Thursday, April 22, 2010
Why I stayed...
I recently read Gayle Haggard’s book “Why I Stayed”. It is a powerful account of the emotions and experience that she and Ted went through in 2006 onward. Reading how various people especially the Church community handled the situation brought me back to my own experiences with the Church, yet mine paled in comparison to what happened to them. I wasn’t a Church leader mind you, but still, how do we restore someone back to health and wholeness.
There were a few things that struck me as I read and I want to share those insights that I found very applicable and honorable in the book.
Gayle describes how she coped with the news, after she just found out from Ted that the allegations have some truth behind it. Shock hitting her, fear overwhelming her, specifically regarding health issues brought waves of emotions.
I quote from page 67:
“Ted had already climbed into bed by the time I came out of the bathroom. I slid between the sheets and let my head fall to the pillow. And then I felt Ted reach for me.
My heart broke in that instant. I knew the importance of physical touch in a marriage. I knew its power to bring comfort, healing, and validation. And I knew the damage rejection could cause. Broken people need to be touched, and by reaching out, Ted was pleading for my help. I wanted to help him; I didn’t want to reject him – but what was I supposed to do with the anger, revulsion and pain that were warring in my heart?
I had coached other women through this. Now it was my turn. I would have to press through my feelings and not lose this important opportunity, because it might not come again. And so that night I began my journey of choosing…choosing to love. I chose to press through my feelings of anger. I pressed through my feelings of revulsion and took the hand I had held so many times, the hand that had brought me such comfort in the past. And in that moment, I realized how much I still loved my husband.”
She goes on to explain that at she slid into his arms, sorrow overwhelmed her. She describes the sobbing as waves sweeping over her, over and over again. They both clung to each other, sobbing out their sorrow. Not comforting each other, but being in a space to let everything go, in the safety of the marriage bed, together.
I broke as she described how she felt and I wept as I read about her fears and the ways she still felt comfort with the strength of her husband’s arms around her, even in her pain. She had every right to tell him to sleep on the couch, in another bedroom, heck, even out of the house, but she chose something different. She chose to cling and allow her emotions to come out, in the embrace of the very one who broke trust, honesty and dignity. How often does my mind go to offense and what I deserve in a situation? How do I choose to walk in a way that goes past my own rights? Especially when it comes to being married and walking with my wife?
One thing my wife and I learned through pre marital was to always sleep together, no matter the situation or feelings that are there. No matter the situation, always sleep together. We have held that dear to us, even when we aren’t getting along all that well. When we love each other, but don’t like each other very much. It has caused us to still touch each other in the midst of our brokenness. Choosing to always sleep with one another has drawn us together and kept us moving together as a couple, through the hard stuff.
Gayle goes on to talk about listening to people share their stories. How everyone has a story and everyone wants someone to hear their story.
She states that she usually responds to the story in this way (quoting from page 121)
“Thank you for telling me what they’ve done and how you feel, but now you have a choice. Who are you, and what kind of person are you going to be in this story? You can’t do anything about the other person, but you can decide who you are going to be and how you are going to react. All of us have that choice.”
There is that word again… “choice.” We all have a choice in how we respond to circumstances and how we deal with the things in our life that rage within us. I have a choice to be faithful to my wife, to walk in wholeness. Being aware of my brokenness gives me the opportunity to make choices in how I respond out of the broken places. I won’t do everything perfect. On the contrary, I need Christ as my anchor and my supply. I need him to lead me in the way everlasting.
Gayle states a question mid way through the book, “So how did I get through those darkest hours in my marriage and family? I made a simple choice – to love. To cling rather than separate. To bring everything out into the open, as opposed to remaining sheltered. And I remembered something I’d learned long before: Love isn’t a feeling, it’s a choice – a choice we make every day, sometimes every hour.”
Here we are again at the word choice. She goes on to state again the importance of touch. How often do we as the offended one respond by abstaining from touching the wounder or allowing them to touch us? Our human response may be the opposite of the godly response. She goes on to say that Ted and her clung to each other and out of that choice, they both felt safer. She states that this wasn’t easy, but she was willing to go to that place together with Christ and with Ted.
What a beautiful picture of the body of Christ and how Christ draws us in, when we are wounded or when we have wounded someone. Christ is no respecter of person. He draws both parties unto himself, wanting to bring both people to greater healing and wholeness. Especially in marriage, I know that my wife and I as we walk together in the realm of culture, we mirror the image of God and we are called to be Christ first and foremost to each other. Does Christ tell me to sleep in another room? Does He say, cast away…or does he say…draw close, even if it hurts and I will draw close to you in your pain.
Forgiveness is key as we move to walk with our spouses in redemption. I love it when Gayle describes when Ted asks her again to accept his apology and that he realized how much of a jerk he’s been to have treated her in the way he did. How many times did she hear his apology…countless times, yet at this stage, she got it. She felt it deeply and waves of forgiveness flooded her heart.
Forgiveness will cost you something. It doesn’t mean you won’t hurt or you will forget the wrong, it does mean that you are willing to let go of the wrong and you don’t hold the wrong against the person.
I remember well when I released the one who violated me sexually. When I no longer held that wrong over him and released the wrong to the Lord. I had a visual picture of myself holding on to his neck…screaming the words, I forgive you and yet I was still holding on to his neck. The Lord was asking me to let go. It didn’t happen right away, but I saw myself let go, and this peace encompassed me and flooded me with mercy rather than justice and hate. I could actually release the person to the Lord knowing the Lord loved us both.
In the book, commitment is talked about in ways that go past our cultural thinking or even Church values. So often we feel validated to end the marriage because of adultery and yet is Jesus asking more from us, and what if the wounder is repentant? Is he or she worth fighting for? Is the marriage worth fighting for? Is the family worth fighting for?
Gayle states “This was the hill I was willing to die on.”
“We know,” Pauls writes, “that God causes everything to work together for good of those who love God and are called according to his purposes for them.”
I am amazed at the journey of Gayle and Ted Haggard. I am amazed at the Lord’s hand in leading them through the darkest hours and bringing them into the glorious light. Despite the emotions, the feelings, the rejection, this couple chooses to walk differently. Did they walk this out perfectly? I would think both of them would agree they didn’t, because they are human and no human is perfect, yet they were honest and made choices in how they walked this out with each other and with their family. What a testimony that God has written in their lives. May the Lord continue to use them, protect them and guide them, may they not turn to the left or to the right but keep their eyes on the prize set before them.
O Lord, come back to us!
How long will you delay?
Take pity on your servants!
Satisfy us each morning with your unfailing love, so we may sing for joy to the end of our lives.
Give us gladness in proportion to our former misery!
Replace the evil years with good.
Let us, your servants, see your work again;
let our children see your glory.
And may the Lord our God
show us his approval
and make our efforts successful.
Yes, make our efforts successful!