7 years ago, our life took a turn. Our life of 'perfection', 'love', 'romance', 'marriage', 'Christianity', and so many other adjectives that we would have used to describe it, took a terrible, horrific turn. All of the adjectives used to describe our marriage became questionable, some of them false, and our entire life became a huge mess. Life, the world, and our marriage collided. Our marriage seemed to have lost.
I remember the day like it just happened 5 minutes ago. I was home with a 6 month old baby and Tony called saying he was coming home early. I could not have been more thrilled! It was a cool January evening and fun baby time and dinner along with just time together was always welcome! It turned out, though, that he was not coming home early because he wanted to but because he had just lost his job. That's right. His stable, provides an income and health insurance, consistent paycheck, moving up the ladder job was over. The life we knew was over. Boy do I wish the story ended there and we picked up and moved on to another job.
There's more to the story. You see, Tony didn't just loose his job because of downsize or even because of an unfair situation. Tony lost his job due to a choice of his that started when he was much younger. Beginning at a young age, Tony became one of the 68% of young men that viewed pornography at least once a week. This 'quick glance' became a full fledged addiction. I knew that I was marrying a man that walked a fine line of 'looking at it a little too much' but what wife and woman doesn't think that she will be the end to this situation!?!? Besides, why would he look at pornography again, when he has me to look at all the time, right? At least this is what I thought.... until I got that phone call.
I then realized that pornography wasn't just a casual thing. It wasn't just hopping on a website, like I hop onto Google. This was an addiction and it was going to ruin my life and destroy my marriage. Our family had been sacrificed to this god of modern age technology. I wanted to die. I wanted to kill Tony first. I wanted to run away. I wanted a divorce. I wanted Tony to be well. I wanted to help him fix this. I wanted all of these things, plus millions of more things..... and I wanted them all for naught. It seemed as though all of what I wanted spiraled into a black hole of nothingness to never be seen or heard from again.
My stability was gone. My love was crushed. My spirit was broken. My faith was shaken. The months and years to come were a huge question mark. Would Tony chose to get well and get help or chose to be content where he was? Would I chose to take responsibility for the things that I could be responsible for and the things that I could do on my own and grow closer to God and grow from this on my own? Oh the agony and oh the heartache.
In this time, I can't tell you what I did. I can't tell you how I made it months on end at the end of my rope. I can't tell you the shame I felt, the lack of self confidence that I suffered with, the betrayal that I experienced and so many other things during this time. I also can't say that the decision to seek help and counseling and to better ourselves were always for the right reasons. I can just say that every day I look back, and I thank God for directing my steps each day. I would be a liar if I said that I actually LISTENED and OBEYED each direction God put me in but overall, I was able, somehow to make it to the other side of the pit of Hell.
Fast forward through months and years of counseling, Celebrate Recovery, hard conversations, relapse, fights, tough decisions on both of our part, and you will find a couple that literally walked through the valley of the shadow of death, not just feared evil but saw it, experienced it, and walked hand in hand with it at times. We had many fights in the midst of the healing. Hard conversations were drudged through with gritted teeth, tears, and clenched fists. Brokenness was revealed in both of our lives - brokenness that needed healing between each of us and our Maker as well as acceptance and patience from each other. I learned how to love myself and not depend on Tony as my source of love and purpose. I learned that there are things in life that you can be in control of and then there are those things that you are at the mercy of. I also learned that I am responsible for my reactions, my responses, my attitude, my job as a wife - I am responsible for ME. Don't confuse this with me saying that what he did was ok, excusable, or anything else of that sort, but that there is always one factor that I was responsible for and that factor was me. I knew that if in the end, things didn't work out for a plethora of reasons, that I would have to still be responsible for myself in the midst of it. I knew that my becoming a better woman of God, mom, wife, person, friend, etc mattered and that I was 100% responsible for me - not Tony.
So why today? Why tell our story? Well, it hasn't been a secret - free to anyone who has asked - but there is such a lack of transparency in the overall Christian Church. There is such a need for real stories to be told - stories that are ugly, hard, full of hate and despair, but in the end have the grace and freedom that only Jesus can write into a story such as ours. Jesus - He is the real reason for this story! He is the part of our story that MILLIONS of people and couples struggling with pornography in their marriage need to know that Jesus is in their story too. He is the part of our story that those trapped in the lies of pornography need to know that Jesus is THE TRUTH. He is the reason that there is freedom in transparency. Jesus is why the lie of 'they are a sweet innocent young couple' can't stand and real ministry can happen. We care passionately and hold our story with a holy reverence because we know the magnitude and reality that Jesus carried us through the valley of the shadow of death. He transformed each of our hearts in a way that even our friends admit that we aren't the same people but better on the other side of this. We aren't perfect - we argue almost every day about something - but we know that what we have in our marriage is a jewel - a gift from God. A gift poured out on us not to squander by staying silent about His power and majesty but a gift he expects us to share with the world through encouragement and love.