Feels like freedom

Oh September. I try to ignore you. I really, really do.

And I was doing a pretty good job of it.

I mean, it’s usually around mid August, when the heaviness starts setting in. When I remember the date looming ahead, September 10th. The day life as I knew it irrevocably changed forever.

But this year, August was nearly over and I realized that I really hadn’t thought about it. That’s when it suddenly struck me how well we are doing. How far we’ve come. How far I’VE come.

How quiet the hum just underneath the surface has gotten. That hum used to be such a roar, I could barely focus on anything else. The thoughts and the pain, they not only ran through a never ending loop in my mind, but they seemed to course through my veins, seeping into every part of my existence. I learned to push it back, to try and drown it out so that I could function in a halfway normal manner for all outward appearances. But it was still SO loud for what seemed like so long.

I’m not sure exactly when it got so much quieter. I can’t really pin point it. I think it was so slow, so gradual, I just didn’t notice it. I mean, I did notice. I knew there had been healing. I knew it got easier. But I hadn’t really noticed the stark distance between where we were and where we are. I hadn’t really noticed the gradual lessening of the hum.

Most of the time, it’s nothing more than a faint whisper now. Echoes of the past. I don’t suppose it ever completely leaves you.

But to know it won’t always be so loud, so painfully loud, well, it feels…kind of like freedom.

Maybe not freedom in the sense that it has no bearing on you anymore. It certainly still affects the present sometimes. But sometimes maybe freedom isn’t necessarily a release from something, as much as it is learning to live your best life in spite of something. Learning to make the most of the changes it brought. Learning to live through it, and launch from it.

Maybe freedom is actually acceptance. Maybe, freedom is merely growth.

Maybe, freedom is simply gained not by trying to forget, or pretend as though that bad thing never happened, but maybe it’s in the ability….no, the insistence of moving forward in search of the good.

It definitely shaped the person I am today. In good ways and bad. It tore me down. Stripped me of almost everything I believed to be real. Shattered my heart.

It broke me.

EVERY SINGLE part of me.

But I survived it.

WE survived it.

I put myself back together. Although the pieces didn’t fit quite the same anymore. There were cracks. So many cracks. But if you allow it, God can fill those cracks with goodness. The cracks are still there, and you can still see the seams of every single one.

I’ll never be the same.

But eventually you won’t see the emptiness through the cracks anymore. Just the goodness shining through.

And sometimes, there’s goodness that was already hidden underneath the cracks. Gifts and talents and wisdom that’s always been there, but has been locked away, waiting for the outer layers to be torn away so it can rise to the surface.

I had to choose that. I had to choose to either dwell in those empty broken places, or let Him both draw out what was hidden away beneath them or fill them in with something I was missing. And if today, you are the one that is broken, at some point you will have to choose too.

Not all at once. But little by little, after you’ve spent some time exploring those broken pieces of yourself, and taking the time to grieve the parts you lost, you will have to decide if you want to dwell there, in that dark broken place, or if you want to look for the goodness to come. You have to choose to allow God to fill that space in, even when you’re not sure how it could possibly be filled. No, it won’t happen quickly, or all of a sudden. But your time will come. Your deafening hum will get quieter. You’ll suddenly realize that it isn’t so hard anymore.

That life can be good again.

Broken is hard. Shattered is painful. Being torn down is nothing less than completely devastating.

But being torn down is sometimes the only way to be built into your full potential. Being shattered is sometimes the only way to release the things hidden away inside of you.

And sometimes, broken is beautiful.

Because sometimes, broken is the only true way to wholeness.

Sometimes the broken you is the only way to the best you.

I woke up a few days ago, finally feeling the heavy pull of September. Feeling the pull of darker days; echoes of that awful September day three years ago, and the excruciating days that followed it, calling out to me. Drawing me back like some giant magnet into a dark hole. That hum that I had just recently realized was so quiet, threatening to get loud again. The images, the memories, trying to force their way in.

There’s no peace for you, they say.

You don’t get to be a normal couple, they say.

You’ll always be broken, they say.

And the worst one….

I can ruin you again, they say.

But I fight not to listen. Not to let the lies settle in to my spirit. I fight back with the truths that I’ve hidden away there.

It’s not easy. Because those whispers feel like loud, unavoidable truth sometimes.

Sometimes it feels like those dreams you have where you try to scream but you can’t get the sound out, or you try to fight but you’re frozen and can’t move.

So you have to dig deep, and let God’s truths you’ve hidden away in your heart speak for you until you find your strength and your voice again.

Because God says that He heals the broken-hearted, and He binds up our wounds.

Because God says no weapon formed against us shall prosper.

Because God says He gives us a new heart.

Because God says He makes a way for us in the wilderness.

Because God says He will make all our paths straight.

Because God says He is for us.

Because God says He knows the plans He has for us, and they are always, always good.

Because God says what He has joined together, let no one tear apart.

Because God says we are more than conquerors.

Because He says He makes all things new.

Because He says He will give us a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.

Because God says let the redeemed of the Lord say so.

And I SAY so.

I am redeemed.

WE ARE REDEEMED.

So take that, September. Take your darkness. Take your sadness. Take your bad memories. Take your anxiety. Take your deafening hum.

You had your day. And that day has passed.

You tore us down, but He built us up.

You took away everything we had and everything we were, but He replaced it with something far better.

You won the battle on that dark September day, but Jesus, grace, and love,

Love won the war.

Matthew 7:25

The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.

❤️

Amy Thurston Gordy

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The Common Thread. Let’s talk about it.

Over the past few months, as I’ve written this blog and told our story, I have received many, many messages. People have reached out not only to offer their support, but to share their own stories. As we have listened to these stories, it’s become increasingly evident that a majority of the stories that are similar to ours, almost all have a common thread.

Pornography addiction.

After Jeff and I had many conversations this week on this very subject, discussing the need for people to feel safer talking about it and asking for help, a video popped up on my Facebook newsfeed. It was the actor Terry Crews, sharing his own personal battle with porn. That was all the affirmation I needed that it was time. It’s time to talk about it. His bravery and honesty is something we need more of. I don’t know him personally, but I couldn’t help but feel so proud of him. For putting himself out there, for risking his reputation to help others. I personally don’t believe he was risking his reputation though. If anything, in my eyes, he exponentially improved it. There is nothing more beautiful than a repentant heart that allows God’s goodness to wash over and pour out of them. But still, to put his darkest secret out there for all to see, was a scary thing. This I know for a fact.
It’s something that no one wants to talk about. They are embarrassed. They are ashamed. They are afraid of the way people will judge them, and gossip about them. They are afraid of losing people’s respect. Or maybe, just maybe, as much as they think sometimes that they wish they could be free of this dark secret, they really aren’t ready to give it up. And the women in their lives don’t want to talk about it either. Or they do but they don’t feel like they can. They are also embarrassed. They are also ashamed. They are afraid of how people will view their husbands if they knew. And they are afraid of how others will view them. “She must not be enough to satisfy her husband. If she took care of him this wouldn’t be an issue.” So many fears. So many lies. And so much destruction.

I’ve known about Jeff’s porn addiction for years. It’s been the biggest struggle in our marriage. Although up until recently, he wouldn’t have admitted that. You see, in his mind, he wasn’t hurting anyone. The porn addiction tells you that it’s normal. It tells you that how your spouse feels about it doesn’t matter, because it has nothing to do with them. It tells you that you need it. Then it tells you that you need more. As you progress in your addiction, you find that the images get less and less satisfying as you become desensitized, and so you find yourself searching further into depravity. Unfortunately , for so many, it eventually spills over into real life. You really believed you would never cross that line. But then here is someone, offering themselves up to you. The flirting, then the naked pictures. Then the proposition of a secret rendezvous. You aren’t sure how you ended up here. And you know you shouldn’t. But the addiction tells you this is what you need. You can actually partake of this fantasy world that you’ve created in your mind. You are entitled to this. Your wife will never find out. No one will get hurt. You deserve to have this.

The addiction tells you that your wife can’t or won’t keep up with these needs. The truth is, your wife feels so objectified and devalued, so insignificant and unimportant. You’ve created a world for her in which she is forced to compete with this unrealistic fantasy world of yours. You’ve created a world for her in which she is never enough.  Maybe you’re so deep in this addiction that you feel the need to look at porn before going to bed with your wife. Because the addiction has told you that she isn’t enough. And that you aren’t enough of a man without it. And so you’ve created a world where she knows that your affection is not about her. It’s about what you were looking at before you came to her. You’ve created a world where she is just the means to an end. Where she questions herself everyday:”Why am I never enough?” This is the world your porn addiction has created for her. And yet you can’t figure out why she doesn’t want to be intimate with you all the time. You are too blinded by your addiction to see how much pain you are causing. Your mind has been so inundated with unrealistic expectations and untruths that you aren’t really even capable of true intimacy anymore. And the saddest thing about that is, you don’t even realize what you’re missing.

And the lies. So many lies. Sometimes you feel bad about all the lies. Deep down, living with that deception is what causes your anxiety issues. But you’ve gotten really good at it. Every time you get caught, you get a little better at hiding it. You get a little better at convincing her that you do see that it needs to stop, and that you will. And maybe you do, for a little bit. A part of you wants to. But you never really let it go. You can’t quite let it go. It’s got you. And so you lie some more. By the time you are on the edge of an affair, the lying has become such second nature to you, that it’s really not even all that difficult. And your mind has been conditioned to believe that this is how things are supposed to be. It’s no big deal.

But it is a big deal. Pornography is a thief. It steals your time. It steals your dignity. It steals your integrity. It steals your honor. It steals your intimacy. It steals your relationships. It steals your identity, it keeps you there in its chains, so that you are unable to reach the potential of the person you are intended to be. It’s so dark there, that you can’t even see it, how bad things have gotten. You’ve filled your mind with so much trash, that you can’t see the truth anymore. You can’t see who you truly are. You can’t see the treasure that your wife truly is. You can’t see the blessings right in front of you.

It’s time to wake up. It’s time to see the damage and the toll this addiction is taking not just on you, but everyone around you.

“Oh, but I’m fine” you say. Yeah, Jeff said that too. “I know my boundaries” you say. Yep, he said that too.

Years before his affair ever happened, I found the story of a friend of a friend, named Cindy Beall. Her husband had a porn addiction too that eventually led to him having affairs. She has a blog, and has written a book about their story. I highly recommend y’all look it up. I discussed it with Jeff years ago, and told him I was so afraid we would end up there. He assured me we would not. He truly believed that he could control it. That he would never do what Cindy’s husband did. Don’t fall into that same trap. An addiction not dealt with doesn’t go away. It always, always gets worse. You may think you can control it, but the truth is that you won’t realize how far you can fall until you’ve already fallen.

I’m gonna stop right there and speak to you ladies. And this is important. You are MORE than enough. Hold tight to that, and when those thoughts of inadequacy sneak in, see them for the lies that they are and squash them. You have been and always will be more than enough. His addiction has blinded him from seeing you. From truly seeing the treasure that you are. But just because he can’t see it right now doesn’t make you any less of a treasure. You’re going to need to come back and re-read this paragraph over and over again. I know, because even though sometimes I could remember this and know it to be true, it was and sometimes still is so, so easy to let those feelings sneak back in and get the best of me. Your husbands addiction has affected you in ways you know, and in ways that you aren’t even aware of yet, and your recovery is just as important as his. It’s important that you reach out and find trustworthy people to talk to and resources to help you heal from the wounds in your heart, mind, and spirit.

It’s time that more people step up and tell their story. It’s time for us to bring what we have hidden away and put it out in the light of day. It’s time for people to know that they are not alone. It’s time to remove the stigmas and remove the shame that keeps you there, hiding in that dark place. It’s time to be bold. God doesn’t look at your past. God looks at your heart. It doesn’t matter what you’ve done, what matters is where you go from here. So let go of that shame. Replace it with the freedom and the happiness that comes from moving towards being the best person you can be. You are worthy of being that person. This life of bondage and shame is not what you deserve. You can have a life of freedom and joy. You can be the husband and father your family deserves. It’s going to take commitment. You have to be willing to do the work. But the rewards are endless.

It’s time to be brave. Let’s create a community where it is safe to reveal your “dirty little secret”. Where it is not met with judgement or scolding, but with compassion and love. Talk to someone. Find someone that you can trust that you can be accountable to. There are resources out there. Books, videos, websites that have a wealth of information on how to break free. And there are people like Jeff and I that are walking this road of recovery before you, who will gladly share what we have learned and are still learning. This is how we win this battle. This is how we take our lives back. This is how we get the life of freedom that God intended for all of us. This is how you become a man that is capable of truly and fully loving, that is capable of real and fulfilling intimacy and relationship.

Come and join us out here in the light. Things are so much better out here.

Amy Thurston Gordy