Joe had always been open to sharing his story and talking about the things that had happened to him as a child and adolescent. But if I tell the story from his point of view, he would say he got a little too over confident. He began to share those things as if they were someone else’s story. He was too removed from it, emotionally. He wanted God to get all the credit, and in thinking that, he wanted to have the ending be completely happy. That’s how God would get the most glory, he figured.
So about seven years into our marriage, in an effort to learn more about his past, seeing it as someone else’s story, he began to do some digging. I remember being okay with it, because I wanted to better understand what had happened to him. I knew that processing some of these things could be healing.
But then he went some places. I’ll leave some of the details out, but he was in the same four walls where some of his worse abuse and trauma had occurred. Everything down to the smells were so similar that it triggered every painful memory he had and brought it to the surface.
He came home from that visit a different man.
This is mostly Joe’s story to tell, and he doesn’t even like to share it often if he doesn’t have to. And not being in his exact shoes, I don’t think I’ll even fully understand the depth of pain he experienced following that experience of having to re-live trauma. Of recognizing exactly how painful it was, exactly how many horrible it really was. And how much of that trauma he still had not worked through.
Joe: “I wasn’t just running from Tara, I was running from a lot of pain from my past. I had convinced myself and Tara that I was all better. I thought I would be okay, because you know, I’m healed and I’d be fine. But those experiences opened up some wounds and hurts that was almost too much for me to handle and it became one of the roughest years of my life.
It was a very very dark time for me. I couldn’t keep up the facade. Up to that point in our marriage I had convinced myself that I was healed, and liked to put on a shiny front, Look what God has done! But I was burying immense amount of pain and I found myself in a place where it wouldn’t stay buried any longer and that I had to give it to God. And I had to let my wife in.
God revealed to me in that season I would not have a greater capacity to love unless I was willing to trust Him and be truly vulnerable. God had to knock down my house of cards and expose the truth. There was so much pain to be dealt with. I couldn’t be close to Tara or find the joy I was looking for without first working through the hurts of my childhood and finding true healing.“
As painful as it was for Joe, we can see now how God was working even then. The running was over, he could no longer pretend that all was well. It was his wake-up call that he had to deal with the pain of his past. He had to truly be vulnerable with God about it all.
Even since the time I had met him, I can see now, he was just trying to survive. Just trying to get on his feet. Sometimes when you’re in that place of living day to day, you don’t have to time to sit and think about the pain of your past.
The couple years following were some of the darkest years for him. He experienced a level of depression and anxiety that I couldn’t relate to. Yet in that struggle, Joe began to up to me in ways he never had before. We started to develop that true intimacy we both longed for. And in the end, God used that time of knocking down the house of cards to rebuild on a healthier foundation
Joe and I both had so much to learn, and looking back, those years were that God worked in both of our hearts to turn our marriage around. Joe was done hiding. But what we found would take many years to understand. But we did make that choice, that we were going to walk through it together.
I had to learn to love and accept him and his pain. And that wasn’t something I could really do on my own. As much as I wanted to be super wife and love him well, there was that reckoning my own love and strength were not enough. Oh, how I love being independent and be able to do it all myself.
Instead, the Lord came near. God began a pruning process my heart where he was teaching me how to love. Learning what true, Christ-like love would look like. And God gave us the extra grace we both would need, day by day, hour by hour.
Over the next few years, we still struggled, but we were headed in the right direction. Each new challenge was an opportunity to set aside our own pride and learn to love. And it’s journey we don’t regret in the least.