(Continued from Part 2)

Two marriage licenses, bought and expired — that pretty much symbolized our relationship. We couldn’t quite make the commitment. We joked to others that it was time for us to get married, or never speak to one another again.

Finally, we did it. We got married in the meadow of a friend’s home, mostly because he’d purchased a ministerial license online from some “internet church.” Mr. Wright’s friends and cousins started a betting pool, wagering we wouldn’t last more than six months.

There’s something to be said for stubbornness, and Mr. Wright and I both had it, in spades.

With the help of my doctor and counselor, I eventually got off my meds, and for the first time in a long while, I was able to think and feel, fully and completely. It wasn’t always a good thing.

Mr. Wright got a job offer in my hometown, and I begged him not to take it. There were too many horrible memories waiting there for me, and I no longer had the support of my counselor.

We moved, anyway.

It was stressful, terrifying, chaotic, and welcoming. I took a volunteer position with the local library, became the local newspaper columnist, and began writing in earnest. I wrote poetry. I wrote a novel (which has yet to be published). I wrote for regional parenting magazines, and started my own parenting publication. My first book was published.

Longing for the sense of belonging and community I’d felt in the food ministry, I took my family to my hometown church. We walked in the door, and immediately walked back out when I had a full-blown panic attack. There, in the front row, was my childhood abuser. My teacher.

I contacted the pastor, and asked for a meeting. I told him he had a child molester in his church, and I wanted him to be aware, so that children would be safe. He asked me if I believed people could change in Christ.

Well, yeah. Sure. But… I felt my concerns were, once again, dismissed.

I threw myself into learning everything I could about my abuser. I traveled to the state Capitol, where I pulled the investigative report done by the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI). I reviewed the public Superior Court files surrounding the case. I even read his divorce file.

I wasn’t quite sure what to do with all the information, but I had to know. I needed confirmation that I wasn’t alone, and I didn’t “misunderstand.” Report upon report surfaced — many from people I knew, or who were schoolmates of mine. But there was one glaring absence — my story. I’d refused to testify, remember?

My obsession caused great distraction from my marriage and family. Mr. Wright and I argued frequently, and he seemed increasingly distant.

I didn’t know it at the time, but he was battling his own obsession.

Frustrated, confused and lonely, I welcomed an email from an old boyfriend. He, too, was a writer. We began communicating regularly, and my writing flourished. Just being “near” him sparked my creativity, and made me feel cherished in a way I wished my own relationship would.

I knew I was in the “danger zone,” but I arranged to meet him during a tri-state road trip I planned to visit my great-grandmother.

He greeted me with an embrace, and I welcomed it. Suddenly, I was years younger, living on poetry, and not the tired mommy of five kids with a husband who ignored her. I was wanted, and I wanted so badly to be wanted.

We drew physical boundaries, “out of respect for my marriage,” but we fantasized about me running away, getting married, and leaving behind the life I’d somehow found myself in. It didn’t fit me, I thought… I’d always be a messed up, broken, wild thing, and this creative soul was the only one who “got” me. Certainly, my inattentive husband didn’t. And, really, I didn’t deserve my kids… I’d only end up screwing them up with my anger and fear, anyway.

I lived that fantasy, make-believe dream for months, before it all came crashing down… I got caught.

Suddenly, Mr. Wright found a new distraction — my online activities. I was ashamed, angry and outraged. I denied what I could, admitted to only what he could prove, and asked him, “What did you expect, ignoring me the way you did?” (The similarity of that line to what I’d been asked when I was raped the first time was lost on me, at the time.)

I agreed to end communication with the writer, and fell into an even deeper depression. Mr. Wright said he wasn’t giving up on me, or our marriage, but I’d given up on myself.

I went through the motions of trying to be a better wife and mother, and when we agreed to foster a seven-month old baby girl, I found new focus for a while. She needed constant care, and due to her birth history, had issues that needed to be addressed.

I sought support in a charismatic women’s group. I enjoyed the worship services, and meeting new people, but when they reached out to me in friendship, I pulled away, always ready with an excuse to not meet for coffee or have a play date with the kids. I wasn’t ready to be a friend, and I knew if they learned how screwed up I was, they’d be horrified.

During the services, I vacillated between crying out for God to touch me, and throwing up my shield when I felt He was too close. To accept His love, I thought, would mean I’d have to change — let go of everything I knew about myself. Really, I wasn’t prepared to do that.

At one service, during an altar call, women were receiving the laying on of hands, and almost immediately falling, slain in the spirit. What a crock of theatrics, I thought.

Defiantly, I marched to the front of the sanctuary. Before the prayer leader placed her hands on me, she told me God had a plan for me, and I was going to become filled with His power and love. Yeah, right.

Then, she touched me. Suddenly, I was on the floor, trembling, and completely at peace outside my own body. In that moment, I saw myself, and I was safe, beautiful, and more powerful than I could have imagined. It was very real, very intense, and completely terrifying.

I wasn’t ready. You, Dear Reader, might think this was the moment it all turned around for me; the moment I was washed clean, picked myself up, and started to live the life God intended for me.

Have I mentioned the stubbornness? Don’t underestimate my propensity for it.

When the moment passed, I picked myself up, gained my composure, and said to God, “Nice try.” Yep. I said that.

I stopped attending the women’s fellowship meeting.

By that time, we’d taken in another baby — the sister of our foster daughter. Even though I delighted in those two precious babies, I remained depressed, and the daily struggles associated with getting them both the help they needed weighed especially heavily on me — even more so, with Mr. Wright spending unusually long hours at his office.

I wish I could honestly say I was blindsided by my discovery of his addiction, but it would be a lie. There were signs, all along, but I “accepted” the flimsy excuses offered — and by “accepted,” I mean I heard them, saw them for what they were, and filed them in my “resentment box.”

That box got pretty full. Then, it overflowed.

I’d learned to become a master at amateur web-sleuthing — probably through going to such great pains to hide my own online activity. Finally, I’d seen and had enough.

The confrontation wasn’t pretty. In fact, it was nightmarish. I’d never be able to trust him again, I just knew it.

With my personal history, I couldn’t think of a worse addiction for my husband to fall prey to. It was very, very personal, and I couldn’t hear or contemplate what he tried to share with me about how he arrived there… All I could hear was my own voice, making it all about how it affected me.

I never wanted him to touch me again. I never wanted him to speak to me again. I never wanted him to tell me he loved me again. How could he?

We lived in a stalemate state — both of us angry at what the other had put us through, both of us sickened at our own actions, both of us staying on our own sides of the invisible line between us. During that time, I could have left him, and never looked back.

But, I stayed. I was stubborn. I wasn’t going to be the one who walked away! If he was so miserable, I’d show him — I’d make him more miserable, until he left me.

He didn’t. He was just as stubborn as I. (And, somewhere in that, is a lesson on how God really does have a sense of humor in giving us what we need, and not necessarily what we want. If it had been any less stubborn a man than Mr. Wright, I’d be twice-divorced!)

I don’t remember who broke through the invisible line first (my money is on my husband — he’s more sentimental than I am), but one day, one of us made a small peace offering.

We began by becoming accountable to one another. All passwords, accounts, usernames, and full access to anything and everything were handed over. We developed guidelines for our relationship, and created rules for keeping it safe from temptation.

Mr. Wright confessed his addiction to a trusted friend; a Christian man who had mentored my husband.

We began praying, together and separately. Personally, I prayed — and continue to — that God would help me feel safe and cherished during intimacy with my husband, and stop allowing sex to be a trigger for me.

Finally, one day, I woke up and realized I was no longer afraid. The fear of myself and my past, which had lorded over me and directed my every thought for so long, was silent.

I was safe.

More than that, I was clean. Really, deep-down clean… Everything that I was before — the entire prologue of my life — had faded into a watermark of a memory that reminded me where I had been, but had no bearing on who I was, or who I am.

See, God and I didn’t have a big, monumental meeting of the minds… Instead, after I rejected so many of His “hit ya over the head” overtures, He healed me in a way I couldn’t protest.

He healed me behind my own back, and in spite of myself.

Today, I know I’m special. I know I’m wanted. I know I’m loved, because I can feel it.

As it turns out, the key to love wasn’t giving up my body. It was giving up my heart, and allowing myself to be loved.

And, finally, I am telling the story I couldn’t tell my senior year of high school. Maybe, I couldn’t tell it then, because it wasn’t finished.

It still isn’t! However, now is the time to tell it, up to today, because I finally have a voice, and I’m using it to cry out for comfort and healing for others.

You are not alone. And, looking back, I can see I wasn’t alone in those darkest moments of my life. God was with me, keeping my head above the surface of everything that threatened to drown me. It almost did.

He brought me through it, so I can speak to you today, and affirm these truths to you:

You are precious, and meant to be cherished. There is no stain that God’s love can’t remove. You are His beloved child — the son or daughter of the King of Kings! You, Dear Reader, are ROYALTY. Hold your head high, and march against your captors, abusers and fears, because they will be struck down by TRUTH.

Don’t be afraid to speak out, and keep speaking, until you find someone to LISTEN.