could sense the Spirit saying, “No! Get yourself out of this”. But I would stay and perform, just like I had learned from my childhood. As the affair continued, I no longer heard the Spirit telling me to stop. I slipped right back into who I used to be. I became infatuated with the rush of a new relationship and the attention he lavished on me. And I believed that something that felt so right must be God’s will for my life. I was drugged again with the attention of another man. I believed he loved me too.

But about 3 months into the affair, my fantasy came crashing in around me when I answered a phone call. My husband had called my cell phone from thousands of miles away and simply said, “I know where you are and I know who you’re with and you better go home right now”. My husband came home from the war on emergency leave trying to save his family, but my lies continued. We went to marriage counseling with the base chaplain. I was able to convince my husband that this was only an emotional affair and that I would develop and respect boundaries with this other man. After two weeks, he believed me and went back to combat. Shortly after he left, the affair resumed until my husband and the neighbor’s wife were due to come home. Even so, I still believed what this man had always told me—that we would end up happily ever after together no matter what it took. But as time grew short, the neighbor’s story sometimes changed. I was no longer the love of his life, the only one that ever really understood him. Now he told me that he couldn’t tear apart his family. I began to realize that he used me only for what I was willing to do for him, and I was devastated.

When my husband came home for good, we continued the marriage counseling we had begun during his leave, but I still couldn’t tell him the whole truth. I was sure that if he knew what I really did he would leave me, take our kids, and I would be left with nothing. Every time I heard the doorbell or the phone ring, my heart would stop, terrified that the neighbor or his wife (who must have known by now) would be coming to tell my husband the truth. I became convinced that if my husband found out from anyone other than myself, our marriage would really be over. I finally told him the whole truth in the counselor’s office. The complete truth would now allow healing to begin.
My husband and I were completely torn open. The next year was the most painful of my life. I would wake up in the middle of the night to my husband’s sobs or find him with scalding hot water running over his neck in an attempt to feel something other than the emotional devastation he couldn’t escape. Witnessing his pain made me finally realize what my choices had done—what this web of lies had created.
The scales had finally fallen from my eyes and I could see the lies that I had believed that almost cost me everything—the lies from my childhood that had taught me that I was created for sex, to serve men, and never say no; the lies that my thoughts would stay private and would never cause pain or heartache; and the lies that my feelings were the ultimate authority and were how to determine God’s perfect plan for my life. I desperately needed to be set free and healed by truth. God quickly gave me verses that began to change my thinking and give me hope. My husband and I were convinced that divorce was not God’s plan for us (Malachi 2:16) and this became our life line through those dark days. God showed us that He was with us and if we stayed strong and did the work, He would rebuild the home and marriage to be far more glorious than what we had before and we would be filled with His peace (Haggai 2:1-9).

But my heart took far longer to heal. Although I wanted nothing more than to save our marriage, my heart was still infatuated with another man. Before this experience, I never knew what to do with my feelings before God. I always thought I had to clean myself up and present God with my “holy” self. But David’s psalms taught me how to lay my real feelings down before God and when they would resurface, to stuff truth in my heart instead. God’s truth became my lifeline. After having lived my whole life with secrets, I needed to learn how to be an open book so my husband could start to trust me again. I came completely clean with everyone I had lied to and began to live my life as an open book. And by God’s grace my husband and everyone else that I had hurt forgave me.

But the hardest part was forgiving myself. For several months following my confession of my affair, I felt like whatever the layer is right below pond scum, with a big red A painted on my chest. But over time, God again set me free by His truth. He called me by name, and when I turned to Him, I did not find shame or condemnation but His loving arms open wide. I fell into His arms and He reminded me that my sin is not my identity. God’s truth is this: Jesus came as the Redeemer for people just like me; people that have been stained and broken by habits, addictions, and sin, whether their own or others. I am a work in progress, not perfect but forgiven, with a broken heart that has been bound up, released from the darkness of sin and abuse, and wearing a crown of beauty not ashes. (Is 61:1-3). What an amazing God!
Isaiah 61:1-3: “The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, Because the LORD has anointed me To bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to captives and freedom to prisoners; 2 To proclaim the favorable year of the LORD and the day of vengeance of our God; To comfort all who mourn, 3 To grant those who mourn in Zion, giving them a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fainting. So they will be called oaks of righteousness, The planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified.”

I don't remember my first exposure to sexuality. I only know that I began masturbating regularly at age five. I can't remember what prompted me to do so. It took only a few years for the behavior to become an addiction. By the age of eight I had discovered a stash of my stepfather's pornography and I needed to masturbate and achieve a climax in order to fall asleep at night.

I gave my life to Christ at age twelve, but the world was calling loudly and my faith quickly faded into the background. In my early teens, I became aware that my primary form of power and control was my feminine sexuality. I used it aggressively to pursue and control the males in my life. In the deepest place of my soul, I knew there should be more. More specifically, I knew that God wanted more than this for me—more than chasing the winds of control, more than believing my body was my only value, more than the emptiness that follows meaningless sex.

When I met my husband, Adam, I knew that this man of purity was God's man for me. This man wasn't interested in only my body. This was a man following God's plan for his life. I embraced the man and God. I was set free from my addiction and my pain. Ten years later, this man broke my heart. He confessed that he had been viewing pornography as early as one year into our marriage and was now addicted to it. A few days later, he confessed that he had had an affair eight years into our marriage.

My immediate reaction to the pornography confession was determination. I was crushed and filled with sorrow for him, but I was convinced that we would get through it. I had experienced something similar in my past and God had been faithful in setting me free. I knew that He would do it for my husband, too. I went immediately to the bookstore and purchased a handful of books about pornography and recovery. I also bought a beautiful card and wrote a meaningful, uplifting, encouraging letter to him expressing my firm belief in his strength, his true heart, and his ability to trust God to get him through this time.

The next day, he came home early from work so that we could talk. I gave him the card and showed him the books. In the next few moments, my world fell apart. He confessed to having had an affair. I covered my face with my hands and I wept. My husband dropped to his knees and crawled toward me as I dropped down beside him. He put his head into my lap and we cried together. I told him that I loved him. I told him that I forgave him. I told him that God loved him, too, and that he didn't have to live with this shame and guilt for one more second. The Holy Spirit spoke through me that day. I was dying inside. I was hurt, angry, bitter, vengeful, and broken inside. But I held my tongue and begged God to help me. To keep me from doing more damage than had already been done. God was faithful.

Once everything was out in the open and my husband was no longer bound by the sin, I was still battling the severely broken trust between us. I removed his access to the Internet and I checked his cell phone every day. Every hour, to be honest. At an office function a few weeks later, I stared in anger at the faces of every woman in the room to see if they were looking at my husband. I asked him not to attend any after-hours work functions unless I could join him. I asked him not to watch television or movies. These things went on for quite a while. I think that I needed him to prove that he was willing to do anything I asked, no matter how ridiculous or over-the-top it seemed. I think it took about 8 months for a relatively good level of trust to return. Now, almost three years later, I don't think about it anymore. When he leaves for a work event and I kiss him goodbye at the door, the past doesn't even cross my mind. I will never blindly trust anyone again, but I don't see that as a lack of trust in my husband. I see it as putting my faith fully in the Lord. I ask God how my husband is doing. And if anything is amiss, I trust the Holy Spirit to nudge my heart and I know that I will hear Him and pay attention.

The most difficult aspect of dealing with my husband’s affair was the restoration of our sexual relationship as husband and wife. After my husband's confession, I couldn't stop picturing him with the other woman. With any other woman. Except me. I couldn't picture him with me. All of the usual thoughts that a woman has when embracing her husband were replaced with horrifying images and sounds in my mind. It played out like a movie in my head and there was no way that I could let him touch me after that. I slept in our guest bedroom for weeks and weeks. I couldn't get into bed beside him without bursting into tears. He was gracious and understanding and convicted and ashamed of himself, but there was nothing that he could do to help me in those moments.

After several weeks, I felt the Holy Spirit prompting me. I fought against it for a while, but I soon began to see my husband through God's eyes and I knew that I needed to take the first step toward reconciliation. It was absolutely an act of sacrifice. There was no joy in that sexual encounter for me. I'm not sure there was joy for my husband, either. We both cried all the way through it. We knew that those moments were the holiest sexual encounter we would ever experience. It got easier after the first time. Several months later, I realized after an evening together that the thoughts of other women had not entered my mind at all. What a joyful moment that was!

I believe that my husband was carrying such a load of shame and condemnation about his sin that when he saw the opportunity to confess and repent and be free, he took it without hesitation. However, I will say that I believe that my response to the confession was a critical component in his response. If I had reacted with anger, condemnation, and judgment toward him, I believe that he would have felt attacked and he might have gone into a place of self-defense and justification. By responding to him with grace and love, I allowed him the space to be fully honest and to acknowledge his sin.

There are a few things that really helped me get through this painful season, but I believe that only one was a vital necessity: I cried out to the Lord. I had read Bible verses about 'crying out to the Lord' before, and I thought that I knew what it meant. I didn't. I had no idea. In the aftermath of the confession, I learned how to cry out to the Lord. I stood in my shower with hot water pelting down on me and I pounded the walls with my fists and I screamed out loud and I slid to the floor and sobbed tears of brokenness and God was with me the whole time. I read Psalm 55 silently to myself and then I stood up on my bed and I screamed it at the ceiling, declaring that my heart was in anguish, that horror was overwhelming me, and that I just wanted to fly away like a dove and be free of it! God was with me the whole time. My husband and I did seek marriage counseling for a short time. He also attended a men's recovery group for a period of time. We read a lot of books. But more than anything else, I give God the credit for our recovery. His Spirit touched my husband and brought him to repentance. His Spirit opened my mouth with wisdom and allowed me to speak with grace instead of judgment. His Spirit cleansed my husband and gave him a new heart. His Spirit quieted my anxious heart and gave me a firm place to stand.

Physically, I have been set free. Let me explain. I have always struggled with a need to be pleasing to men and to look my best. In the aftermath of the confession, I stood naked in front of a mirror and cried, wondering why I wasn't enough for my husband. After walking through this experience with God and coming out the other side, I no longer feel that pressure to look perfect for men. Even for my husband. I take care of myself, do what I know is wise, and offer my body to God. Don't get me wrong; I like to dress nicely and do my hair as much as the next woman, but when my husband reaches for me at night, I don't suck in my stomach anymore. I don't cringe if he touches my unshaven legs. I recognize that God created me in His image and He sees me as beautiful. And the more that God works on the spirit of my husband, the more beauty my husband sees in me as well, and this new confidence is sexier to him than any perfect size or skin tone could ever be.

God has restored my marriage and brought us to a place of intimacy that is much richer, much deeper, than anything we'd had before. He brought my husband back into relationship with Himself. He proved Himself faithful to me in ways that I never could have imagined. Now, when I sing that God is my Rock, I sing with conviction from experience. I have full trust that no matter what happens to my husband or to our marriage God will be with me the whole time. Increasingly, God is placing women in my path that are experiencing this same heartbreak. I love that I can speak to them from a place of faith and knowledge and experience in this area. It sounds strange to say it, but God's redemptive power has allowed my husband's affair to be the best thing that ever happened to me.

The following, will be more of a narrative than answering the questions in order… So I feel I need to let you know a very important aspect of the timeline upfront...the sexual abuse that happened to me was when I was four. I do not remember until I was in my mid-20s after the nightmares and a year of psychiatric treatment. (No drugs just talking) so for many years I had no idea where my thoughts, ideas, feelings came from.

Also, I take responsibility for my actions and choices. The patterns may have been developed early in life secondary to the abuse, but it was my choice to act on the thoughts and temptations. I have asked and received forgiveness. The same blood that was shed by Jesus for the payment of my sins is the same blood that was shed for the woman who abused me. It has taken a long time to get to that realization, and I thank God every day that when John 3:16 says "whoever" that means me as well!

I also thank God for what I've been through. In many ways I see what I endured as chains, not that they still bind me but they sure did in my past. I chose to see them as chains much like what Paul spoke of in Philippians 1:12 – 14 and may the testimony of my chains be used to help someone else grow, heal, even come to know Jesus as Savior!

There are two aspects of my testimony that I will address. First, the sexual abuse I endured when I was four years old when we were living in Germany while my dad was serving in the Army. A woman at the daycare would take me into the cleaning closet and use foreign objects on me or make me perform unspeakable acts on her while she told me how pretty I was. The abuse did not happen every day but the fear that it would was daily...it probably happened once a week or every two weeks. To be honest, I am not sure. I did not keep a daily journal at 4 (small attempt at needed humor). I took it for nine months not telling anyone because she told me that if I did tell anyone she would kill my two-year-old sister. Even at four years old I worked out that if I could see my sister in our big playroom she was safe and if I was with this woman in the closet, then my sister was safe from her. Needless to say I developed a love – hate relationship with my sister. I loved her so much I would go through hell to protect her and yet hated that I had to go through hell to protect her… Keep in mind four-year-old brain at work trying to make sense of all that was happening.

I was not just emotionally injured, I was physically injured to the point mom and dad had to take me to the ER twice, but both times the doctors never checked my private parts, they just pushed on my abdomen. The doctors must have thought that my problem was something other than the result of abuse. Later I would find that my abuser pushed through my uterus causing a tumor to grow on the top of my uterus. As an adult I had to have the tumor removed. But most painful physically, mentally, emotionally, even spiritually was the damage to my clitoris which now makes orgasm impossible for me. In some countries they call it female castration. Mine was not removed, just killed. I felt, well, castrated like my pig in FFA. This has caused my husband and me numerous issues to deal with in our marriage. These will be discussed later in this paper. The big impact that I feel is the absence of a sex drive, even to this day.

The most serious issue I have had to deal with from the abuse is the second largest aspect—my sexual identity. The woman would tell me in her German accent how pretty I was, or how she loved my long blonde hair, or how sweet I smelled. The very things I began to loathe about myself. I did not want to be cute, have long hair, smell good. To that point I did not want to be a girl. I have pictures of before and after when I was four years old and it takes my breath away even now. I changed my clothes to look like a boy. My hair was messed up by wearing ball caps like the boys. I began to hate baths. (I did not want to smell good, and did not like being naked.) I carried around plastic guns and changed my name to Jimmy Cord and my sister's name to James. I tried to turn us into boys, thinking in my four-year-old brain, that if I changed us we would be safe. I associated the abuse with being a girl.

I was raised in church. I was raised to love God. I was raised to love God's word. I was raised to live by God's decrees. I was convinced of my sins and asked Jesus to forgive me and save me and HE DID! Even though my sins were paid for, the consequences of that woman's actions and words were still alive. Long after she last touched me, her lingering fingerprints were all over my life. I knew God loved me but must not love me as much as someone else because he had made a mistake with me. I was supposed to be a boy. I never outwardly admitted how I really felt, but never a day went by I do not think it.

The sexual identity crisis went with me throughout my life. Impacting me and my parents… Oh the fights we got into over wearing dresses to church, dressing more feminine, the length of my hair, you name it. And if it had something associated with being a girl they were for it and I WAS NOT! I grew up looking like a boy to the point that for the first six weeks of school my fifth grade teacher thought I was a boy. There were girls who "liked" me until they found out I was a girl, and then there were some who liked me even after they found out. No boys were interested in me since they would be labeled as gay because of how I looked.

I was also going through puberty but with no direction. I had female friends the whole of my growing up, but I mainly had guy friends because I identified with them until puberty when guys were more interested in dating girls and hanging out with them. And I looked more and acted more like a guy than most of them did. The girls who were my friends were 99% straight, they were the best kind of friends who accepted me as is and did not judge or preach at me, and did not hit on me. And yet there were a few that were a challenge to my trying to live right. But for the most part I had friends, real friends! Yes, I see how God blessed my socks off and I never realized how he protected me even with great friends. (Please understand: I knew the difference between a friend and a romantic interest.)

There were times I tried living and looking female, like my senior year of high school. I had a boyfriend who was more feminine than I was. We got engaged and then he came out that he was gay. The next two boyfriends left me in a hurtful way. I was even engaged to one of them who broke off the engagement over the phone. I was devastated and was primed for that first female relationship. I was not ready to live openly as a gay female because in the corner of my head I was still the "supposed to be boy" just going with normally motions. There was excitement but also so much shame. Part of my heart thought I was really a boy in a girl's body and another part thought I was a girl because that was what God made me...I didn't know which end was up!!!

I knew the Bible inside and out, memorized Scripture, learned the stories, did everything I could think of that filled my brain with the Bible, thinking the wrong thoughts would have to go away. But they didn't. In fact we had preachers who would, from the pulpit, use God's word to convince the congregation that all gay people were going to hell, and that all women must submit, and that all kids must submit to authority. I did not realize where my feelings of wanting to be a male came from. Nor did I know where my feelings that no one would have power over me came from, so I was convinced I was a horrible person who was damned to hell and who could never change. The desperation, humiliation, self mutilation (I was not a cutter as much as I was a burner. I would burn myself to control my pain) would overwhelm me to the point of being so tired of fighting and hurting that I just wanted a break from it all...and when hell seems like a break, then you have hit bottom! I tried to end my life twice. Both times were after females made advances at me. I was so tempted to give in the first time but didn't. The second time I gave in to the temptation of having a physical relationship with a female, which probably saved my life. Even the wrong hope was better than no hope! (Let me please say that I believe the preaching I heard in those churches about all gay people being damned to hell is absolutely wrong. A person goes to hell because they reject Jesus. They go to heaven because they accept Jesus. Saved sinners will be in heaven lining the streets because they accepted Jesus' sacrifice for their sins, not because they were perfect or heterosexual. I am sickened by people trying to dilute the blood of Jesus to say His blood won't cover this or that.)

God's commands and decrees were precious to me but I could not understand why I could not live by them, why when I was doing good in my life a woman would come along and make me feel vulnerable. In a heartbeat I was back into wanting to be of male and more powerful than she was, which sent me back into that thinking pattern of when I was four years old in that cleaning closet. I just could not understand why.

The sexual identity problems continued. In college I had my first relationship with a female deciding that if I cannot change how I felt about being a female, then there were gay women willing to accept me romantically just the way I looked and not judge me or preach to me. In my mind the gay lifestyle must be better than what I was living.

I later entered a long-term relationship with a wonderful woman, who helped me through some very hard times. When I was about 25 I started having nightmares about the abuse I sustained so long ago. Up to that point I had repressed it all. I would wake up in cold sweats, scared, afraid, sensitive to smells, and/or vomiting, all because the memories I was finally reliving were hitting me like a ton of bricks. The Lord used her in my life during the horrible nightmares. She helped me through that time, even encouraged me to seek professional help. (We were in a wrong relationship and we both knew it but that did not make the emotions less real or the breakup hurt less than any other. When someone says that the emotions are less in a gay relationship I want to correct them immediately. Yes, the emotions are as strong, if not stronger because it's like you two against the world.)

I remember nights I would lay awake praying and saying "PLEASE TURN ME INTO A BOY!" over and over in hopes that God would take pity on me and change me, hour upon hour of "PLEASE!" I believed that all my problems would be solved, that I would feel better about myself, that I would actually like the person looking back at me in the mirror. Many people saw me back then but few took the time to look into my eyes and see the hurt. May we Christians take the time to look into the eyes of others we may not understand. We may learn to understand there are real people behind the labels we put on them. What would Jesus do? How did Jesus treat sinners? How did He treat those distorting Scripture to control people? (Please tread lightly when using Scripture. Do not condemn or degrade a gay couple. Instead, love them. Homosexuality is a sin, but those in it are sinners just like everyone else and Jesus died for them just as much as he did for you and me!)

After the nightmares and therapy I knew I needed to tell my parents about all that happened…I was not ready for their reaction to the abuse and the gay lifestyle. GUILT! It was overwhelming to them until they could get to a point of forgiving themselves. (I still believe my dad is not there yet, but there is hope that he will.) My mom has been able to face sexual abuse in her childhood because of seeing me deal with mine, AND IF SHE IS THE ONLY ONE EVER TOUCHED BY THE HEALER'S HAND BY MY TESTIMONY THEN MY SUFFERING WAS NOT IN VAIN BUT IN VICTORY!!!! My mom has seen how God was beginning to use what I had gone through to help others out who had been abused. One by one at first then as I shared my testimony with more and more, God used it more and more. Now it is been almost 20 years since the nightmares and my prayer is that my parents see how God can redeem any life, and how God can use their testimonies of dealing with guilt to help other parents.

My sister who I protected was a tougher case. When I told her I did not get any response from her. I guess hearing what I went through to protect her was too overwhelming for her. She refused to bring it up again. A few years ago she had a tumor removed from her brain. Once again big sister (me) was there in the hospital taking care of her when she said, "I never said thank you." I thought it was for taking care of her right then, but she slowly turned her head and looked me, really looked into my eyes, and with the tear rolling down her cheeks she said, "for Germany". You could've knocked me over with a feather. I choked out the response, "That's what a big sister does" and that was enough. The love-hate relationship was just love from then on.

The relationship most affected by my abuse and gay lifestyle is with my husband. When we were dating I knew that I would have to tell him someday but did not want to because I knew, in my human flawed brain, that when I told him that would be it. He would call it quits. So we dated, then fell in love, then got engaged. When reality set in, I knew I had to tell him before he was stuck with me. At this point I was out of therapy for several years and knew I was no longer under the weight of the abuse, or of the gay lifestyle, but did not know whether he would realize that or not. I prayed in preparation, cried in desperation, and got sick in anticipation, but finally one day I got back to my apartment and called him. I could not face him in person when I spilled my past. He just listened, not saying a word. Then when I was finished he simply asked, "Have you dealt with God about it?" I said "yes" to which he replied, "That's good enough for me." I had received God's forgiveness but that was the first time I honestly felt that God would bring people into my life that would not judge me on my past but on God's potential for my future. God had given me not just the man I wanted or the object of my desires, but also the Spiritual leader of my needs. God provided all of this in the man I call “Honey”!

We got married and one of my fears was realized. I was told by a doctor that I would never be able to enjoy a sexual relationship to climax due to the damaged clitoris and he was correct. I was frustrated physically, emotionally, mentally, even spiritually. I was angered again that now the consequences of so long ago were reaching into my marriage. It was okay that I had to deal with it, but now my godly husband who did not deserve damaged goods was dealing with it as well. So I rationalized faking climax for my husband's sake. After a while self-hatred for bringing dishonesty into my marriage began, then anger at God for not healing me physically the way he had healed other areas of my life. Then enormous guilt came once again.

Sometimes I would go through all of those emotions and more during the night of intimacy with my husband which would make me not want a time of intimacy because it was so exhausting with the emotions springing from the deceit. Not wanting intimacy is not good for a newlywed couple to go through. Finally I broke down and told my husband about my damage, my faking climax, my lack of sexual desire and he said he understood the damage but was hurt because I felt like I had to fake it. He also said he could see why I would not want a physical relationship. I told him that the lack of wanting a physical relationship was from the frustration of not being able to totally enjoy the relationship with him. He is trying to understand that intimacy is more important to me than the climax, but I can see the hurt from time to time, the hurt from his being able to experience what I cannot, and the frustration of feeling like a victim of that woman as well.

Sometimes I feel cheated about not being able to experience climax. It is not fair, but then I look at the man God gave me and realize how blessed I truly am. I look at what was taken from me, innocence lost, innocence given away, choices made for good and for bad, and I am convinced that they all make me who I am today—a sinner saved by grace.

I want to make one thing very clear: I have been asked why God allowed the abuse to occur, or where was God when I was being abused? Even had some say that what happened to me was 'God's will'...I do not believe God willed the abuse on me because that goes against everything I know Him to be. He did, however, allow it, because He gives us free will. I was sexually abused because a woman made some horrible choices that affected me and others in my life. But I wonder what had happened to her that made her think it was okay to do that to a four-year-old girl. Would I change my opinion of her if I knew her story?

I have gone through the process of forgiving her. At first I wanted her to go to hell and burn there forever. Then I got to a point that I didn't want her to go to hell but I didn't want her to go to heaven either. After a while, I thought okay she can go to heaven but I never want to see her. Then after more time and more growing in my life I got to a point of saying okay I want to see her once just to know she's there. I can honestly tell you today, the forgiveness I feel for her is one of wanting to see her on the streets of gold knowing we were both there because of the same blood of Jesus, both sinners saved by grace. All this forgiveness did not happen overnight, it has taken years, and some days I have to remind myself I have forgiven her. But I know in my heart of hearts that forgiveness is the only way to break the abuser's power over the victim. I am no longer a victim but a Victor in Christ!!!

Where was God when I was being abused in that cleaning closet? He was there with me protecting that tender part of my heart that He knew would one day give in to the calling of the Holy Spirit and accept Christ as Savior. Now I try to live each day as a witness of his grace, forgiveness, mercy, and love. My testimony is not mine to keep but God's to share.

Ephesians 3:14 – 21: 14 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, 16 that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God. 20Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, 21 to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.

My 12-year-old son came home from camp and confided in me a sexual experience that was forced on him by an older boy the previous week. He also confided that, while the first encounter was forced, he returned to the individual for more later on in the week. The second encounter was far more traumatic, way beyond the bounds he had previously experienced. He expressed mostly trauma, but also much fear, shame and guilt.

Since my husband was traveling, I felt very alone in handling this crisis! I confess that while I responded by crying out to God, I also reacted out of my own understanding. I was first confused and then angry! We put our son in camp because his father frequently traveled and we wanted him to have other male mentors in his life to help him feel a sense of manhood and belonging. I felt betrayed by them! I was deeply saddened and afraid for my son. Sexual abuse and harassment was downplayed in my own (high school) past by my parents with a slightly spoken sentiment: “Figure out what you did to help this come about and deal with it. Alone.” Because he confided that he returned for another encounter later on that week, I also put some of the blame on him for what happened. And since he expressed guilt for what happened, I prayed with him for forgiveness.

I became aware of the effects that molestation has on adolescents and became hyper vigilant--looking for any clues about what might be ahead for our family. I had a little breakdown of my own when this came to light. He had to actually ask me to please stop crying and try to be normal because it was hard enough for him to go through what he was going through and then see that the situation was hurting me, as well.

When we were in Target, he asked if women wore socks with high heels. I felt my stomach shift, wondering if he was interested in cross dressing. Whenever he did anything slightly flamboyant or talked about pink, I went to a whole new fear place wondering if he thought he was gay. I once found a note in his book bag: “5:30 Bring makeup”. My stomach sent me to the bathroom several times and I mulled over what this could mean as I swept the floor. Was he meeting someone? Did he want to try wearing makeup? What was going on? I imagined what I would say when he walked in the door from school! It took a few hours to realize the meaning. He was in the school play and he had a full dress rehearsal at 5:30. Because I had overreacted to his experience, he started to hold back the feelings that he felt he could deal with on his own. I became like a hawk, looking for signs, which negatively affected the trust factor. He also started to search out pornography and relationships with girls. Every time we caught him engaging in something inappropriate, the trust factor declined even farther.

At 12, middle school is tough for anyone! Gay is a term that is thrown about to cut anyone down. If they are different in any way, they are gay. If they don’t like sports or don’t do well in sports, they are gay. If they have an unusual gait while walking or running they must be gay. I saw him start to believe the things people were saying to him and about him, rather than being able to brush them off like he had previously done.
His behavioral fallout also became a minefield to deal with. Where was the line between understanding what is driving someone and allowing him to rest in the victim mindset? He didn’t connect to his counselor and would rather avoid than deal with his problems. And watching him avoid getting to the root of what happened and being able to put it aside was very difficult. The fact of the matter is that he dealt with it, but not in a constructive way. He started to seek out pornography to prove to himself that he wasn’t gay.

Also, it was hard to deal with the fact that part of why this had happened was that he was out from under the umbrella of God’s protection. He was starting to pull away and what attracted him to this individual initially was his worldly wise ways. He brought cigarettes to camp and claimed to have fathered a child with his girlfriend. The leadership, unaware of his nature, placed him in a team with my son to build shelters and they struck up a bit of a friendship. When the grooming process was complete, he forced contact.

Our efforts to help our son find a place to fit in and be mentored in his father’s absence backfired and left us with more issues. First, he was not initially backed up by the [camp] leadership but was treated like he was the criminal. Second, he didn’t know enough to fight the advances (but thankfully, he did know enough to come to us and for that I am eternally grateful!) Unfortunately, in my attempt not to deny, rationalize, or justify the incident, I didn’t back my son up enough. And third, the healing process is lengthy, and as his parents who love him, we had little control over it.

Throughout, God met me in places I hadn’t experienced yet. I really struggled with where He was while this was happening! The part that I struggled with the most was why there had to be a second encounter. Without that, my son would be free from shame, and I had to admit that I carried that shame as well. I was reading through the Bible that year and discovered a gem in Isaiah that I had never noticed before. Isaiah 63:9 NET says, “Through all that they suffered, he suffered too.” That verse changed so much for me because I could see that He wasn’t just watching—watching the molestation, watching the trauma, watching me deal with my broken son. God was suffering, too.

Friends that knew us were invaluable. The support and prayer really helped me through some very hard days. People who had personally been through what we had, whether they were the loved one or the victim, helped me normalize what was going on in my mind and in my son’s life as we walked through the aftermath.

Sad to say, this incident has affected our whole family. I became more fearful than normal. When my husband wanted to make love to me, I would have flashbacks of what my son had told the investigators and me (every single detail). It also affected the family atmosphere because my son was very angry and we didn’t share the reasons with the other family members. It built walls between us, making those relationships less than authentic, it seemed.

Currently, our son is in the shame spiral. And his choices to look at pornography and seek out sexually explicit music make his shame worse. He is depressed and feels no victory. He is on medication for depression and while his moods have stabilized a bit, he has had significant weight gain and this bothers him quite a bit. Thankfully he agrees to see a Christian counselor on a regular basis.

One revelation from this experience was that God showed me that I was living my life and parenting in fear, and I used that fear to control my children. I was not free! My view of God was so faulty: He was the Sovereign God, but He was also the observer God—always watching to see if I was doing everything right, judging me when I was wrong and merely silent when I was pleasing to Him. The idea of God rejoicing over me in love nearly broke my heart as this was a God I had never experienced. This seemed like the first tier in His changes in my life.
I still was very broken daily and spent hours in tears and introspection. Where did we go wrong? What was going to happen? Would our son come to find healing? Would we survive this? The questions never ended and each emotional low with him and each incident of recurrent sin in his life would bring me back to this dark place. I had no emotional energy for my other children and this continued for many months. Every time I contemplated the verses, “In this world you will have trouble. But do not fear, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33) or “when you pass through the waters, I will be with you” (Isaiah 43:2), I was definitely not comforted. Trouble? What kind of trouble? More trouble? More heartache?

One day while listening to a sermon in church on Psalm 23, something shifted into place in my mind like tumblers in a lock. Trouble will come. In this world, we will have trouble. The choice I had to make was this: Am I going to walk through this trouble with Him or without Him? With Him is infinitely better. Do I want to obsess, regret, analyze, fear every decision I make as a wife and mom or do I want to walk hand in hand with Him in peace? It is my choice to trust Him no matter what comes! As a result, I have become a more intentional mother. I am more in touch with my thoughts and feelings. I find myself more compassionate with struggling families, quick to try to understand what might be going on behind the scenes.

UPDATE TWO YEARS LATER: Our son agreed to meet with a Christian counselor specializing in cases like these. Eventually he opened up and over several months worked through what happened and the ways he was acting out in response to the trauma. With the help of that counselor and individuals that God placed in his path at key moments, he was able to make some decisions that have put him on a much better path. He is no longer depressed. While I can't go so far to say that he no longer struggles with pornography and has a deep relationship with God, I can say that he has come a long way and we are thankful to God for the healing he has worked in his life. We are trusting God to continue to work in his life and bring that to completion in his time.

Psalm 23:4 ~ “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.”

I would have never imagined that God could ever use me or my story, but I praise Him for giving me new life and a joyful song in my heart. He is mighty to save! May His great name be praised!

I had been sexually abused a couple of times in elementary school. These occurrences were not rape; so quite honestly, I did not consider that I had been abused. I know differently now. I don’t share this to rationalize or justify my actions, but to shed light on my unhealthy view of sex.

As the old cliché goes, I was looking for love in all the wrong places. I so badly wanted a relationship that I began compromising what I knew to be right in order to feel accepted and loved. As a college freshman I became pregnant. I was devastated to learn of my pregnancy and was overcome by guilt and shame, paralyzed with fear. I couldn’t be pregnant now. I was unmarried and had several years of college in front of me. I felt like I was caught in a trap, like a wild animal trying to pull its leg out to run away. I couldn’t bring this shame on my family. I was desperate and I did the only thing I knew of to take care of my problem. Young, desperate and very afraid, I had an abortion. I only confided in two friends, and my plan was to not speak of or think about the abortion ever again.

The clinic staff was very business-like and cold. They asked me if I was sure I wanted to go through with the procedure. What other option was there?

A few years later, I married a wonderful man and in time we were blessed with children. We regularly attended church and eventually I began going to a Bible study with some friends. I loved learning about God, but always felt these ladies knew so much more than I did and there was something about them that was different. It was nice to study God’s word and I would pray, but something was missing. Then the gospel was presented to me. I learned that Christ died for my sins and I could have a relationship with Him. I accepted Jesus into my heart that day, but I held Him at a distance. How could a Holy God love someone like me? I was very guarded. My walls were high and no one was going to penetrate them.

I continued growing in my faith, enjoying Bible studies, but still something was missing. One day as I was feeling like I was just going through the motions of life, I asked God, “Is this really all there is?” Soon I found that my life was turned upside down. I had always been fairly independent, self sufficient, and in control, but now I was struggling with some very heavy issues that I could no longer handle on my own. I cried out to God, knowing that He was the only one who could help me. I began trusting Him in the situation, and He gave me peace and comfort and provided a light to my path. In the midst of adversity, I was encountering God’s character. He is always with us, always faithful, trustworthy, loving, and compassionate; slow to anger, abounding in love.

God began to work on my heart and gave me a desire to know Him more, to study His Word, and to fellowship with other believers. My relationship with Jesus was blossoming and my “impenetrable” walls were beginning to crumble. As I began to trust Him more, I began to ask God to search my heart, to break my heart with the things that break His, to consume me and continue transforming me. He was changing me from the inside out.

The next Bible study I chose was a study called Enhancing Your Marriage. I already had a good marriage, but I thought every marriage can be improved upon. This was a study about God’s design for marriage. It was during this study that I got a huge nudge from the Holy Spirit that I was to tell my husband of my past. I really did not want to do this. It was painful to think about my abortion, and guilt and shame continued to burden me. The enemy had me believe that if my husband knew everything it would be the end of our marriage, but he had a right to know. I knew this would be devastating, but I asked if we could talk. I’m not sure what I was expecting—silence, accusations, disgust, hatred? (These are the very things I expected from anyone who would know my story.) As I began to share, he wrapped me in his arms and showed me great compassion. He was Christ with flesh on, extending unconditional love.

There was relief in telling my husband, but this did not restore me, even though he was very supportive, loving, and kind. Shame and guilt were my constant partners. I was an emotional wreck and my mind was a mine field. I would be fine one minute and then begin crying for no reason. The weight of my sin was too much to bear. I had come to a point of total brokenness. Through it all, God continued pursing me. He wanted all of me, not just the parts of my life that I wanted to give Him. One night as I was praying I heard Jesus say to me, “You can run, but don’t you want to be healed?” I don’t think this was an audible voice, but clearly I heard it plain as day. I had a choice to make. I could pick up my mat and walk or I could stay stuck in the mud and mire. I chose to take a leap of faith and allow Jesus to minister to me and set me free. I finally surrendered all of my life to God.

God brought a beautiful, godly woman to walk alongside me and to mentor me. I shared my story of my abortion with her. She was safe and nonjudgmental. We met for many months and she shared God’s love and compassion with me through His word, through prayer, and through friendship. She sharpened me and kept me on the straight and narrow path, always guiding me to the Savior. I took my sin to the foot of the cross, the only place where one can receive true freedom. In time, I was eager and determined to fully be healed. I completed a Post Abortion Bible Study through my local crisis pregnancy center along with three other post abortive women.

Only by knowing Christ, realizing that He died for all my sins (even my abortion), and receiving His forgiveness, grace, and mercy could I be fully restored. God’s offering of mercy and forgiveness was instantaneous, but it took time to heal psychologically, emotionally, and spiritually. Some scars run very deep and take much care.

For a long time, I believed that abortion was an unpardonable sin. But all sin is an affront to God and when Christ died upon the cross, He paid the price for all my sins past, present, and future. When doubt sets in, I remember to check these thoughts against scripture and renew my mind with God’s Truth.

God is mighty to save. He binds up the brokenhearted and sets the captives free. I have been redeemed and restored. He brings beauty out of the ashes. My marriage is vibrant and strong because of our commitment to our Lord and to each other.

2 Corinthians 1:3-4 says, “ Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.” God has given me a voice for the unborn and I am able to share life options with those who find themselves in an unplanned pregnancy. Most of all I share the love of Christ with them. God is Sovereign, and He will work all things together for our good and His glory. Praise be to my Lord and Savior!

Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland” (Isaiah 43:18-19).

This is the testimony of a parent carried by God through the bewilderment of terrible experiences and negative emotions into His peace and hope. My bewilderment has been turned into thanksgiving. This was the promise that was given to me by the Lord on the day after my husband and I learned that our youngest son was being investigated for viewing child pornography on the computer while he was home from college. A few months later we were to learn that another of our sons, completely separate from his brother’s situation, had also committed this sin of viewing child pornography. In spite of the difficulty and pain that we went through, during the months that followed, the Lord in His faithfulness began to turn our mourning into joy.

When we first learned of our youngest son’s involvement with child pornography, I was bewildered, humiliated, and embarrassed, but mostly angry for the violation of our privacy [by the authorities]. I also felt baffled, confused, and at a loss since I was so surprised by this allegation. I feel that I was, at first, living with a sense of denial that this young man could have committed such a heinous crime. When we brought our son home from college to live with us, I felt uncomfortable around him, and it was difficult to communicate with him. I found it very hard to trust him, and it is still hard to this day.

Fearful, anxious, and depressing thoughts began to invade my mind, and I began the tedious practice of trying to “take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:5) At times I felt like the breath had been knocked out of me. I felt “flat”, deflated, and my heart was heavy with waves of grief for what had been lost, especially the innocence of my son. I was so disappointed – my dreams had been dashed to the ground, and I felt overwhelmed, weak, and, at times, hopeless. I had been betrayed, hurt, and was broken and sad.

The enemy of our souls tried to get me to agree with him that I was a failure as a mother, and I felt very inadequate as a Christian parent. I had been praying since before our children were born that they would grow up to be godly young men, and this situation caused me to doubt that would ever happen. Also, I began to chide myself that if only I had done things differently this would never have happened. I began to realize that those times that my son was being dishonest and deceptive with me by shutting down a website when I entered the room could have been avoided if I had just made him explain why he was doing that, and I felt very guilty for not keeping this from happening.

A few months later, when our second son was also charged with the sin of child pornography, I did not experience denial because I already knew that he had been having unexplained difficulties. He had been dealing with depression, was emotionally up and down, and was not keeping up with his college classes and assignments. He was also acting dishonestly and deceptively towards me. It was much less of a surprise, and I almost welcomed discovery of this news so that we could get to the bottom of his problems. In fact, I had prayed that the Lord would do whatever it took to bring my son back to Him. Therefore, his being caught, in a way, was an answer to my prayers.

We are blessed to have a wonderful, supportive church family, as well as other Christian friends and our own family members who were willing to pray for us and show us their support by standing by us and holding us up. I was very careful to let only those who I felt the Lord directed me to into the circle of people who were aware of our situation. There are many to this day who do not even know that this has happened. My own doctor only knew that I was going through a major difficulty as I asked her for medication that would help me to deal with my depression. I continue to be on a low dose of anti-depressant to keep me emotionally stable. Overall, however, since the day we first heard of this situation, my most constant Friend assured me of His presence, and He has been faithful to stay right beside me throughout this season in our lives.

This sin has affected our entire immediate and extended family, in addition to those who were and are friends of our children. Trying to find jobs for our sons and places for them to live is all the more difficult because both of them are now registered sex offenders. After his release from jail, one son had to relocate to another city, and now has only a few friends with whom he can talk besides our family. We are glad he found a job, but his work schedule makes it difficult to attend church regularly.

Both sons have been incarcerated and are now on probation, including restrictive curfews and the limited ability for each of them to travel. These restrictions require detailed planning and legal approvals just for our immediate family to spend holidays and special events together. I think that the most difficult aspect of this whole situation has been that my dreams for our sons and their futures were shattered. There is still a great sense of loss as we think of all that was given up and taken away from us. The enemy is certainly the thief who comes to “steal and kill and destroy” our children. (John 10:10)

The Lord has drawn me closer to Him, and I have had to cling to Him like never before. He continues to strengthen me and is already beginning to use me to help others who are going through similar situations. Some people who are not even aware of our situation have commented on how much more confident I seem than when we first arrived here several years ago. I am definitely more aware of my blessings than I used to be, and I am trying to put into practice daily the command in 1 Thessalonians 5:18: “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” I am finding that the more I thank God for, the more I find to be thankful for. Also, I am beginning to sense the joy of the Lord being my strength, even in the midst of the worst circumstances. The most helpful verses for me have been, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything, by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God, and the peace of God will fill your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4: 6-7)

There are several things that specifically helped me get over being angry and depressed. The first was to talk about it with a friend who listened, but did not condemn me for being angry and who prayed for me. Second, I had to make the choice to forgive my sons and anyone else who was involved in this situation that brought this about. I even had to forgive the enemy of my soul, the devil, for the havoc he had created in our family. Also, I began to keep praise and worship music on in our house to lift my spirits and those of our family. I anointed our home with oil (representing the presence of the Holy Spirit), and I began more diligently to spend time on a daily basis in God’s Word.
My prayer is that all who read this may find peace and hope in our God, and that He will be glorified in all that is said and done. May His Name be praised!

My husband and I had been married for ten years and had three children ages seven, six, and three when we were impacted by his infidelity. On the return of one of my husband’s business trips, I was doing his laundry as normal and felt led to check pockets. Now I usually never check any pockets, so this seemed strange but I went ahead. That one action changed my life forever. There was a note that made it clear to me something awful was being revealed in that moment. I sat down in the floor and started praying it was not true and I was just dreaming. I actually started shaking like a leaf. I wanted to cry but no tears came. I wanted to throw up but nothing happened. I wanted to die but was still alive. My children were playing in the room next to me pulling me back to reality. I think I sat there for quite some time trying to figure out what to do next. The note had revealed my husband had an affair while away on his business trip, but not just any affair—one with another man.

I was in shock and felt paralyzed, so I called a dear friend who came over to help me. She helped me cook dinner for the children and get them into bed and think through how I would confront my husband. She prayed for me, and though I continued to shake, I felt peace in my heart, a stirring that God was with me through this and would never leave me alone.

That evening when my husband came home, I confronted him by showing him the note and asking him to explain it. As he did, my worst nightmare became real. It was true and had been going on for quite some time. The glimmer of hope was that he wanted help. We called the pastor who came and prayed with us and reassured us of his help as we unfolded this together.

The next three weeks were a blur as I learned many things about my husband, but I remember not being able to sleep or eat. I shook constantly and lived in a fog. I functioned as a robot, going through the motions with little to no feeling or memory of how they got done. I got the children out of bed every morning, got them to school, did the laundry, made dinners and cleaned up, and somehow the children ended up in bed each evening happy and sound asleep.

I lost 12-15 pounds during those three weeks. I went to church and somehow talked to people but nothing made sense or seemed important. I remember looking around at people laughing, and feeling as if I was having an out of body experience as I couldn’t laugh or find any humor in any situation.

Our pastor wanted us to keep quiet about our situation until he figured out what to do. My husband was the minister of music and of course needed to step down. I remember one Wednesday night sitting out in the car after Prayer Meeting waiting for my husband while he was “talking” to the choir about stepping down from his position. A friend came up to me and started talking. She sensed that I was “not myself” and started asking questions. I remember her finally laughing and saying well, it is not as if your husband went and had an affair. I remember her face as she realized it was true and then the questions that came pouring out and finally the realization that my husband had an affair with another man. She started to cry uncontrollably and reached into the car to hold me. I remember thinking that I so wanted to cry like she was and wondered why I couldn’t! What is wrong with me?

I remember sleeping in the same bed with my husband and feeling defiled but not knowing what to do since we had three precious children down the hall and the pastors and deacons were still figuring out how to handle our situation. No one had told us anything and I felt like we were on a merry-go-round spinning out of control but standing still at the same time. Time and life had stopped for me but the world and people kept on going.

The next few months happened somehow, but I was numb and lived in denial for survival’s sake. I had children to take care of and needed to process this new revelation. Denial was my coping mechanism, and being numb was the only way to make it through each day at the beginning. As these months unfolded, I started to put the pieces of the puzzle of my life together that had never made sense. There had been lies and deception and mind games that began to show their ugly heads as the truth came to light. My husband had been dealing with sexual addictions since he was a teenager. He was brought up in a Christian home, his father a pastor, and claimed to be a born again believer himself. He attended a fine Christian college where I met him and had, up to this point, lived a fairly decent-looking Christian life. At the same time, he had lived a double life, dabbling in affairs, pornography, and the homosexual lifestyle on the side. Leading a double life is a slippery slope and you will get caught or mess up and make mistakes at some point or another. So, whenever I had thought something didn’t make sense or was wrong (by some intuition) and confronted him, the mind games began. He would lie and confuse me to the point that I would leave the conversation either not knowing what I had asked or thinking I was the one who had made the mistake or that I was really crazy! As this truth infolded, I was so hurt and disappointed. I was crushed and ashamed. I remember thinking or asking myself if anything had been true of our relationship.

To compound my pain, I needed to go to a clinic to get checked for AIDS. Sitting in the clinic was a horrifying experience—waiting for my name to be called, waiting for the doctor to come to my room, asking for the test. Experiencing the looks and whispers was sickening and I remember throwing up in the parking lot.

Dealing with friends at this time was not easy; family members even harder. All claimed to be Christians. Family members wanted me to take the children and leave him. Friends wanted me to get even (not sure to this day what that really meant since I was too afraid to ask!) I remember one friend wanted me to take a baseball bat and smash his car to pieces. In some ways it felt good for my family and friends to feel this way as I still felt nothing.

Through all this clouded, numb, “out-of-body experience” time, one thing became clear to me—God! I turned to my Bible and prayer. Though the Bible didn’t always seem to make sense as I read it, it still comforted me, and though I didn’t know how to feel or what I was to do or say, I could pour out my heart to God. I was still not sleeping and still not really eating. Oh, I got hungry from time to time but food lost its taste. I continued to lose weight up to over thirty pounds. I remember when the scales dipped under 99 pounds, I was too afraid to step on them anymore. I shook constantly. And I had nightmares.

Fortunately, my parents came to help me with the children from time to time or would take the youngest back to their house for a week or so and that was ever so helpful as some stress was relieved. The church finally got their act together and a counselor came to see me at my home twice a week for free for about a month. She helped me get out of the shocked stage and move into the anger stage. I learned that there were many stages one needs to go through to handle a situation in a healthy way. She helped me to see the importance of journaling. She gave me assignments which caused me to dig into God’s Word which made it come alive once again. She helped me figure out how to know my role in this situation. From her help, I started little Bible studies of my own. When I felt unloved, I searched God’s Word for all the verses on how much I was loved and wrote them down. When I needed peace because of the chaos in my mind, I searched for verses on peace and wrote them down. Whenever something came up that I needed help, searching the Scriptures became my survival way of life. There was such uncertainty in my life that I needed this for stability. There was such chaos that I needed this for peace. I went through many emotions and sometimes it was weekly but other times it was daily. I needed this rock in my life—God and His Word.

As life started to move ahead, decisions needed to be made. Would I stay with him? What about the children? How do I live if I do stay with him? Anger was hot now and since I was no longer numb and in shock, I started to cry again and well, it seemed the tears now never stopped! I remember often when I was out with friends I would go to the bathroom and cry and not be able to stop. I just stayed there till one of them came and took me home. It was a very sad time of my life as nothing seemed good or right. I still couldn’t laugh but I could get angry and angry I got. The accusations flew frequently. The thoughts of “how could he” or “am I nothing” or “I didn’t deserve this” came to my mind regularly. I felt like I was on a rollercoaster of emotions. Was it my fault? What could I have done? Why didn’t I notice it? Was I not attractive? How could I compete if he was attracted to men? The anger took a different turn as I stopped looking inward. Why did God let this happen to me? I was a good girl and stayed true to the Lord my whole life.

The emotional rollercoaster and the shaking of my entire body really never went away fully. Even now, some twenty years later, given the right situation or movie or conversation, some of that can come back. But the anger and other emotions were short lived. I believe that somewhere around the fourth month into this journey I was able to put my feet on the ground and stand up once again and move forward.

As I began to move forward, certain things surfaced that I needed to deal with: trust, forgiveness, my marriage, my future, the children and a host of other things. I needed to get my spiritual life squared away before I could deal with these things. God had become my anchor, my fortress, my rock, my strength, and my peace, but now He needed to become my all in all. As I worked through these issues, I found I needed to wrestle with God just as Jacob in the Bible did. Every morning I would wake and go for a two mile power walk and wrestle with God. I must have looked funny to anyone who saw me but I didn’t care. This was needed for wholesome survival through that day! I received peace to carry on, strength to handle new situations, even joy to laugh again. The thing I remember most was that during these wrestling sessions, God gave me great wisdom. Decisions were made in these hours with God. I worked out my anger and frustration. He did become my all in all. I learned that I was not able to forgive or trust but with God working through me, He could do it in me. I learned that God’s Word was the important standard for me to live by and make decisions by not what other people say or think. I had to be so close to God that I could hear Him and only Him.

As I took this bold step of faith, God blessed me and I did move forward. I moved into a new stage of gathering information to educate myself so I would understand what I was up against. I joined a group of Christians who had a loved one struggling with the same sexual addictions (though all the others were parents of loved ones, I was the only spouse) We encouraged each other, prayed for each other and were there to listen and help if needed. I was able to deal with the hard issues of my worth, who I could trust, the impact on my children and future of our marriage. It gave me perspective and was like a shot of hope each time I went. I also surrounded myself with more mature spiritual woman for greater encouragement.

Since their earthly father was unfaithful, I started a “faithful” journal with the children. I wanted them to see their Heavenly Father was always faithful. This helped me as their sweet additions to each page encouraged me. On days that we were very sad and it was hard to see any hope, we added a joyful side to our journal so we could see that, yes, even on these kind of days, God gives us joy. I taught my children to love God and keep Him first. I taught them that no matter what their dad did, they were to respect and love him. We talked about boundaries and proper ways to share feelings and how to respectfully say no to their dad.

I felt led by the Lord not to leave my husband but show him God’s unconditional love and forgiveness. This was very hard. No one really agreed with me, so I felt very alone in this. I set up boundaries and held him accountable through other men such as pastors. He went through programs and saw counselors. These years were still filled with lies, deception, and emotional abuse, having the rug pulled out from under me over and over again with each new discovery or affair. Then after seven years, he decided to leave to embrace the gay lifestyle. This had the biggest impact on the children and on me as well. It took some time to help them get their little feet on the ground and begin this new life. There was much stress during those seven years and physically, my body took a toll. It was and still can be hard for me to relax.

God has worked a work in my life because of this journey and I am a different person. I have more compassion and listen better. I am spiritually closer to God and depend on Him for everything. I am less judgmental (mostly ). I usually wait to give my advice or add to a
conversation. I pray often for wisdom. God has seen fit to use me in the lives of countless women over the years. I am thankful and look forward to blessing others with what God has taught me.

God has also drawn my children close to Himself, and they each walk with Him. I have learned many verses and continue to search the scripture for new encouragement and understanding. I will always deal with this situation as he is the father of my older three children, but God’s faithfulness prevails.

The sexual sin that impacted my life was coming to the knowledge that in the course of my 36-year marriage my spouse had never been faithful and had engaged in prostitution, massage parlors, one night stands, and affairs.

The knowledge of his betrayal, the shock, the sorrow, the numbness, the fear, the anger, the unbelief (but you know it’s true) was almost unbearable. I felt stupid and foolish, ashamed and embarrassed for being totally deceived. And my heart was broken. I was obsessed with all the questions that go along with the knowledge of infidelity: What did I do to deserve this? What is wrong with me? What could I of done better? Why wasn’t I good enough? If only I had been prettier, nicer, sexier…”, and on and on.

His lies and deception impacted every aspect of our married life. Our entire relationship and marriage had been a lie, a joke, a sham. That I had given myself to a person who could betray and hurt me with such deception was more than I could believe. The many times in 36 years I had been lied to; the countless times he had come home to me after being with someone else; his total disregard for me and our children and the life we had built together. Any trust I might have had was completely and utterly destroyed.

Unfortunately for me, my spouse showed no real sorrow or repentance. Instead, he was full of anger and blame. He continually defended and minimized his actions and stated that I should just forgive him and go back to the way things were—that I should “just get over it.” We went to six counselors and a priest, but the story remained the same: it was my fault, and as a Christian I should just forgive him.

The most difficult part of dealing with my husband’s sexual sin was knowing that I had given myself to someone who had never been faithful to me, our marriage, or our children—that I had given a life time of love and support to a person who apparently was not capable of giving himself in return. The life I thought I was living had just been pulled out from under me. How? Why? What would I do now?

I truly found solace in my faith and trust in the Lord and in His grace and the strength. I put many questions before Him: Why had He allowed this? He had known and seen all along. The fact that my life had changed in a moment in time and would never be the same—the plain ugly truth—what had I done to deserve such betrayal?

I sit in the very church (answering Judy’s and Sandy’s questions for this testimony) where I had come so many times to find peace and strength and just sit with the Lord. It’s the place I had come seeking healing from the wounds, the sadness and suffering that came with my spouse’s sin. Daily Mass, adoration, Scripture, and praise music were a part of my weekly routine in just trying to make it through.

Tears once again fill my eyes, this time in gratitude for how far the love and provision of Christ had brought me. He is faithful no matter what circumstance you find yourself in. He comes alongside of us and gives us the strength we need to go through whatever is going on in our lives. When things don’t make sense we must choose to trust in His love and goodness, even when all evidence points the other way. He will show up and carry us through. His love will hold us up and comfort us, if we will just let it.

The Lord also provided a wonderful friend, a woman the Lord knew I desperately needed. She didn’t judge nor criticize but selflessly gave up her time to meet with me and point the way to the truth and healing which was to be found in Christ. The prayer support of trusted friends was another vital aspect of my healing. I also chose to go to professional Christian counseling for quite a while, which helped me in many ways. My children and grandchildren also provided me with support and love, helping me to muster the strength to push through the pain and sadness. They have always been one of His greatest gifts and blessings.

This sin has affected so many others, especially my children. Family relationships that had once been enjoyed would never be quite the same. Like a stone thrown into a pond, the ripple effect goes far in touching the lives of family and friends and personal relationships. A broken marriage and divorce change your life forever. People you love and who have loved you are now put in a very precarious position and everything is made awkward, strained and fragmented.

It has been over ten years since the truth of my spouse’s secret life was revealed. There are still moments when I can feel the stab of betrayal. I have learned not to dwell there and continue to move forward in incredible ways!!! It took about three years to come to any semblance of life seeming normal again. I have come a long way from the initial hurt and pain. I have sought the Lord not only for healing for myself and my children, but in truly forgiving my still-unrepentant spouse. By the grace of God I really believe that I have forgiven, but there are still times I must choose to let it go and not go back there. A very wise counselor told me once that “you can’t move forward looking in your rear view mirror.” I try to recall all that Christ gave up for me and the forgiveness only His death could accomplish. All the pain I have experienced does not come close to His sacrifice.

I think that there will always be some residual consequences and wounding. I have come to a place of peace and joy in spite of the fact that my marriage ended in divorce and that the outcome was not what I wanted or had ever planned on. Christ can make all things new and bring restoration in so many wonderful ways and for that I will be eternally grateful. He does redeem our circumstances and provide for our future when we completely trust in His Love for us. That does not happen overnight…it can take a very long time, but He will always proves Himself and His Word true!

The Lord has brought me to a place of peace and joy that could only have been possible through His incredible and unfailing Love and Mercy. He has proven that His promises are true, though it did not seem like that sometimes while in the midst of the pain. I sit in awe with tears running down my face in thankfulness and awe of how my life has changed in so many wonderful ways, how I had the strength and courage to go through a desert that seemed unending. Yes my life is forever changed, but I could never have imagined it could be so good on the other side of the betrayal. The Lord has brought me to an incredible place of rest and contentment. My faith has grown leaps and bounds. I have a new appreciation and compassion for others who are going through painful life circumstances. It is a privilege and honor to come alongside others in their grief and pain and share the Hope that is within me. The depth of my love for Christ is an incredible gift borne through much pain and many tears and all the loss that come with sexual sin. I have learned to step out in many other areas of my life and trust in His plan and direction, knowing that with His grace, I will be okay.

I have come out on the other side of my circumstance healthy and whole. Though my health suffered under such great stress, I have come to a place of health and have learned to take so much better care of myself through diet and exercise. Emotionally I am in a wonderfully contented place and enjoy family, friends, work and just life in general. I could have never imagined at the time that my life could end up in such a wonderful place. I have truly come to know the Lord is Faithful and I can count on Him no matter what.

We can trust God with our most devastating pain and circumstances. He is there; we are not alone, and He true to His Word. He has a plan and a future for all of us even when life takes an unbelievable turn for the worse. When we can’t and don’t understand the “how?” or “why?” of our pain, we must choose to trust that He is holding us in the palm of His more than capable and mighty Hand and will see us through. He will lead, guide, protect and provide for us. And He will cause all things to work together for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose and He will use all of these circumstances to conform us into the image of His Son Jesus Christ. Believe and trust in Christ and just let Him love you through.

Romans 8:28-29 ~ “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. 29 For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren…”

“(For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds) Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ….” 2 Corinthians 10:5, KJV

My journey through this nightmare began on February 22, 2013. My husband’s began much, much earlier.

On February 22nd, Mark’s sister called in the morning to ask if I could fly across the country that day if she could get me a flight. His father was in ICU with extremely high blood pressure and a septic infection and the family needed someone there. Since I was the only family member not working I was able and glad to do it. As I began packing, some men came to the door explaining that they were from the FBI investigating some computer fraud. (Someone had used Mark’s credit card the previous year to purchase 3 laptops in Texas.) By the time I was showered and ready to go to the airport, the men had left. Mark took my hands, looked me in the eyes and said, “Honey, I’ve got to tell you the real reason these men were here.”

Mark said he had confessed to God, to the agents and now he had to confess to me. The FBI had traced purchases of Child Pornography sites through PayPal to his computer. He told me that he had admitted that he had purchased them and that he had other images that were free downloads as well. I was dumbfounded. It was so hard to believe that my loving, godly, extremely law-abiding husband of 28 years was involved in such a thing! It would take me days and even months to grasp the gravity of the whole situation and to comprehend the depth of Mark’s addiction.

We had to leave for the airport immediately, so still holding my hands, Mark prayed for our protection and for God’s strength for my trip and for all that would follow. And here begins the amazing story of God’s work and grace in our situation.

I thank the Lord that the agents allowed Mark to drive me to the airport, a one-and-a-half hour drive and into another state. (In a few days, Mark would be confined to our house, with an ankle bracelet, and not allowed to go anywhere without the permission of his probation officer given three days in advance.) That long trip to the airport was the Lord’s gift to us, I’m sure, because it gave Mark a chance to confess to me in detail and to explain how long he had been in slavery to this addiction. I cried, asked questions, and cried some more. Mark was in grief over what he had done and what he had done to me and to our family.

Though neither of us was really hungry, it was already mid-afternoon and we decided to stop to get me something to eat before the long transcontinental flight. As we were glumly eating and talking, I became aware of the word “forgiveness” in whatever the music was on the restaurant’s intercom. I stopped chewing and listened. Mark must have done the same because the next minute we were staring at each other in disbelief. “Our God is mighty to Save! He can move the mountains. He is Mighty to Save!” came over the airwaves and into our aching hearts. This was in a Wendy’s restaurant! We both took that praise song, at that moment, in that place, as a promise directly from God that He would be with us through all that followed, not that He would erase the consequences of Mark’s sins, but that He had forgiven them and would work in all that followed to bring healing.

God was in control. Without that loving sign from our dear Lord, I don’t know if I would have found the strength to leave Mark and face the days to come. (One must understand that Mark and I were very close and had always felt that the Lord had brought us together. Though the very thought of what he had been viewing on the computer made me want to throw up, I still loved the Mark I had known and who had cherished me all these years.) As I know now, it was God’s mercy that took me a continent away. Our separation forced us both to rely entirely on Him instead of clinging to each other for our strength and the next 10 days were to be a severe test for both of us.

Some people have been amazed that I immediately chose to forgive Mark and to walk with him through this. I could do nothing less. First of all, Mark had poured love into our marriage for over 28 years and I knew that love was genuine. Secondly, I understood the power of addiction, even its power to enslave a Christian. When Mark and I had met, I was in the throes of a desperate struggle with bulimia. In fact, though I recognized the self-destructive behavior of binging and purging as an abuse of my body and a sin against God, I had not been able to break the cycle. For ten years it had involved binging and starving, but the latter five years had grown into binging and vomiting, sometimes twice per day. I had gone to counseling with my pastor, to Overeaters Anonymous, and to professional psychotherapy and had prayed for years for deliverance, but I had not been able to break free. I was beginning to feel I would never be free. So when Mark shared all this with me, you can see that I could understand that a Christian can be enslaved by a sin that destroys. I had been delivered, however, and I knew Mark could be too.

While I was still in bondage to bulimia, I had met a woman at Bible study who taught me about Spiritual Warfare, as described in Ephesians 5:10-16 and 2 Corinthians 10:4,5. She taught me to understand the power we have in Christ to defeat Satan’s lies and temptations. She taught me to see myself as God sees me: made righteous through the blood Jesus shed for me, not when I get my act together, but the moment I believed Jesus for my salvation (see Galatians 2:16 and 3:2-5, Ephesians 2:4-7, II Corinthians 5:21, Hebrews 10:10).

One of the things that drove my addiction was an inability to feel forgiven because I kept failing. When I got the message of these Scriptures from my head to my heart, especially the 2 Corinthians one, by memorizing them and repeating them over and over till they were a living part of me, Satan’s hold on me was broken. I still had to battle temptation and deal with slips now and then, but I saw them only as the momentary setbacks that they were, and did not accept feelings of condemnation because of them. I became stronger and stronger in victory because I now had the same weapon Jesus had used against the devil during His temptation in the wilderness: “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Ephesians 5:17). He was quoting from Scripture (Deuteronomy) in each of his responses to Satan’s temptations. That is a pretty powerful precedent for us to follow! I was delivered from the bondage that Satan had had me under for 15 years, and now by God’s grace I could begin real healing and maturing.

Here, I must back up and explain another huge grace that God bestowed on me in his perfect timing—a gift which helped tremendously in my healing and helped me blossom into the person God had created me to be. That gift was Mark. He was attending that same Bible study group. I was impressed by his insight into Scripture and his charming sense of humor even before we ever talked with one another directly.

When we eventually started dating, I told him about my problem with bulimia on our second date. I wanted him to know because at that time I was still very much in the full blown addiction. Even though I resisted any thought of a long-term relationship because of my addiction, he quietly showed me nonjudgmental care and concern which evolved into unconditional love. He loved me even before I was delivered from bulimia and his love reflected the Lord’s own unconditional love into my heart: “But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). Even after I had been free from bulimia for a year and Mark and I had gotten married, there was still much emotional baggage that I had to work through. Mark was there, with his love, through it all. How could I even think of leaving him now in this great time of need! It was my turn to be there for Mark in his healing.

God had also gone before us and prepared me in another way to help Mark. The reason I immediately recognized the obsessive attraction to pornography as an addiction was because I had heard Dr. James Dobson on the Focus on the Family radio broadcasts describe how addictive pornography is to males. He said that brain studies had shown that the pornographic images stimulated the same pleasure centers in the brains of susceptible individuals as those that are stimulated in addicts using crack cocaine. That is a powerful addictive force!

The hardest thing to deal with was the fact that it was child pornography to which he was addicted. The two of us had worked with children all through our years together. I had watched as Mark taught them, encouraged them, inspired them, and shared the absolute truth of God’s Word with them with dedication and conviction. It was he who had taught me to love and appreciate children as precious young individuals. Before we married I had generally avoided children.

Getting back to that fateful February 22nd: the Lord again showed His hand while I was waiting for my flight. Though our church was not a liturgical church, Mark and I usually attended a community Ash Wednesday service in which our church participated along with the local Methodist and Presbyterian churches. He and I had both grown up in liturgical churches and found the service of repentance meaningful. That February 22nd was Ash Wednesday, and Mark and I had planned to attend. However, the traumatic events of the day, Papa’s critical condition, and the revelations following the FBI visit, had caused us both to forget. As I was walking the concourses of the airport to reduce my stress, I saw one “people mover” vehicle being driven by a woman with the traditional cross made of ashes on her forehead. I immediately called Mark and reminded him of the service. He later told me how powerfully moved he was by it. During the service they read Psalm 32. Though this psalm had always spoken to Mark, it seemed beyond hope because of his on-going secret sin life. Now he felt he was living the Psalm in which David declares, “When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and might Your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer. Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, ’I will confess my transgressions to the Lord’-- and You forgave the guilt of my sin” ( Psalm 32: 3-5). Once Mark had confessed his guilt to the agents and to me, he said he felt as if a huge load had been lifted off of him. The load of sin, guilt, and shame had been weighing heavily upon him. Now he began to feel hope and freedom from Satan’s hold on him. The deep, dark secrecy of Mark’s sin had only served to keep Satan’s hold on him secure. Now that hold was broken. God’s light could enter and begin the healing process.

Here I must interject that for over ten years I had become increasingly concerned about Mark’s emotional and physical health. This period, I later realized, coincided significantly with the introduction of the Internet into our home. Mark was tired, and looked haggard to me. After his sleep apnea was diagnosed in about 2010 and treated, his vigor did not return. Then two years ago he was diagnosed with diabetes and high blood pressure, but still he seemed to continue to decline in spite of the treatments. Nor did he have the hunger for God’s Word that had been so evident when we were younger. He still taught wonderful Sunday School lessons for our 3rd-5th graders as we took them through the Bible chronologically, but it seemed that it was only in preparation for teaching that he did any Scripture reading anymore. I felt something was wrong but I attributed it to possible depression about certain aspects of his job.

When Mark finally confessed and began to describe his struggle with this horrible sin, at least the reason for the loss of spiritual hunger became clear. But God’s word from Psalm 32 proved itself visibly true. When I returned from caring for Mark’s dad 10 days after the FBI visit, I definitely noticed a change in Mark’s face. He still looked tired, but the haggard look was fading in spite of his having lost his job and having been arrested and having spent a sleepless night in jail since my departure. He was feeling the LORD’s mercy and forgiveness. The Lord’s hand was no longer “heavy upon” him and his strength was returning. Mark continued to look better and better in the months to come!

He woke up frequently with feelings of panic, but fervent prayer brought peace. He also was reading the Bible for hours a day and finding God speaking to him through it, and not just words of comfort. Mark was reading through the book of Ezekiel when I came home. He said that in that book, God was showing him the lewdness of his own sin just as God was using Ezekiel to show the exiled Jews the lewdness of their idolatry. Sometimes it was hard for Mark to face. He had rationalized so much during the years of sin. When I asked if he really wanted to continue reading Ezekiel if it was so hard on him so early in the healing, he said he needed to see the things God was showing him about himself. One thing he said that really struck me because I think it is a key point: While reading Ezekiel, he came to the feeling that he had been worshiping his sexual organ. Later, in therapy, he realized that he had been turning to sexual arousal and climax to deal with depression (and whatever stress came along) from the time he was very young, as early as nine years of age, and it had become a life-long habit to which he had turned almost daily for relief.
In the months that followed this realization, Mark discovered a much more powerful antidote for depression: giving thanks to God for all His blessings and mercies. Praising God and thanking Him in all circumstances (1 Thessalonians 5:18) became our means of surviving; no, it actually raised us to new joy and closeness with God and with each other! Time after time, when some new bad repercussion cropped up, such as our home and auto insurance being cancelled because of Mark’s guilty plea, we repeated that Thessalonians verse aloud and to ourselves until our anger or fear or hurt subsided. Often, within a day or so God would show us a blessing He was bringing out of that hurtful circumstance. I wonder if our thanksgiving (or even just striving to be thankful) released some wonderful provisions that we might have missed if our attitudes had remained hardened.

Sometimes the circumstances we faced were almost more than I could bear. Mark had been an elementary school teacher in our small town of about 5,000 people for eight years and before that he and I had worked as volunteer tutors with the elementary-aged children in the schools for at least 5 years. The FBI had told Mark on February 22nd that the whole legal process and probably the judgment against him would be a lot harder because he was an elementary school teacher. (Most of the images he had were of that age group). We had also tutored in our home. We had taught elementary Sunday School classes everywhere we had lived. The agent said that Mark pretty much fit the profile of a pedophile (that shocked me when I heard it), but was unusual about Mark’s case was the “inordinate amount of time with and access to children” that Mark had had for so long. The agent found it very hard to believe that Mark had “not crossed the line” into acting out with a child at some point. On relaying that comment to me by phone later that evening, Mark assured me that he had not. My heart believed him. Mark had always tried to tutor more than one student at a time whenever possible after school. He always left his classroom door open when he was tutoring so that other teachers and the cleaning staff moving in the hallway had a clear view of him and his students. That was a normal precaution for male teachers in particular anyway. Mark and I did our other tutoring together and Sunday School together. He had a wonderful rapport with children and was very popular with his students. I regularly had current or former students of Mark’s come up to me at the grocery store or elsewhere (remember, small town) and say, “Oh, aren’t you Mr. Soza’s wife?” or “Where is Mr. Soza?” and then ask me to say “Hi,” to him for them. Sometimes they gave me a hug just because I was his wife! Never had I seen any fear in the faces of any of his students or the other children with whom we had worked either when Mark was with me or when I encountered them on my own. Even his troublemaker students often liked to talk with him.

However, in the fall of 2011, Mark had been reassigned to teach a computer math lab at the middle school for reasons unrelated to any problems with students. Among other things, the demographics had changed and our school district had too many elementary teachers and needed a new computer lab teacher at the middle school. Everyone knew that Mark was very skilled on computers and he already had his certification in secondary as well as the elementary education. This turned out to be another of God’s wonderful preparations for what was to happen the very next semester. On the February 23rd, Mark had gone to teach as usual. At the end of the school day, though, the middle school principal came and told him that the FBI had been there and informed the administration that Mark was under investigation for possession of child pornography and that he was now officially required to leave and to not return to the school property pending the results of the investigation. That night he spoke with the District Superintendent and resigned, explaining that he was guilty of that charge, but assuring him that none of the school computers were involved (which the investigation proved) and that he had not molested any students. We had only returned from his mom’s funeral 15 days earlier so people at school assumed that perhaps emotional difficulties required a little extra time away. However, in a couple of days Mark’s case would become a public scandal for our schools. We later thought what a blessing it was that Mark had not still been teaching an elementary class. The impact on a class full of fifth graders with whom he had been working entire days for over half the year would have been far more traumatic than it was for the middle school students with whom he had only been working an hour each day. It was also a little easier on the whole school district. The media focus was not riveted on the elementary school as it would have been if the arrest had been a year earlier.

From my place across the continent, I grieved along with Mark, as a glimmer of the full impact of his sin began to become evident. Mark’s teaching job was gone and we wondered if he would also lose his retirement pay from his previous career. We would not be able to keep our house with only the retirement pay anyway and we had our son’s tremendous student loans to pay off. I had no one where I was, with whom I could talk about all this except the Lord. Mark’s father, though making good progress toward recovery, was still not healthy enough to receive such news. (His blood pressure had been over 200 when he was admitted to the hospital and they were still working on getting it fully regulated.) One ray of hope was that the FBI agent had told Mark that the case information was sealed.

As I sat in the hospital room with Papa, I was suddenly overwhelmed with the heartache of what was happening. I was on the verge of tears and quickly made some excuse to Papa to leave the room. As I stepped into the hallway the tears became sobs. I I needed someone to talk to, someone to hold me for even just a moment. And the Lord sent someone at that very moment. Papa’s next-door neighbor who had been a comfort and help to the family many times during Mark’s mom’s long decline, appeared from around the corner of the hallway looking for Papa’s room. I poured out my story to her and she embraced me as I sobbed some more. How perfect are the ways and timing of our Lord.

The Lord also prompted me to start finding a lawyer for Mark because I could see that this was going to be very serious. The agents had come back and combed the house for evidence and pounded Mark with questions. He tried to be totally cooperative, but sometimes they found pictures in hiding places Mark had forgotten about (we had been in the house for eighteen years) and they accused him of being evasive. They had split up and were searching different rooms while the main agent questioned him sternly. Mark was badly shaken by the time they left. From across the nation I found a lawyer by following some leads given to me by a Christian broadcaster. That was a tremendous help because I am computer challenged. We wanted an ethical lawyer who would guide us, because, though Mark had admitted his guilt in possessing the images, we wanted to have help making certain that he didn’t get prosecuted for anything he had not done. The agents told Mark he was facing 10-15 years in prison and more if they found any evidence that he had distributed images! I left a message for the lawyer and prayed that he would accept the case.

Over the weekend Papa was discharged from the hospital and he continued to improve. I was so thankful. On Monday, February 27th, I got a call from our friend, Sue, who had been living with us while she tried to save up money for a place of her own. She told me that the agents had returned to our house with armed escorts and arrested Mark, handcuffed him, and taken him away. They didn’t tell her anything about what was going to happen next. I was frantic! I didn’t know where they had taken him or if I would even get to be with him again till he was out of prison. I knew that a friend’s son had been arrested for a serious crime and she had not even been allowed to hug him for two years.

It was already after 5pm back home so I could not try the lawyer and he hadn’t called me, yet. I literally fell on my face before the Lord and cried out in tears for help. He gave me the thought to call our local police chief, a very nice man whom we had known for years because of his work with the schools and his efforts to help our community’s at-risk kids. I knew I couldn’t reach him through the station at that hour so I called our pastor, who also had worked with the chief. Mark had already gone to our pastor and confessed to him and resigned as Sunday School teacher, so he knew our situation. Our pastor gave me the police chief’s cell phone number after calling him first to get permission and telling him I was in need help. The chief couldn’t believe it when I told him Mark had been arrested and why, but he told me that they had probably taken Mark to the county jail in the next county and he would see what he could find out for me. God bless him! He was so kind. About thirty minutes later he called back and said they were indeed holding Mark in the next county overnight to get him “under legal control”. He said they would read preliminary charges to him in the morning to which he could plead guilty or not guilty. Then they would release him, probably, if he could post bond. He also said that Mark would be able to call me briefly once he was processed in.

The chief also gave me the phone number for the jail. He and our pastor were the first of a long list of people from our little community who ministered to me and to us in such gracious ways. The Lord was still providing. I did get to speak briefly with Mark hours later, and several days later He was able to share with me the amazing way in which the Lord had ministered to him that night in the jail.

Besides the fear and stress Mark was dealing with over his arrest and what his sin was reaping, when Mark was put in the first holding cell, he knew he was in a very delicate situation. There were about 17 burly, tough-looking guys in there. He, short and somewhat round, was going to stick out like a sore thumb. He also dreaded the casual inquiry among prisoners, “So what are you in for?” We both knew from our friend whose son was in prison that within the prison population nothing was so despised as a child molester! He also knew that if they got wind of the child pornography charge no amount of denial of actual contact would likely convince them that he was not a molester. Pedophiles were often the victims of prison violence.

As Mark sat there in that cell praying (and praying that no one would ask him), he noted in particular this one wild-eyed man pacing around and yelling out anytime a guard came near. Mark tried to be as inconspicuous as possible, especially not wanting to draw that man’s attention, but finally the question came. Suddenly remembering that even the most hardened criminals often honor their mothers, he said, “First my mother died a few weeks ago, and now this has happened. I just can’t talk about it yet.” They were ok with that. Then, after awhile the wild-eyed man came and sat on the floor near Mark. After a few minutes the man quietly asked, “Are you a praying man?” Surprised at the sincere question, he responded that he was indeed. The man got to his knees, turned toward one of the benches and bowed his head for a few minutes. Then he looked at Mark and said with peace in his voice, “It’s going to be ok!” Mark was amazed. Here in this awful situation, and from the least expected source, God sent him a message of comfort!

For the rest of the night, as the guards moved each prisoner from one holding cell to another during the in-processing procedure, he and this man would cross paths and they would give each other a good word. The object of his earlier fear had become his encourager in the wilderness. The Lord had shown Mark that, now that their relationship was restored, He would be with him through whatever consequences were in store for him. And, as He promised in Romans 8:28, God could bring good, even out of Mark’s past sin, now that Mark was yielded entirely to Him. Our grasp of the truth of that promise would be powerfully tested over the next few days.

Mark was indeed released the next morning and our pastor kindly agreed to pick Mark up and drive him home. However, before they got halfway back to our town, our house guest called me to say that the property was crawling with TV and other media crews! The story was on all three of the local networks, covering several counties and part of another state. It was also all over the Internet with quotations of things Mark had confessed to the agents. So much for a “sealed case“. Of course, it was sensationalized in presentation and soon remarks were flying in all the comment sections of the on-line news media. News crews had also shown up at the school so all the children in our town quickly learned what was going on whether their parents wanted them to hear about it or not. The elementary, middle and high schools are all within a quarter mile of each other. I cried to think of the innocence that was stripped from some of those children that day. Even for those who had already been jaded by the overt sensuality of our society, a sense of trust and honor had been damaged. Mark had a reputation for always being a gentleman: honorable, caring and entirely trustworthy. Later, I read a comment by one of Mark’s former students. In despair, she ended with, “If we can’t trust Mr. Soza, who can we trust?” There were also comments from people who didn’t know Mark, calling for all manner of punishment for him as an evil predator. Mark never saw those comments, and I only could bear to read a few.

Mark was angry about the leak to the press, not for his own sake, but because of what it did to the kids. He never meant to hurt them and had always tried to encourage them in what was good. He always tried to model a godly and upright life for the kids. Mark had told the agents that he thought of himself as being like the drunk who only gets drunk at home. With this rationalization he convinced himself that he was hurting no one but himself. But God showed Mark that there is no such thing as a private sin.

I cried with an aching heart for the children of our town, particularly the ones Mark had taught. So many of them came from broken homes and had no other male mentors. Some had no other men in their lives who were kind or interested in their success. Most tragically, many had no other man in their lives who spoke strongly of faith in God and taught God’s word with sincere belief. Mark had prayed regularly for many of these children during our morning prayers. And now, what was this revelation of Mark’s sin going to do to their tender faith in people and especially in God?

At first I was furious about how the agents had leaked the news. After a few days, I realized that they probably did it because it was the quickest way to get anyone who had been molested to come forward with evidence. (Besides, the news media has access to arrest records and eventually the news would have come out.) I still agonized over the effects, but I could understand. If Mark had been molesting children, it was crucial to find out.

I have now come to see this nightmarish public revelation as a severe mercy from the Lord. First of all, it proved the truth of Mark’s claim that he had not molested any children. With all the publicity, if anyone had been molested, it would have come out. In a town the size of ours, almost everyone knows everyone or someone related to him or her. Second, even though Mark was totally repentant and immediately confessed when confronted, one never knows how Satan might use even a little remaining secrecy. This total public revelation left no hole to hide in if Mark had any hopes of hiding. The Scripture says, “There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known….” (Luke12: 2) and God made sure His child’s secret was thoroughly made known. Like a festering wound, the sin had to be opened up, and brought into the light so that all the filth could be thoroughly cleaned out.

Finally, after all that exposure, when a good number of friends and acquaintances expressed their continuing love and prayers for us, we truly were humbled by God’s amazing love in providing us with so many loving and forgiving friends. They did not condone the sin but were there to help us heal.

I believe that the path to healing that God provided for us would work for anyone at any stage of faith in Christ, new or old. Maybe Mark’s healing began more immediately than it might for others. Perhaps the Lord honored Mark’s sincere desire to be godly even though he found himself helpless to be so. (Mark recently told me in a letter that he felt that Psalms 32 and 51 had been his heart’s cry for years, but he couldn’t bring himself to take the steps he needed to. When his loving God saw that he was not going to turn around on his own, God intervened with drastic measures and rescued Mark from the brink of destruction.) Mark certainly had an excellent knowledge of Scripture, but that does not guarantee a rapid turn or return to the Lord. It is the condition of the heart that counts and then there are individual factors that the Lord helps us through. A comparison of the salvations of Nicodemus (see John 3:1-12 and John 19:38-40) and of Zacchaeus (Luke 19:1-9) clearly shows this. What is clear is that God’s grace extends equally to all who sincerely turn to Him.

A few weeks after Mark’s confession I asked him why, though he had heard my testimony many times and seen the deliverance God had worked in me through the power of His word, he had not tried claiming verses to fight Satan’s hold on him. He said he had tried once when he was still single to use verses from Psalm 119 but it had not worked. So he felt defeated. It was then that I realized that Satan had used the secrecy to continue to keep Mark in bondage.

I once heard a minister explain, in regard to besetting sins or sins of addiction, the need to confess to another human being as well as to God. He said that when the sin is opened to the light it is indeed like lancing a festering wound. As long as we just confess to God, though He forgives us, we tend not to believe it and the temptation to repeat the sin is more easily given in to. That feeds more self-condemnation which, as Mark learned in therapy, feeds the addictive cycle. The minister also pointed out that when we confess to a trusted Christian friend or counselor and that person continues to show us uncondemning grace we find it easier to believe that God forgives and loves us. That clearly had been true for me with Mark’s loving support. Now, in Mark’s case, the chains of secrecy are broken too. Now he was free to claim the Lord’s powerful promises, which are there for all who sincerely believe in Jesus as Savior.

In the nine months between Mark’s arrest and the beginning of his prison term, Mark found that 2 Corinthians 5:21 was a powerful tool for him too in fighting self-condemnation and temptation (“God made Him [Jesus] who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God”). Whenever thoughts of his past deeds (or thoughts of how those deeds had affected his family and community) threatened to overwhelm him, or whenever unclean images came to mind, praying that verse out loud and repeating it silently brought peace and faith. Many other verses like Galatians 2:16 (“…a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ”) strengthened his stand and extinguished Satan’s flaming arrows too. (See Ephesians 6:15).

Mark and I spent at least an hour each morning studying the Bible together and then praying together. During that time we both found strength for the road we were on and more verses to add to our “sword of the Spirit” ( Ephesians 5:17). We also grew closer to the Lord and to one another! We had studied the Scriptures together each night before our son was born and we delighted in doing it regularly again. We also listened to a couple of ministers on the radio each morning during the week. We enjoyed their expository preaching and gleaned more exciting truths from God’s word. Together we experienced the Lord speaking to us through His word many times. Sometimes the same message came to us several times in one day from different sources! We felt God’s love and care powerfully. Now that we are apart, it brings me great comfort to know Mark is still carrying on with his Bible studies in prison and is involved with a dynamic Bible study group. He often shares thoughts from both with me in his letters and I get to share my responses with him. The Lord continues to teach us and encourage us both.

I don’t want to give the impression that I never experienced anger at Mark and at the situation created by his sin. There were times when he remembered and confessed to me some different aspect from his past viewing that revolted me anew or sometimes the lawyer would bring up something that the investigators had found that he had forgotten and it added to the potential penalty. Then I would feel the hurt and shock all over again. He had down loaded images for over 10 years, thousands and thousands of them and I could at least understand why he didn’t remember them all, but even the thought that he had collected all those pictures was overwhelming. I cried to him once, “Did you ever think I was beautiful?” He looked me in the eyes and told me that he had always thought so. In his mind, this obsession had been entirely separate from his love for me. He explained that as a young boy, about nine years old, he discovered the sexual arousal that came from looking at the girls in underwear in the Sears catalogue. He began using them to fantasize at that early age. National Geographic played into that pattern, too. As I mentioned earlier, it became his way of dealing with depression, and he was depressed a lot. It became a regular habit early on, and the daily arousals and releases became an addiction in themselves.

When Mark married me he said he tried to stop all of this behavior, but he found his sexual drive overwhelming him. He didn’t want our lovemaking to be mere sexual gratification for him (He succeeded there. Our intimacy was always very special time between us.), so very soon found himself returning to images in his head to get his daily sexual release. Once the Internet came into our home he quickly succumbed to the temptation to find new images and the addiction grew. Over time the images also got more explicit. Addictions don’t maintain a status quo, they progress! That was another reason he was so grateful that the Lord sent someone to intervene, since he had not been able to give it up on his own.

One night Mark woke up disturbed and told me of something he remembered that shocked me so terribly that I had something like a panic attack. I began sobbing so hard that I couldn’t breathe. Mark was frightened for me. What made it worse is that at first he didn’t see what made this particular thing so much more terrible to me. I was able to explain my perspective and later we also discussed it with our wonderful Christian counselor too, but it took days for me to get over that shock. It also kept coming back to haunt me from time to time for months. I had to remind myself that God had forgiven Mark and I could too. I knew he was truly repentant. Mark was very open to these revelations and I thank the Lord for that. He was recognizing how he had rationalized and deceived himself into thinking that what he was doing wasn’t so bad.

So, sometimes my anger subsided as we talked through the new revelations and prayed together about them. Sometimes it took several days with the help of our Christian therapist. Sometimes the help came directly through God’s Word.

One time it took several weeks to restore the strength of our relationship. I recall taking a long walk and reciting Psalm 103 aloud through tears. Both of us were memorizing that one because it spoke to our hearts. Praising God in that Psalm and remembering all His benefits, one of which was Mark’s healing love for me, really helped. So did repeating how high God’s love for us is and how far He removes our transgressions from us.

The most amazing experience that I had with my anger, though, came the day Mark had put in his formal plea of guilty before the judge who would sentence him later. Before the court session began, our lawyer mentioned some additional findings by the investigators and was asking Mark to clarify some things about those findings. Hearing some of the details as they discussed them made me feel as though I had been kicked in the stomach. Some other things came up later and I said something to the FBI agent that upset Mark. On the way home I began to fume silently. How dare he be upset with me when this whole stinking situation was his fault?! Then I began to think about the images discussed and when Mark asked me if I was all right I said, “No!” Then the tears came, but this time they were tears of anger and frustration over the whole horrible situation that Mark had brought upon us. Our lives were upside down and would never be the same again. Mark would be have to be registered as a pedophile for the rest of his life (and of our lives together ) and the public would assume he had been molesting children and the whole situation was a nightmare and sometimes I still couldn’t believe it was the same man I had married who had done all this. How could my loving husband have craved all those terrible images?! Why couldn’t he have been happy with just me? I cried and I pounded the car’s dashboard and I half yelled, half sobbed [at my husband], “ Why wasn’t I enough?!” The moment I had uttered those words I distinctly heard a male voice in my head saying, “Kathy, why wasn’t I enough?” I had never had an experience like that before, but I knew immediately that the Lord had just spoken to me and the implication was clear: Why wasn’t He, the Lord I claimed to love, enough for me when I was stuffing my mouth with food and vomiting it back up night after night after night. I was so awed by what had just happened that I immediately stopped crying and shared the message I got with Mark. The anger dissolved! In the weeks to come, I still had to deal with the returning memories of those courthouse conversations and the images that they conjured up in my head, but reminding myself that Mark had confessed them and was forgiven by the Lord, and especially remembering God’s precious communication with me brought returning peace.

I felt Mark’s abject sorrow, and I felt the truth of his repentance. I guess in one sense I wanted to comfort him and let him know for certain that I still loved and accepted him. In another sense I wanted to rescue him and “make everything ok again”, but it wouldn’t make everything ok again.

I also felt that his problem may have been partly my fault. When I expressed this to Mark, he immediately said that his behavior with the addiction was in no way my fault. He reminded me that his addiction had begun long before we even met. In fact, in his later reading about pedophilia, he found that spouses often blame themselves, but that is false thinking.

When I did get home from the West Coast, I immediately fell into Mark’s arms and gave him the long but tearful hug that I had been desiring to give for so long. (Our son later told us how much that seeing that meant to him. He had been worried that our marriage would fail despite our long distance assurances of our love.) That night, however, I discovered that intimacy would take prayer and patience. I had just snuggled up next to him as I always did when I got into bed, and he had his arm under me holding me close to his side as usual. We were both tired and emotionally drained so I was not hoping for any lovemaking, but immediately I noticed a difference. Usually, as soon as I snuggled next to him, Mark would begin to be aroused. This time there was no response, nor was there in the morning. I shared my heart with Mark that day and he explained that he was dealing with so much sexual shame that he couldn’t bear to think sexual thoughts. So we established our Bible study and radio listening and prayer routine and left the rest to the Lord. We had no trouble expressing our love for one another through hugs and tears and sometimes even laughter, but we were both still under tremendous strain, wondering what the eventual sentence would be and what fines would be charged against Mark.

Then one night, several weeks after my return, my nightly snuggle flowed naturally and beautifully into the loving intimacy we had had before. Only this time it was even more precious than it had ever been. In the weeks and months to come, the years fell away and we felt more and more like newlyweds all over again. The Lord was restoring the years the locust had eaten (Joel 2:25)! I think that for Mark, knowing how much I still loved him, emotionally, spiritually and physically, in spite of now knowing his awful secret past, was tremendously helpful in his healing process. For me, our renewed intimacy was also a way of expressing my deep thankfulness to him, and to the Lord who brought us together.

During those weeks and months immediately following the arrest, Mark frequently had to fight down feelings of fear, dread, and panic. He also had to fight the unclean images that would come into his head, the images that had been stored there over so many years. During his waking hours, praying and studying the Bible wonderfully helped keep all those thoughts at bay, as did staying busy. His sleeping hours during that period, however, were often interrupted. He frequently woke up in a panic, either because of the penetrating reality of the consequences of his guilt, or because of sexual images or situations in his dreams. In either case, he would immediately begin praying. While I was still across the continent with his father, Mark had the idea of playing a CD of Christian hymns on repeat all night long. He found that the hymns were tremendously soothing when he woke up in those panics. Blessedly, they helped Mark refocus quickly on the Lord rather than on the terrible, disturbing dreams. The messages of the hymns reminded him of all that God had done to demonstrate His love and forgiveness to him, and of God’s power to protect us. They helped Mark fall asleep again thinking about God and His saving grace provided through Jesus Christ. .

Listening to the hymns as we fell asleep helped me feel God’s peace too. Now that Mark is in prison, I am dealing with life without him. I’m grateful for my family and friends’ support as well as that from my church group. I am having to make careful preparations for when he can come home. The joy of those preparations is tempered by the legal and social consequences which will follow him throughout his life because of his crime. I am finding that starting the day playing a CD of hymns and praise songs helps set the tone for my mornings. And on those mornings when I am tempted to self-pity or worry, this God-glorifying music inspires my faith and points my thoughts to my defender, my provider, my wisdom and guide- the lover of my soul: my Savior, Jesus.

When I discovered my husband’s affair, I was devastated, incensed, and enraged. The life I loved was ending. I knew several women this had happened to and their life was ugly...bitter and angry. I never thought this would happen to me. How could the man I had given my life to do this to me? I followed him around during military moves for 27 years, spending all my time volunteering and supporting his unit and mission and making the most of everything that military life had thrown at us. I had no job, no career.

I screamed. I cried. I prayed. I cursed. I doubted. I plotted. Oh, I plotted! I was going to expose him, ruin his career, and take every single dime he had. I was going to turn every single family member against him and leave him with absolutely nothing. I was going to leave him as empty and devastated as he had made me...and then some.

The evening I found out, I opened the monthly email from Gary Chapman (Five Love Languages). I was about to delete it with joy and a sarcastic remark when I noticed an ad at the bottom for a book called Hope for the Separated. I wasn’t separated...I had just found out. There would be no separation...just an ugly scene and me throwing him out. But something made me immediately download the book on my Kindle. I wasn’t sleeping that night anyway and read it cover to cover. It changed me. I learned that it takes two to make, or break, a marriage. And even if it was one who had the affair, it was the responsibility of both. Something wasn’t right in our marriage that we didn’t address that fostered this. I did not and do not and will not take blame for my husband’s choice to sleep with another woman. I do take responsibility for not speaking up about the issues in my marriage and working to resolve them.

I was also reminded very vividly that God can redeem anything. All sin put Christ on the cross—mine, my husband’s, everyone’s. If God chooses to forgive me for my sin, how could I profess to be a Christian, believe in Christ, follow him, and not choose to forgive as well? I fought this in my head and my heart for several days. It made me physically ill. I heard what the world would say: “Divorce him. Leave him. He wronged you. Take him for everything. You don’t have to put up with that. You’re right.” But I also heard the Holy Spirit speaking: “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins” (Matthew 6:14-15). If we confess our sins, God will forgive us and cleanse us. How could I live with God forgiving me and God forgiving my husband but me not forgiving my husband?

Thankfully, the Holy Spirit won and I forgave my husband before he asked for it. I didn’t excuse his actions, but I forgave him. He still didn’t know that I knew. Finally, at a Strong Bonds Retreat eight months later, I actually told him that I knew. He told me the affair was very short. In fact, it was over by the time I found out. My husband had chosen to recommit to me and our marriage soon after ending it. During the course of the retreat, we had the opportunity to ask each other for forgiveness and to grant forgiveness. I chose then and I choose every day to stay married and committed to my marriage.

We have done a lot of work to restore our marriage. We protected our time together that first year after the affair. We didn’t spend time apart. We were in a couple’s marriage enrichment Bible study. We attended a couple’s retreat. I did Judy Rossi’s Enhancing your Marriage Bible study. We communicated better and more often. I chose not to tell our adult children to protect our legacy. When we have disagreements the temptation is to throw it all back in his face and threaten exposure. The temptation not to trust my husband is strong. He knows this and realizes that it’s a normal consequence of his actions.

We were broken and dying as a couple and God in his infinite mercy and grace redeemed our marriage by redeeming us. Our marriage is stronger now than ever before. We fight longer and harder against things that threaten it. We make daily choices to protect our marriage. We celebrate it. We know that God can redeem anything.