Faces of re:gen

Shanah Wisley

May 1, 2017
Shanah Wisley
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The Wisley Family

I come from a long line of addiction, paired with a side of enabling codependency. My parents fought a lot. They would throw things, give silent treatments and storm out. My dad drank, smoked and stayed out all night with other women on and off for most of my childhood. Our home was very unstable. There was nothing abundant about the fear and loneliness I felt.

When I was 11 my parents finally split. The church did not approve and no longer had anything to do with us. Even still, the divorce brought relief in waves, yet I felt guilty for feeling so relieved.

I searched for an identity in caring for my dad and brother, and being strong for my mom. If I could just keep myself together, everyone would be alright. Somehow I was responsible for everyone's emotional wellbeing, and I took my job very seriously.

After some cracking under the enormous pressure I put on myself, I began to know the Jesus of the Bible, yet my walk with the Lord was marked by my good works; I lived to check spiritual boxes. I had the idea that grace was sufficient for me – as long as I deserved it. I thought if I did everything right I would enjoy a life free from what I feared most.

Along with addiction, I also come from a long line of divorce. Most of my family is divorced, and this goes back generations. I thought if I was a good enough Christian, God would bring me the perfect husband, and we would have the perfect marriage that would result in the perfect children. I was a faithful churchgoer, a youth group leader and I only dated church boys.

Eventually I married and we attended church. I had good friends, but I presented only the aspects of myself I thought others might be comfortable with. After years of this watered-down living I didn’t really know anyone – not my friends, not my husband, nor myself, and least of all, my God. I had a life filled with acquaintances and was not deeply known. I tried so hard to fit in – but it seemed the harder I tried the more alone I would feel.

Around this time I became a mother, and I was in love. This was my calling, my chance to be the perfect mom. But financial strain gripped my husband and me, and we lost our home in 2008. Isolation and resentment settled in quickly.

In 2009 I discovered my husband’s addiction to pornography. I was pregnant with our second daughter when I stumbled over countless images on his computer. I was heartbroken, and I was angry that sin might cost me my marriage, but I was relieved because I had a reason that I had been feeling so far from my husband.

I had nowhere to turn but to my God. I prayed, and felt the Holy Spirit surround me and urge me that He wanted to change me. In that moment I knew whatever my husband did – whether he recovered or not – I needed transforming. I needed people.

I went to a local recovery group, and people listened. There was no advice given. They nodded along, and invited me back, and I did go back. I shared, I did the bookwork and God began to touch those places I had hidden in my heart. He peeled away the lies I had accepted as truth, and I fought to stay out of His way. My husband and I spoke openly and honestly like never before. We shared struggle as well as victory. The idea that no one could ever be “enough” was so comforting and peace-giving that I began to feel okay – or at least at ease with my imperfections.

I came to re:generation groups not a stranger to recovery. I have been a Christian for most of my life, but shame and perfection run deep. By slowing down the gospel in my life I could see how what I believed about God’s goodness and commands was at a disconnect with how I tend to live my life.

I had struggled to love those who displeased me, and treated others like a nuisance if I deemed them shallow or if they didn’t have anything to offer me, but I began to see myself in these same people who had once annoyed me. I saw the commonality of suffering, the need to belong and the need of a Savior. I am seeing God restore these relationships – sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly – but He is faithful.

My heart began to focus in on a true, loving and just God found in Scripture, and working each step in recovery I see God purifying my character. I am a sinner saved by grace, living in a fallen world marked by sin and suffering. My debt of sin is owed to God alone, and has been paid in full by the blood of Jesus. I have found my identity in Christ, and I know I am not alone. He has given me a lovely community of believers who know and love me, and are there to remind me I have chosen to live a life that honors God. It is not my job to fix anyone – just to forgive them. The walk of recovery, of intimate relationship with God and man is not an easy one, but it is so rich and deep that for me there is no alternative.

There is freedom for you that you cannot imagine. There is peace that is beyond your comprehension. There is a God who suffered and died and rose again because He loves you. There is no level of perfection that can do the work that was done on the cross. It begins and ends with Jesus, with following Him in word and deed. His promises are true.

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