All posts by Heather Walton

Growth is painful, yet ultimately rewarding

This week has been an incredible roller coaster of emotion and developments. Early in the week I felt very rejected–both by my soon-to-be-ex-husband, and by some friends whose intentions I misinterpreted. When you’re going through the tumultuous emotions of a divorce, you can be overly sensitive. At least I know I am.

My STBX decided to let me know that he was done pursuing me and trying to save our marriage. This didn’t sit well with me because, in reality, he has done little to pursue me or our marriage during the past five months. So I broke down and told him that I had really wanted him to decide that our marriage was worth fighting for–with actions rather than mere words. Whether or not this was wise, I’m really not sure. But it did set in motion some activity. He said he was willing to do some things, like some intensive counseling. Initially I was drawn in because, finally, it seemed he might be willing to actually do something. So I considered it.

But here were the problems:

1. He continued to lie to me about big and small things, and I had proof.

2. He refused to admit that his behaviors are outside the realm of normal.

3. He told me he was torn between his duty to our marriage covenant and his desire for the other women he has been pursuing.

With these things in mind, I decided against his offer. A person has to be truly repentant in order to change, and he is not repentant.

Today our pastor preached a sermon that totally backed this up. Using the story of Zacchaeus, he said that, to truly be sorry, a person has to be honest, that confession doesn’t equal repentance, and that a person’s actions have to back up the apology. Clearly, that is not going on here.

There is no way to have a healthy relationship with someone who is unrepentant. But I do desire reconciliation–not restoration of our marriage–but the ability to admit our wrongs to each other and the mutual decision to release each other. I hope and pray that this will happen, and I will practice this on my part whether or not he ever comes to that point.

This has been and continues to be an incredibly painful journey. I have to think that the death of a child would be worse than this, but I really can’t think of anything else that could rival it. It was horrifying to learn that I had been living a lie and that I had allowed myself to be manipulated all of those years. I have felt so betrayed and rejected. I have had anger, anxiety, confusion, and extreme sadness. I have almost been sucked back into his manipulation and deception more than once.

However, I have grown so much closer to Christ and I have become so much healthier as a person during the past five months. I keep saying it’s like I’ve been on warp speed in my codependency recovery. It’s been incredibly painful, but also amazingly blessed. Though I would never wish this on anyone (except maybe my STBX), I wouldn’t trade the growth it has brought.

Christians often alienate those they should serve

I attend a very conservative church where the Bible is preached as the literal, inerrant word of God. I also am very connected to our local homeschooling community, which also is ultra-conservative. I run a business that mainly draws conservative Christian families.

So when I filed for divorce, I began to be concerned about judgment. I felt the need to explain my situation–to prove that I had Biblical grounds and that I had done everything possible to save my marriage.

There are those in the Church who believe that a person should stay married no matter what. If a woman is being abused, if children are being harmed, if there is constant deception, manipulation, and betrayal. No matter what. They would say that, unless there has been proven physical adultery with another person, and that the offender isn’t repentant, there are no grounds. Really???

In my case, I think a proven affair is more reconcilable than what my STBX was into. I’m not going to share the details, but, trust me, it’s disgusting. But what’s worse is that he lies to me constantly. And he manipulates me. A marriage should be based on trust, but his lies and manipulation have destroyed that trust.

I was counseled initially to file for legal separation instead of divorce. I wasn’t enthusiastic about this option, but, because two out of three of the church leaders I counseled with advised this, I did it. I do believe that was the correct thing to do at the time, but things became clearer after I had filed.

Interestingly, legal separation is also referred to as a “limited divorce.” I don’t think that legal separation is any holier than divorce, as some seem to think. One of the leaders with whom I counseled was in disagreement with legal separation. He said that, since we were physically separated, we really were not following God’s plan for marriage. He believed we should reconcile or get divorced.

Though I was counseled by some that I should stay separated for as long as necessary, I question the Biblical basis of this advice. Nowhere in Scripture can I find anything about marital separation. It doesn’t seem to be addressed, except in Mark 10:9 and Matthew 19:6. Those verses say that, what God has joined, man must not separate.

However, when I made my discovery five months ago, it was clear to me that we needed to separate. I do believe God gives us wisdom and reveals the path to us. Sometimes it’s obvious because it’s clearly laid out in Scripture. But other times, He guides us in other ways, such as common sense or a specific leading by the Holy Spirit. (Of course, this guidance will never contradict Scripture.) I believe it is obvious that my STBX has some issues that make it apparent that our family doesn’t need to live with him. Furthermore, he is doing things that concern me when it comes to my children’s safety. And he has completely and irrevocably shattered the trust that is necessary for a healthy marriage. Biblically, he has committed adultery, even if there has been no third party involvement. He continually sought out women to look at who would arouse him sexually. This qualifies as adultery, according to Matthew 5:27-28.

Now to my main point:

As a conservative Christian who associates with many conservative Christians, I feel like I need to be careful how I present my situation, because I fear that I will be judged. I feel the need to justify and explain. I worry that people are secretly judging me. I anticipate that, through the years, I will find myself being tempted to explain my situation.

Since I found out some really sick behaviors of my STBX, two of the three church leaders with whom I consulted affirmed my decision to divorce. That helps me feel assured. But since I’m not going to share the details with most people, I fear that people will judge.

Why does the church do this? Why do we focus on sins and perceived sins? We should be focusing on people, not on their sins.

Take the whole Duck Dynasty thing for example. Christians were affirming Phil’s right to free speech. Sure, I agree with his right to free speech. But I question the line of thinking that his comments were helpful. Do you think any homosexuals were won to Christ because of what he said? I doubt it.

If Christians focus on talking non-Christians out of committing certain sins, isn’t that Pharisaical? If we target homosexuality, divorce, or any other perceived sin, aren’t we missing the point? The point is that we can’t live holy lives apart from putting our trust in Christ. I’m not saying we shouldn’t pursue and preach Biblical application. Of course we should. But when we separate that from love, we will not be effective.

Churches should reach out to hurting people, rather than simply pointing out their sinfulness or perceived sinfulness because of certain circumstances of their lives.

The truth is that we often don’t know the circumstances behind a divorce, and we often don’t know the details that drive many decisions people make. Perhaps they made the best choices they could, given their situations. Divorce is a rejection, even for the one who files. In my case, I was the one who filed, but he was the one who divorced me emotionally, spiritually, and, in some ways, physically. I’m just making it official.

Divorce is rejection. As the church, should we add our rejection to it? Or should we be an instrument of healing? I think the answer is clear, and I hope that my own pain will be used for God’s glory in bringing about healing to those devastated by divorce.

Boys will be boys????

(Photo credit: Roberto Verzo)

 

Many people, including Christians, rationalize using pornography. “Boys will be boys,” they say. However, the Bible says, in Galatians 5:23, that the fruit of the Spirit is self-control.

Pornography has no place in a Christian’s life. It demeans women, cheapens intimacy, causes shame, and devastates families. Looking at porn can lead to addiction, which generally leads to manipulation and deception.

 

 

 

I know it may seem like using porn is a secret thing that only affects the user. While it definitely does have profound consequences for that person, the effects of this secret sin reach his wife, his kids, and even his friends and neighbors. If a person is trapped in pornography addiction, he is likely self-absorbed and angry, which makes it difficult to have healthy, God-honoring relationships with others.

 

 

 

I realize that my husband’s use of porn isn’t my fault and that it doesn’t mean he finds me unattractive. Many women don’t realize that, though. The first time I found out that my husband was looking at images of other women, I felt highly inadequate. In time, I learned that this isn’t the case. Still, it’s unsettling to be out with one’s husband and to wonder if he is seeing the other women around you as sex objects. And the fact that he does see women as sex objects makes me wonder if he sees me that way–if women in general are not real people to him, but only a means to an end.

 

 

 

Guys who are addicted to porn often don’t respect their wives. Again, they may simply see their mates as people who exist to serve them. They tend to be self-absorbed, rather than humble servants who love their wives like Christ loved the church. (Ephesians 5:25)

 

 

 

I’m not saying porn addicts are terrible people. My own husband is a great guy in some ways. Most people would never suspect the problem. Those who know us well have sensed something wasn’t right, but most people probably didn’t.

 

 

 

And this problem is wide-spread, even in the church. Women need to understand what an epidemic this is. Men need to comprehend how hurtful it is to a marriage and family. (I realize that women also may struggle with porn, but I’m coming at it from the perspective of a wife of an addict.) It’s time for believers to get serious about this sin–to be educated and committed to living for God’s glory, rather than for temporal pleasure. I understand that addicts have a good deal of gut-wrenching work to do in order to be free, but it’s so worth it. My own family is separated right now, and divorce is a possibility. This has devastated me, and has negatively impacted our children.

 

 

 

If you struggle with this secret sin, don’t rationalize it–fight it, in God’s power. Don’t just consider yourself, but the others around you and the future generations that will be impacted. Join a recovery group and get individual counseling from a certified sex addiction counselor. Healing is possible!

 

 

 

If you’re married to a porn user or porn addict, you don’t have to put up with it. You can set firm boundaries and choose not to enable this sin. And you can get support. Many women are in your shoes. Women in the Battle has a supportive online community. There are support groups, and individual counseling is also a good idea. Healing is possible for you too!

 

 

 

Can we admit we’re not close to perfect?

I would love to present myself as a close-to-perfect person with a close-to-perfect family. I know I can’t present myself, or my family, as completely perfect, because there was only one perfect person who ever lived. However, I can try to make you think that we’re close toperfect. Think about our Facebook pages and our blogs. We can make our lives look ideal, despite struggling through great difficulties (or just through the day-to-day challenges).

I’m not going to chronicle all of the adversity in my life, but I want to be clear when I say that I’m far from perfect and so is my family. I realize that you probably already know that, especially if you know us personally. Even if you don’t know us, you know we’re not close to perfect, because you and your family aren’t either.

Why, though, is it so difficult for us to admit this? Why do we put on masks for each other, pretending that everything is fabulous and that our families have it all together, even when we’re really struggling? (Isn’t this hypocrisy?)

We argue with our spouses and children in the car on the way to church, then step out with our Sunday smiles and tell everyone we’re fine. If our kids won’t behave or we have marital strife, we keep it all to ourselves, giving the impression that things are great in our homes. Why?

For many of us, it’s because we don’t want to be judged, and we suspect we would be. Maybe we have been in the past. Perhaps we’ve known of others who were open and who suffered for it. Our fear and our pride keep us from intimacy with other believers. I’ve heard it said that the Church is the only army that shoots its own wounded. Unfortunately, I’ve seen evidence that this is sometimes a true statement.

But …

What if we really viewed the church as a place for sinners and those redeemed by grace to gather and to authentically worship our great Savior?

What if we accepted everyone exactly as they are, acknowledging that we all need to grow to become more Christlike?

What if we didn’t judge by appearances, but took the time to examine the heart?

What if we didn’t judge by circumstances, but understood that there always are factors we don’t know about?

What if we openly accepted people who struggle, and helped them grow or recover?

What if we supported people who are victims of other people’s sin?

What if I could really tell you my struggles and my family’s struggles?

If so, then …

Couldn’t we help each other out?

Wouldn’t it be refreshing not to have to pretend?

Might our worship be more authentic?

Couldn’t we comfort each other?

Might others benefit from hearing of our own life experiences?

Might we benefit from hearing of their life experiences?

Couldn’t we hold each other accountable in a loving manner?

Wouldn’t we feel freer, lighter, more joyful?

And, most of all …

Wouldn’t we look a lot more like Jesus?

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God is good ALL the time!

(Photo credit: FadderUri)

Have you ever heard someone say, after something goes right, “God is good!”? If you’re like me, you’ve heard that phrase countless times. But how many times have you heard someone say, “God is good!” after something goes wrong, or when they’re going through a tough time? Here’s a more challenging question: How many times have you said, “God is good!” when something has gone wrong in your own life?

Is God good all the time? Of course He is. If you’re a Christian, you probably think that’s a ridiculous question. But since we seldom celebrate our sorrows by stating that, “God is good!”, I believe it’s a fair question.

Yes, God is good all the time. He’s good when you get the promotion and when you lose the job. He’s good when you find out you’re pregnant and when you miscarry. He’s good when your kids make you proud and when they devastate you. He’s good on your wedding day and on the day you find out your spouse has had an affair. He’s good when the tests come back negative and when you find out you’ve got six weeks to live. He’s good when your name is clear and when you finally have to admit the ugly truth of what you’ve done. God is good ALL the time. Not just when things go right.

In my own life, the past couple of years have taught me more about this concept than the rest of my life put together. I have been a Christian for 20 years this month, and God’s grace has carried me through many small and medium difficulties. But I’m convinced that, the longer we live, the larger the difficulties we have to face. At least that’s been my experience.

Right now, I’m seeing God do amazing work in my ministry, and that is so encouraging! It’s exciting! It’s something to celebrate! It’s a feel-good kind of thing. God is good!

But I’m also seeing God do extraordinary work in other areas of my life, but it’s a struggle. It’s not enjoyable. It’s painful. It’s definitely not feel-good. At times it’s discouraging–even devastating. But, because God is at work, it is exciting and it is something to celebrate. God is good!

So, the next time you hear that phrase, “God is good!”, remember, God is always good, no matter what we’re going through or how our circumstances appear. I challenge you to say and to believe that “God is good!” all the time, no matter what’s going on.

How should we respond to the consequences of other people’s choices?

photo credit: Wikipedia

Sometimes life is just hard. Much of the difficulty comes from the fact that we can’t control other people. As hard as we may try or as sincere as we may be, we simply aren’t capable of making anyone do anything. Sometimes it may even seem that we can’t make ourselves do what we know we must do. Old patterns are extremely difficult to change.

There are times when we’re at fault for the difficulties in our lives. Other times, though, we’ve done nothing to deserve suffering.

People’s actions often have a ripple effect. Picture yourself tapping your finger on water. What happens? You make a ripple—a series of circles that generates from the spot where you touched the water. The circles continue until they reach the water’s edge or until they’re intercepted by other objects or patterns. The same is true in our lives. The ripples we begin often have far-reaching effects as they intercept other people’s ripples and obstacles. They continue on for so much longer than just that tiny finger tap that started it all.

Just as our ripples affect others, theirs affect us. Oftentimes the ripples bring good things. Sometimes, however, they bring pain. Heartbreak. Even life change.

So what do we do when this happens? When the ripples bring a tide of tears and torment? It depends. Sometimes there’s nothing we can do but cling to our great God, our Abba (Daddy). Other times, we can add personal action to our faith.

In times of distress, I recall the Serenity Prayer:

God grant me the serenity 
to accept the things I cannot change; 
courage to change the things I can;
 and wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time; 
Enjoying one moment at a time; 
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace; 
Taking, as He did, this sinful world 
as it is, not as I would have it; 
Trusting that He will make all things right 
if I surrender to His Will;
 That I may be reasonably happy in this life 
and supremely happy with Him 
Forever in the next.
 Amen.

Reinhold Niebuhr

There’s so much wisdom in this beloved prayer. First of all, I’ve wasted countless hours and energy trying to change things over which I have no control. I’m getting better at letting go of these things. But the next couple of lines are the main challenge for me–“the courage to change the things I can.” Now that, coupled with “the wisdom to know the difference,” can be difficult. It can be easy to fall into a victim mentality, thinking I just have to endure my circumstances. Or I can find myself thinking of good solutions, but not carrying them out. Or debating with myself over a solution and neglecting to take action.

As an adult child of an alcoholic, I’m more prone to bear these kinds of burdens. But I know I’m not alone. Many people struggle with how to deal with the consequences of other people’s actions.

So, as I find myself being affected by the ripples of another person’s choices, I have some decisions of my own to make. I need to sort out “the things I cannot change,” and “the things I can.” Then I need to have serenity and courage to deal with the things in each category. That requires that God grant me “the wisdom to know the difference.”

This path isn’t easy. It isn’t pretty. It isn’t comfortable. But it is freeing. And it brings peace.