by Briar Whitehead, author of Craving for Love: Homosexuality, Relationship Addiction and the God who Heals
I am so glad Lisa has written Beyond Betrayal. It’s a book for our times. Today, the clothes are off and the only limits on sexual activity are the limits of the human imagination. Sexual freedom is the lie of our times. There’s nothing free about it. Only those who have been sexually addicted or lived with a sexually addicted partner can expose the lie and tell it like it really is. It’s devastating. And only those who have emerged from the devastation intact can mediate true hope and healing to others. You’re one of those, Lisa, together with your M. I love you both. Thank you for your personal courage, for hanging in there with God and M., and lighting the way for others.
The book is a compelling personal diary, a recovery manual and an almanac of facts, resources and information. It’s a very “thorough” work. It’s also a heart-rendingly predictable picture of what happens to men and women when the whole of the human race suffers from existential separation anxiety but doesn’t know where to turn to be connected and loved. It’s not that God has turned away from us but our cultures have turned away from God, taking us with them. God is always stretched out towards us with reconciliation in his heart, but we have been taught He doesn’t exist or doesn’t care, so we look elsewhere.
God's Kind of Love
We come into this world as little love sponges. We are made for love, perfect love. A pure, unselfish love that is totally focussed on us, can’t wait to be in our company, is fascinated by who we are and laughs with delight at the sound of our voice. We were meant to be surrounded by a love that will never let us go and will love us forever. We were always meant to be the Favourite, to know joy unspeakable, overflowing life, ringing approval, great value, security, and peace and abounding trust.
Pure, perfect, unselfish love is God’s kind of love. He mothers and fathers us, brothers us and pursues us as an ardent lover, whose intense and adoring gaze tells us we are made for him and only him. As love sponges we are meant to suck it all up, get saturated, and squeeze it out on everybody around us, starting with our spouses and children, who are meant to grow up and pour it into their kids. This love is continuously meant to fill us up and overflow. That’s God’s plan. We were meant to get it from God and give it to each other in overflowing abundance. But we live in a fallen world that knows next to nothing about pure, unselfish love.
In Pursuit of Love
So we were made for it, but we don’t get it, and this is where our troubles begin, because when we don’t receive it, we begin to looking for substitutes for it. Mostly we don’t even know we are doing it. We look for people to love us, things to comfort us, make us feel better, secure, happy, stimulated. We seek to matter, to be someone, to get, to achieve, to be approved, to be admired, to be special.
The whole world is doing it and sometimes the search can take us into dark and addictive places. Often our sexuality gets involved and twisted in the search. Our false saviours can become masters of our lives, then tyrants.
It becomes foolish to say anyone’s substitute is holier than anyone else’s. We are a fallen family. Whether it’s same-sex porn addiction or transgender issues, heterosexual sexual addiction, gambling or bulimia, there is only one healer. God doesn’t love one struggling person more or less than another or reject or despise any — and nor should the church.
He knows our addictions are only symptoms of our deeper malaise and he has come to rescue the lot of us by drawing us back into his embrace and the love we can’t do without. He is our only healer. If we try to change our own behaviours, we only revert. Only loving encounter with God can change our hearts, that is, the deep insides of us. In fact I don’t know that healing from wounds buried deep in our personal histories can be healed by anyone other than God because no-one else knows us as well as He does, accepts us so profoundly, loves us so unconditionally, can go as deep as He can or knows exactly where to go, when and how. He is our helper, not our judge as we find our way back from our pseudo-saviours to his arms. Our hearts are slow learners but they have a very patient Teacher.
I am reminded of a story of two precious and beautifully created urns on display in a museum gallery. From a distance they looked identical and visitors to the museum were sometimes asked if they could see the difference between them. Usually they couldn’t and it was only when they looked more closely they realised that one had been expertly mended and the other had never been broken. The curator would say, “The difference is that this urn knows what it’s like to be broken and put back together again, the other doesn’t.”
I place a much higher value on urns that have been broken and expertly and lovingly restored by the Master Potter than the ones that have never been broken. The thing is, we are all broken urns in the process of restoration. And any broken urn could be any of us.
Next week we'll continue Briar's three-part series.