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THE INVISIBLE BONDHow to Break Free from Your Sexual Past
By Barbara Wilson
Multnomah PublishersCopyright © 2006 Barbara Wilson
All right reserved.
Chapter OneDIARY OF A BONDED HEART My Story
Everyone has a story. I never knew that. I thought I was the only one. For twenty-five years I never told anyone my story, and no one told me theirs.
No one else could be this sinful, I told myself. Especially not my Christian friends.
Week in and week out, I served in church with these dear friends, prayed with them, socialized with them, and even shared burdens with them in small groups. But no one told me their secrets. So there weren't any, right?
Wrong. Everyone has a story. But no one is telling it.
That all changed when I began to tell my story. Suddenly everyone was revealing their secrets with me-tales that made mine seem less traumatic in comparison. I was amazed.
What keeps us silent? I began to wonder. Why can't we be honest? And why now, when I open up, do others feel comfortable doing the same?
I've discovered that keeping secrets is Satan's idea, and being open and honest is God's. Doing it Satan's way means wearing a mask every day, everywhere. God's way means we can be real, open, and honest. All the time. Keeping secrets isolates us from God and others and leaves us at the mercy of Satan's condemnation, which further sealsour silence, convincing us that we must never share our secret.
Telling our stories breaks the grip of the secret, diffusing its power. Exposing the secret makes it shrink, while hiding it allows it to grow bigger and uglier. Keeping silent means we bear the load alone. Opening up allows others to share our burden, our pain, our shame. Silence inhibits healing; openness facilitates it.
Every time someone shares their secret with me, I can't help becoming excited for them, because I know they are taking the first step towards healing. Not only do I have the awesome privilege of offering God's grace and compassion-as others did for me-but I get to relieve them of some of their burden.
Patty wanted to meet me out on the dark, cold patio. It was 10 p.m., and she had waited for over an hour. She was about to share something with me that no one else knew.
She could hardly look me in the eye. As I held her hand, she told me a gruesome story of pornography and homosexual experimenting, all while she was married. At first she was hesitant, but I saw her hope and confidence grow as she realized that I was going to accept her anyway, even when I had heard the worst. She hadn't intended to tell me everything-just the vague basics. But God's grace through me gave her the courage to get it all out-every last, ugly detail.
By the time we were finished talking and praying two hours later, Patty had changed. She still had problems and a lot of work to do before she'd be free of her invisible bonds. But her countenance had changed. She looked more relaxed, more at peace, and more hopeful. God had taken some of her burden and taken it on Himself, and for the first time in many years, Patty knew she wasn't alone. She had finally discovered hope of forgiveness and healing.
Patty took the first step towards healing when she yielded to God's Spirit, urging her to tell someone.
It wasn't very long ago that I took that same step. And as God promised, He's proven faithful, working out complete healing in my life.
You have a story. Maybe no one knows what it is, because you haven't told it. The fact that you're reading this book means that God has been tugging at your heart.
I'm excited for you. You're about to take the first step towards something wonderful, something miraculous-the burden-lifting, secret-shrinking, healing grace of God.
A Series of Unintended Events
I never planned for any of it to happen. Not like this. And certainly not with him.
That was my problem right there-I didn't plan. I've since heard that great line: "No one plans to fail; they fail to plan." I can't think of a better description for my life.
I was raised in a Christian home in Canada, with a stay-at-home mom and a Baptist pastor father. When I was seven, I gave my heart to Jesus and began an incredible walk with Him. As early as fourth and fifth grade, I began to share my faith openly. I conspicuously brought my Bible to school and kept it on my desk. In high school, I started a student Bible study, and at fifteen began my public speaking experience at a Christian summer camp. My relationship with God was everything to me.
Then one day I chose to walk away from God.
I didn't mean to. I wasn't even aware that I was doing it.
In the fall of 1974 my parents planned to send my brother to a Christian high school two provinces away. (Provinces are the "states" of Canada.) It sounded like a fun adventure, an opportunity to see beyond my tiny town-population two hundred. I asked if I could go, too. My parents agreed. And so off I went, full of enthusiasm and hope.
Ignorant of the consequences, I began to make some choices that determined the direction of my life for the next several years. I'm still not sure how it happened, but the love and desire of my life was directed away from God and toward a handsome young man. We met at a Christian school, so in my clouded thinking I assumed he was God's choice for me. I gave up everything for this man's love: my virginity, my family, my home, my faith, and my morals. I began to travel down a road that I had never imagined possible-a road that would take me to the bottom.
After graduation, against my parents' wishes, I ran away to be with my boyfriend. At first we lived together, and then at the tender age of eighteen, we secretly tied the knot in a little wedding chapel across the border in Idaho. As the months went on, I began to regret what I had done and knew that I had made a terrible mistake. So two years later, a humbled and broken young woman found her way back home. I was filled with regret for the pain I had caused my parents, and shame for how my misguided relationship had started. Under this unrelenting emotional burden, I bought into the enemy's lie that I had already traveled too far down this road to turn back. It was too late. No one, I thought, would accept me now.
I wasn't expecting to feel so alone and empty after leaving my husband. But rather than going to God-the only One who could fulfill my need for love and intimacy-I began to live a dual life. I lived one existence during the week and another on Sunday. Six days a week, I tried to satisfy my relational hunger in the arms of other men. I was oblivious to the danger of my actions until the day I heard the words, "You're pregnant."
A truckload of emotions slammed into me-fear, disbelief, regret, denial. I could not have this baby. First of all, I was a preacher's kid, accountable to a higher set of standards than others. And I was still married, caught in a divorce process that would take three years.
I had already broken my parents' hearts once. If they discovered my pregnancy, it would devastate them all over again. So it was "the pregnancy" that had to go.
After all, I reasoned half-heartedly, it's only a blob of tissue. Right?
Isn't that what everyone said? Who was I to argue with the experts?
So, one cold January day I had an abortion.
I put to death two people that day-my daughter and myself. She was ushered into the presence of God, while I sentenced myself to the deepest, darkest prison. There, every moment for the next twenty-five years, I tortured myself in payment for my crime.
I could go no lower. In my opinion there was nothing worse than taking someone's life. I, a girl born in a Christian family and raised according to Christian values, had just committed murder.
Over and over in His Word, God has warned us not to have sex outside of marriage. What is the big deal? I used to think.
Now I knew the answer from firsthand experience, and I wished I could take it all back. Hindsight is painful. And so is the futile speculation on what might have been. What have I given up by being so reckless and self-centered? Where might I be now if I had followed God's direction for my life?
But the scariest thought of all was that God would never be able to use me ... someone so sinful, so stained, so full of shame.
Looking back at the young, innocent girl I had been, heading off for a fantastic adventure, I could see that I had left my guard down. Without the supervision of my parents, the accountability of my small group, or the biblical teaching from my youth pastor, I was like a lamb trotting gleefully into a pack of wolves. The wolves caught me off guard.
I hadn't planned to meet someone. I hadn't planned a strategy regarding sex before marriage. I hadn't planned to fail. I failed to plan.
I was young and immature, unaware that there was a real enemy, and oblivious that he was calling my name. Sometimes the enemy can be so attractive. But looking back, his strategy was obvious: I was young and far from home, hungry for friends, with easy, unsupervised access to my boyfriend all day, every day. Add to that the illusion of head-over-heels love with the man I was convinced was the one.
And there I was. Vulnerable. An easy target.
It's not as though God wasn't trying to get through to me. He was, loud and clear. But I had turned down the volume on my spiritual radio. Each time I ignored Him, my heart grew a little harder. I rationalized that I had chosen a great "Christian" guy, and we were at a Christian school. This had to be heaven-sent, divinely sanctioned.
I've since learned that when we turn the volume down-when we harden our hearts to God's voice-we are capable of anything. I'm humbled to say that I proved that shameful truth myself.
Eventually, four years after coming home, I met and married a wonderful man, had four children, and began a new life.
But I lived perpetually in my self-made prison of pain and shame. Every day I exacted a price from myself in payment for my sins. My punishment took on many forms, all fueled by this one thought: I will never again be good enough. I was shackled by a constant striving to do and be whatever it might take to feel good enough.
As a prisoner, I became shy and defensive against perceived unjust accusations. I frequently lashed out at my family and friends. To compensate for my lack of self-worth, I put on an air of self-sufficient confidence and perfection. To keep anyone from figuring out my strategy-because then I'd have to reveal the truth-I closed myself off from my husband and friends.
Just last year God showed me that I have never truly been close and intimate with anyone. I had so isolated myself that I didn't even know my own feelings. I became judgmental and adopted unrealistic expectations of others. And I suffered from anxiety and depression.
As a mom, I was overprotective and controlling. I was afraid of two things: that my kids would one day find out about my past and that they might then follow in my footsteps. In fact, I was so afraid of being found out that I spent my life constantly hiding, protecting myself. My paranoia sucked the life out of me and everyone close to me.
It was a horrible way to live, and yet I became used to it. When I managed to back far enough into denial, my life actually seemed enjoyable. No one looking at me knew the intense struggle going on inside. I was an expert at accessorizing-choosing the perfect mask for each social occasion. The irony was that I felt I needed to do this so that people would like and accept me. But instead I intimidated them and kept them at arm's length. It was a vicious cycle. And it wasn't working.
In Isaiah 61:1, the Messiah says, "He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners." The Hebrew word for "the prisoners" can be literally translated "the blind." The blind don't know it's dark because they can't see. This was me-living in the hell of darkness, but not even aware of it.
I had asked God to forgive me several times. I knew then as I know now that when we ask for forgiveness, God forgives. So why didn't I feel forgiven? Why couldn't I forgive myself? Why, whenever I thought about my past, was I overcome with shame ... the worst kind of shame ... the kind that propels you further into the prison of emotional isolation and secrecy?
When I least expected it, with sudden force the shame would slam into me. I'd be listening to talk radio in the car and the topic would be abortion. But the story always went like this: "Yes, I had an abortion, but then I became a Christian." What I heard was, "A real Christian wouldn't find herself in this position." Wham!
I'd be having fun with friends, and someone would share the perfect story of saving herself sexually for marriage, meeting Mr. Right, and living happily ever after. No regrets. Wham!
I'd be sitting in an adult Sunday school class, watching a video on abortion, convincing myself that I could handle it this time. After all, it had been so long ago. But I always ran out sobbing. Wham! Wham!
Or worst of all, I'd be lying in bed at night, with the enemy whispering in my ear: Look at your twins, born premature and disabled. It's entirely your fault!
Wham! Wham! WHAM!
The Day the Sun Shone In
My story does have a good ending. A great ending, in fact.
I failed to plan. But God didn't. In His perfect time and in His perfect way, He interrupted me one day to redirect me toward a new, better plan for my life. I guess God knew I was stuck and needed a little push in His direction. So one day He moved our family from our home in Canada to California where we knew no one. Ouch! All I had was Him.
I love God's attention to detail. After twenty-five years, He took me 2,500 miles away to a place where He could get my attention. And He got it. I began a new relationship with God. In California, I couldn't rely on my old way of doing things-even with God. And so for the first time in my life, I began to slowly surrender everything to Him, allowing Him to thaw my frozen heart.
In Psalm 118:5, David says, "In my anguish I cried to the LORD, and he answered by setting me free." One day, from deep within my prison cell, I literally cried out to God in anguish. The first thing He did was shine His light into my dungeon. In that moment, I saw clearly the sad, dingy reality of my existence up to that point. I saw the truth. I had sentenced myself there for life, but God had come to set me free.
I'm so thankful He was there, listening for my feeble cry. He never gave up on me. He had waited for me to ask, waited for me to accept, not only His forgiveness, but His complete healing as well.
And wouldn't you know it? The first thing He made me face was my abortion. From there we dealt with the sexual promiscuity, the divorce ... every last shameful bit of my prodigal detour.
It was time for healing. My journey to freedom was about to begin.
Hope for Anyone
What are you trying to hide? What secrets are locked away in your closet? Sexual promiscuity? Abortion? Abuse? Rape? Homosexuality? Addiction?
Did reading my story spark any painful emotions or memories? Were you able to relate to my prison, my pain, my shame?
Maybe you're wondering what a sexually bonded heart looks like and whether you have one. Maybe you're asking the heartfelt question I hear so often: "How can I break my sexual bonds?"
If so, then keep reading. I've got some great news just for you.
Excerpted from THE INVISIBLE BOND by Barbara Wilson Copyright © 2006 by Barbara Wilson. Excerpted by permission.
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