In a few days, I will be celebrating my 16th wedding anniversary. This, my friends, is nothing short of a miracle! I'm usually very careful not to drag the issues of my family members into my musings here, but my husband has agreed to a certain amount of revelation for the sake of encouragement and truth.
We became aware of our issues pretty early on in our marriage, but bumbled unhappily along for years, occasionally trying to make changes. It became a pattern, every couple of years or so, to have a huge blow-up of some kind, then the talking and crying and praying and vowing that things would be different this time...but nothing ever really changed.
Well, we finally accepted the fact that we needed outside help to sort through our issues; that we simply couldn't carry on like this anymore. It was do or die, as far as we were concerned. And so, we started seeing a counsellor, much to our shame and embarrassment at the time. It wasn't too far into our sessions that our counsellor determined that she needed to see me on my own for a bit. (Chris has been bravely and deliberately dealing with his issues for the last 4 years and growing like crazy - I guess I had some catching up to do :) )
Turns out that this was exactly what was needed. Thanks to a wise and Spirit-guided counsellor, I found out all kinds of things that had to be identified, confessed, and broken off. So many lies I'd been believing for so long that they were before now undetectable, about myself and God especially. Underlying all of this was a heavy load of shame, so much a part of me that it had essentially become my identity; the filter by which I viewed and lived all of my life.
Then, this wise woman had me picture in my mind exactly what this shame looked like that has been covering me and negatively affecting everything from self-image to relationships for most of my life. (I've mentioned here in a previous post how God revealed this shame thing to me a few months ago, and that I'd made some progress in understanding the issue but very little in overcoming it.) As skeptical as I might be about this kind of exercise, a picture came to me immediately - a huge, filthy, heavy, tattered, grimy, suffocating blanket wrapped tightly around me, covering me from head to toe. We then asked God to take it and destroy it once and for all and replace it with His truth. And He did! She asked me what He had replaced it with, and I saw another picture right away: myself in a garment of sparkling, glowing, glittering white; perfectly fitted and beautiful! This vision, this gift, and the unbounded love and absolute acceptance that accompanied it, reduced me to tears of pure delight. It was an amazing experience, and I left full of joy and feeling free as I never had before, but still underneath it all a nagging doubt that it couldn't last, that I couldn't really change...
The next morning, the shame was still gone, the freedom was still there - much to my surprise and delight! On my way home from driving my son to school, I was singing and praying and rejoicing in this beautiful freedom, when God clearly spoke. He asked me what was holding me back now from forgiving my husband (and myself) for the past and fully engaging in this marriage relationship. I had no answer - NOTHING was holding me back! It was like a rebirth.
And without going into too much detail, the days since that day have been AMAZING! While we're both a bit wary lest it fade, we're trusting God to help our unbelief and sustain us in all this wonderful change. Real joy, indeed!