A few weeks ago, we had a powerful guest post from a man who struggles with porn addiction. He talked with great remorse of how it had impacted his marriage; and of the battles he and his wife continue to face. One question keeps coming back to me and it’s this: how do we move forward when we can’t undo the past?
This is something I have had to think through – and still ask. For years I routinely lied to Glen to protect my eating disorder. I made choices that harmed and isolated us both. When I was sick, I could close my eyes to it. But as I sought to recover, one of the hardest battles was facing what I’d done. I felt crushed by guilt – and the knowledge that no matter what I did, I just couldn’t fix it. If I never did anything bad to him ever again – and apologised with each breath – it wouldn’t be enough.
One solution was offered by certain counsellors. They told me in essence I was a good person, that I hadn’t meant to cause such damage and that I was in the grip of a sickness I couldn’t control. There is truth in it – but it’s not the whole story. Once I reached my target weight, the inner ‘good me’ didn’t emerge. Sure, I was better. But the fact is – I still hurt my husband and the people I love. It’s just that I did it in different ways.
The counter-intuitive truth is this – in order to get past my past, I had to go deeper with my guilt. Deeper than an eating disorder. You see I’ve said ‘No’ to more than food, and my husband or friends. The guilt I’ve felt has often been misplaced – but it’s also been real. Before I apologise to my husband for an eating disorder, I have to talk to God about my heart. And all the apologies and resolutions and flowers in the world won’t make it right.
There’s only one way He’s offered to make it right. And it’s got nothing to do with my sniveling apologies or earnest resolutions. It’s got everything to do with a bloody corpse who hangs there as the only way to make peace. I look to the cross and it drives me down further than I’d been prepared to go. I’m so bad He had to die for me. But I look again to the cross and I’m raised up – I’m so loved that He wanted to die for me. This is the way to get past your past. I must go down before I can come up again. I have to see that the cross is necessary for me. And then I see that the cross was given for me. When we remain in the shallows, we never move on. When we allow Jesus to take us to the depths, then we find the way forwards.
Jesus isn’t just the catalyst for recovery from an addiction. Or a help to marital communications. Or an aid for more successful living. He’s actually life. And without Him – the past stays present.
It takes the death of God – and nothing less – to deal with my heart.