affair recovery · Community

FREEDOM: The Story of the Bathtub Picture

The “Thread Family” is a group of people with a Facebook status that has been running strong since February 2013. There are over sixty-three thousand comments on the status update, and I don’t think there has even been one day when someone hasn’t commented. The people in the Thread Family are not genetically related to one another, their bond runs deeper. I am a relative of  the Thread Family. I wouldn’t say I am a member of their immediate family. I’m more like a distant cousin, or to some, the estranged sister. The immediate family check into the thread every day to comment or chat. I check in far less often.

Every once in a while, someone from the immediate family will do a roll-call. They tag members of the family and those who are tagged receive a notification. When this happens, and I am included, I try to respond.

About a month ago I was tagged in a roll-call while I was busy working at the restaurant. I  was standing in the kitchen waiting for food so I could deliver it to a table when I saw the notification on my phone. In an attempt to pull the Thread Family closer to me (because I am currently living over 350 miles away from these friends) I took a quick picture of the kitchen line-up of food and added the picture to the thread with a shout of, “Here!”

For a moment the Thread Family was in my world, and when others responded with their pictures announcing, “Here”, I was in theirs. It was only for a moment, and then it was over. They continued in their world, and I continued in my own.

Last Saturday night there was a roll-call at about 6PM, which was the beginning of the dinner rush at the restaurant. I didn’t feel the phone vibrate, so I didn’t see the notification until I arrived home about four hours later. I had just finished working an eleven hour shift and I was physically wiped out. I grabbed something cold to drink and headed straight to the bathtub. I tore off my clothes and stepped into the tub while it continued to fill. While standing and waiting, I looked down at my phone and checked my social media notifications.

When I saw the roll-call I smiled. Being remembered is truly priceless.

My first instinct in responding was to take a picture. I was tired, and it just seemed easier than trying to think of something to say. I clicked on the camera and took a picture of my feet. I was about to type, “Finally here.” when I accidentally hit post.

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Almost immediately, I regretted what I had posted. I remembered that this thread was not only visible to my FB friends, but to many people with whom I am not close to at all. In my frustration, I couldn’t get my phone to respond quickly enough as I attempted to delete the picture. My heart pounded and I could hear the imaginary voices of people who would would be quick to judge me for placing a picture of myself in the bathtub online. People don’t bathe in clothes, and by posting this picture–I was drawing attention to something that others might consider sexual. Not too long ago I called an aquaintance, “Baby…” in a passing conversation. Later, a woman who had overheard the exchange, confronted me and to let me know that using that term was evidence of poor boundaries. I can only imagine what that person would say if she were to see this picture.

And all of the “even thoughs” couldn’t overpower the fear I was experiencing.

Even though the affair has been over for longer than it lasted.  Even though God forgave me for the rebelliousness of my heart.  Even though my husband has forgiven me for breaking my vows.  Even though my children have forgiven me for every single lie.  Even though my closest friends have forgiven me for showing them little respect.

Even though….even though…even though…it didn’t matter. All I could imagine was judgement. All I could hear were whispers of words associated with adultery and the nastiness of things from my past. Bad choices echoed off the tiled walls.

I am lucky I didn’t drop my phone in the tub as I tapped and banged on the screen to get it to respond. Finally, I was given the option to delete the picture from the thread.

Delete?  YES.

And I sat down and relaxed in the tub.

A few minutes later I received a text from a woman who is part of the Thread Family.

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And that’s how the conversation started.

I went on to express my fears, and she did her best to reassure me that I don’t need to live in that place anymore. She encouraged me with her willingness to come looking for me when she saw something was amiss. She showed me love and reminded me that I cannot be bound by concern for what other people might think. There have been a few people who have responded with emotion to my sin, but she reminded me to focus on the people who have responded in the fullness of Christ. She reminded me to focus on the future and the promises outlined in scripture.

She did everything she could to make me feel free.

Two mornings later, I was sitting on my porch preparing for a series of talks I am going to be teaching at a Women’s Retreat this weekend. The verse for the weekend is Galatians 5:1

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.

As I prayed through my notes, I was struck with the meaning of this verse and how my behavior on Saturday night had not been an act of freedom at all. I was not behaving as one who is free from the sin of the past. I was behaving as one who is still in bondage to something that happened and has long since been forgiven and forgotten by the Lord.

I wasn’t freed from bondage to live in bondage. I was freed to live free.

I decided that I wanted to let my friend know that her words had finally reached me. She was trying to share this truth with me, and I had been reluctant.

I added some scripture to the picture and posted it online for anyone to see, knowing full well that it would make very little sense to anyone else. But, as I posted the picture, God spoke to me.

God’s call for me to live free is bigger than just my freedom. It’s a call to live free for the sake of others finding freedom.

When we live in bondage to the sins of our past, we are incapable of drawing someone else out of the sin which is holding them captive. We become down-trodden and insecure. Decisions are made out of fear. Whispered lies, that the Lord would never ever utter, ring loudly in our imaginations. We become ineffective to the plans of the Lord. We become less than what He would desire.

When we live in the fullness of the freedom we have received, we have the words, the Spirit and the enthusiasm to share that freedom with those around us. Our hope increases and we aspire to do things we didn’t know we could do. We become capable of handling things we didn’t ever think possible. It’s among the most majestic things offered to us other than our salvation. To live in freedom that we may be used after we have failed is to discover true freedom. And when we live in that place, others see that possibility for themselves.

Our freedom is a gift, and it’s a gift that was meant to be REgifted.

It is freedom for freedom.

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9 thoughts on “FREEDOM: The Story of the Bathtub Picture

  1. Beautifully stated… if only we could all feel the freedom to move forward, be ourselves, be authentic without the bondage of worrying about what others think. Thank you for sharing your words and your feelings. You always inspire me, make me think and motivate me to become more of the person God created me to be.

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  2. i had an “epiphany” this weekend that I want to share with you. It’s fresh iny head because I’m just home from counseling. A woman, that I don’t know but inadvertently annoyed, was gossiping and complaining about me in the locker room. I wasn’t there to hear it but someone I love told me about it later. The woman described me as “the fat woman!” Hearing this sent me into frenzied anxiety! I had to work through it but I finally came to the conclusion that while “fat” may describe me … it doesn’t define me! Not even close! And we can’t be worried, or anxious, over the people who only know us superficially enough to describe us! Especially by one word! We are so much more than that! Or as a pastor I knew used to say, “Your past may explain you. It doesn’t lock you in!” Our crowns may be a bit battered, scarred, and dented (by our own choices or the mistreatment by others) but we are still princesses! Daughters of the Most High! And our Papa loves us! He is enchanted by our beauty! He doesn’t see me as fat, or you by your scarlet letter! He sees His beloved children!

    Didn’t mean to write you a book! Love you!

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  3. Jackie, your posts always soak to my heart, and these last three, which I just just read all at once, really hit me hard. I believe I have struggled with Limerance myself and realized when I was in CR that I had an addiction to relationships and love. And that had brought is own consequences. I can see now that it is a desire to be desired, and I often push the object of my desire to the edge of rejection so that he might prove his affection by staying and telling me he still wants me. I have done this for most of my life. Your words let me know what has gone on in my brain and life and that I am not alone. You are right, when you live in your freedom, you show others how to live in theirs. I am always haunted by the fear of judgement from, well, anyone, but especially those I feel I have to live up to a certain standard in order to be accepted, cared about, and loved. My past and even current situation haunts me as I yearn for approval from those who may or may not give it but do not really matter in the grand scheme. It is hard to accept the Father’s approval and acceptance when I know I an still so far from where I should be. But you remind me how much He loves me and that He never gives up on me, and His love and desire for me is all that really matters. So thank you.

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