We all have a story. I do, you do, my weird neighbor who shovels the snow off of his lawn does – we all have a story. Over the years I have become very comfortable sharing our story of sexual addiction; the story of my husband’s transgressions, my responses, and God’s grace. I didn’t used to be comfortable sharing our story. I thought that my story, the story of a sex addict’s wife, was dark and ugly. It scared me. Not only did it scare me, but I was sure it would scare others too. Rather than share my real story, my authentic story, I recreated one that I thought people would like better. One that would make people like me better. I became a living, breathing, in the flesh Pick-A-Path book.
Do you remember those? Each story had multiple endings, and the outcome of the story depended on the decisions that you chose for the main character at different points in the book. I loved them. As I moved through the early years of our marriage I would pause at all of my critical decision points trying to decide which path to take. Should I be true to myself and the life, family, and circumstances that God had given me by revealing to others the painful addiction that was infecting our lives? Or should I pick a different path – an alternate ending? The choice was usually quite simple: I wanted a different story. Frankly, I wanted someone else’s story, and at each of those decision points I would hold my breath, turn the page and step away from my adventure and into my fantasy. In the fantasy, I would be the perfect wife, the perfect mom, and the perfect woman in the perfect marriage, and in the perfect church. I picked the path that would allow me to hide abandonment, addiction, betrayal and all of the other parts of my story that I believed were ugly and unflattering. I hid what was really happening out of fear and obligation while pretending that my marriage was ok.
Somewhere along the way, my perception of my story changed. It wasn’t the result of an altar call or flashing lights or tragedy. I think it was just the stuff of life — the process, if you will. We decided to share our story with a few trusted people, and when that went well we shared with a few more. Then something crazy started to happen, other authentic people started sharing their lives with us, and the paths they picked — paths full of hurt, addiction, broken marriages, restoration, reconciliation, and rejoicing — weren’t ugly or scary. They were vibrant and beautiful narratives that made my fake, paper doll life look flat and boring. When we opened ourselves to other people’s stories and allowed them to hear ours I could feel my story beginning to change and become re-formed. I started to see what the Spirt could do in authentic community. It changes lives and gives voice to our stories.
I was having a conversation about this with a good friend the other night, a friend whose honesty and boldness encourages me more then she knows, and she reminded me of a verse that I had forgotten. The first part of Revelation 12:11 reads; “They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony.” What an amazing reminder for those of us who struggle with sharing the truth of our experiences with others. The only things strong enough to overcome the enemy are the blood of Jesus and our personal testimony. There is so much power in our experience when we share our story with others. Tonight I pray that each of us, as wives on this journey, would know the power of our story and that we would have at least one person in our lives to share it with.