The following post was featured on The Power of Family this week. I wrote it at the very start of my Recovery journey and have edited it many times. It’s still incomplete, because I still have so much to learn and understand about the Atonement, Grace and my capacity to draw upon its strength and healing. But its published nonetheless and I am so happy that my words can be of help to even one person suffering from the devastating effects of pornography and sexual addiction.
Yoked with the Savior
Well, hello. I am Anne Girl. Obviously, that’s not my real name. But it’s who I am.
On the outside, I’m a late twenties Mormon mom of three very little children. I have a handsome husband, a loving family, a mortgage and a dog.
On the inside, I am Anne Girl. A writer, a dreamer, a planner and a wife struggling with the effects of her husband’s recently discovered sexual addiction.
I am one of the “wounded innocent” that Elder Holland has talked about. Life hurts at the moment, and even though it may be downright painful for a long time yet, the truth is I have never been closer to my Heavenly Father and to my Savior.
The Atonement of my Savior, Jesus Christ, astounds me. It is everything. It is marvelous. My husband’s choices are his choices. Not mine. But my trauma, pain and despair are real and they are very much mine. I am wounded. And with time, the Atonement will heal those wounds. I know it will.
I’ve read the following scripture dozens of times: “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).
But a friend shared this new one with me, and it has become one of my favorite verses during this time: “Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage” (Galatians 5:1).
It pierced my heart and warmed it at the same time. I realized from those words in Galatians that I was wrongly yoked to my husband and not with my Savior. And it was placing me in an emotional and spiritual bondage. I was carrying burdens that I was not meant to. I was taking over the role that the Savior had purchased with His Atonement. My husband’s choices and their consequences were laden on my shoulders, and I was willingly placing them there. I was blaming myself for what had happened. I was desperately trying to find a “cure”. I was trying to somehow lessen the addiction and control it. My husband had become the center of my life. The chaos of his addiction was consuming me. And it was making my life unmanageable. After reading that verse, I knew I had to step away from that entanglement and yoke myself completely and wholeheartedly to my Savior and the liberty He promises. I had to put Him in the center of my life.
But it was, and sometimes still is, difficult. Oftentimes, I replace Him with fear—fear of the unknown and the “what if’s” that fuel this trauma and pain. When I lose focus of the Savior, when I go to fear, then my identity becomes lost a little. And when that identity is lessened or forgotten in the smallest degree, I slowly forget that I am first and foremost a daughter of God. I forget my liberty (and my husband’s liberty, too!) that I am free to choose a life of liberty from this addiction. A life focused on hope and trust in the Savior and His Atonement. A life focused on my free agency—that marvelous gift that empowers me to choose righteousness and to come to my Savior for my own aid and relief.
In my mind, I can see two oxen united by the placement of a yoke. That wooden beam that binds them together is strong and solid so they can help one another pull a heavy load as a team. I am one of the oxen. But who is the other? I used to think he was my husband. But the truth is, if that other oxen is anyone other than the Savior, then he is the wrong person. Yoked with the wrong person, we will move in circles. If that oxen is an addict, and does not choose recovery, he may choose to sit in the muck and the mud while I desperately try to move forward. We will get nowhere. Never progressing. Round and round I will go, sinking deeper into the muck. I will suffer. And so will the addict. We are stuck.
Or maybe my addict-ox does move, maybe even down the right path! But, maybe possibly down the wrong path. Either way, I’m pulling and carrying a weight that is too much for me to bear. And I suffer. I am stuck under the weight of another’s load.
The key is remembering that I have my own cart to pull, and that the Savior stands ready to pull it with me. I don’t have to do it all and I don’t have to do it on my own out of sheer grit and determination. If I yoke myself to the Savior, and make room for Him, then the burden is light, because we really are a team. We pull together. He carries my weight when I need Him to. He knows where we need to go. His strength never slackens. He teaches me along the way and encourages me to endure the path well.
If I make room for Him, and allow Him to step in and pull, then we become of one heart and of one mind. We move forward, in the right direction, together. I progress toward being the person Heavenly Father dreams I will become. I stay on the path that leads to personal joy, healing and growth.
But what happens to my husband? Does this mean I have deserted him? No. Does this mean I don’t love him? No. Instead, I have done the most loving service I can muster—I have made room for the Savior to step in and help him with his own cart. I have entrusted him, and his addiction, to the Savior’s care. My addicted loved one has to yoke himself to the Savior, just as I have. I can’t pull his load for him, even if I may want to at times. If I do, I have robbed him of his connection and access to his Redeemer. What I can do is cheer from the sidelines. I can love and support while keeping my own identity and salvation intact. I can lovingly detach myself from the agony and burden of the addiction and not get pulled into the muck. I can work my own recovery and heal and allow my husband to do the same. I can give God the control. What I can’t do is be his savior, for Jesus Christ is his Savior.
There is blissful freedom in the knowledge that I am a Daughter of God. That Heavenly Father has given me my own cart to pull, my own load to bear, and my own choices to make. Yes, I am a wife. But I AM A DAUGHTER OF GOD first, foremost and always. I am an individual of divine nature and eternal substance. I chose free agency, I chose to come to earth to prove MYSELF worthy to return to my Heavenly Father.
And I can only do that by choosing to yoke myself with My Savior. I can only control my own choices and actions. I am responsible for my own salvation and happiness. I have to make it.
Through all this sorrow and uncertainty, I have never felt closer to my Savior. This addiction and trauma can steal the life out of you if you let it and suffer the weight of another’s choices. I never knew I could feel such pain and heartache not only for myself but for my loved one. But I also never knew that the very pain and heartache I’m experiencing could be the very things that have led me to lean on Him so greatly and allow Him to help me, and my husband, with our burdens. From sorrow has come joy in small, little moments.
It is truly amazing what the Savior is doing for both me and my husband when we let Him in. My husband is changing remarkably, as am I. Our marriage grows stronger each day. Not every day is good, but we are progressing. For now, we walk the same road, pulling our own carts, side by side with the Savior’s help. Sometimes we fall and stumble. Sometimes we sit and don’t want to get back up. But the hand of the Lord reaches down to us and we find the strength to make it through one more day. We are learning to cheer and encourage one another, dismiss judgement and blame, and so the chasm that once divided us is beginning to thin.
I am so grateful that my Savior willingly yokes himself to all of us individually. I am so grateful that He is happy to strengthen me just as much as he is happy to strengthen my husband if we will but come to Him and surrender our wills and burdens at His precious feet. All of us fall short in this life. All of us need the Atonement—whether to heal sin or sorrow. He truly makes us free if we will but stand fast in His joyous liberty.
You can find Anne Girl on Instagram: @helloannegirl. Or through her blog: annegirlrecovery.wordpress.com
*Now, if I could add to the article some more (I was pondering this the day after the article was posted and I had just seen my therapist) I would talk about the need to set appropriate boundaries to keep your cart from getting rammed! My husband and I are on the Recovery Road together, and sometimes his actions can knock me off my feet and hinder my progress. Boundaries keep me safe–emotionally, mentally, spiritually, physically safe. I love and support my addicted loved one best, and respect myself too!, by protecting myself from another’s bad choices. The Savior doesn’t want me to be a doormat. I can be kind AND firm without being mean and judgmental. The Savior is a perfect example of this. He was/is kind and firm. Tough love. Love that stretches us and gives us experience.
Let His love fill your cart and keep on pulling!