Friday, August 31, 2018

Our admission of our darkness is the addition of God’s Light

Photo by Ebin Thonakara Saji on Unsplash

Most days I reflect
on my faults and failures,
those things I’m blessed to know,
for in coming to terms
with my darkness inside
I know I can only grow.
Additionally to this,
which is God’s divine plan,
in acknowledging my covenant greed,
I have the tools to see others
betray, even as I deny
them their need.
I’m easily hurt and so are you,
I understand that
right here and now,
so I know I must forgive
so we both can live
and learn how to renew our vow.
The answer to this darkness,
yours, mine and theirs
is not to run, hide or fight,
for God above
will show His love
if in Him we surely delight.
What is the above poem about?
Its message pivots on the truth that if we
don’t plumb our darkness
we cannot rise on the beams of His light.
In the simplest terms, if we don’t have the courage of humility to consider truthfully the darkness that resides within each of us, we have no hope of truly knowing God. If there is no darkness within, there is no need of repentance. Only those who need God, get God.
But there are still too many people who believe they are Christian without having mastered the practice of looking deeply within. It’s either fear or pride or a mix of both that prevents them from journeying in, seeing the sin that God will not refuse to show them, and resolve to do something about it.
It is hard work.
It is heart work.
There are no prisoners taken.
We are either all in or not in at all.
It really is a giveaway whether we’ve done this work or not. I think I could sense within one hour whether a person is living a truly regenerate life or not. There must be signs that they can live with their own fault, that they are not crushed by their failures, and that they are gracious regarding other people’s failures and faults. Jesus says, ‘Judge not!’ And yet still so many people still do it. It’s the unregenerate person who claims Christ as their Saviour but hears and does not do. Much of this could be addressed with a stiff daily Matthew chapter 7 tonic.
The point of salvation does not
release us from the grip of our sin.
It is hence an ongoing journey with God, who purifies us, unto the day of salvation. If we are honest we will be decades into the faith and still be making elementary mistakes and errors. For me, I am still too agreeable for my own good and for God’s glory. I don’t tell the truth enough, and I err too much on the side of grace. Which makes me relational. I worry about hurting people and being hurt, and, praise God, I have the ability to overcome these weaknesses when I’m aware and mindful of them. I am someone who can be taken advantage of, but God has added His wisdom, and He continues to school me on the finer details of dealing with manipulators.
Ah, manipulation. We all have the capacity to manipulate and to abuse, it’s just that some people make it a sport. From the kingdom of God’s perspective, I would much prefer to be on the receiving end than be a perpetrator.
To finish, I need to make this one point:
Even those who have suffered greatly
must take the journey into their private darkness.
Nobody is saved from needing to do this.
One of the things we may learn about Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn (1918–2008) is his ability to observe and to write about the virtuous prisoner of the forced-labour camps in Russia in the 1940s and 1950s. However odd it seems, the virtuous prisoner, who was the kind of man who was able to find goodness in every situation, including every abominable camp circumstance, was paradoxically connected to the brokenness that defined him.
That connection to his brokenness,
to his private darkness,
connected him to God.
In other words, even an abuse victim, the survivor of abuse, can heal, but central to their healing is their ability to patch into the darkness that hides inside them. Perhaps the abuse done to them clouds their vision, and they’re only able to see the darkness in their perpetrator. To heal they must see their own darkness, albeit disconnected most times from the abuse they’ve suffered.
If only we are blessed enough to be able to see that our unacknowledged faults stand in the way of a connection with God.
It doesn’t matter who we are, or how much we have suffered, we can have direct access to God, and He alone can heal us, but only if we are to acknowledge the darkness in our hearts that needs to be healed. Once the darkness is healed traumas are much less triggered.
We cannot get out of this inner heart work
that God has predestined for each of us to do.
It’s the point at which psychologists and theologians agree: there is darkness in us all, and the paradox is, it’s only those who are honest that heal. Those who refuse to face their shadow have the worst blind spots.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Trusting the Safe Keeper

Photo by Josh Post on Unsplash

Father is here, never far away
Son of suffering, close to you
Spirit holds fear at bay
Of all in life, this is true.
Safely held in the arms
Of creator God above
Lord of all who never harms
Wraps you in divine love.
Held eternally in the heart
In the Presence of holy care
End is more important than the start
God is for you, everywhere.
Cast those cares heavenward
Trust the One who made you
Walk humbly straight toward
The One who’ll hold you true.
Do you need a Safe Keeper? Someone who is there for you, who will never leave you nor abandon you. Someone who will understand you at all times, but will also help you challenge yourself for your own good. Someone who is always reasonable, who is always on time, who never gets it wrong, even though life will leave you with all sorts of doubts as to how good a safe keeper He is.
He is worthy when nobody else is. He is just in your injustice. He is powerful when you need Him. He is soft when you’re vulnerable. His grace will comfort you in your distress, betrayal, disappointment and hurt. Even when you don’t feel Him, He promises to be there. And He has never not been there, over the history of life, and through the seconds of your every existence.
When you face the teeming seas,
don’t forget to thank the breeze.
Father, I ask right now, for the person who needs to read these words of Yours, that they will simply say, ‘Yes’, which is a ‘Yes, Lord, that’s for me. Thank You. Thank You for providing for me. When I most need it yet least expect You will show up.’ AMEN.
And if you read these words with cynicism or ambivalence, and you’re seriously struggling, I pray that you will allow Him the elevation of your emotions to ascend into the primacy of reality — to feel what you can feel — the sorrow, the despair, the fear, the grief — right now. So He can heal you.

Monday, August 27, 2018

Don’t crush what you need to blossom

Photo by Michael Held on Unsplash
This is another wise saying of my wife’s. ‘Don’t crush the flower before it gets its chance to blossom.’
Now, I am not really a gardener, but I have it on good authority that flowering plants need to be planted and tended well before they can mature. The same theory fits with human beings, whether it is in families, workplaces, churches, or marriages.
Ultimately this is about making the choice to believe in others, to set them up for success, which is to recognise that our success ultimately depends on their success.
If we would be the kind of person or father/mother or manager or pastor or spouse who would put the other person down, we would be putting ourselves down, because in crushing the flower before it blossoms defeats the whole purpose of planting the flower in the first place.
Who enters into a partnership with someone to crush them?
The unfortunate thing, however, is too often we find ourselves in these kinds of relationships. When far too early in the journey the potential was burned. Or, over the longer run the little buds got mangled time and again. There was no chance of recovery. And I have experienced it personally when one fatal moment condemned what was such a promising relationship.
Reverting to the analogy of my wife, all relationships have sanctity, and all people are sacred. Of course, we must choose the right person and the right people to be in relationship with. And once that choice has been made, all following choices pivot around nurturing the relationship, which is to keep it alive, to keep it thriving, hopeful for the fruit of growth, and hopeful to see it in full bloom at the proper time.
‘Don’t crush the flower before it gets its chance to blossom.’
Relationships will inevitably require a lot of us: patience, kindness, self-control, faithfulness, graciousness, compassion. We can only carry out these qualities in our closest relationships that we wish to see in full bloom when we, ourselves, live out the Christ physiognomies of character.
Of course, it is in our best interest to protect and nurture what is in our best interest to protect and nurture. If we don’t protect and nurture what is within our control to protect and nurture, we will find it will cost us dearly. This shouldn’t be our primary motivation, but it is sufficient to be a strong motivation anyway.
There are so many kinds of persons that are naïvely susceptible to being abused to the point of post-traumatic stress disorder. It is the vulnerable flower that is crushed hardest and most. It is the vulnerable person who stands to be hurt to the point of trauma.
From a pragmatic viewpoint, it can take some time before the investments of encouragement bear fruit in the blooming of beautiful flowers. But that is our purpose in this world: that the Kingdom might come in the people we serve.
We know that our lives are flourishing
when those lives around us are flourishing.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Despite opposition, remaining true to the Lord

Photo by Ming Jun Tan on Unsplash

What I deal with most in the therapeutic setting is the conflict that’s endemic in life, too often manifest in relationships that are broken beyond repair. At least at that point.
As Christians, we don’t deal well with our relationships that are obliterated.
We expect that God can do anything — and He can — but we sorely underestimate the tremendous power of sin that works against us. The enemy must love it that, in our sin, we give him the power we could otherwise receive from God if only we were humble.
Christians can be nonsensical in their insisting on reconciliation
when they’re not prepared to do their own work of repentance.
Too many of us, in this modern prosperity-gospel day, overestimate the power of God’s influence, and frankly don’t even enrol in His Divine Power through our own humble obedience.
Instead, we underestimate the power of our sin, and how, through our lack of love, and the prioritisation of ‘truth’ (I would suggest that truth without love misses the mark of truth), we spoil our relationships by not first getting the log out of our own eye.
Here it is, Jesus’ own words in red Matthew 7:1-5 (NRSV):
1 “Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. For with the judgment you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get. Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? Or how can you say to your neighbour, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ while the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye.
So, in the inevitable situation of enduring opposition, where there are clearly people who would never be in our fan club, who don’t and won’t have our heart in view, we must guard our hearts and remain true to the Lord.
To remain true to the Lord,
we must guard our hearts and minds.
Somehow, we need to put these matters out of our mind. We must protect our hearts from thinking about things that we cannot resolve. Some people we cannot convince, and, if we were to look at our issues objectively, why would we even desire to?
Are they living our lives?
Are they truly qualified to speak?
The fact is everyone is in the same situation. Everyone is dealing with people who think we should be doing things differently, or better, or the opposite way. It seems it is another way that we human beings try to control other human beings. And us counsellors have established theories on why people endeavour to control other people: it comes from within a person who is far from their own healing.
The need of a person to control another person
comes from their own refusal to enter their own healing.
This is why it is so important to get the log out of our own eye.
To sit there and cast blame on another person is not only unfair and unjust, it is simply unchristian.
It falls far short of the glory of God, which, being Christian, in the case of opposition, is about praying for the other person and endeavouring to understand situations from their viewpoint, and not ours, whilst understanding our own sinful drives that demand our own way. It’s just such a pity I see it so rarely applied in conflict situations.
It’s good to ask:
If you try and resolve another person’s issues,
are you ignoring some of your own?
And what makes you feel so qualified to judge or help?
You can only resolve your own issues.
Despite opposition, in endeavouring to live a truly godly life, we simply must continue to recommit to remain true to the Lord each and every day, especially in the minute moments within any one day.
We can imagine that God understands us, and understands the hurt we carry with us, and would prefer that it could be reconciled.
But we have our sin, and we have the other person’s sin, and unless both of us can get the log out of our own eye, efforts for reconciliation will inevitably be futile.
In conflict, so much time could be saved and not wasted if only we understood and accepted that we can only resolve our own issues. Theirs is up to them. We have control only over our own issues.

Friday, August 24, 2018

Those nights I felt so lost to God saved me

Photo by Ahmed zayan on Unsplash

In a season that God found me, I also felt incredibly lost to God. But, what seems a contradiction is actually a fact for so many I have had the privilege of journeying with.
What follows is an account of how God was found even in the plot of feeling utterly lost to God; like God was completely silent.
I recall it quite like yesterday, whether in my dingy flat or in the slightly more well-appointed townhouse I moved into subsequently, many myriad experiences of feeling utterly alone, no Presence of the Lord with me. Yet in that dusky time, even as I questioned the very existence of God as far as He pertained to His felt Presence, there was something in me that could not let go, that had to believe in faith.
The more God seemed absent,
the more I sought His Presence.
Of course, what I describe here is much like the dark night of the soul, as St John of the Cross put it.
There was about this time a kind of non-living experience that forced me into the ethereal. Even as God’s Presence was void in my life on many such occasions, lonely nights where there was just me and my tears, there, in fact, in those moments, was the Presence of God.
I just could not see it at the time, and because I could not bear the idea that God was not present, I imagined He was present, praying as if He was, even though I could not feel His Presence. You may be forgiven for needing to reread this a few times. It may make no sense to you. But it makes all the sense in the Kingdom to me.
In those times when my soul was vanquished, and my spirit was tested beyond its apparent pathetic strength — because when it was tested, I really had nothing of my own — even as I had nothing left, God proved His Presence with me, even as He was absent to me. You may need to be in that position to understand what I’m saying. And I trust that if you ever are in such a position you don’t run from being completely lost.
I found that I needed to be completely lost
before I would truly need God to save me.
Amid the moment of our personal Gethsemane, we’re blessed in being reminded of this: just when the Father seemed to turn His face from Jesus, we cannot reconcile that reality without contrasting with it the reality of the resurrection.
That’s right, we cannot contemplate the truth of Gethsemane and the Cross without also contemplating the Resurrection just a few days later.
Likewise, when God seems to turn His face from us, as He did with Jesus, He still has us (we just don’t know it at the time), and His pervasive resurrection plan is in full roll-out mode.
In these moments of absence,
the bridge of faith is absolutely vital.
No life comes without faith.
How do we hold on in times of God’s absence?
We hold onto a faith that says He is present.
We ignore every screaming distraction pushing us away from our pain, and we enter the journey of being in the lostness, for that is where God will surely meet us. We should not expect that this will be a lovely experience. It’s the worst experience of our lives — levels deeper than we could ever previously conceive or imagine.
But that is where the true God meets us;
in the hell of our private Gethsemane.
But we don’t feel met at all. We just feel lonely and abandoned. That’s the paradox in being truly saved. We need to feel truly lost first.
God saves the desperate soul
who is so lost only He can help them.
This is an article for you to save for when war breaks out — the war against the soul whose life has departed into the ether. When your life as it was is lost. As it was when it ceases to be.
You will know it when you land there.
Nothing will make sense. And nobody will seem to understand, but, praise God, some will try. Humour them. Trust them. God will use them. There is a ministry of God in the space where human help is benign.
Trust those who have such humility
to feel hopeless and helpless with you.

Yes, when you’re in these lost places,
it’s only those who cannot help you who do help you!

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

As we Share, we receive Care

Photo by Carlos Quintero on Unsplash
Nostalgia is something that is wired into us, and the older we get the more we need to reminisce.
This becomes particularly difficult for those who have not yet been able to reconcile a difficult life.
But the importance is established in this: the less we are able to go deeply within, to re-experience our experiences, the less we are able to be our true selves.
If we are unable to go back and rekindle our memories,
we do face a kind of crisis of identity.
One of the issues we have, especially as we age, is there are fewer people we grew up with, and even fewer parental figures, that we can share with. This in itself reminds us not only of our own mortality, but it is too stark a reminder of how fleeting life is, especially when our memories are attached to people who have passed away.
This was poignant to me as I spent some time with an older man recently.
As I lingered there with this older gentleman I suddenly realised such a basic truth that had until this time alluded me.
His heart needed to share. He needed an outlet to reminisce. Even though there was a perception within me that suggested he might be resistant, he proved more than willing to venture into those deeper, and sometimes darker, crevices of his personal history. As he recounted the story of his life, there was an immense sadness in him as he reconciled the truth, that many of these people of his past had died. It was as if that fact meant access to his memories were somehow cut off, because he didn’t have anybody to reminisce with.
But suddenly the Lord impressed on me the importance of simply listening and of being interested enough to enquire about the specifics of his journey. With me, he could still reminisce.
It showed me the immense need in each of us
to share our journey with others.
This is perhaps why life groups, group therapy sessions and AA meetings work so well; you get plenty of time to share, and you learn that such a sharing is good for the soul.
As you utter the words you had long thought to express those deeper known truths validate one’s true psyche. And as you listen to others there are parts of their story that validate your own story. Therein lies community. And when people actively listen to us, we are encouraged to actively listen to them, and within us grows empathy and compassion.
Even as we share the things we are uncomfortable with, we are given more courage to do those uncomfortable things or to accept them as they are.
As we share the things we are ashamed of or feel guilty about, as the other person hears, and does not judge us, we experience the grace of God through someone made in the image of God.
As we share things that have made us laugh or cry, or poignant moments, we begin to realise how full our lives have been, and we receive feelings of gratitude and thankfulness.
As we share with someone who is genuinely interested, our stories are validated as important, as worthy of a hearing, as true to our understanding, and all this attests to the importance of the person sharing and their worth. For we all have such intrinsic worth.
As a person shares, and we have the privilege of listening, even as we apply faith when we don’t know where they’re going, we are open to God, and to the new things He is showing us.
In these kinds of moments,
when we hold on when we want to let go,
we learn to trust God,
not to lean on our own understanding.
I used to think one of the worst things about grief was having to rehash my story time and again. It seemed like I needed to keep talking about many things that were still unreconciled in my mind and heart. Yet the wisdom of God is in the sharing, for without the repetition I could not have moved on beyond it.
See how important sharing is? It is vital in the world of therapy and healing. And it is just as vital to be in fellowship with other human beings in the process.
It is a blessing, then, to be in a situation where you need to tell about your story over and over again.
The wisdom of God is in the sharing,
for without the repetition we cannot move
beyond our grief into healing.
It is a blessing to find yourself in a community where people are genuinely interested in what your journey contains.
Once we have exhausted the need to express ourselves, once we have experienced healing I mean, God shows us the value in it, and we want to help others to share.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Starting group therapy for recovery

Photo by Helena Lopes on Unsplash

I often have the need to customise my approach for people and groups in the pastoral counselling setting. These are some of my thoughts for delivering a program for recovery. It is a specific program, but I think I would stick by these general ground rules:
Read the following as if you were taking part in the program:
I want to welcome you here tonight as we embark on this journey together. It will be a trek into our deeper hearts as we learn about ourselves and each other in gaining greater awareness and understanding about the challenges we face.
These are just some of the considerations to be aware of and to abide by as we do this work together.
1.     I am requesting your trust of me and of each other. Perhaps some of you don’t trust so well, and suppose you have legitimate reasons for holding back your trust. But by you trusting principally in me as your guide, and by trusting in your peers here, you will gain the ability to be honest about what takes courage to do. By trusting here, you give yourself to what God can do in you through this process. You are also part of other people’s journeys who are here. When we have trust in this group, the Spirit of God will flow and some healing will occur for us all. Of course, it goes probably without saying, but I’ll say it anyway, what is said in this group should remain here. Is that understood and okay? Thank you.
2.     Now to do number 1, you need to be safe. I not only understand and respect that, but I need to let you know, I am responsible for that. The aim of this program is to assist to bring you further on your journey of healing. If you’re unsafe at any point, or feel too vulnerable, please take courage to hold back and let me know when it is appropriate for you to do so — either in the process or in a break. Together, you and I, will handle it from there.
3.     Honesty. I alluded to it in point one. Nothing happens here, for you, no power of God works, without your honesty of complete surrender and submission of your material. What I’m talking about here is you’ll be tempted to self-protect and to minimise the size of your problem/addiction and to externalise, which means to talk about anything else other than your stuff. We all do this. Don’t think you’re any weaker than any of us. But when it comes to your own stuff, your own sin, I encourage you to own it. Stay in this place when you’re sharing. If you minimise anything, minimise the responsibility you give over to others for the things only you can do. In psychology, there is the term “internal locus of control,” which means we only change when we own what only we can control — our own stuff. The moment we begin thinking our stuff is someone else’s fault, we give away the only power for change we have. Let’s agree not to do that here. Yes?
4.     Space to talk. Please trust me to the extent that you allow me to facilitate. The word “facilitate” in French means “to make easy”. Help me to make this process as easy as it possibly can be, hard and as transformative as it will be, given the nature of the material we’ll be discussing and pondering. I will direct and redirect conversation. Don’t worry, you’ll have ample time to share, but I do need to ensure everyone gets an equitable opportunity, which is not necessarily “equal” opportunity, because at certain times one person needs more time. We need to allow for that. I will also see things you can’t, because you’re in the process, and sometimes I’ll want to home in on key moments as I discern them. Please be patient with this and trust my discernment. Thank you. Additionally, there will be portions of teaching that I’ll deliver. I appreciate it when we can stay on track and keep the momentum moving forward. If you interject, please stay on point. Thank you.
5.     Calling time to process check. Occasionally if we go off track or, worse, if someone starts to act inappropriately, particularly when others feel unsafe, I will call a process check, kind of like a time-out. We will need to deal with that moment before we move ahead. I may need to decide on the fate of one person for the sake of the group, given that I’m responsible for keeping us all safe. Is that okay? Thank you.

Now, with your permission on all these points, we should now proceed.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

My irregular relationship with compassion fatigue

Photo by Aliko Sunawang on Unsplash

I must say, that what still comes very much without warning, I still find hard to deal with, but I know in being honest I can trust my method.
I have an irregular relationship with compassion fatigue, in that I feel I am sucked dry of empathy at times to the point where I have nothing left. Times like this I’m irrational in what I say, I complain, and I can’t quite seem to find space and outlet for recovery. It is generally the night’s sleep that brings me out of it.
It wasn’t until relatively recently that a fellow pastor shared with me how hazardous pastoral work is that I realised the gauntlet we pastors run. We work with sinners. We are sinners. We are in an environment to provide care, but the truth is we ourselves are not always taken care of; we are not always paragons of health. People come to church expecting to get their care, and when our lives are full to the brim with these relationships our tanks easily run dry.
Workers whose primary function
it is to provide care,
need a developed understanding
for how compassion fatigue
works in them.
Whenever I experience compassion fatigue it always feels like spiritual attack, because the spirituality I can normally rely on seems absent. It is as if God’s Presence has been drawn away. I know God is close, but only because I know, because I cannot feel Him. This feeling of spiritual attack comes in the mode of chaos, much like the sensory overload people with autism experience. Every sound is amplified, bumps in the road are particularly annoying, my thinking is dull, I don’t feel empathetically like I normally do, and my hope goes out the window. Everything feels like a test. Yet God is with me to the extent of wisdom; counselling me to guard my heart, be patient, and seek release into peace.
Whenever I experience compassion fatigue it’s as if my spiritual engine is sputtering and stalling, because although there are still little glimpses of care and love, intermingled with them are moments where I cannot muster any hope, or any motive of care.
I’ve learned to trust my method, because this kind of experience has been normal for me since I approached burnout in 2005. This irregular relationship I have with compassion fatigue is God’s warning to me, to heed the time to withdraw, to recover and replenish spiritual stores.
Self-care requires self-awareness, honesty and courage,
because to drive ahead nonchalantly is self-destruction.
Even as I reengage cognitively, allowing my mind to focus without the presence of emotional stimuli, I am able to gain confidence that I am ‘normal’ once again. I need to let my heart rest; to stop feeling. And to reduce the noise.
It is very disconcerting to feel the bottom fall out of our spirituality, just as it is scary for loved ones to see us disempowered. What feels like freefall is arrested, but only with rest and in faith that what works, works, and that we just need to do it.
I would be the first person to say that I am weak, and that the gospel encourages me, that, in being weak, I am strong in the Lord Jesus, but only when I surrender my denial and my resentment of the problem to Him.
Compassion fatigue comes through
being drained of empathy.
What I’ve found
is I’ve had to find
what works in restoring my soul.
This irregular relationship with compassion fatigue thankfully only occurs in a kind of monthly cycle. God can quickly show me how much I rely on encouragement, and how easily affected I am being discouraged. Although God knows we need it, encouragement ought to be a nice by-product of ministry, and should never be what we do ministry for. And we do need to find ways of dealing with the inevitable discouragements that come. But ultimately compassion fatigue comes through being drained of empathy.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

The grieving within infidelity

Photo by Patrick Hendry on Unsplash
It is very common for couples dealing with marital infidelity to both be in a place of grieving. The unfaithful partner suffers a grief born of guilt and regret, if they’re penitent, whilst the other partner suffers a grief born of the plain hurt of betrayal, and ultimately of rejection.
A chasm has been created within the core of trust that was once enjoyed, but now trust is a distant concept that is grieved in the both of them. This is the core of the grief both partners are impinged with.
The transgressed partner
has a trust issue with their partner.
The transgressing partner
has a trust issue with themselves.
This sounds bad, but,
both must grieve that loss of trust.
There is intense sadness in both even if the sadness is caused for completely different reasons. But this doesn’t mean there can’t be a viable sense of hope in both as they negotiate their way through such a tumultuous season in reconciling the brokenness inflicted on the marriage. Both will, however, feel broken.
But it is grief we are dealing with — a grief that involves all the stages, denial for shock and of flip-flopping, anger in the innocent spouse toward their partner and the anger of the guilty spouse toward themselves, bargaining for both in their second-guessing themselves and their relationship, and depression for what seems like an unbelievably unforeseen set of events (how on earth did I/we arrive here, and what can I/we do?).
It is incredibly normal
that all stages occur
randomly and repetitively.
Grief is exhausting.
As each partner bears their individual grief, each partner is benefited in the ministry of God as the Lord endeavours to restore them. Boundaries will need to be dealt with. The hurt and guilt will be felt for some time. This is normal. And even some patterns known to trauma can very well manifest themselves.
A strategy for the road forward,
to negotiate the way out
of a comparative marital hell,
is both wise and necessary.
Essentially what has occurred changes the direction of the marriage, which is not to say all that is good cannot be redeemed; usually couples recovering from infidelity go on to an even stronger intimacy if they insist together that they will get through this and do everything they can to achieve that objective.
Nobody should ever underestimate
the power of two people
combined as a force of one.
But the transgressed partner should not be rushed to accept their partner. Nor should the transgressing partner be encouraged to make swift peace with themselves.
As one repents — literally changes their mind and behaviour under the surrender that the fear of the Lord compels — and the other forgives in response to the fruit of repentance, both forge, a day at a time, a new direction of marital strength from their innate and collective weakness.
This doesn’t mean that the process is smooth.
It will be rough for some time yet.
Trust isn’t rebuilt overnight.
But it can be rebuilt when
both partners put their marriage first.