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One part of my “backstory”
I heard my name being called from the bedroom down the hallway. It served as our office for my business. It’s evening time. Only my wife and I are home. Our son has just left on a date with his girlfriend. He and his mom had a short but shocking conversation just before he left. I walk towards the room. I felt the tension in the room as I saw my wife. The tension that drives my heart rate up and my “fight or flight” response is fully charged.
I am confronted by my wife who has just been hit by betrayal. Betrayal implodes a person’s life from the inside. The air in the room is sucked away, and all that seemed to be “normal” is sucked away with it. Our son discovered my porn on our computer. Now my wife sees it, shows it to me and our lives are swept over in a flash fire of betrayal. I knew this day would eventually happen. I never wanted it to happen. Over the course of years compulsive and desperate behaviors had become an addiction that drove my every thought. I had constructed two lives. I was both Superman and kryptonite with only a thin layer of insanity separating the two. No sane person would attempt to live this way. If the thin, but highly layered insanity, ever broke down then my life and the lives of those around me would be torn apart. This was the night that the layers gave away.
My shattered and hidden life had become known. Now my wife’s life had been torn apart and her heart was shattered. There was only one choice that may lead to putting our lives back together. That choice was to seek help immediately. Two weeks prior to this I had an opportunity to make this same choice and I lied. But on this night, I chose to seek out help. My wife chose to walk out my recovery by seeking help for her shattered heart. In doing so we began the process of rebuilding our lives, our marriage, and our family.
Lila and I now live on the restored side of redemption. But the night that felt like a flash fire devasting our lives will never be forgotten. It is now a sacred place where God’s mercy and righteous judgment met together to forever change who we thought we were. There are many reasons why it’s sacred to me. One reason that I want to bring out is that God’s redemptive heart can bring new life in the most devastating places. To look at three aspects of how this works I like to look at one of the largest and longest living things God created, The Giant Sequoia Tree. This tree is helped to reproduce by fires that consume other plants and trees around it. What looks devasting is life producing. There are some lessons to be learned by this.
When a fire occurs in a grove of Giant Sequoia’s it punches a hole in the forest canopy allowing light to stream in. This sunlight will be used in the process. The fire heats the cones that are on the tree and they open; seeds rain down upon the ground. The ground is normally covered by leaves and vegetation. When the fire clears this out it allows the seeds to touch the soil so that when they germinate, they can root into the soil. After the winter snow the extra sunlight streaming in melts and warms the snow quickly giving the germinating seed moisture and warmth. In this simplified illustration we can see that what is devastating for some of the forest is life-producing for these large trees which may live 3,000 years.
The flash fire that swept through our lives that night opened a covered canopy in our lives. My secret life built on lies, deception and compulsive behavior was opened to the light. It was exposed to God’s light. What grew in the darkest areas of my life began to die in the light and fire of God. I was still attached to my life, so it was painful, but it was necessary. My wife saw clearly in the new light. She began to understand why all the anger was there. Why ours was a disconnected life. I began to see clearly. I didn’t want to look, but as I did, I began to see that I still had a path that could lead to a healthy life. The light was shocking, the glare was painful the fire seemed unbearable at times. but it was all needed.
2. Heat opens up
The “heat” that came with this opened many areas where my life that were closed off. Areas where I chose to keep others out. Areas where I had childhood trauma that I had covered over. The hard-shelled cones that life had built around these areas were responding to the heat by opening up. Stuff began to spill out. As they opened, they released their contents and I had to give up control of my life. The fire was so hot that the hardest cones in my life opened up and spilled out. I stayed in the fire. As I stayed with the process of the fire, I was surprised to find that there was some good seed trapped in the cones. The same cones that held back my ugliest pain also held back some of God’s choicest seed. My secrets had all become known. This was a redemptive work. God holds nothing back so his sons and daughters may be fully redeemed! We began to discover that God’s goodness was still with us and our true identities began to emerge.
3. The ground is cleared
The ground in our lives was leveled. The overgrowth and the dead wood was burned away. It was becoming clearer to see where we were and to feel the good soil that was at our feet. I could see hope again. I began to believe that my life could be rooted in God. We began to see that our marriage could be restored. The seeds were falling all around us in the form of new insights, encouragement, inner healing of old wounds, connecting with God and with each other. The emotions of love and care began to be felt. In fact, for me, all my emotions began to return. Me, as a healthy person, was emerging.
The cold and snow in our lives were becoming warm, moistening the ground where the new seedlings of hope, change, and new life was germinating and springing up. Some of the older growth of our lives had survived the fire and we saw that they may be scarred but they were also rooted deep into who God imagined us to be. Not all was lost, Our true identities were intact and were being uncovered. Our true identities were being highlighted. I began to live life from my true heart. The strength we found in being loved by God and loving Him back began this process of redemption, recovery, and restoration!
What looked like devastation when it happened became transformation. My hope is that this short blog post will place a bit of hope in any life that is going through the devastation of sexual acting out and the betrayal that it causes. When we were at that place, we looked for every bit of information we could find to get our lives back again. Many times what moved us forward in our redemptive process were the people we met. The mentors and group leaders that held nothing back in sharing their story of transformation. I remember how they would love me when I didn’t feel worthy of another person’s attention. I was shown connection and helped with how to heal and grow through life-stories others shared. God used real people to walk alongside me. I saw how others were overcame what they had to deal with.
One last observation
This is the thing about those Giant Sequoias. They are the largest living things on earth, some of the oldest too. But they thrive in groves. We live one and a half hours away from a trail in the Sequoia National Park that loops around hundreds of these trees. They grow only in this part of the world. I’ve hiked through these magnificent trees. They grow in groves as if they understand how important the community is. I know it’s important for us. So, lastly, remember, as humans created in God’s image, we are also created for community. Part of the healing journey of recovery, any recovery, includes understanding how to build and sustain lasting relationships with others. For those of us who have been hurt in relationships, this will be a deep part of the restoration that will give a lifetime of rewards.
February 6, 2019
New beginnings may seem fragile. Especially against the backdrop of crisis. My crisis was unwanted sexual behaviors. But this can apply to any unwanted crisis in a person's life. Discover the beauty of the seed and the hope of new beginnings when your life looks broken.
Selma, CA 93662-0297