Experiencing FreedomMay 13, 2008
On today’s broadcast, Dennis Rainey talks with abstinence educator Barbara Wilson, author of the book The Invisible Bond. Find out how Barbara finally found peace and forgiveness for her promiscuous past.
On today’s broadcast, Dennis Rainey talks with abstinence educator Barbara Wilson, author of the book The Invisible Bond. Find out how Barbara finally found peace and forgiveness for her promiscuous past.
Reader: "Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity and in whose spirit there is no deceit. For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night, Your hand was heavy upon me, my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer. I acknowledged my sin to You, and I did not cover my iniquity. I said I will confess my transgressions to the Lord, and You forgave the iniquity of my sin."
Barbara: For 25 years it really felt like someone had locked me away inside of a prison I really – I wasn't allowed to let anyone know who I really was.
Bob: Barbara Wilson had kept a hidden sin secret for years, and when she confessed her sin, it had a transforming impact on her life and her marriage.
Barbara: I was suddenly able to be free and honest and open with people, and it was so liberating, it was so exciting, and so I didn't care, I wanted to tell everyone, and so it was interested journey.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Tuesday, May 13th. Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. Are there issues from your past where you need to come clean? Listen to Barbara Wilson's story today and think about that. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us. The subject that we are dealing with this week, Dennis, is a subject that, for a lot of women, particularly, we're pulling back the curtain on some stuff that – there is some pain there.
Dennis: There is, and because of that, we might encourage moms and dads who perhaps have a younger listener who may be tuning in, this might not be appropriate for them just because we are talking about the area of sexuality and mistakes that are made in the past.
All this week, we are talking about the subject of how the past can control us in the present and rob us of a great future. The author of the book, "The Invisible Bond," Barbara Wilson, has been really modeling for us how you go about bringing others into your life to begin to experience the forgiveness that, really, Jesus Christ offers, and she joins us again here on FamilyLife Today. Barbara, welcome back.
Barbara: Thank you.
Dennis: Barbara is from Sacramento, California. She is the director of the abstinence program for a faith-based alternative pregnancy resource center in Sacramento, California. Bob, that's an old stomping grounds for you out there in Sacramento.
Bob: I spent a little time up in the northern part of the Sacramento Valley, yeah.
Dennis: No doubt about it. She and her husband, Eric, live there along with their four children and, as I mentioned, she has written a book around the subject of dealing with your sexual past and, Barbara, earlier, we talked about how you – well, you came clean. You began to talk about your story of how you had failed as a young person in your late adolescence and early 20s. Who was the first person you allowed to really get into the interior of your life and why did you decide to tell that person?
Barbara: Well, the first person that I really felt that God was wanting me to tell was my mom, and I hadn't told my parents anything and, at the time, I was in California, my mom is back in Canada. So I wrote her a letter, I wrote her a long letter and just explained things that had happened and just asked for her forgiveness, and it was very hard. It took a long time before I could really get up the courage to do that, but I felt so strongly that this is what God wanted me to do, and this was the beginning of my healing. I didn't really know it was the beginning of my healing, but I was just trying to obey God in that step, and so I wrote her, and when she got the letter she called me, and we had a long talk, and …
Dennis: So you just spilled it all out in a handwritten letter?
Barbara: I know. I thought it was better than a phone call – "Hey, Mom, how is your day, I just want you to know I've had an abortion," you know, I thought it was better over a letter. So that was …
Bob: It gave her some time to process the information and to get herself together before she sat down and called you. This was 20 years after the fact, right?
Barbara: Twenty-five, actually. And she had an opportunity, too, to just say how sorry she was that I couldn't go to her – or that I felt that I couldn't go to her at that time. We didn't have a great relationship at the time, so …
Dennis: Time out, time out – 25 years had elapsed.
Barbara: Yes, 25 years.
Dennis: Now, there had to be moments when you went home for Christmas, you saw your parents, you were back together for family reunions. There had to be moments when you felt like, "You know what? There is a big, giant secret here, and I need to tell them." You didn't ever have that thought?
Barbara: No, I mean, it was the last thing I would ever want to tell anyone. It was like I had stuffed it into this box, and I was never – I was going to go to my grave with that box shut and, every once in a while, it would sneak out, you know, I'd hear people talking, or I'd see God blessing somebody, and they would have this perfect story where they saved sex for marriage, and every one in a while, I'd just be filled with shame and condemnation and regret, and it would kind of slip out, and I'd keep stuffing it back in. I'm going, "I'm never going to tell anyone," because it was just so much shame associate with it.
Bob: When you opened that door with your mom and had that phone conversation, did that encourage you – "That went okay. I can maybe talk to somebody else?"
Barbara: You know, when I first did it, I thought, "Okay, I just have to tell this once, and it will be done," you know? What was so exciting to find out was that once I told it once, and I experienced that kind of grace, it made it easier to tell again, and God just was very specific about leading me to certain people to tell.
And one was – next was a very close friend of mine. I remember, I went out to lunch with her, and I was, like, sweating, I was, like, perspiring, I was so nervous. I felt like God, "Now, I want you to tell her," and I started telling her, and she had had an abortion, too. She had never told me. And so we started having this dialog, it was amazing.
And then, you know, God just kept leading me to tell people and eventually I told a woman who worked at our center who ran a post-abortion Bible study, and that was how God started me on my healing journey. But I know if I'd never opened my mouth, I would have never had healing. It was God bringing out of the secret and dark places that …
Bob: When you went back to your husband and said, "I told my friend at lunch today, and it was amazing, and God did this," because he knew. He'd known since before you were married. Did the two of you ever stop and think, "You know, I'm not sure we want this to be so widely known that everybody in town knows this about Barbara."
Barbara: Well, it was interesting, because my husband had that reaction, and he was afraid of how people would react to me or see me. And so he was really uncomfortable that I was starting to tell people. But I was getting to the place where I didn't care, and that's what's so amazing about God's grace is as the shame began to go away, and as He began to do this healing process in me, I wanted to tell people because I wanted them to have hope; I wanted them to know that wherever they were in their life; that whatever the enemy was holding them down with; that they could fly again, they could be free, and they could be unleashed to be all that God created them to be.
And I really felt that God was doing that in me. He would show me verses about, you know, like, soaring like an eagle, you know, and just all these analogies of what it meant to be young and free, and I was beginning to feel that because for 25 years, it really felt like someone had locked me away inside of a prison. I really wasn't allowed to let anyone know who I really was.
And I was suddenly able to be free and honest and open with people, and it was liberating, it was so exciting, and so I didn't care. I wanted to tell everyone. And so it was an interesting journey.
Bob: Everyone including your kids?
Barbara: No, that was really scary, but I knew God wanted me to tell my children, and that was an interesting journey, how, you know, I just prayed about it and how God strategically had me go and talk to each one of them.
Dennis: I want to talk about that in a moment, but I want to make one observation and ask you a question. First of all, you have used the word "exciting" as you have talked about this multiple times. That you are "excited" about being able to share your forgiveness of a major mistake and a series of mistakes made in your life. Now, to some people, that's like a foreign language.
Bob: It sounds terrifying not exciting.
Barbara: I can relate to that terrifying.
Dennis: But your liberation has been that transforming.
Barbara: Oh, I feel – you know, I just turned 50 last year, and I really felt like, "God, I feel younger today than I did 25 years ago." Like, inside. You know, I feel like – I do feel like a brand-new person. I do feel like God has set me free, and I feel like there are parts of me that were hidden for 25 years that are now – are able to come out – gifts that I had that I was never able to use. I didn't even know I could write.
But as God began healing me and, you know, I was unleashed to be able to become everything that He created me to be, I just – there is just no comparison.
Dennis: All those gifts and all that identity all wrapped up in that box that was tightly bound. The question I have for you is take me back in your dating relationship with your husband to the moment you told him. I mean, that had to be an interesting conversation as well, because, at that point, he wasn't you husband, was he?
Barbara: Right, but, now, we also had sex before we got married, so when I first met him, he wasn't a Christian, and so I was bringing him to church, and he became a Christian before we got married, but we weren't in a good place, either, in our relationship. And so he'd had sex with other people, and I had sex, and then we had sex way too early in our relationship, and that was another part of the healing that God wanted to do in our marriage as well.
You know, it wasn't really a big deal to him. It was just part of my past, and he had a past, and so that wasn't such a big issue for him.
Bob: So when it did come to a point where you think, "God wants me to tell the children," that's not just telling them, "Oh, by the way, you need to know Mommy had an abortion." That's telling them Mommy was promiscuous as a teenager. Did they know you had been married before?
Barbara: No, they didn't know anything.
Bob: This is opening up a whole part about Mommy …
Dennis: … and it's 25 years into the family as well. So you've got some children who are of an age …
Barbara: Right. But you know what's interest is, you were talking about parents talking to their children, and I think when you have a past, it's really hard to start talking about sex with your kids, because you're afraid that once you start opening up that topic, they are going to ask you those hard questions, and you can't answer. You can't say to them, "Yes, I did have sex." Because it's like so painful, it's filled with so much shame, and then you feel like you're this poor example, so then you feel like – I always thought if I tell my kids then that gives them license to go and have sex, you know?
So there was this huge, difficult situation I was in, and so what I did was, I didn't say very much at all. And kids are very bright. I think that my lack of information was even more telling than what I did share, and I remember as I was going through this process of healing and I was waiting for the right time, and I really encourage parents to – not just kind of blurt it out but pray about what is the right time, because if it comes out of a place of shame your kids will sense that. But if it comes out of a place of healing and wholeness and restoration, that's a whole different way to present your past.
And I remember when I was getting ready to tell my children, my daughter said to me – we were driving in the car one day, and she goes, "I think you're hiding something from me. I think there is something about your past that you're not telling me."
And that was, like, shocking to me.
Bob: How old was your daughter at this point?
Barbara: She was maybe 19 or 20.
Barbara: I know. It was so amazing, because I had been praying about when is the right time, God, with each child. And I did it differently with each child. Even with my last child, I waited a couple of years after I told my older three, because he was, I thought, too young. And so I thought, "Okay, God, that's a clear answer, it's time."
Dennis: So at that moment?
Barbara: No, not that moment. So I …
Dennis: So what did you say to her?
Barbara: Oh, boy, I wonder what I – I can't remember. I don't remember what I said to her at that moment. I said, "Well" – I don't know what I said. Maybe I said, "Maybe there is," I don't know.
Bob: Change the subject.
Barbara: Yeah, I changed the subject quickly.
Dennis: So how did you tell her?
Barbara: What I did with each of my children was I actually took them out for lunch and over lunch I just started sharing with them, and I said, "You know, there are some things that I want to talk to you about. It's just some things that God has been doing in my life." That's kind of how I presented it. And then I just shared, you know, "This is what happened in my past, and these are things that I've done, and I have a lot of regret for that, but God has done a lot of healing in my life, and so I don't live – and I couldn't tell you for a long time because of the shame, but now that's done, and I can share with you."
Dennis: And the details – you really didn't give them a lot of the …
Dennis: … the details about what you did. You just let them know you made the mistakes.
Barbara: Right, yes.
Dennis: And then what did the children say?
Barbara: Well, it was really interesting. My two older sons just had a lot of grace for me, and that was so awesome. They just said, "Oh, Mom, we're sorry that that happened to you," or "those choices that you made," and they're especially sorry about the abortion, because that concept that they had of a sister, you know, that they didn't know, was really interesting for them. My daughter, she cried. She actually grieved for a few days after that, just that whole – and they were grieving for me, too, and with my youngest son, at the time, I had been out speaking – teaching abstinence in his school, and he had four ninth grade classes.
In one of them – he wasn't in it, but in one of them, one of the girls had said to me, "Well, did you save sex until you were married?" And I said, "Well, no, I didn't." And then I realized, "What am I doing? My son doesn't know. I can't say anything."
So the very next day I took him out for breakfast, and I said, "You know how I go and talk about saving sex for marriage? Well, Mom didn't save sex for marriage." And he goes, "You didn't?" and he had, like, this – he was so shocked. You know, he looked so disappointed, and I realized I couldn't tell him anymore at that time, so I waited a little bit longer before I told him.
Dennis: Did you cry as you told your children?
Barbara: Mm-hm, but they were – and I said, "You know, I'm crying, but it's tears of joy now, too, because it's just joy in what God has set me free from and that I can speak truth now into your lives, too, with greater authority.
Bob: Looking back, would you do it differently, if you were doing it again? Would you tell them earlier? Tell them later? Not tell them? Tell them differently?
Barbara: I wouldn't do it any different way, because I just know God orchestrated all of that, and every experience that I had with them was just – I just sensed His Holy Spirit and just giving me the words, and it was really a sweet time.
Bob: And a woman who is listening who is saying, "I've never told my kids, I don't know if I can. It makes me sick to my stomach to think about when I think about it, but I've had that thought that maybe I should. I've sensed maybe that God is nudging me to do it, but I don't want to." What would you tell her?
Barbara: I would say pray – pray and ask God. If that's something that He wants her to do then He will show her. He will provide the opportunity and give her the words, and just wait on Him.
Bob: Do you think some women shouldn't tell?
Barbara: I think that sometimes some women and men tell their children things out of a wrong motivation. If it's just to kind of get it off your chest and feel better, and I remember thinking that if – some of my motivation at the beginning – "If I just tell somebody, I'm going to feel better and get it off my chest," and I don't know if that's always a good motivation because maybe you just don't have the kind of relationship with your child at that moment that you need, or you don't know where they are in -- in a place in their life that they may misinterpret things. I just think that God is the perfect orchestrator of all of those events and to pray about that first.
Dennis: It seems to me, in terms of counseling a woman or, for that matter, a man, to tell their children about their past, that we may have raced by something that occurred in you that first needs to occur in them, and that's that you had really done some major work with God and with others in the Scripture so that you were coming at this from not a freshly lanced wound but a wound that had been approached, cleaned up, and was now beginning to heal. So that's why you used the word "excited." I mean, you were able to engage it out of what God had done in you.
Barbara: Right. It made all the difference. Because sometimes if you still share out of your woundedness, there's a lot of anger that you haven't dealt with maybe towards people who have hurt you. I mean, you know, and there are women out there who have been – a lot of women who have been abused or raped, and so – and that sometimes will propel them on a promiscuous course, and so there are just a lot of wounds that come out of that that are associated with a lot of negative emotions, and if you're not in a place where you have begun that healing process, you're going to tell it out of that place. And so then you are giving your children different messages, especially young girls. If you haven't resolve issues of anger towards men, let's say, because of things that have happened to you that can just give it, you know, a wrong message to your children.
Bob: So would you say to most women who have this as a part of their past, "I think you need to try to get to a point where you can tell. Maybe there are some who the Lord won't lead to do that, but most of you, I think it's a good thing, I think that's where you ought to try to go.
Barbara: Mm-hm, yes, because, you know, the Bible study that I lead for women who have had sexual wounding in their past and they'll always ask me that – "Should I tell my husband or children?" I'll go "Wait until you've had some healing in your life because it just comes out of a whole different place."
And it comes with some authority, too. You know, when we haven't had healing, we speak without a sense of truth or authority into people's lives. I know that was the one thing when I was sharing because God had done healing in my life, because there was no more shame and condemnation associated with the things that I'd done, I was able to speak more authoritatively into my children's lives about what I thought they should or shouldn't do in regards to their purity, and it just came out of a – more of a clear conscience in my own self.
Dennis: It occurs to me, as we're listening to this story, kind of be unveiled here – there is a bystander over to the side over here called Eric, your husband. What was he thinking as he was watching you go through all this? Was he shocked, was he a participant, did he enter into what you were going through? What was he thinking? What was he doing?
Barbara: Well, it was interesting, because as I was going through my healing journey, he was a little bit uncomfortable with a lot of things. And especially with the whole abortion piece, and I think that, you know, for Eric, God has been doing a lot of things in his life, and I always encourage women who, you know, have husbands, maybe, who need their own healing. And they say, "Well, I'm doing all this work, and they're not doing work," and I'm saying you just start with yourself, and God will do the healing in you, and then that ripples over into your children's lives, into your husband's lives, and that's kind of what's been happening now is after the book came out and things, and Eric is just, like, really excited about how God is using – he's my biggest fan now. He always gets me to talk in these – all these business groups of mainly men. "Barb, tell them about sexual bonding." I'm going, "Oh, Eric, please."
It's kind of funny, but …
Dennis: I was thinking, as you were talking about Eric's response just, again, of your excitement. You're really exemplifying Romans 8:1 – "There is, therefore, now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the spirit of life has set you free – free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death."
Dennis: I mean, we all need that. You know, it's so easy for our listeners to listen to this broadcast, and they think Bob and I have got it all together. We try to dispel that myth on a daily basis, but they still think because we are here hosting this that somehow we've got this perfect family that's functioning without any flaws or any difficulties, but we're all human beings. We're all on a journey hammering out life, making choices, and some of them are bad. Some of them are foolish. And some of them are when we were young, and some of them are when we are older, and it's in the midst of that that Jesus Christ, the God of the Universe, meets us on the journey, and He offers no condemnation. He offers life and not death.
Bob: And I think you have provided great coaching for a woman today. The place to begin is not disclosure; the place to begin is the internal work of the heart with God to begin to really believe Romans 8:1 and to live accordingly.
I think there are a lot of women who are going to benefit from reading your story just as they've listened to it today. We've got copies of your book in our FamilyLife Resource Center. It's called "The Invisible Bond," and if you'd like to get a copy, you can go to our website at FamilyLife.com to request a copy.
Again, the website is FamilyLife.com. On the right side of the home page, you'll see a box that says "Today's Broadcast," and if you click that box, it will take you through to the area of the site where there is more information about Barbara's book and about other resources available from us here at FamilyLife that deal with these kinds of subjects. You can order online, if you'd like, or if it's easier, you can call us at 1-800-358-6329. That's 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life, and then the word TODAY. When you contact us, someone on our team will make arrangements to have the resources you need sent out to you.
Let me say a quick word of thanks, Dennis, if I can, to those listeners who have already contacted us here at FamilyLife. They've been hearing for the last several weeks about the matching gift opportunity that has been made available to us through May 31st. We've had folks who have called and said, "You know, we want to help you take full advantage of this matching gift opportunity. We were planning to make a donation, anyway, but this has given us a little additional incentive to go ahead and make that donation now."
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Now, tomorrow we want to hear more about what our guest Barbara Wilson has learned not only from your experience but also from your study on this subject about the impact of sexual sin in someone's life on an ongoing basis. We'll talk about that tomorrow. I hope you can be with us for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We'll see you next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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