An Anatomy of Redemption 1

So in January of 2003, we moved from the Solomon Islands to Ukarumpa, Papua New Guinea.

From the hot, sweaty beach to permanent springtime, 6,000 feet up in the mountains.

From homeschooling and DIY medical care to a mission community with a school, doctors and nurses and dentists (oh my), a produce market with year-round strawberries, a worship service in English, and a store that imported food straight from the Winn-Dixie in North Carolina.

After the stresses and difficulties of 2002, my plan was to put the kids into school, let Andy take care of the project, sit down, and breathe.  I thought that I survived a really difficult year and that things would now be easier.

But, when we had been at Ukarumpa for less than a month, administrators discovered Andy's pornography use.  And then they had to decide what to do with us.

There were certain prescribed procedures, and lots of questions about when and where those procedures should be carried out.  The answers to those questions changed frequently, as administrators and counseling staff in the US (our home country), PNG (our current residence), and Solomon Islands (our country of assignment) tried to decide what was best.  It was messy and painful and scary.

And, as everybody tried to figure out what to do administratively, I was falling through the cracks.

Because what I had known about Andy's pornography use was the tip of the iceberg.  I had suspected something was wrong in January of 2002.  I was sure enough to confront him in May.  But I had no idea he'd been using pornography for six full years.  He had been hiding things and lying to me for years.

It felt like my world completely imploded.

Major Depressive Episode is what we call it in the biz.  What it feels like from the inside is just being DONE.  I couldn't sleep, couldn't eat, couldn't think any more.

What little sleep I got was full of nightmares.  Libby and I were alone, being chased by a pack of rapists.  A huge snake swallowed Jacob, and I was there alone to defend him.  I was driving the kids down a canyon and we were hit by a flash flood.  The kids and I were alone in a house being attacked by terrorists.  I had these same dreams over and over and over.

I thought about dying.  In fact, it seemed to me that these thoughts about dying were coming from this one particular corner of the room, right above the doorway.  (This makes me think about adding the indicator "with Psychotic Features" to my diagnosis.)

I had two friends living on either side of me, one who lived uphill, and one who lived downhill.  If I had enough energy, I would go talk to Liisa--uphill.  On bad days, I would just follow gravity down to Karen’s door.

On Sunday morning, February 23, 2003, we were walking to church, when I stopped in the middle of the street, shaking, and said, “I just can’t do this any more.”  Right then, Karen came out of her house, looked at me, and said, “Are you OK?”  I said, “No.”  And that’s when I went to bed.

That day, I started to get some medical help with anti-anxiety medication.  I’d take that little blue pill and feel the tension ooze out of me, starting with my toes, up to the top of my head.  I started taking anti-depressants as well, but those were slow-acting and had side effects I didn't like.

When I went to bed, I was finally allowed to talk to the group counselor, who was a huge encouragement to me.  She was the first person who invited me to just spill out all the anger and pain I felt, who wasn’t threatened by how badly I was hurting.  She would actually agree with me that the whole situation was a horrific mess.  It was a relief to be able to say those things to someone, and to have her encourage me that it was normal to feel badly, since bad things had happened.

For two weeks, Andy sat on the bed with me because I couldn't rest unless he was where I could reach him.  That was how much I trusted him.  Where I could reach him.

During that time, I finally started to talk to him about how bad I felt.  For the first time, I wasn’t able to hide behind doing things right.  I couldn’t be nice any more about how the pornography made me feel.  I stopped protecting him from my emotions.  And he just listened and listened and listened.  But it scared him badly.

Not knowing where else to turn, Andy talked to Marty, a pastor who was visiting for a few weeks from the States.  He confessed what he had done in full.  Even things that hadn’t been discovered, and never would be discovered without his confession.  He talked to Marty about his struggle to quit, his pleading with God to take this away, and his decision finally to just give up on God altogether.  He talked about feeling like he could never be forgiven for what he had done.

Marty is a man who knows how to wield a 2x4 with love.  He agreed that the things Andy had done were sinful, and would have difficult consequences for the whole family.  But he was able to show Andy again that God did love him, and that forgiveness was right there waiting.  When Andy came home after that meeting, he stopped making excuses for himself and was open to other answers about his addiction besides “it’s just lust and I can’t help it.”  I felt he had been healed in a significant way.

In the following weeks, he began to tell the truth about our situation to the wider world.  He wrote a letter to all our colleagues in the Solomons.  He wrote to his family.  He wrote to our closest friends and supporters.  We didn’t put details into our general prayer letter; we just said we were going home for counseling.  But when friends wrote and asked for more detail, he told his story.

One morning he said to me, “I am not going to the Solomons for the final checking, and I am not going to typeset.  I am just going to stay here and take care of you.  We’ll worry about the other stuff later.”

Even though this sounds completely and totally normal to me now, it was bizarre at the time.  Because of my needs, he wasn’t going to do these things that were so crucial to the project?  What?  This was a whole different way of thinking for me.

I liked it, and I felt guilty.  How would the Arosi people get their New Testament if I didn’t do everything just right?

Several months previously, I had written in my journal, "I need to be carried."  It just took me a long time to realize I had to fall in order to get carried.  And once I fell, I wanted a limit to the falling.  I still wanted to be able to climb up out of the hole and get things back to normal on my own terms.  I didn’t like being weak.  I didn’t like being vulnerable.  I didn’t want to hurt any more.  I just wanted it all to be fixed.

But I had a picture of God and me, standing at the edge of a dark forest.  God was holding my hand and saying, “Honey, I’m sorry, but this is where we have to go.”

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