Friday, March 27, 2009


I have recently decided to step up into a social experience I formerly thought only reserved for the hoity-toity...I am joining a Book Club, and I'm really looking forward to it. The book we are reading is Nickle and Dimed, by Barbara Ehrenreich, and I think the book club might be a good way to ameliorate a story that is interesting, but a bit depressing.

My reading was interrupted last night by a brief conversation with my husband about his job status, and when he left I finally shed some tears*, admitting that I felt worried about our financial future, and that I felt lonely and sad for being married to someone I don't feel like I connect to. When I was discovering the word ameliorate above, I came across this quote:
In every human being there is a wish to ameliorate his own condition. --Macaulay.
So many times I am baffled that this presupposed posture of "every human being" seems to be void in my husband....a characteristic of addicts. I am secretly thrilled when he looks in the mirror at his gut and claims to be unsatisfied with the pounds he's packed on in the last year at his new desk job. Maybe-- just maybe-- he will attempt some self-improvement!

But alas, I should focus so much energy into my own self-improvement. And with that, I'm going to go run on the treadmill, take the kids somewhere fun, and stop eating rice crispies just for the texture.

*Recently my emotions wait in the wings like an impending food poisoning which leaves you lying awake in bed for the final signal to run to the toilet. I wish it would just come so I can hurl and get it over with, but I cannot simply will it to rise to the surface so I just feel miserable and try to ignore it until the bug takes it's course.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Too Late...(?)

I don't know how I stopped on the country station the other day (I'm not a fan of the country music) but I was surprised by this song that embodies how I'm feeling in my marriage right now.

I honestly don't think my husband understands the gravity of betraying my trust so...many...times. I think because I'm not punishing him with anger and banishment right now, he actually thinks he's....I don't know how to put it. In the game? But I feel like those last lies eradicated the last remaining shred of hope I had for him, for a decent marriage, for a normal relationship where trust and respect abide.

Of the four loves, eros has been completely destroyed, like the paper target at a carnival shooting booth, the ragged pieces scattered in the dirt. My husband stands holding the smoking rifle, not understanding what he has killed.

He lays down more money.

"Tha's the only target we had!" says the carnie, as he shuts down the booth, taking down the sign, stocking up ammo on the shelf. The sun is setting, families are laughing, leaving with their cotton candy. Cars fire up and amble out of the bumpy parking field. My husband stands with a half-smile, feeling like he should put down the gun but not quite knowing why. "What about my prize?" he asks.

"No prizes fer what you done. Park's closed. We done here. Come back tomorrah!" The carnie grabs the rifle and lets down the awning, disappearing from sight.

My husband turns and the sun is gone. A piece of the target flutters past his boot. "No prize..." he mumbles. Park's closed. We're done here.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

My Body: Unadorned Clay Pot

"For God, who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body." (2 Corinthians 4.6-11)

One of the discussion questions at the women's forum this weekend was, "In what ways have you seen beauty show up in pain?" The obvious answer for me was childbirth. The birth of a child has got to be the most straight-forward, downright, most miraculous and wonderful result of pain on the planet. I can't think of anything that compares.

Although a close second would be the worst hike I ever took: 6 miles straight up a mountain in Austria. There were blisters, tears, hunger, burning lungs, lots of spitting, willing the legs to move when I couldn't feel them anymore. But then when we got to the top of the range..... It left me speechless. Angels were singing. A cool breeze waft across my sweaty brow and I stood there shaking, mouth agape as before me in all directions were layers upon layers of mountain summits, their colors fading from the dirt and grass I stood on to smokey purple and fuchsia and gold as far as the eye could see. To this day, it was the most beautiful, serene thing I have ever laid eyes on. That view made the day's torturous trek not only worth it, but a victorious testimony of what my physical body was capable of. -Ha! I was nowhere near dead! It was my spirit that has a tendency to be weak and vulnerable; my attitude that is shaky. That's why I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me! (Phil. 4.13)

But the most significant, meaningful way I've seen beauty show up in pain has been in the way God has taken my broken, wounded, betrayed and sinful heart and saved it. Changed it. Renamed it. Redeemed it.

In my previous post I explained this clay pot I live in. The skin I'm in. My shell. It's not my best feature.
In living with an addict, I have been majorly stressed out, confused and uncertain, definitely abused, disrespected and taken advantage of, and my heart has been dealt repeated blows. But each pain I have felt has also been carried by Jesus on the cross (plus those of the rest of humanity). I believe that is what it means that we carry around in our body the death of Jesus.

But Jesus didn't stay down. Jesus conquered death! Jesus is alive and he is inside of me, as promised!
So, I may be an unadorned, clay pot....but check out my strengths:
  • I am at ease, composed, emboldened, proud, reassured, fixed, whole, connected (not crushed!)
  • I have confidence, faith, cheerfulness, hapiness, hope, joy and trust (not despair!)
  • I have been adopted, cherished, defended, maintained, supported (not abandoned!)
  • I am intact, protected, restored...saved (not destroyed!) (...and thank you,!)
This is the life of Jesus, being revealed in my clay pot...after being devastated by betrayal. There were times when I prayed for God to just take my life because the pain was so great. I remember late one night after a major disclosure, on an errand to the drug store in a sketchy part of town, thinking it wouldn't matter if I were raped and stabbed and left for dead, because I couldn't imagine a betrayal and pain worse than the one I'd just suffered.

I'm telling you, if you can't remember anything about the Bible, if you know nothing else, remember this: Jesus carried the burden of the whole world's sins on the cross: He died in my place. And then rose from the dead. And is alive still. It's so simple! The pain of the whole world's betrayal is worse than the pain and betrayal I have suffered, that's what is worse. And because he lives, so can I.

Beauty from pain!

My Body: Enthralled

Today I went to a forum for women at my church entitled "What is it to Have a Women's Body?" This is the blurb about it:
The female form often stands judged, critiqued, and condemned. How can our physicality be known, nurtured, and celebrated? Age, vigor, beauty... history, hurts, and illness. Join other women to examine our flesh and bones from all angles, and seek a sense of health and peace as you live in your own skin.
I wish I had spoken up more. There were a few girls at my table who had enough things to say that filled up the time, but for me, the discussion questions were so loaded, I didn't know where I would start, or how much I could get out coherently before we were cut short by the next speaker. By the time I got up the nerve to start speaking, time was up. Maybe this is what "older and wiser" actually is: life has dealt you so much experience, you just don't know where to start. So you keep your mouth shut.

Not that I'm older and wiser. Yeah...sometimes I'm older, sometimes I'm not. Sometimes I find others are "none the wiser" and I know a whole world of things I wish I didn't. But let me remind myself that it's how much I let God use that to change me, and to see things from His perspective that qualifies me as "wiser".

Another reason I didn't speak up was because I didn't know if my answers were 100% relevant to the forum. People were talking about back pain and surgeries, and all I could think about was how my crazy journey of a thousand betrayals has changed the way I view God and my body and my spirit, and how it is all intermingled. How I have been exposed and humiliated and vulnerable in front of strangers, naked before God in my little sewn-together fig leaves. How He has clothed me in a different skin, and given me contact lenses to see better.

So...this is my do-over. I'll write it all out here, and it will hopefully make more sense in this context anyway. I'll start with the little souvenir the host of my table left us: a flowery bookmark with a verse on it that has, ironically, been a key part of my journey.
"The king is enthralled by your beauty;
honor him, for he is your lord." Ps. 45.11
The use of "lord" there is also translated as "husband" and is the same word Sarah used for Abraham in Genesis. God is speaking to us as the bride of Christ; Psalm 45 is a wedding song. I can't remember when it was exactly, but a few years ago a friend of mine gave me that verse, printed out in a cheap silver frame that didn't match my decor at all. I remember thinking that I needed so desperately to believe those words, that I didn't care what they were written on. I put it up where I could see it every day, in the bathroom, where I was most critical of myself; next to the toothbrushes, so I couldn't ignore it. I resolved to read those words every day until I believed them, thanking God that it was true, confessing my disbelief.

Oh, how I struggled with those words. Let's just start with beauty. Now, I knew there's wasn't a single thing beautiful about me. Well, my eyes were ok. And sometimes I had a good hair day. But I was fat and lumpy after having four children, every inch of my skin had some blemish on it. I could go on and on. And as for inner beauty, I was angry, lazy, depressed, and perverted. One of the things that has grieved me the most has been the sexual immorality I adopted in order to rationalize the changes I saw in my husband. I wanted so badly to have his love and attention, I intuitively knew that demoralizing myself was the way to get it. But in the end, even that didn't work, and I was left feeling ugly to the core.

And yet I knew I was a child of God. If He says I have beauty, there must be a shred of something He is clinging to. After all, when God created man, he made him in the likeness of God. (Gen. 5.1) I was sure I was nothing like God...and I really couldn't wrap my mind around beauty being about anything other than the body. My husband had abandoned a relationship with my heart and soul and was abusing his own, and all that was left to attract his attention was my body, and like I said, that was an ugly mess. I had fallen hook, line and sinker for every lie the culture tells about the woman's body, and was convinced I was pretty much the opposite of beauty. Every important man in my life had confirmed these lies as true, and I knew my mom believed them too. I'm pretty sure I can safely say I was at zero hope for ever posessing beauty, much less enthralling anyone with it.

But here was God, telling me I had it, and that He was enthralled. Enthralled? That's a pretty strong word. But then there's that second half of the verse: honor him, for he is your lord. I know God doesn't lie. If He thinks something is beautiful, then it is. Even if I don't see it. And by trying to believe God's word-- even if I don't see how it's true-- I knew that would somehow be honoring him, as weak of an effort as that was.

Eventually, these baby steps toward God brought me into the light, and God started to heal what was broken in my spirit. As I believed more and more that God loved me, I began to regard whatever little beauty I had as something God wanted me to honor Him with. If I used my body to appeal to a man who was living in darkness, that meant I had to go into that darkness myself. Contrasted with the enthralled gaze of my lord, I started to need my husband's distracted attention less and less, and I would slowly stop pursuing his approval...