Through the Lens of Grace: Coming Home

Full disclosure. Repentance. Forgiveness.

Those were the three vital components necessary to begin restoring our marriage.

In those early weeks, I couldn’t look Dave in the eyes. He would come every night to be involved in dinner time, bath time and getting the girls to bed. He would leave immediately after they were in bed. Soon, he started staying for a bit and we would talk on the couch and then he would leave. It was literally like starting over even though we had been married for 6.5 years!

If we were going to restore our marriage, I knew I needed to ask him to come home. About 3 or so weeks after everything had happened, I told him it was okay to come home. We did not resume normal married life right away. He did not sleep in our bed for several more weeks.

One of the biggest things we had learned in our marriage counseling was that in order to have a God-centered, healthy marriage, there needed to be a degree of openness that wasn’t there pre-January 22nd.

We both started working intentionally on being connected emotionally and spiritually. Because Dave was entrapped in a stronghold of sin, he had not been able to be the leader of our marriage and home as God designed the man to be.

Thinking back to how our marriage was before January of 2014 just makes me so sad to think about. We didn’t really have any connection. We were more like roommates, living in the same house but not communicating much at all. After the kids were in bed, we typically went to our separate areas of the house and stayed there until we went to bed. He would go to the home office and I would go to our bedroom. I went to bed way earlier than Dave did, giving him the prime opportunity for pornography once I was in bed asleep.

I think back to those years and had anyone asked me, I would have said I had a “good” marriage. There was no abuse, we did love each other (of that I am certain) and we had two adorable daughters. I was the stay at home mom I had always dreamed of being and Dave provided well for us. So much was missing in those days though and thinking back on it now washes a deep sadness over me. No one who knew us would have ever thought our marriage was doomed for destruction.

That’s how sin works though. It enters and destroys everything in it’s wake. We were headed to destruction…and we didn’t even know it.

I do remember we would make comments to each other every once in a while that we “needed to spend more time together”. We would try to spend time together but it felt forced and we both just wanted to get back to our individual past times.

I guess you could say that in the depths of my heart, I always felt like something was “off” but I could never pinpoint what and it wasn’t off enough for me to think that something was necessarily “wrong” because I felt like I had a “good” marriage! Dave had also become a mastermind in fooling me and covering up his shenanigans…so I had no suspicions until January.

We were wallowing towards destruction but PRAISE GOD, He intervened. While January 22, 2014, was the darkest day of my life, I can look back now and see that it was in that darkest hour that Light was beginning to shine on an extremely bleak situation.

God had essentially brought Dave to the bottom of the pit and was giving him a second chance at living life as a man of God and the leader of his wife and children.

Dave had a choice to make – a choice that would impact not only himself but his wife, two daughters and a baby boy that we did not yet know would be our son. A lot was at stake on January 22nd and that dark day was just the beginning of a whole slew of miracles we were on the horizon of experiencing!

Dave was making choices daily that showed me he was choosing God and his family over the sin he had been indulging in for the past several years. However, that did not take away the pain of betrayal and long road of rebuilding trust that lay before us.

There was lots still to do to restore our marriage and the road ahead was filled with numerous uncertainties.

I will write more about what those first few months of rebuilding trust were like in my next post.

Through the Lens of Grace: A New Glass Jar

In the early days of healing our marriage, our counselor encouraged us both to write a “love letter” to each other. Neither one of us are really the “romantic-type” but we wrote each other a letter. I debated whether I wanted to share my letter here, and in the end, I decided why not? This is real life, folks. We are not the only couple this has ever happened to.

There was a day when I couldn’t have ever imagined rebuilding a marriage with a man who had violated our marriage vows. I remember in high school talking with friends and saying things like “If that ever happens to me…it’s over!”

I think I just thought the damage would be irrevocable and there would be no way possible that I could even think of living like that.

Nearly two decades since my high school days, and I’ve not only walked that journey but I’ve had the privilege of seeing God mend my marriage from nothing to something that was missing and I didn’t even know it prior to January 22nd.

There came a time when I had to chose to love Dave and move forward with rebuilding our marriage. He was showing me in his actions that God had changed his heart and as a result, his behaviors and choices had changed as well.

February 9th, 2014, I wrote this letter to Dave. It was my offering of forgiveness and my way of saying I wanted to do my part in working towards reconciling our marriage.

Dear Dave,

When I would think about what I wanted to say in this letter, I knew it would be very hard to write about our relationship as I knew it before January 22nd, 2014. It is hard for me to even think about life, and our marriage, pre-January 22nd because everything that I thought we were then was swept away when truth came to light on the night of the 22nd. It has left me confused, hurt, and it has essentially taken whatever we ha and made it into nothing. 

The only thing I really have to go on is what I believe and what I know to be true about our marriage. I believe God orchestrated our meeting on that day in January 2006 so that we would be lifelong partners in this life. I believe He intended for us to have a marriage that reflects what He designed marriage to be. I believe God gave you to me to love and respect you as God designed for wives to do. I agreed to marry you because I love you, and I still do. I’m just confused about who YOU really are in light of all that has taken place over the past 5 years. Our marriage has sadly all but crumbled beneath us and whatever we had prior to January 22nd is left in ashes. 

I realize this doesn’t sound very much like a love letter. I realize it’s been pretty depressing to read this far. 

You have stated both with written and verbal words that you desire reconciliation in our marriage. Your actions, so far, state the same. I have expressed both in written and verbal words my desire to extend to you forgiveness because God first forgave me of every sin I would ever commit.

As Pastor said, the jar of my trust in you was not only completely withdrawn of marbles on January 22nd, it was crushed to smithereens. There is no more jar.

Today, I want to offer you a new jar. Yes, it is an empty jar because you will have to work very hard to rebuild the trust that was shattered. 

But I am willing to be pursued by you and I am willing to let myself fall in love with you all over again. And I am hopeful that at some point in this journey, we will realize that we have put forth the effort, made the necessary changes and, by God’s grace and redemption, we have been blessed with a marriage that many desire but few get to truly experience. 

It’s a huge risk when I look at the ashes that have been left in the aftermath of January 22nd, but here I am. Ready to step out in faith with you and my God who has promised to never leave me and never forsake me. 

I love you,

Elaine

I did actually place an empty glass jar in Dave’s hands that day. He keeps it, along with my letter, in his dresser.

Through the Lens of Grace: Can trust be rebuilt?

When marriage vows are trampled on and broken it is easy to assume that trust can never be rebuilt.

There was a time when I truly didn’t know how I could ever trust Dave again. These were the moments where I was left with all the knowledge I had acquired through full disclosure and I had to decide what I was going to do with all that.

Our pastor had described the broken trust by saying trust is like having a glass jar of marbles. When you first meet someone, the jar is about half full, out of the goodness of humanity. As you get to know that person more, more marbles are added to the jar – little by little – until the jar becomes completely full. You completely trust that person in your life.

This is where we were on January 21st. My glass jar was full because over the span of our relationship, I had built a solid trust in Dave.

On January 22nd, not only was every single marble withdrawn from my glass jar – the jar itself was completely shattered.

I was left with nothing, the least of which trust.

How were we going to rebuild complete trust from nothing?

It was a journey and not an event. I didn’t go one day from not trusting Dave to completely trusting him again.

It was earned. Dave had to work hard to rebuild trust.

I had to forgive Dave and look at him through the lens of grace – God’s grace.

My pastor’s wife and counselor who walked this journey with me, was the one who placed those words on my heart. Through the lens of grace. Those were profound words to me and I let them sink in and take hold of my broken heart.

Yes, that was it. The pieces were starting to come together at least in my mind. If Dave was repentant and I could find it in my heart to extend him forgiveness just as Christ had done for me, it was going to be there that trust could begin to grow.

My mother told me everything that she was witnessing of Dave’s repentance those first few days after he left home. For my own self-protection, I wouldn’t hear a word she had to say. Honestly, I didn’t care one bit what she was seeing and hearing. That’s how broken I was. My heart couldn’t even handle a small glimmer of hope because the hurt in me just screamed louder, “Is it true? Is it genuine?”

I had to see his repentance with my own eyes. He had to demonstrate consistently to me that his heart truly was here with his family and not in the lustful life he had been secretly living. I was still waiting for him to chose that life.

He never did…and that is where trusting again began.

Through the Lens of Grace: True Repentance

This post was written by my (Elaine’s) mother.

I heard the question asked, “How do you know someone truly is repentant?” The answer, “Time will tell.”

Months before Dave was “discovered” we could tell something was not right. I guess the best word I can come up with is that he was absent — emotionally, physically & spiritually. I can remember that look in his eyes to this day.

I am 60 years old and I have walked through the premature deaths of my father, my sister-in-law, my mother-in-law, and five sweet precious babies to miscarriage. I have walked through very difficult circumstances with friends, including infidelity. By far, these days were the hardest of my life.

I will never forget the words Elaine said when she showed up barefoot at our door VERY early one morning. “I have every reason to believe Dave is having an affair.” She crawled into our bed as she had often as a child. I held her and we cried and prayed for about an hour until she forced herself to go home because the girls would be getting up. She would get them and come back to our home.

I called out to the Lord asking for wisdom.

Later that day, I had to run back to their house to pick up something for her. The picture in my mind is of Dave sitting in his bed, shoulders slumped in total defeat. A true picture of someone who had hit rock bottom. When we have been absent from the Lord’s presence and living life our way, I think it’s then that we seek God with all our heart.

Dave had to find a place to go. We opened our home to him. Had we not prayed for wisdom? God laid it on our hearts and we chose to obey. In the days to follow, I had several ask me how we could do that. My answer, he was a sinner just like me and we had opened our hearts completely to love him as a son when he joined our family. We had no other choice. Jesus expected nothing less.

We have a very wise pastor/wife team at our church. They were both right there for us. Our Pastor recommended a course of action to Dave. First, he had to make things right with God. I can hear Dave telling us, “I just want my girls back, but I have to get things right with God first.” He was instructed to fast and to get in the Word of God. He did just that. He spent hours up in our guest room. Each time I saw him I would notice a difference. It was the burden of sin being lifted. We prayed often for him and with him. Roy or I would lead in prayer. Dave couldn’t, at first. Then it came. We sat down to pray and he boldly said, “I want to pray!”

We heard the most beautiful, humble prayer as He talked to God. This was the beginning of confession of sins. It was a goose bump moment for me to hear our daughter’s husband speak to the Lord the way he did! His countenance was changing. We saw the look of forgiveness on a repentant sinner’s face … forgiven by God but not yet by his wife. He desperately longed for her forgiveness but he knew it would take time and lots of work.

After that prayer time, Dave always led out in prayer when we gathered to talk and pray. He started taking actions to demonstrate to Elaine his desire to heal and restore their family.

The burden of sin is heavy – forgiveness lightens our load. I think that totally describes what I saw in Dave. I know this was a process but we witnessed the beginning. Trust had been broken and it would take time to build that trust. I am so glad Dave and Elaine took the time, sought Godly counsel and worked super hard to rebuild their marriage on the foundation of Christ.

It was hard to see Dave leave our home once a friend opened his home to him but we knew it was the right thing for all of us. We couldn’t keep up the pace of being there for Dave at our home and there for Elaine at their home. Elaine needed to be able to come to our home and she wouldn’t with Dave here. I am so glad we chose to obey the Lord and do what He told us to do because I will cherish the memory of those days forever.

Remember my first sentence? “Time will tell!” Dave’s repentance was indeed genuine. That season was very hard, especially for the two of them, but it was worth it. “Joy comes in the morning” Psalm 30:5. To God be the glory, great things He has done!

~Norma (Elaine’s mother)

Through the Lens of Grace: You have to do what God is calling you to do.

Once I wrapped my mind around what had happened, it was time to make a choice.

In the first days after learning about Dave’s secret life, I had spoken to my pastor on the phone and he had told me, “Elaine, you have to do what God is calling you to do.”

A couple weeks into February my parents were going to take the girls for a sleepover and let me have some time to myself. I was surviving moment by moment with them and desperately needed that time to think and process all I had learned over the past couple of weeks.

God had already been dealing with my heart about what I needed to do – regardless of what Dave did. I needed time to think about that.

To think about forgiveness…because I knew that was what God was calling me to do.

If I called myself a Christian – a believer in Christ – how could I deny my husband the very thing God Himself had extended to me, a sinner saved by grace?

This whole experience had changed the very way I looked at humanity and even though I knew the Word of God clearly tells us that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, it was in these moments that I deeply saw that I am no less a sinner than my husband.

We are all sinners. As an 8-year-old girl, with my mother and father on either side of me, I knew I needed Christ in my life. I knew I was separated from God because of sin and the only way for Jesus to enter my life and be my Lord and Savior was for me to surrender myself to Him and choose to live in the forgiveness He had already extended to me. He had paid the price on the cross so that I could be forgiven and have a relationship with Him – a relationship that grew, matured and deepened through the years.

Once again, God had brought me to a place in my life where I was at a cross road. Was I going to choose forgiveness? Or choose bitterness and resentment?

Because I had been extended forgiveness by God, I knew the correct choice was to extend the same forgiveness to Dave.

This did not mean that I was going to forget all the wrongs that had been done to me. It just meant that I was going to choose to not let those wrongs define me…or my marriage.

Regardless of whether Dave was repentant or not, my role was forgiveness. That realization was the beginning of the process of forgiveness for me.

What I could not see at this time was that Dave’s heart was truly repentant. He had come to the lowest time of his life; fearful that he was loosing his family all while realizing he needed to make things right with God before he could do anything else.

When Dave left our house after I asked him to, I had no idea where he was going to go. I figured, if he wanted to be with those women from work, this would be a great opportunity to go to them and I could have the opportunity to see if he would choose them or go somewhere safe.

You might find this strange, but Dave ended up at my parents’ house for the first three or so days after January 22nd. They extended the invitation to him and he showed up on their doorstep.

I am not sure I could extend the same mercy to my daughter’s husband, but this shows the kind of people my parents’ are and the kind of example I grew up under.

I have asked my mother to write a post about what those days were like for her…and what she witnessed. When we gets me her post, I will publish that next.

 

Through the Lens of Grace: Full Disclosure

I’ve come here over the past few weeks multiple times with the intent to write more of this story, but every time I leave with a blank screen.

It’s hard to go back there.

I left off with describing the first week after discovering the secret life my husband was living. I had one goal: keep life as normal as I possibly could for the girls.

Dave wasn’t living at our house, but in an effort to keep life normal for Little Bug and Sweet Pea, Dave “came home from work”, stayed through dinner, baths and putting the girls to bed, and then he immediately left once they were in bed.

I will never forget what it felt like to not even be able to look my husband in the eyes. I couldn’t look at him, much less interact with him, and, truth be told, I really didn’t even want him in my house! It was best for the girls for him not to completely disappear and I needed to figure out where his heart was. So I asked if he would come over every evening to keep things as normal as possible for the girls. I endured his nightly visits during those first couple of weeks.

Any communication we had was purely functional and related to the girls and our brief, strenuous couple of hours as a family every evening. The pain, on both sides, was so raw. Neither of us knew where we were headed and those weeks of him coming over like a house guest were some of the strangest weeks of my life.

I was watching his actions like an animal watches their prey. He continued to faithfully come over every night to be a daddy to his daughters. I was very aware of the fact that this was a step in the right direction for him because, had he desired to take on his secret lifestyle and make that his new life, he certainly could have done it in those weeks.

During these weeks, we started marriage counseling with our pastor’s wife. She was instrumental in guiding us every step of the way towards rebuilding our marriage. One of the first things she asked us to do was to go through a process called “Full Disclosure”.

This was a very painful process but a very necessary part to healing. Basically, she asked Dave to make a timeline of sorts of everything he had done, as best as he could remember, from the first offense all the way to January 22nd. Then, Dave was to tell me everything on that list, item by item.

There were many things I learned as Dave went through that list, but if we were going to work towards rebuilding our marriage (I didn’t know if that was even possible at this point!), everything had to come to the light and be exposed, so it could be dealt with and no more secrets would be popping up three years down the road.

That process was excruciating – for both of us. Item by item, Dave told me everything. My heart was flooded with so many emotions during that time but this one feeling stands out to me plain as day.

I felt like my family was a fraud to the point that I wanted to take down EVERY SINGLE family picture hanging in our home and burn them! There we were smiling in those pictures, holding Little Bug and eventually both girls, and from the picture, it seemed like we had it all. We’d been through so much to even become a family! Who would have thought all of this was going on in the background where no one could see, including me? I couldn’t look at those pictures.

I remember wondering to myself if I would ever be able to look at our family photos again prior to January of 2014, and have any positive feelings towards them.

It was too much to process in my mind and it didn’t seem real. In order for me to even think about beginning to heal, I had to find a way to make all of this seem real. I felt like I was living outside of myself, looking in and witnessing something horrible going on to some girl that I didn’t know.

The way I brought all this to my reality was by doing something that was extremely painful to do, but something that I had to do.

There were years of emails and work chats between my husband and several women at work, and I went through and read every single email and every single line of chat.

I knew that was my first step toward wrapping my mind around all of this and being able to process all that had happened and who my husband had been all of those years.

It was devastating to read and it cut me to the core of my being, but it gave me what I needed: I began to accept in my mind that all this really had been happening.

And then I had to decide what I was going to do with my new reality.

These days

And here it is Fall. Another season come and gone. It is so true that time moves faster the older you get. It is also true that the days can sometimes be very long (depending on the moods of my little people) but the years are absolutely flying by. When I look back at pictures when it was just the girls and we lived in our first house…it seems a lifetime ago. It reminds me to savor whatever stage of life I am living now…because soon, it too will be gone.

And truly these days – the days when I am up to my eye balls in dirty diapers and sibling squabbles – are the days I looked forward to for many of my “growing up years”. Now they are here. They are my life. For now. These days, this season of my life, will end, too.

I’ve almost had Little Bug for half the time I will have her under my roof! We aren’t going to send her off on her own at 18, but…she is halfway to that milestone and that is just crazy talk. Because wasn’t it just yesterday I was wondering if I would ever be a mother? And now I’ve parented my oldest for almost half of the years I will be privileged to parent her?

Moving right along. (Because I don’t want to talk about that anymore!)

One day I will finish telling the story of Through the Lens of Grace. My mind has just been cluttered with the failed adoption and figuring out what is next for our family. My plan is to continue writing and get that story completely told by the end of this year!

 

Through the Lens of Grace: July 2006

From the time I was 15 years old I have journaled in 3-ring notebooks. I have over 40 notebooks filled and every so often I like to go to where I store them all, pick one randomly, open it and begin reading.

Tonight I picked notebook #27 which I wrote in from June 10, 2006 – July 21, 2006. I don’t normally fill a notebook in a month’s time but these were very significant months in my life because it was during this time that Dave and I started dating and knew we were going to marry one day.

I came across my journal entry from July 5, 2006. Before I share what I wrote on that day, I need to tell you a little bit of background information.

Dave and I met in January of 2006 when Dave was my brother’s roommate and would come every week for Thursday night family dinner. A friendship grew over that spring and by the end of June, we were dating. As a general rule, I kept myself very guarded when it came to guys, but Dave weaseled his way into my heart pretty quickly. Within the first week of officially being together, we were talking marriage. We were one of those couples that just knew we were going to get married.

So on July 5, 2006, a little over a week after we started dating, I wrote this in my journal:

There is nothing telling me not to love Dave {last name}. The only reason I don’t want to love Dave is so I won’t get hurt. But I want to be married and have a husband and children more than I never want to be hurt. So tonight I am going to choose to love Dave. I am going to trust Dave but ultimately I am going to trust God. Yes Dave is human and can make mistakes but if I choose to love him, love forgives. So I will forgive him and ultimately know my heart belongs to God. And there I am safe.

These words are extremely significant to me now! The last few posts of this story have been written by Dave as he has boldly shared his journey through sexual addiction and repentance from the secret life he lived for so many years. And now it is time for me to tell the rest of my story in this. I will soon begin to talk about my journey through forgiveness, because it is only through Dave’s repentance and my forgiveness that we were able to rebuild our marriage from the nothing that it was on January 22, 2014.

Through the Lens of Grace: Consequences Part 2

Examination

When I finally decided to face my problems, I realized I had a lot to settle with God. I didn’t know where to begin. I spent several days devoting myself to a process of remembering things I had not dealt with, writing them down, praying to God for forgiveness, vowing to put those things away, and making a plan to confess them to Elaine. At the same time our church was doing a corporate 3-day fast; I joined in on that fast for the purpose of making self-examination and repentance the most important things in my life during that time.

After this–though I continued the process of remembering, confessing, and repenting for quite some time, at a lesser pace–I began to direct my thoughts more toward my most basic flaws. I wanted to know what led to me becoming a sex addict. How did it all start? I couldn’t really remember off-hand. I just knew whatever it was began early in life. The most terrifying thought was feeling like I was doomed to fail again if I couldn’t get to the origin of my addiction.

You could say the origin of my problem is common to everyone. It’s just sin. But the Sunday School answer to that question wasn’t good enough for me, and it shouldn’t be good enough for anyone else. While technically true, blaming sin for our problems is just another way of dismissing those problems and failing to deal with them. Still, I didn’t have the answers. So I got help. I found a counselor I could trust and who I felt understood me, and I went until I was told to stop. Separately, I went to an intensive workshop for people who were dealing with situations like mine, where I spent about 24 of the 72 hours working through my past, creating a narrative to help illustrate the root of my problems and how the sin I left unattended grew quickly into an impenetrable wall, behind which I hid more and more as I got older.

I learned about the psychology of addiction, the need for every man to be held accountable, and I made specific plans to place safeguards in my life and people I could trust to hold me accountable. I learned the value of confession and its role in releasing myself from shame and from the lie I told myself, that if anyone really knew me, they’d never love me.

Also during this time, I had to let go of my burning desire to fix my marriage. Maybe that sounds strange, but I couldn’t let my marriage take the place of God in my life. Did I want my marriage to succeed? Absolutely! That never changed, but I didn’t have much control over that, and I couldn’t really blame Elaine if she wanted to quit. So I had to give it up. It was a big deal to me, to the point that I can remember exactly where I was when I finally said, “Ok, God. If you want to take my marriage away, I will be alright, and I will trust you.” That attitude has stuck with me in a lot of hard situations, and it really makes life in general so much easier.

Expense

By not dealing with my issues while I had the chance, I opened myself and my family up to a lot of financial hardship. God had blessed me with a really great job, and I made more money than most people my age. But I had been a terrible steward. Sin is like this awful, giant Kraken that spreads its tentacles into all the areas of your life and chokes you to death, and I became an impulsive spender on top of my other problems. I spent money on everything from food to clothes to video games.

Once everything came out, on top of the debts I had incurred I had bills from counselors and intensive workshops. And I faced potential loss of employment because of my inappropriate work relationships.

Aftermath

I wish I could say that once I faced my problems, everything in my life was just peachy. Eventually, Elaine and I did recover our marriage, and I did regain her trust. It wasn’t a quick fix, and it wasn’t easy. And I fully believe that God would have taken my marriage away in order to bring me back to Him. I’m thankful it didn’t come to that. I’m thankful Elaine chose to forgive me and work with me to rebuild our life. I’m thankful that I get to wake up next to her each day and do life with her and our children.

It’s not any easier to do the right thing, but after what I’ve been through I’ve learned how to deal with sin appropriately. I’ve learned how to recognize harmful rituals that lead to sin and break the cycle of addiction in my life. I’ve learned the importance of meeting regularly with other men who are serious about accountability. And above all else, I’ve learned that there is no replacement for a daily meeting time with the Lord.
– Dave

Through the Lens of Grace: Consequences

I have been telling the story of how God redeemed my marriage. My husband has been telling the story from his perspective and this is his latest post. To read this story from the beginning start here and follow the links.

Laundry List

What had Elaine discovered? Let’s take a moment to list it out…

  1. I had a (nearly daily) problem with pornography.
  2. I had at least two emotional affairs ongoing at work, and was basically living a second life there.
  3. My dealings with women in general were not appropriate in nature.

Elaine had learned about the pornography over a week prior. The rest she discovered from going through my work email, out of suspicion. All because I had decided not to answer a phone call (a benign decision I now thank God for). Over the next days and weeks, she also became aware of the following, through my confession…

  1. My impulsive and wasteful spending habits
  2. A partying/drinking habit that was symbolic of my overall rebellious attitude
  3. An account I had set up on a website meant for cheating on one’s spouse
  4. Experimentation with marijuana
  5. Vulgar language and coarse joking, being a totally different person depending on what crowd I was in
  6. A lot of individual incidents related to the above, including a few times I came close to cheating physically
  7. Various other lies and secrets, arising from the fact that I had trained myself to be an expert at deceit.

I had what to me felt quite suddenly like a barrel-full of awful secrets. And I didn’t just decide one day that I’d start doing (or hiding) all these things. It was a gradual process. You see, when the Bible talks about the end game of sin being death, it’s not talking about an overnight crisis. I left a corner of my spiritual house unattended, and over the span of several years, the mess took over the place. Now that the shutters had been thrown open and the lights turned on, I was realizing just how dirty my life was. Before I could even think about cleaning it up, though, I had a few consequences to face.

Exile

The first consequence I experienced was ejection from my home. Did I have to leave? No, it was my house. That wasn’t my attitude, though. I was in nearly as much shock as Elaine was over what I had done, because I was finally having to face it all. So I packed (not nearly as many things as I needed). And I left. I ended up being out of the house for more than three weeks. Amazingly, I had friends and family willing to let me hang around for that long, including Elaine’s parents (like I said, amazing).

Exposure

It’s not every day that one’s demons are all aired out for the world to see. Well, that’s basically what happened to me in a short period of time. Before I had even come to grips with reality of my problems, I had to call into work and explain why I was unable to come in that day and how there was a great possibility I may have to look for employment elsewhere. I’m so thankful for a boss at the time who was incredibly understanding and who I can still count on today to hold me accountable.

I had to back out of a few leadership positions with my church and other organizations, because I didn’t feel fit to be in them anymore. I also knew my priority needed to be on restoring my relationship with God and with the people I had hurt. So I didn’t have time for anything else, really. It hurt to have to back out of those things without any real explanation behind it. I confessed my situation to my men’s group, to my pastor, to my family and some other close friends. I began attending a support group, which involved more confession and more exposure.

Think about the worst thing you’ve ever done. How would you like everyone to know about this thing? Now imagine you’ve been actively hiding it for around 15 years and it’s being ripped out of you. That was my life. And yet, after all the hurt caused by exposure, it was also incredibly cleansing. I am now a true believer in the power of confession. And while I don’t really buy into the sterile, behind-the-veil style that you might imagine, there is something to be said for verbalizing our sins and letting them go. We’d all avoid a lot of trouble just by admitting our mistakes and moving on from them.