Having just “returned” from a healing journey, I wanted to share some tips that I could have benefited from knowing in advance. If you are feeling led to trust God to tend to your wounds, then I encourage you to run to Him. If your hurts are related to sexual sin or sexual abuse, then I highly recommend the Path to Sexual Healing Bible study book that you can do with your spouse, a friend or in a small group.
Without further ado, here are my ten tips for your journey.
1.Identify how you process your emotions and thoughts – and stock up! If you write in a journal, then get an extra journal. If you are a crier, then get some extra boxes of tissues. If you run to clear your mind, then you are going to track some miles. Whatever you do to connect with God and process your thoughts is going to go into overdrive. Be prepared and don’t be afraid to embrace any new coping skills as the Lord leads as well.
2. Prior to beginning your healing journey, ask your spouse or a supportive friend to commit to praying for you. Give them permission to ask you how you are doing, to speak into your journey when they feel led and to draw you out when you turn inward. They don’t need to know every detail (or any details if you prefer) in order to check in, encourage you and point you to God. Having someone to listen, to celebrate victories, to affirm you choosing to forgive, and to pray for you is invaluable.
3. Have your favorite Bible verses handy. If you have a verse that assures you of God’s love and faithfulness, then post copies of it where you will see it. (Mine is Psalm 138.) Find verses that remind you of who you are in Christ and post those as well. Better yet, memorize them! God’s word will be “a lamp for my feet, a light on my path” (Psalm 119:105) when stuck in the muck or discouraged by the journey. Consider making a playlist of your favorite praise songs so you can quickly turn to them when you need them, too. Basically, have encouragement on stand-by.
4. Don’t discuss your journey in your bedroom. It makes the transition to intimacy very hard. Keep your marriage bed an oasis for you to retreat to for refreshment. When you do share your journey with your spouse, be discerning about what is shared. You don’t necessarily need to share details. Instead, share “ah ha” moments and how the past has impacted your marriage even if the abuse/sin happened before your spouse was ever in picture, as you feel led.
5. It may be challenging to think about sex. Prior to beginning the study, sex was fun, exciting and on my mind and then it came to a screeching halt. For a while, I felt like I reverted back to my “pre-awakening” days. I had to work extra hard to transition and ensure that I was connecting with my husband. In my case, I could often separate what I was being healed from and intimate time with my husband. I imagine for some people, once the wounds are open, they may need some healing before they can be touched again. Remember that God made sex for comfort – David comforted Bathsheba (2 Samuel 12:24) and Rebekah comforted Isaac (Genesis 24:67). Connecting with your spouse during your healing journey can be a reminder of God’s faithfulness. At the end of the study, I needed my husband’s help to re-enter that “awakened” mindset with the newness that God had given me. I needed the assurance of his words and his patience as I become playful again.
6. Trust God for rest. There were days that my mind was consumed with streams of thoughts and what God was doing. There were days where the emotional wrestling left me physically exhausted. There were lighter days, too. God provided rest when I needed to move the healing to the back burner and be present with my family. God will lead you to take breaks – honor Him by stepping back, treating yourself to something refreshing and trusting that He will lead you to continue on the journey at the right time.
7. When you are forgiving others or yourself, take every thought or memory captive and ask for forgiveness for that specific detail. One at a time. Tackle them as God brings them to mind without delay, choosing to forgive and let it go. You’ll be amazed by the outcome.
8. If you write in a journal, then take your journal everywhere! Thoughts will come at the most random times and you can jot them down real quick. I outlined the suggested healing process, assigned each step a number, and then labeled my thoughts with the appropriate number as they came – whether it a memory of what happened, a sorrowful admission of what was lost, an action that needs to be forgiven, etc. I knew my thoughts would be scattered, so labeling helped me organize them later.
9. Pencil in time to go on the journey. My husband and I both intentionally lightened our day-to-day loads so that we could protect time for me to process, to grieve, to be angry, to wrestle with God, to celebrate and to rest. Having extra time to focus on God and His leading in the journey was a blessing.
10. Don’t let the hard work detour you. Keep slugging away until you get to freedom. Your progress is unlikely to be linear. There were times that I prayed that God would not let me move forward until my attitude matched His and then other times that I raced to new understanding. Expect great things and remember that your victory is assured through Christ.
Note: These tips conclude the Path to Sexual Healing series.