Desires and Delight

Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you your heart’s desires. Psalm 37:4

“God,” I cried out as the tears streamed down my face and my feet pounded the pavement, “I want to desire you. I want to delight in you. But, honestly, I really just want a husband.”

I had escaped the house and my three young children to run. Something about running helped me refocus, clear my mind. It was an opportunity to be alone with God, to pour out my heart to Him.

I was in the midst of an unbelievably difficult divorce, reeling from the trauma of my husband’s affair. My heart was shattered into a million tiny pieces. My life was in shambles. I was terrified of the journey ahead, one filled with hardships of every kind.

All I wanted was to have my life back, to have the security of a husband and a normal family. All I wanted was companionship, someone to hold me close on those lonely nights. All I wanted was someone telling me I was loved.

And as I poured out my heart, expressing my pain and my desires, I heard the still small voice.

“It’s ok,” He said. “I know your heart longs for a husband, for companionship. I also know you are surrendered to me, desiring to know me more than anything else. I have it all under control.”

His sweet whisper calmed my heart, relieved my fears. In that moment, with those precious words, I knew that God knew my heart’s greatest desire. And I was completely convinced He was planning something amazing.

It’s been seven long years since that conversation with God. I’ve reminded Him over and over of His promise, of His faithfulness. I’ve reminded Him of my heart, of how I have repeatedly chosen Him over the momentary pleasures of this life. I’ve reminded Him that He has promised to give me the desires of my heart.

As I’ve walked this journey, I’ve struggled to understand God’s ways. Does He always give us what our hearts desire? What if our desires are in conflict with His will? How do we reconcile this principle from the Psalms with reality?

Yes, there was a day when my greatest desire—perhaps my only desire—was to have a husband, someone to love me and walk through this life with me. But somewhere along the way, somewhere as I sought my Savior, He changed me. He changed my desires.

I still want a husband. I still want companionship. I still want someone to hold me at night. But, instead of longing for a husband, I find myself wanting God more than I want anything else.

God changed my desires to make them His desires.

And that’s the way God works. When we submit ourselves to Him, offer ourselves as living sacrifices, He changes us from the inside out. He takes our hearts, our desires, and changes them to reflect His heart, His desires.

But how do we delight ourselves in Him? How do we allow Him to take over our lives, to change our desires to His desires? Perhaps we can find some hints in the surrounding verses.

Commit everything you do to the Lord. Psalm 37:5a

God doesn’t want part of our lives. He doesn’t want specific areas. He doesn’t want us to commit portions of our lives to Him. He wants us to commit everything we do to Him.

Every day when I wake up, I ask God to take my day, to live my life through me. Whether it’s what I say or write or my work or my play, I don’t want it to be done in my power. I want it to be God living and working through me. In every single area of life, it is Him through me.

Trust him, and he will help you. Psalm 37:5b

So often, I find myself wavering in fear. How will I pay these medical bills? How do I help my children heal from the pain they are facing? What if my daughter continues to have medical problems? The questions never end.

But there’s only one answer: God. He is my helper. He is my provider. He is my healer. He is my protector. He is my everything.

When I learn to release fear and trust Him, He is always there, always willing to help.

Be still in the presence of the Lord, and wait patiently for him to act. Psalm 37:7a

How often I get caught up in the craziness of this life! Life tends to go non-stop, barely a chance to breathe. As I chase my kids from one activity to the next, trying to keep up with the demands on my life, I find myself run-down, exhausted, barely surviving from day to day.

I must learn to slow down, be still in His presence. I must learn to wait patiently for Him, to let things happen in His time. I must learn to cast my cares on Him, to rest in Him.

And then, as I intentionally search for calm in the midst of the chaos, I find the peace and joy of my Savior.

Stop being angry! Turn from your rage! Psalm 37:8

Are you harboring anger and bitterness in your heart? Are you angry with someone, something? It’s time to let it go. Let forgiveness flow through your heart and wash over others. Rid yourself of every root of bitterness.

As you let go of any rage or bitterness keeping you stuck in this life, He will change your heart, change your mind. He will purify your desires, making them like His. He will set you free from the heavy burden of anger and rage.

And as we seek to delight in Him, we experience the goodness of the Father. We get to experience His love and grace poured out on us.

He will make your innocence radiate like the dawn, and the justice of your cause will shine like the noonday sun. Psalm 37:6

When enemies come against us, God steps in. He makes our innocence shine. He brings truth to light. He defends us in the presence of our accusers. He makes our reputation spotless.

We can trust God to shine His light on the justice of our cause. His light shines brightly.

but those who trust in the Lord will possess the land. Psalm 37:9

As we trust in Him, we possess the Promised Land, a Land flowing with joy and peace, love and goodness. We find His perfect peace guarding our hearts and minds, even in the midst of the chaos. We enjoy the abundance of living in His presence every single day.

And you know what else?

Even as we enjoy the abundance of a life lived in His presence, even as we see our desires shifting to His desires, we also find our earthly desires becoming reality.

Do I still believe God has a special man for me? Absolutely! And now that my heart is fully His, He has free reign to do as He sees fit. And I am now in a position to accept the gift of seeing my heart’s second greatest desire fulfilled.

 

 

Be the One…

My friend told me of a conversation he had recently.

Recently, a small group from high had an impromptu gathering, men and women. It seems, however, that most of the participants had recently walked through divorces.

As they talked, the conversation came around to what men are looking for in women.

“We want Dena Johnson,” one of the men stated.

He turned to my friend seeking his approval, and my friend nodded his head in agreement.

Please understand: I am not telling this story to glorify myself in any way. In reality, hearing this conversation completely shocked me…and even embarrassed me.

There’s so much you need to know.

You see, in high school, I was friends with everyone but I was by no means the one the guys wanted. I was the smart girl, class valedictorian. I was the goody-goody who was at church every time the doors were opened.

I was the girl who sat home alone every weekend, asking God when it would be my turn to have a boyfriend.

In many ways, nothing has changed since high school. I’ve been single for nearly seven years now, and until recently hadn’t been on a real date in at least five years. I’ve watched as friends lost spouses to death and divorce and quickly remarried…all while I sat here asking God when it would be my turn, when He would fulfill the desires of my heart.

And yet, as I sat here wondering why I am so unlovable, so unwanted, I suddenly hear that I am exactly what the men want. Makes no sense to me.

As I talked with my friend, he further explained the conversation. Back in high school, the guys were looking for a good time. But, as the years have passed, many of us have walked through the pain and devastation of adultery, betrayal, and painful divorces…and none of us ever wants to face the devastation again.

After suffering through the pain, men are looking for a woman who will be faithful, loyal, kind, and loving. They are looking for a woman who will love unconditionally, who will grow old by their sides. They are looking for a woman whose priorities are in line, with God first and family second. They are looking for a woman whose heart is big enough to love them and their kids.

They are looking for a woman who looks like Christ.

As my friend related this story to me, I was humbled. What an honor that others see Christ in me! There is absolutely no greater compliment for me.

But it’s not something that happened overnight. I’ve spent many long hours seeking the face of God, bowing in prayer, pouring over scripture. I’ve begged God to open my heart and mind to healing and wholeness. I’ve asked to be molded, whatever the cost. I’ve spent my time, seeking God’s purpose for my life, asking Him to open doors so I could become all He created me to be.

And it has cost me plenty. I chose to sit home on weekends rather than going out for drinks with friends. I poured my heart and soul into words on a computer screen, opening my life to complete strangers in hopes they can find encouragement in my struggles. I face critics—painful, ugly words thrown at me by complete strangers who think they know me and have a right to judge me.

Sometimes it hurts.

Despite the pain, the joy and peace my Heavenly Father pours out over me makes every sacrifice worthwhile. And while I wait, I know God is doing a work in me.

And my prayer has been that He was doing a similar work in a man, somewhere, a man who would willingly do the hard work to become the man God created him to be.

These men say they want someone like me. But my question becomes what are they doing to become the man someone like me would want?

I’ve made my choice: I will follow my Savior all the days of my life. I will do my best to point the world back to Him, to let the world see His goodness and grace in me and through me. And I will not settle for anyone who doesn’t have the same commitment, anyone who is not willing to surrender his all to the Savior.

I’ve never been willing to date just to date, to compromise for the sake of ending the loneliness. I’ve never been willing to straddle the fence, keeping one hand on God and another on the pleasures of this world. I’ve never been willing to give my heart to anyone who doesn’t flee sexual immorality and the easily accessible compromises the world offers.

I decided to wait until God brought someone who is willing to be the one someone like me would want, someone I can give my heart and life to for a future of knowing Him and serving Him together.

So while men may sit around and talk about wanting a woman like me, I have to ask which one will be willing to do the hard work to become the man a woman like me would want?

And I ask you the same question: Will you be willing to do the hard work to become the woman or man a man or woman who truly loves God wants?

If you are wondering where to start, here’s a few thoughts on becoming the one…

Pursuing God above all else.

If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me. I will be found by you,” says the Lord. Jeremiah 29:13-14

To become the one, we must pursue God passionately, with our whole hearts. It can’t be an after-thought, one of many priorities. We must make Him our passion, our main desire.

It’s not something that happens overnight. We must surrender our own will, asking God to take our hearts and do a mighty work in us. We must ask Him to take our desires and mold them to His desires. We must make Him, His word, the priority in our lives.

As we let go of this world, of our desire to control our lives, as we learn to trust Him with our lives, we find His perfect peace consuming our every moment…a peace that emanates from our being, drawing others to us. .

Be the one who pursues God wholeheartedly.

Trusting God’s perfect plan.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6

Sometimes, many times, we can’t see how things can possibly work out. Our lives spiral out of control, and it seems we will drown.

But, the one who trusts God has an inner peace, a confidence, even in the midst of the greatest storm. The waves may be churning, threatening to overturn the ship, but the one who trusts completely in God has a quiet confidence, allowing him or her to keep moving forward. It doesn’t mean there’s no fear. It doesn’t mean he/she never breaks down. But there’s something… Something others see, a strength that helps him/her remain focused.

Be the one who trusts in God’s perfect plan, his perfect time. Be the one who exudes a supernatural confidence that there’s more to the story. Be the one who is kept in perfect peace because you trust in Him.

You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you. Isaiah 26:3

Eyes steadfastly focused.

Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:13-14

Many people are caught up in the past. Maybe they struggle with their past sins, past choices. Maybe they struggle with past failures. Maybe they struggle with the baggage of failed relationships.

Be the one who allows the past to help mold you into a better person without allowing it to weigh you down.

Our past should never define who we are today. We should allow our past to help us transform our future by learning from our mistakes, but we must also learn to let go. If we keep our eyes focused on the past, we will miss the future God has for us.

As Christians, we should have our eyes firmly planted on the One who holds the future. We should focus on the purpose for which He created us. We should constantly be striving for the rewards He has planned for us.

With our eyes focused firmly on the prize for which He has called us, we cannot lose ourselves in past regrets.

Be the one who keeps your eyes focused firmly ahead.

Committed to purity.

Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body. 1 Corinthians 6:18

When we were younger, many were just looking for a good time. After you have endured the pain of betrayal, you find yourself wanting more. You want someone you can trust with your heart, someone who holds sex in a place of value. You want someone who is looking for life-long commitment, not just a good time.

I’ve lived through the hurt and betrayal of the deepest, most intimate kind. When I again give my heart away, I want to know that whoever I trust with my heart has a passion for purity, a desire to experience the God-given beauty of two becoming one flesh and the true intimacy that comes from the spiritual and the physical dancing together as God designed.

Purity is not just about abstaining from sex; it’s about keeping our hearts and minds pure as well. It’s about fleeing anything inappropriate for God’s people. It’s about keeping our minds on the things of God and our eyes away from images that would lead to lust. Purity is about seeking to do relationships the way God designed.

Be the one who flees sexual immorality.

Are you looking for the one, the one who will love you as God loves the church? Before you find the one, you must be the one.

 

 

I Can’t Handle It!!

Have you heard the saying, “God won’t give you more than you can handle?”

That is an outright lie!

The Sunday after I learned of my husband’s affair, we went to a new church. The pastor was preaching a series on, “You Can’t Handle It.” He spoke of the trials of this life and how we, as humans, are not designed to carry the burden, that many times the pressure is simply too much for us to bear.

And that’s the way God designed it.

Repeatedly, God tells us it’s not our responsibility to handle it, to carry the weight of the trials of this life. For example, 1 Peter 5:7 tells us to cast all our cares on Him because He cares for us. Exodus 14:14 tells us to be still and let Him fight for us. John 16:33 says we will have trouble in this world but He has already overcome those trials. Matthew 6:25-34 tells us not to worry. Just as God cares for the lilies of the field and sparrows, He will also tend to our every need.

The struggles of this world are not ours. They belong to Him. He never intended for us to carry the burden. Instead, He always planned to carry it for us.

The trials of this life are not about how much we can carry; they are about how much He can carry.

And there is no weight capacity on God.

Some of you may be questioning right now, asking about 1 Corinthians 10:13. It is probably one of the most misquoted scriptures. Here’s what it says:

No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it. 1Corinthians 10:13

There’s one key word in this passage: temptation. No temptation is so great that you cannot overcome. That is a scriptural promise. If you are faced with a temptation, God always has a way out. No temptation is more than you can handle.

But what’s the difference between trials and temptations? A temptation is the desire to eat too much, where a trial is the struggle with an eating disorder. A temptation is the desire to have sex with someone outside the bounds of marriage, but a trial is the burden of overcoming the pain created by adultery. A temptation is the desire to drown your sorrows in alcohol, but a trial is the sickness of a loved one.

A temptation is the opportunity to sin, but a trial is the painful circumstances of living in a fallen world.

There are many of us facing overwhelming trials: adultery, divorce, sickness, financial ruin, death. Our lives have been turned upside-down, often by no fault of our own. We are watching our entire lives crumble, wondering how we can ever bear up under the increasing pain and pressure. We are treading water, simply hoping we can keep our heads above water.

And we are on the verge of drowning.

We see no way out, no way of escape. The pain and pressure are pressing down on us, and we can’t carry the load any longer. We desperately want out, but life just keeps happening.

And we can’t handle it.

I’m right there with you. I’m done, crumbling under the pain and pressure of life. I can’t keep going. I am ready to throw in the towel, simply escape from life. I can’t carry the burden any longer.

It’s not the financial strain of mounting medical bills now totaling in the neighborhood of $10,000.

It’s not the stress of trying to walk my children through the pain and grief of losing their father.

It’s not the exhaustion of working full-time, ministering part-time, and being a full-time mom to three active teenagers.

It’s not the pressure of lies being told about me in an attempt to destroy me and my reputation.

All of these things together are bad…possibly as bad and as stressful as the pain and devastation I suffered years ago during the early days of adultery and divorce.

But when you throw in health problems for one of your very own children, your heart and soul? As you stand by helplessly, wondering what the future has for your daughter? When you stand over an unresponsive child, watching her body convulse and wonder if she will pull out of it?

That is more than I can handle.

Yes, my baby had her second seizure this weekend and is now on anti-seizure medication…and I am about to lose it. Crumbling in a heap. Tears staining my cheeks. No longer able to handle the pressure.

And I’m reminded that God does give us more than we can handle.

But He doesn’t give us more than He can handle.

What now? How do I let it go and trust Him with my burdens? How do I throw my cares on Him and let Him take them?

Surrender. I’m at the end of my rope, unable to handle the pressure. I’m tired of carrying the burdens, of straining under the weight of this life.

I hear God whisper, “Surrender. Trust me with your cares and your burdens. I’ve entrusted you with these trials because I know the outcome. I know your faith will be strengthened and these trials will help conform you more to my image.”

So today, I pause before my Savior, throw my arms in the air, and say, “I can’t handle it. I’m finished. All of these trials are yours. You take them, because I don’t want them anymore.”

I am choosing to intentionally release my grip on this life and trust Him to handle it.

Seek His purpose. Somehow, some way, God is using this pain to conform me to His image, to prepare me for whatever He has planned for my future. I don’t know what it looks like. I don’t know what these trials are working into my life…nor what they are working out of my life.

But I know my Savior. I know all things work together for my good (Romans 8:28). I know He has a purpose in my pain, one that will eventually enrich my life in ways I never dreamed.

God is going to use this season. One day I will look back in amazement at what God did, and I will be able to use this time to point the world back to Him.

I must simply trust His omniscience and sovereignty.

Yoke with Him. You’ve probably heard Matthew 11:28-30.

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

But what does it mean to yoke with Jesus? It’s a picture of two oxen, one considerably larger than the other. A heavy beam has been placed across their backs so they can pull their load, possibly a plow or a wagon. But the larger ox is carrying the weight while the smaller ox is simply learning.

And that’s how it is with Jesus. He carries the heavy yoke, the burden, while we simply walk beside Him, learning from Him. We don’t have to exert the energy because He is doing all of the work. And, when we take His yoke, it is light, easy, filled with love and kindness…and rest.

Here’s where I am today: I am looking back on my relationship with my Father, remembering His great faithfulness over the years. I know He has never failed me before, and He won’t fail me now. I have to trust that He has my best interest in mind, even when it seems there’s no way this mess can work for my good. But I must move forward, acting in obedience even when it makes no sense, even when it seems life is crumbling before me. And, when I find myself trusting even in the midst of chaos, I can know that I will find rest for my weary soul.

Can’t handle the pressures of this life? It’s ok. God never expected you to handle it.

 

Wrestling With the Tough Issues

Our country is in tumultuous times. Everywhere we turn, we are faced with division and strife. Racism. Same sex marriage. Refugee crises. Transgender issues. Targeting of law enforcement officers. Terrorism. Religious freedoms. Gun control.

Everywhere we turn, violence erupts. With each hot-button issue, emotions run deep. We have become a deeply divided nation, one spewing hatred and bitterness.

A friend recently posted to his Facebook, “What’s up with all the angry white Christians?”

My heart sank as I read those words. We Christians are frequently portrayed as intolerant, as dogmatically rejecting anyone and anything that does not match our theology. We are seen by those outside the Christian community as the most hateful people, ready to judge others for their lives while failing to recognize our own short-comings.

Unfortunately, I’m afraid it’s a pretty accurate description…at least to a certain extent.

I was raised in a conservative Christian home by wonderful, loving parents. I was taught the Bible as the inerrant Word of God, fully trustworthy in every situation. God’s Word always has been—and always will be—the final authority in my life.

Yet, in 2016, I wonder if we are truly clinging to the inerrant Word of God or if we are more often clinging to fallible, man-made interpretations of scripture. Perhaps we are much more like the Pharisees than we care to admit.

Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” John 13:35

Throughout the New Testament, Jesus repeatedly pointed to the importance of loving others. In Acts 2, we read about the early church. We see that they selflessly gave of themselves and their possessions to help others, to meet each other’s needs. And God added to their fellowship.

It was the selfless acts, the extravagant love and grace of the early Christians, that drew others into their fellowship. It wasn’t their adherence to a set of rules and regulations. It wasn’t their calls for holiness and separation from the world. It wasn’t their political stand. It was their love that drew others into the Way.

You might be thinking, “But the early Christians didn’t have the same pressures, the same struggles we have. They weren’t facing a world where all of their beliefs were systematically rejected.”

Don’t fool yourself. The early Christians had to wrestle with their own hot button topics. Romans 14 talks about food choices, a hot topic in its time. Do we adhere to the Old Testament laws or are we under grace? Acts 15 addresses the issue of circumcision, a legal requirement for the Jews but an issue completely foreign to the Gentiles.

These topics may seem ridiculous to us, but to the early believers they were just as important as the issues we face today. They were issues that caused dissension among believers and made them look foolish to the outside world.

And do you know the final answer?

Accept other believers who are weak in faith, and don’t argue with them about what they think is right or wrong….Yes, each of us will give a personal account to God. So let’s stop condemning each other. Decide instead to live in such a way that you will not cause another believer to stumble and fall. Romans 14:1, 12-13

I want you to understand that I stand firmly on the side of the inerrancy of scripture, but I am afraid that we have twisted and contorted the Word to say what we want it to say and not what God intended. The theology to which we cling often alienates and suppresses rather than embracing and freeing.

I am beginning to wonder if, in our pride, we have decided that we know all the answers when perhaps God intended a certain amount of mystery.

Let me give an example from my own life: I am divorced.

Growing up, I held to the belief that divorce was wrong. The only exception was for adultery, and adultery only happened to those who were not fulfilling their role as a spouse.

Until it happened to me.

Suddenly, I was face to face with reality. Was I at fault in my marriage? Did I do something to drive my spouse into the arms of another? Or was it a result of his own free will?

As I walked through the pain and devastation that overtook my life, my theology changed. Yes, I still believe God’s ideal is one man, one woman for life. But I have learned to accept that we live in a fallen world where the ideal sometimes doesn’t happen, where one (or both) spouses may allow their hearts to become hardened and walk away from the covenant made with their spouse and God.

I have come to question my interpretation of scripture as I dig deeper into the realities of marriage and divorce. Is adultery the only acceptable reason for divorce? What about abuse? Should a spouse stay in a marriage where he/she and/or her children are at risk? What about emotional abuse? Is a spouse required to stay in an environment where his/her humanity is slowly and methodically stripped away? What about addiction? Are we required to stay in a situation marred by the dangers of drugs and alcohol? Or pornography? Does a porn addiction count as adultery?

Life is not black and white. We can interpret scripture by the letter of the law or the spirit of the law. We can base our interpretations on the traditions of man or the character of God. We can err on the side of judgment or grace.

And it doesn’t matter what the hot button issue.

Here’s the conclusions I have reached:

We are all created in the image of God. Regardless of race or sexual orientation or religious preference or career choice, God created us all.

We are all loved deeply and intimately by the Father. He is not willing that any should perish (2 Peter 3:9).

God’s ways are higher than our ways (Isaiah 55:9). We will never fully grasp His ways, His thoughts this side of heaven.

Our job as Christians is to love God and love others (Matthew 22:37-38). Just as God showed His extravagant, radical love by sending His son to die for us, so also should we love those around us.

Non-Christians are not expected to understand our convictions (1 Corinthians 1:18). We cannot expect the world to conform to our Biblical standards because our ways are foolish to those who do not believe.

As I’ve wrestled with some of the hot-button issues of our day, I’ve come to understand that I don’t fully understand God or His ways. There are mysteries, some of which I may never understand this side of heaven.

However, wrestling with the tough issues has also changed me. It’s made me a much more loving and gracious person. I hope that as I wrestle, I become more of a shining light of His love to the world around me. I pray that as I struggle with my theology, others are drawn to the Savior because of His love oozing from me.

Perhaps it’s time that we as Christians throw aside some of our preconceived notions, our Pharisaical traditions. Perhaps it’s time we search scriptures with an open heart, asking God to reveal His heart to us. Perhaps it’s time we do everything we can to show the radical love Christ showed so others will know we are Christians by our love.

Lord Jesus, open my eyes to see this world through your eyes, with eyes of love and grace and not condemnation and judgment. Open my ears to hear the hurt and pain and devastation of the poor and marginalized, of those who don’t know you. Open my mind to understand your ways, your heart of compassion for those who are desperately in need of your love. Use me up and pour me out as a drink offering for others so they might know I am yours by my love.

Stop! Thief!

Years ago as a newlywed couple, we lived in a large apartment complex in San Antonio, Texas.

One night, in the early morning hours, we were awakened by a loud banging on our door. The repeated thuds reverberated through our small apartment, jolting us awake. It sounded as if someone was trying to break the door down.

I grabbed the phone and dialed 911. The voice on the other end of the line calmly asked what kind of emergency we were experiencing.

“There’s someone beating on our door!” I exclaimed.

My heart was pounding, and fear was oozing from every inch of my body.

“Ma’am,” the voice calmly replied, “please go answer the door. It’s the police. Your truck has been stolen.”

As we stumbled out of bed and into the other room, a San Antonio police officer greeted us at the door. He explained that a lady in another apartment heard a commotion outside her window. She looked out to see a man breaking into our Chevrolet S-10. She called the police, and watched for thirty minutes as the man cut through the anti-theft device we had on our steering wheel and hot-wired our truck. She even took pictures of the suspect!

But the police arrived at the scene too late. The truck was gone.

It was such a strange feeling to know someone had violated us. Our sense of security was gone, and we wondered how to move forward. It was the only time I have ever had anything stolen.

But as I look at my life now, I realize I am robbed regularly.

My joy is stolen. My peace ripped away. My sense of security shattered.

You see, I find myself allowing others to step in and steal from me. I allow their words, their actions, to destroy my attitude. I spiral into depression, bitterness, anger at the mere mention of certain names or situations.

And I am robbed of the abundant life Christ promised me.

The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life. John 10:10

I don’t know what is stealing your joy and peace, but I know what it is for me. For years, I battled my ex-husband. Every negative, critical email ripped at my soul and sent me spiraling downward for days. It wasn’t until I consciously and consistently prayed for forgiveness, prayed for freedom, that I was able to overcome the attacks without being dragged down. It was truly God who set me free, restored His perfect peace and joy.

But today, I battle a new enemy. New people coming against me, spreading lies. I beg God night and day to be my defender, to bring truth to light. I cry out for my righteousness to shine like the dawn and the justice of my cause like the noonday sun (Psalm 37:6).

I slip into a downward spiral, only to catch myself and begin to claw my way back up. Some days I am able to regain what the enemy steals; other days, I’m not as successful, allowing myself to be violated over and over.

But God…

God is faithful. I know as long as He is the anchor of my soul, I will return to the abundant life, the place I want to camp and live. I don’t want anyone, any circumstance, to rob me of the gifts God has planned for me in this life. I want to fight for the abundant life!

But how do we fight the enemy who comes to steal, kill, and destroy?

Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm. Ephesians 6:13

We must be prepared for the battle. We must determine in our hearts to stand firm, to never be shaken. We must be ready and willing to resist the enemy at all costs.

Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness. Ephesians 6:14

The belt of truth is essential. John 8:31-32 reminds us that true disciples cling to Christ’s teachings and walk in complete obedience. These disciples will know the truth and live in complete freedom.

But what is truth? Jesus said He is the way, the Truth, and the life. Truth is knowing our Savior, personally and intimately. It’s watching to see where He is working and joining Him in His work. It’s learning to walk with Him, every moment of every day. And then, we know Truth and we walk in freedom.

For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared. Ephesians 6:15

Peace. We all seek it. We know it when we experience it. But how do we live in it? Isaiah 26:3 reassures us of His perfect peace when our minds are steadfast and focused on Him and His word. And Philippians 4 reminds us that His peace which surpasses all understanding will guard our hearts and minds when we stop worrying and instead pray, when we think on the good things of Christ.

Putting it all together, we find peace when our minds are focused on the things of God, when we have a constant diet of God’s word, when we stop worrying and start praying. And this is the good news!

In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil. Ephesians 6:16

Faith grows when it is put through the fiery test of trials and tribulations. As we walk through the troubles of this life, we see God’s faithfulness, we see Him carry us through. Our faith grows as we experience His tender loving care in the difficult times of our lives.

And then. When the enemy throws the fiery darts of doubt and fear, we are able to reflect on the many ways God has been faithful in the past. We see His goodness and His grace, the ways He turns our brokenness into beauty. And it gives us confidence to know He has fought these battles for us in the past, and He won’t fail us now.

Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Ephesians 6:17

The helmet of salvation is essential to protecting our mind. Scripture speaks repeatedly about being transformed by renewing our minds (Romans 12:2), about focusing our thoughts on things that bring glory to God (Philippians 4:8). We are told to forget those things that are behind and focus on the prize for which Christ called us (Philippians 3:13-14).

We protect our minds by taking up the sword of the Spirit, by constantly bathing our minds with the Word of God. We read it. We think about it. We memorize it. We meditate on it. Our minds must be saturated with the word to adequately protect it.

Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere. Ephesians 6:18

There is no substitute for prayer. Our minds cannot conceive what God brings about in response to the prayers of His people. When you find yourself worrying, turn it into a prayer. Pray for God’s peace. Pray His word. Pray for our enemies. Pray for those who persecute us. Pray for those we love. Pray for God to do an amazing work in us so He can do an amazing work through us.

Lord Jesus, I don’t want to let the enemy steal the abundance you have promised me. Help me use the tools you have given me to fight off the attacks. Build my faith so I might be able to trust and believe that you are in control, that you will fight this battle for me. Help me to walk so closely with you that I know you, the Truth, and you set me free from the battles this life throws at me. Teach me to walk your way, knowing your way protects me from the enemy.

 

Uncle!!!!

I’m crying UNCLE on 2016!

Can I just say I’m over it? It seems I enter every year with great expectations, waiting for God to totally blow my mind with good things.

So far, I’m still waiting…

Let’s review the last six months. My oldest had surgery in December. A very painful surgery. My kids lost their dad unexpectedly in April. I was sick the entire month of May.

Last week, my kids watched as they rolled me away into surgery. I can’t imagine the fear they faced knowing they had just lost their dad. Yes, it was a routine surgery, but I am certain there was a huge amount of anxiety rushing through their minds.

(On the bright side, my surgery was just three days before Blake’s birthday. The first thing I said post-op was, “I need someone to get Blake a birthday cake Friday.” The boy had FOUR birthday cakes: ice cream cake, white cake, cookie cake, and cheesecake! He hit the jackpot!)

Friday morning, as I was still moving very slowly from surgery, Blake calls me to his sister’s room. I was in no hurry…wouldn’t really matter if I was since I can barely walk.

“Mom,” he said, “you need to hurry. I think she’s having a seizure or something.”

I got to my daughter’s room to find Cassie lying in bed, grunting and drooling everywhere. She was unresponsive to my voice and to my attempts to awaken her. She just kept grunting. Drooling. Rolling around in bed. Pupils fully dilated.

I sent my son after my parents. My phone was somewhere in the house, but not where I needed it. My mom and I knelt by her bed, praying and attempting to calm her while my dad called 911.

My background is that of neuro nurse. I’ve taken care of seizing patients before, but nothing compares to watching your own child in a full blown tonic-clonic seizure. Can I just say there is no fear like that of seeing your child ill, helpless? Wondering what is going to happen. Wondering if she will pull out of it. Wondering how your other children are going to handle yet another loss, another traumatic event. Wondering how you will pay yet ANOTHER $5000 deductible.

So many fears. So many worries. And yet the only thing that matters in the moment is that precious life in the bed before you, that precious life you brought into the world.

Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, Cassie began to come around. With slurred speech, she began to ask about my sister-in-law. She asked why she was making that noise. With everyone gathered around her, she asked who was hurt, what was going on.

By the time the paramedics arrived, she was responding. She knew the date, where she was, everyone gathered around her. She was still struggling with her speech, but she was improving every moment.

We loaded her on the ambulance, and I rode beside her. Holding her hand. Comforting her. Explaining all the monitors. Helping her understand exactly what was happening. I sent out text messages to those I could think of, begging for prayers. Neighbors saw the ambulance and stopped to check on us.

After several hours in the emergency room, blood and urine tests, CT scan of the head, we found…nothing. She was back to normal.

But I’m not sure I will ever be back to normal.

It’s possible it could be a once in a lifetime seizure. Perhaps brought on by stress (we’ve had our share this year). Perhaps brought on by lack of sleep (she’s been playing hard this summer).

But how do you go to sleep at night after an event such as this one? What if it happens again? What if she’s in her room on one end of the house and I don’t hear her? What if she goes unresponsive again and can’t call for help? What if?

The questions and fears are unending. The visions, forever imprinted on our minds, haunt us. We struggle—once again—to return to a sense of normalcy, whatever that may look like.

 

You will keep in perfect peace
    all who trust in you,
all whose thoughts are fixed on you!
Isaiah 26:3

 

It seems every event in my life brings me right back to this truth: Keep my thoughts focused on Him.

The waves crash around me. The storm rages. The winds howl.

“Stay focused on me,” He calls.

My eyes wander to the pain and the loss, to the hurt and rejection. I wonder how I can ever lead my kids back to a place of healing, of wholeness. I worry about them, their future.

“Stop worrying. Seek my face. Focus on all of the blessings I’ve poured out on you,” He gently reminds me.

I worry about mounting medical bills. I struggle with the reality that every time I think I might get ahead, something happens and knocks me back down. With three teenagers and college only a few years away, I’m facing the most expensive years of raising kids and I bear the entire load of providing financially.

“I am your Jehovah Jireh. Remember how I carefully provided for your every need, every step of this journey?”

The burden is heavy, the future so uncertain. I wonder how I will stand up under the weight.

“Cast your cares on me because I care for you.”

Yes, this year (and a great number of recent years) has been tough! I’m finished…ready for a break. I find myself wondering how, when I will see the blessings of the Lord poured out, the answers to my prayers.

And yet, when I change my perspective, I realize how many incredible blessings are in my life. I see the hand of my Savior, guiding and protecting. I recognize His sovereignty that protected my precious daughter in her time of need. I know He somehow arranged every detail—my daughter was home instead of at a friend’s house as planned, my son was up early and heard her, and so many other details—to keep her safe and pull her out of it.

I know He has provided for me in the past, and I know He won’t stop now. He is trustworthy. He is faithful.

And when I remember His goodness and His grace and His character, when I focus on Him instead of the storm raging around me, He keeps me in perfect peace.

 

 

When A Pastor Falls

I like to listen to sermons.

When I drive. When I run. When I get ready for work. I often have a podcast playing, just to keep my mind focused.

I have several favorites on my playlist. I regularly listen to Mark Batterson at National Community Church, Andy Stanley at North Point Community Church, Craig Groeschel at Life.Church, and Perry Noble at New Spring Church.

Monday morning, I awakened to the news that Perry Noble has been removed from his position as pastor at New Spring, the church he founded years ago.

Noble is known for his weekly greeting of, “Howdy, y’all!” He tells of his difficult childhood, including losing his mother to cancer as young boy, his dad’s battle with alcohol, a period of homelessness in his teens. He also talks about his own struggles with pornography and debt, battles that by all appearances he has won. And he tells of his ongoing battle with depression and anxiety.

According to a statement by one of the executive pastors, Noble has been battling an alcohol addiction. He has been confronted by the executive team on multiple occasions, and the team made the decision to remove him from his position as pastor.

My heart breaks for Pastor Perry and the church. My heart aches for the executive team of the church who was forced to take such a difficult stand. And my heart absolutely breaks for his wife and his daughter.

I’ve been in that position. I’ve been the pastor’s wife whose husband was confronted for his choices. I’ve been the pastor’s wife who walked through her husband’s fall from grace. I’ve lived and watched the pain, seen the wake of destruction…in our family and in our church. I understand in ways very few can comprehend.

Sadly, it seems to be almost epidemic. If I could pull together every email received from pastors’ spouses, you would be astonished. Astonished at the lies. Astonished at the deception. Astonished at the secret lives. Astonished at the pain.

And when a pastor falls to any sin—alcohol, drugs, infidelity, pornography—there are additional struggles that a lay person might not experience.

Loss of job/finances. Long before my husband’s infidelity was uncovered, I suspected something was wrong. However, I knew if my suspicions were correct, we were out on the street—literally. I had been a stay-at-home mom for a number of years, focusing solely on my family and the ministry. I had no income, and my skills were outdated. We would lose our only source of income, and we were not in a financial position to stay afloat.

Glass house effect. It’s often been said that pastors and their families live in a glass house. Every move is scrutinized. Every decision is judged. And, when a pastor falls, everyone knows. Depending upon the size of the church, the media spotlight shines. The church and family become the subjects of much gossip. It’s as if because of the position, your secret pain is everyone’s business.

Loss of identity. For those of us who knew we were destined for the ministry from an early age, we don’t know how to operate outside our title. We struggle with the disqualification from the ministry. We struggle with a loss of our reputation. We struggle with a sense of identity. God created our hearts for ministry, and we simply don’t know who we are outside that calling.

Loss of future. When we lose our ministry and find ourselves disqualified, we also lose our future. We must completely start over, often returning to school to find a new career. Starting over in mid-life. Wondering how we will ever get our lives back together and have a promising future.

Despite the pain and fear, if we cling to God, He restores. He restores us financially. He restores our identity. He gives us a vision for a new future. He binds up our wounds and heals our broken hearts. He gives us a brand new life. He is faithful…forever and always!

And, along the way, He changes us. Transforms us. Gives us a new understanding of what it is to experience the love of the Savior. We gain a deeper vision of His unconditional love and immense depth of His forgiveness. He gives us a new heart, a new life. He is the Resurrection and the Life!

It is a long, painful journey, but it is one filled with more blessings than you can ever imagine.

Perhaps you are not the minister’s family. Perhaps you are a devastated member of the congregation. Perhaps you are a Christian wondering how to love and support the fallen pastor and/or his family. Perhaps you are looking in, wondering how you can step up and be the hands and feet of Christ.

Ministry of Presence. Be there. Words are not even necessary. Let them know you care, you are available. Stop by with a meal or a snack. Offer a hug, a listening ear, or a shoulder to cry on. Even a simple card that says you care, you are praying.

Pray, pray, and pray some more. Don’t just say you will pray. Do it! Send a prayer text. Call and pray with them over the phone. Send a card with a written prayer. Stop by and take them by the hand and pray. We cannot comprehend the power of prayer.

Extend grace. Don’t participate in gossip. For the spouse who is often blind-sided, she is ashamed and humiliated. She is hiding in embarrassment, wondering who is blaming her. She feels as if her entire life was a lie, a sham, and she is trying to reconcile the man she married with the man beside her. Simply be gracious. And remember that it is only by the grace of God that you are not in the same position.

Offer acceptance. As Christians, it seems we are really, really good at throwing stones, at taking an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. We would much rather line up to condemn than we would line up to love and accept a minister caught in adultery or any other sin. And yet, we must remember that just because a pastor sins differently, just because his sins are paraded in front of the public, does not mean his sins are any worse than ours. As a matter of fact, the sins of pride and arrogance are often well hidden, and yet no less hated by God (Proverbs 6:16-19).

Remind the spouse and family they are not at fault for the decisions of their loved one. Most ministry spouses are fiercely faithful and long to love and support. And they often bear the burden for their spouse’s choices. I somehow felt complicit in my husband’s affair, even though I had repeatedly warned him about some of the choices he was making. I wondered if everyone in the church held me just as accountable as he was. It took me years to overcome the guilt and shame and to recognize that I was in no way responsible for my husband’s choices. Reassure the family you understand a pastor’s sins are not a reflection of who they are.

My heart aches for Perry, his wife and daughter, and New Spring Church. I pray that we, as a body of believers, surround them and love and support them through this time.

Lord Jesus, I lift Pastor P and his family to you today. We all know that we are only a sin away from the same battle he is fighting. I pray for his healing, that he would get the help he needs while in the rehab facility. I pray for his precious family, that you would strengthen and comfort them in this difficult time. I pray that during this storm you would do an amazing work in all of them so you can do an amazing work through them. Use this experience to point the world back to you, to show the world that you truly are our Resurrection and Life.

Sucker-Punched

I opened my computer with plans to write a blog about our thoughts.

But before I could even start, my thoughts captured me and took me in a completely different direction.

As soon as my computer booted up, the screen hit me like a punch in the stomach, temporarily knocking the breath out of me.

In the top right corner, my computer gave me a simple reminder of the brokenness this life has.

July 3, 2016

The date sucker-punched me, reminding me of all the hurt and pain and sadness that has punctuated my life for the last decade. Even as I pound out these words, not even knowing where I am going, the tears sting my eyes just before they roll down my cheeks. I am overwhelmed with so much emotion.

Joy. Grief. Maybe a touch of guilt. Sadness. Gratitude.

The roller coaster of emotion is running at full speed right now, even as I try to process everything rushing through my brain and my heart.

You see, at this exact moment 23 years ago, I was at the salon, having my hair and nails done.

Excitement in the air. Nerves getting the best of me. Ready for the day every girl dreams of. The first day of the rest of my life.

Family and friends gathered in the church, even as I slipped into the beautiful white gown. I placed my grandmother’s pearls around my neck. The elegant veil placed atop my head. My dad by my side.

We walked down the aisle where my best friend was waiting.

We laughed and cried throughout the ceremony. We made a solemn pledge before family and friends and before God to love, honor, cherish, in sickness and in health, for richer and poorer, for better and worse, until death do we part.

And we walked back down the aisle, hand in hand, ready to face the world…together.

So much has happened in 23 years. Happiness. Sadness. Fights. Making up. Deaths. Births. Ministry. Laughter. Tears. Betrayal. Heart ache. Despair. Anger. Bitterness. Forgiveness. Moving forward. Building a new life. Raising kids. Growing. Changing. Seeing God.

Three years ago, on what would have been my 20th wedding anniversary, I had my first article published. I remember the tears, again a mixture of joy and sadness. Reflecting on what should have been versus the new life God was building for me. The pain and sadness compared to the overwhelming faithfulness I experienced at the hand of my Savior.

Today, I sit and weep. Weep over what should have been. Weep over loss. Weep over a life cut short. Weep over the pain my children are experiencing. Weep for unknown reasons.

And I find myself wondering how to reconcile my expectations with reality.

Years ago when my oldest was only a few months old, we served on staff at a large church. In our short tenure there, we discovered undeniable evidence that the senior pastor had an affair. We confronted him and were assured that he had repented and was surrounding himself with men who would hold him accountable.

As we walked away from the situation, we carried a strong reminder from God: If you choose not to abide in me daily, it could be you one day. Sadly, the warning we received early in ministry was not enough to prevent our own collision course with adultery.

What would our lives have looked like if we had both remained in the vine, abiding daily? What kind of ministry would we have? Where would we be living? What kind of joys and sorrows would we have faced?

It’s so easy to get caught up in the what ifs and the what could have beens. It’s easy to lose our focus, to turn our attention away from what we have.

It’s easy to become discontent by missing the many blessings we have right in front of us.

So on this day, I’m trying to refocus my attention.

I’m recounting my blessings.

Three amazing kids who touch the lives of everyone they come into contact with.

An incredible family that has stood by us and loved us and supported us every step of the way.

A former church that still loves us and embraces us as if we never left.

A beautiful ministry where I get to share from my heart how to overcome the brokenness and build a beautiful life.

So many amazing friends—many of whom I’ve never met—that walk this journey alongside me.

And, above all, the opportunity to experience the Great I Am, to find Him faithful in every situation. To know Him deeply and intimately as He guides my every step of this crazy journey called life. To find that He is trustworthy…forever and always.

The last decade has been quite an adventure, one I never dreamed and certainly never wanted. And yet, here I am today. The more I walk with my Savior, the more I long for the adventure only He can give.

He is calling you and me to step out of the boat and walk on water toward His outstretched hand. It’s a daunting thought to take that first step, to lift that leg up and over the edge of the boat. But you can be certain that He is there waiting.

Your journey may not look anything like you expected. The storms may be raging, winds howling and thunder crashing and lightning flashing. You might fear drowning.

Forget the storm and the waves crashing all around you. Focus only on Him. Reach out for that outstretched hand. Notice the nail marks, reminders of One who loved you enough to give His life for you. Let Him pull you from your comfort zone, from your ordinary expectations of this life.

And let Him lead you on the adventure of a lifetime…no matter how different it may be from the life you signed up for.

 

Love Your Enemies

“You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike. If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that. But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect. Matthew 5:43-48

Sometimes following God just…sucks.

Have you ever felt that way? I have a group of people rising up against me, making my life very difficult right now. I want so badly to hold onto anger and bitterness. I want to shout my innocence to the world. I want to unleash every ounce of pent up anger.

And yet I hear the gentle voice of God say, “Love. Love your enemies. Love them well. Do it my way.”

Sometimes I simply don’t want to do it His way.

When I started writing, I quickly learned that criticism went hand-in-hand with being in the public eye. Because I write so often on divorce, I frequently have those who are holier than me who like to make sure I know I am a false teacher, purporting a doctrine that will destroy me and those to whom I write. I frequently have to remind myself that these people are clinging to a human interpretation of scripture…which means a fallible interpretation. Truth be told, none of us knows the exact interpretation this side of heaven. We simply have to take the Bible, study it carefully, seek the Holy Spirit’s guidance, and use the greater context of scripture to determine the interpretation.

And the greater context of scripture is that of a loving, gracious God who forgives every sin, who sets captives free, who came to give us abundant life.

Yes, God hates sin. He hates divorce. He also hates greed. He hates arrogance. He hates lust. He hates every sexual sin. He hates unforgiveness. He hates gluttony. And He hates pride.

Why does He hate these things so much? Because they separate us from Him, a holy God who cannot look on sin. Because they cause so much devastation and destruction to His children, and His Father heart breaks when we hurt because of our own stupidity.

But in His grace, He looks down and scoops us up into His arms and restores us. Gives us new life. Helps us see that His way is the best way. He takes even our most horrible, miserable failures and uses them to mold us into His image. He takes our messes and gives us a ministry.

And I am so thankful for His grace.

But the enemies I fight today are not strangers who are accusing me of being a false teacher. They aren’t names lurking behind a computer screen, searching the internet for people like me proclaiming a different interpretation of scripture.

They are people I know. People I love. People I gave so much of my life to.

People who now believe lies about me.

I’ve spent many hours crying over the bitter attacks, struggling to understand why they would turn against me. My heart breaks over the hatred, the venomous attacks. I’m so tired and weary from the battle.

And I want to lash out.

I want to return evil for evil. I want to shout my innocence from the mountaintop. I want to fiercely defend my reputation, my good name.

Yet I look at the greater context of scripture to realize my responsibility is to love. To love those who seek to harm me. To love those who lash out at me. To love those I’d rather hate right now.

I seek to look beyond the words and actions and see the reasons behhind their actions. Yes, I know they are fighting their own battles. I know they have been told lies about me. I know they are hurting in their own right.

And I know that their words and actions flow from the anger and bitterness pent up inside their own hearts.

A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. What you say flows from what is in your heart. Luke 6:45

I don’t want to have the ugliness and bitterness corrupt my heart. I don’t want my actions and words to flow from an ugly heart.

I want my life to be characterized by the grace of God, by His unconditional love. I want my life to be a testimony of the goodness of my Father who has poured out His mercy upon me. I want my life to be an example of a life transformed by the God of the universe.

The God who sent His son to earth to die for my sins so I could receive His forgiveness.

The God who is faithful to me even when I am faithless.

The God who came and lived a perfect life for me to imitate.

The God who showed His love for me even while I was lost in my own sin.

As much as I sometimes want to handle situations such as these in my own way, ultimately I know His way is best. Therefore, I will strive to love my enemies and pray for those who persecute me…even when I don’t want to.

Lord Jesus, my flesh wants nothing more than to lash out at those who hate me, those who want to destroy me. But I pray your blessings over them. I pray today that you, Lord, will bless my enemies and protect them.  May you, Lord, smile on them and be gracious to them. May you, Lord, show them your favor and give them your peace. In Jesus name I pray, amen.

The “Pendulum Swing” of Female Sexuality

 shannon ethridge

I’m so excited to have a very special guest post this week! Shannon Ethridge is the best selling author of The Every Woman series and the Completely His series. I’m currently enrolled in her BLAST mentoring program as I seek to follow God on this crazy journey of writing and speaking. Please take some time to learn more about Shannon and her heart for women and sexual intimacy. God bless!

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Guest Post by Shannon Ethridge, M.A.

Imagine 8-10 women of all ages, from all walks of life, gathering together over a 4-day span with one goal – to sift through their sexual and emotional baggage. Why in the world would they want to do such a thing?

Because they’re serious about making sexual integrity and healthy

sexual intimacy a priority in their life once again.

 

Some women come to my Women at the Well 4-day Intensive Workshops because they’ve acted out sexually and are desperately trying to break free from their first affair… or their fourth or fifth. Others have shut down sexually, avoiding their husband’s sexual advances for years… or decades. Childhood sexual abuse, body image issues, pre-marital promiscuity, emotional disconnection, or legalistic upbringings can make it seem too painful to “go there,” even in marriage. Or such trauma can actually make “going there” via an inappropriate relationship seem absolutely irresistible, as we seek to medicate our emotional pain rather than feeling and healing it.

I often describe female sexuality as a “pendulum swing.” Some swing too far to the left, crossing boundary lines they never thought they’d cross. Others swing too far to the right, isolating and insulating themselves from the very connection they once craved. Most women will swing back and forth to some degree throughout her lifetime – feeling like a “hot mama” on some days, and like a “cold clam” on others. Hormone levels and flirty feelings fluctuate as unpredictably as flashflood waters running through a dry creek bed. It can be rather scary, not just for the woman experiencing these peaks and valleys and pendulum swings, but also for the husband who has no idea whether she’s running hot or cold from one season to the next.

I speak from experience on these issues, having graduated magna cum laude from The School of Hard Knocks. After years of pre-marital promiscuity, I honestly thought putting a wedding band on my finger would stop the sexual madness in my own life and give me an escape route off of the “crazy train.” And it did. In fact, the wedding band was my permission slip to shut down sexually altogether after we’d had children, which of course didn’t suit my husband at all.

However, with the help of a professional counselor, I invested six months sifting through the sexual and emotional baggage that had weighed down my life and marriage. It was by far the best investment of money, time, and energy I’ve ever made. And as I write this, my husband’s head is nodding furiously in agreement, flashing his best Cheshire-cat grin.

My emotional healing and restored sexual confidence has not only meant a stronger marriage, but also a stronger ministry, as cheering women on in their own healing journey has become one of my absolute greatest joys!

Has sexual and emotional baggage weighed down your life and marriage?

To help you determine the answer, here are a few questions to consider:

  • Do you feel like “damaged goods” because of your sexual past?
  • Is it hard to resist the attentions of another man who finds you attractive, even if you know that man isn’t good for you?
  • Do you often wish that your husband would be content with just holding hands or talking, rather than expecting sex?
  • Are you comfortable and confident in your own skin, or do you feel the need to hide your body from your husband’s eyes?
  • Would your husband say he got a “bait and switch” deal – that you seemed amiable to physical intimacy in the early years, but not nearly as much so now?
  • Can you enjoy sex with your husband without guilt, shame, or inhibition?
  • Do you often fantasize about being sexually or emotionally intimate with a different man than the one you married?

If you recognize that your sexual pendulum has swung too far to the left, or too far to the right, know that you are not alone. Over the past 20 years of speaking, countless women have declared to me, “Wow! Your story is just like my story!” If this storyline resonates with you as well, perhaps it’s time to carefully consider what may be keeping YOU from enjoying a vibrant, healthy sex life within your (current or future) marriage.

If you need someone to help you craft a happy ending to your sexual and emotional story, connect with a counselor, coach, or mentor. Or consider entering through the Women at the Well Workshop door yourself! What will you find inside? Acceptance. Love. Mercy. Grace. Wisdom. Insight. Inspiration. Peace. Confidence. Hope. All through relationships with other women on a similar journey. Because when we’ve been deeply wounded in relationships, we experience deep healing the same way – in relationship with others.

*****

Shannon Ethridge, M.A. is a Certified Life Coach, International Speaker, Co-Host of Sexy Marriage Radio, and Author of 22 books including the million-copy best-selling Every Woman’s Battle series, The Sexually Confident Wife, and The Passion Principles. Learn more about her books, coaching, and workshops at www.shannonethridge.com.