GROWING up with a stepfather and not knowing my biological father led me to feel unwanted and not good enough. I found myself often trying to fit in with the rest of the family.
My stepfather was very close to his family, which led to many family gatherings. I would purposely get involved in any way that I could while fighting with the thoughts that I would never be one of them. I never told anyone how I felt.
I suffered sexual abuse at the hands of several family members, babysitters, “friends” of the family, “boyfriends” and strangers. I revealed some of the abuse but was not defended or taken seriously. This led me to keep the rest of my story hidden. I felt rejected, alone and unworthy. I wanted to remove myself as far away from the family as I could possibly go; although leaving my brothers behind weighed heavily on my heart. After all, I had been caring for them for a very long time.
I decided to attend college in West Palm Beach, Florida. I didn't even realise it was a Christian school. I actually didn't even know what a Christian was. It did not take me long to realise that something was missing from my life. Observing the many “real” Christians on campus led me to ask questions and surrender my life to Christ at the age of 18 during a Wednesday night student-led church service (Nov 1988). I met my husband Rick in 1989. He introduced me to the Holy Spirit and what it meant to serve the Lord. We married in 1990.
Through the years of raising children, being church leaders, owning businesses and Rick being an elected official, it took a toll on my mind and our marriage.
Rick did not notice my absence from the marriage until it was almost over. I started to believe the lies from my childhood that I was not loved, was unimportant, rejected and unworthy. It went beyond not feeling appreciated by my husband or even my children. I felt as though I was numb, just going through the motions. I wanted to escape, mentally remove myself from being a mother, a wife, a friend..
When the opportunity presented itself for my way of escape, I was hesitant at first, but the pull of removing myself from reality seemed too strong to resist. I was drawn by the attention, believing the lie that I could be something that I was not.
My heart turned against my husband as I sought acceptance from others outside of my marriage. I felt as though I couldn't resist the constant pull of a way of escape. I soon realised that for once in my life I had control of the situation, all the while knowing full well that I meant absolutely nothing to those who sought to steal every bit of morality left in me and every ounce of conscience of who I really was.
I spiralled down quickly as I assumed my new role of being in control. I allowed my mind to believe that I was no longer worthy enough to be married or to obtain the role of being a proper mother to my children. I went to bed tormented, with my new life swarming in my head. I lied to my family, my friends, even to myself. I could no longer hide the fact that I was no longer in control. I could no longer hold inside everything that I was doing or thinking.
I confided in a friend which led to a series of events which eventually led me to the Women's Refuge of Vero Beach. My initial purpose of leaving everything and moving into the Refuge was selfish at best. I was once again wanting to remove myself from my current situation. It did not take long for me to realise that my Heavenly Father was waiting on me; waiting on me to finally surrender and allow Him to pour out His love on me. I must be honest!
It was not easy to accept once again that God could love someone like me — damaged goods, a liar, a cheater, a fake. I was so full of shame, guilt and wanted so badly to know that I was loved and accepted. My time at the refuge taught me to rely on Him. My dependence on Christ was made very clear to me. Through His word, prayer, teaching materials and counselling, I received the healing and acceptance I had desired for my whole life.
My husband, although hurt and angry, desired for my healing and deliverance. He sought refuge in the Father as he cared for our two children left at home. Our love for each other was made new as we both surrendered to the Father and His will. We both made a decision to serve the Lord wholeheartedly, regardless of not knowing what the outcome would be for our marriage.
The Lord restored faith, hope, trust and love. We spent many hours seeking the Lord and trusting Him with our lives as individuals. Our focus was on our heavenly Father and not each other. I cannot even pinpoint the exact time when we both knew that our marriage had been restored. The love that the Father put in our hearts for each other was completely unconditional. My fear of being unwanted and unloved was replaced with the assurance that nothing can separate me from the Father's love.
My advice to those who are struggling in marriage with thoughts of infidelity, or recovering from an adulterous affair, would be to surrender your lives unto the Lord. Allow the one who knows you best to help you open up and be honest with your spouse. Your spouse has the right to really know you. They chose you above everyone else to spend the rest of their lives with. They have a desire to be loved as well. Trust the father to help each of you to be honest about your past, your present feelings and your apprehension about the future.
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Born in New York, Lisa has been married to Rick Miller for over 26 years with two children, and two unofficially adopted daughters. I heard Lisa's testimony firsthand at an amazing Healing Wounds Workshop organised by pastors Junior and Trudy Tucker's True Word and Worship Church. Lisa and Rick were vulnerable and generous with the painful details of their story and their powerful testimony of God's grace. It was an unforgettable thing to observe their deep, tender love towards each other, their openness to others who were hurt and struggling, and Lisa's passionate ministry to all who came for prayer and restoration. May God continue to bless her, her husband, their children, and the ministry.
Shelly-Ann Harris is the Editorial Director of Family and Faith Magazine. Visit familyandfaithmagazine.com for the full magazine with other stories.