Guest Post: Stories From The Desert

I’m crazy excited to introduce y’all to my dear dear friends Camie and Steve Risinger. Camie can be found over at LuxeWise where she and her lovely team help all of us with fun fashion and beauty tutorials while they teach that beauty goes far deeper than what the eye beholds. We have been close to Camie and Steve since 2007 when Austin was in ministry with them. Since then there have been two weddings and SIX babies born (all within three years of each other, that’s no joke). About a year and half ago Austin and I saw our friends become different people, we felt like we saw a death ridden, zombie like form of them and we knew that it was more than just newborn baby sleep deprivation. Since that time, we have seen them cross back into light and walk in joy and love. Even just looking at posed pictures of them, the difference is glaringly obvious. They have a story of pain and healing, sorrow and hope. I’m deeply grateful that they are willing to honestly share their story to glorify Christ and his message of love, reconciliation, healing and peace.

 

Camie:  For me, The Desert season began April 2012 and didn’t relieve until sometime around September of 2013. And truly I know it all started with my anger. The day I found out I was pregnant with my son I punched a wall at the sight of the positive test result. (Ok, I yelled an expletive or two. I’m a sinner. I know.) I then immediately called my husband, who was out of town on a business trip, in a panicky hysteric rage to ask him if he could guess what I just found out.

Cue months of sarcasm, anger, and rage. I liked to blame it on the extra testosterone from being pregnant with a boy. But for the first time I really began to see just how out of control of my life I truly was.  You see, I had twin girls in July of 2011. Hysteric wall punching commenced in April of 2012, and my son was born January of 2013. You can do the math, but it comes down to my twins only being nine months old when I got that positive test result. I was out of control, and I needed someone to blame. I knew I couldn’t blame God cause (let’s all say it together) THAT’S. DUMB. So I directed my anger squarely at Steve.

Steve:  When I think of The Desert I really ultimately think of all the bitterness, anger, and frustration …  and most of my emotions like that were directed towards God. This season reminds me of failure and horrible disconnectedness. Cam weathered so much alone and shouldered way too many burdens. We were taking care of all these little, needy kids, and Cam was mad at me for getting her pregnant, which quite honestly I thought to be stupid. I finally saw Cam’s anger for what it was when we went on our “last hoorah” date before Ezra was born.

It was like going to dinner with a selfish stranger.  On our way home our minimal conversation quickly became heated and sent Cam over the edge. It ended with her yelling at me to just wreck the car. When crazy hormone Cam told me to wreck the car, I immediately became angry.  That anger soared to unprecedented levels, and I went headlong into the battle of fighting the urge to believe that my spouse was my enemy. It seemed like disconnecting emotionally was the only way to keep my anger at bay. I was also trying not to pressure her for sex after that six week postpartum appointment even though it was the very thing I thought I needed, because her “downstairs” still needed healing. And I knew that going anywhere outside of marriage to meet that need just wasn’t an option. Little did we know that this physical healing would take almost 6 months. That was my desert. (And all God’s men said amen.) She had multiple doctors appointments for unrelenting UTIs, a colonoscopy, and a cystoscopy. All scans came back clear, and it turned out that her body was unable to heal due to imbalanced hormones which resulted in the conclusion of her nursing our son.  

Look closely and you'll see two people trying real hard to hide the pain that engulfed them.

Look closely and you'll see two people trying real hard to hide the pain that engulfed them.

Camie: When the car scene happened, I think that’s when it clicked for Steve that I was really struggling and about off my rocker. My precipice was his launch pad. We both knew divorce wasn’t an option, but I was so mad and felt so alone that in my mind and in that moment I thought it was ok to be completely done and ready to give up. I even entertained the thought that my family might be better with another mom/wife because I was too depressed and jacked up to love them well anymore. Obviously my words, my thoughts, my actions were driven 100% by reckless emotion and lies I believed, and were way less than stellar. My attitude was so bad it could only evoke anger and frustration in the hearer. I’m sure everyone reading this would like to reach back in time and give CrazyCam a good ole slap in the face to make me snap out of my insanity, I know I would.

Steve: It’s really pretty cut and dry for me. We couldn’t connect emotionally because I was being a selfish jerk. The spiritual implications? This was a major test and trial season that God was allowing. What are you gonna do when things aren’t going your way? I fell into the classic sin cycle. I started finding things to quench my thirst that ultimately didn’t and won’t ever. I felt temporarily medicated with alcohol, porn, and anger. All the Truth was in front of me, but all I could think about was choosing to comfort my flesh because it satisfied initially.

Camie: In that moment I even surprised myself in coming to grips with the desperation I felt. I knew we had about 5 minutes left in the car ride home to get ourselves together, but we were past the point of no return. We had entered into the land of “something’s broken in you and everyone is going to notice and so you just better be honest that everything is not ok.” I had been trying to use Scripture as a mere bandaid to medicate or cover up my ugliness so that no one would have to know. But when I snapped on Steve, something broke inside of me and I knew that we had to invite people into our muck to speak Truth over and into us to help us climb out of the quicksand of anger and despair and truly HEAL. Thankfully God provided the resolve in me to not hold anything inside anymore. Thankfully He provided us with parents who love God and love us and give us Godly wisdom. Thankfully God provided us with close friends and a small group as safe places to confess sin, be loved on, and spoken to in Truth and Love.  It was when we exposed our darkness and pain and sin into the light that we experienced God’s Word as being living and active, permeating our hearts, minds, and souls with the help of those surrounding us.

Steve: The Lord kept bringing Romans 8 to my mind; that setting my mind on my flesh will bring death, and setting my mind on the Spirit will bring life and peace. I knew that telling Cam the truth about my struggles would devastate her, but I also knew that setting my mind on the Spirit brings conviction and confession and Life would come from that. We could work towards peace and healing. I had to make the DAILY choice of repenting from sin, being like Christ, and letting the Spirit have His way. There is always only one of two choices for a believer: Spirit or flesh; Life or death and destruction. So choosing the flesh brings an input of crap, so when you get squeezed, sifted, tried, the crap comes right back out. Death starts to happen. In you. Your marriage. Your family. Your friendships. When it was all said and done, my sin racked me. It still affects. It’s one of those things that still keeps me up at night when I dwell on it too much.

Camie:  Hearing Steve’s confession was hard, but the Spirit in me was quick to forgive. Catch that? It wasn’t me. It was the Spirit in me. So honestly, the thing that brought the most despair for me was that I was actually in the Word but it seemed like nothing was changing. I was starving for it. Thirsting for it. Desperately trying to get it in me. I was going to Bible studies to make sure I was hearing it and studying it. And I just could not retain it. I was struggling in the perseverance area, letting it have its work in me so that I could mature and be lacking in nothing (James 1.4) I knew that Steve was angry and complacent, so one of us HAD to lead. And if he wasn’t going to lead us how I thought he should, then I was sure going to try. Bad. Move.

I had to learn how to wait well. I had to let God have His way. Let God do His work. Stop trying to take things into my own control. Proverbs 21.1 says that the heart of the king is like a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; He turns it wherever He will. God was teaching me that even though in my eyes Steve may not have been trustworthy, He still had his heart in His hand. In a season of immense heartache and distrust I could still submit to and respect my husband because I was ultimately choosing to have faith, believe, submit to, and respect God’s authority placed over our lives through our salvation and covenant marriage. 1 Peter 3.1 says that wives are to submit to (honor and respect the authority of) their husbands so that even if they (the husband) do not obey the Word, they can be won over without a word by the conduct of their wives.

I had seen passive aggressive attempts at submission by others all my life, and I thought this verse looked like silent treatments even though you were upset or disapproved. But that is NOT what this verse is saying. It is commanding us to still selflessly serve without complaining, to willingly pour ourselves out daily as living sacrifices to be USED UP because I trust God when He says that death in me is LIFE in Him! (Luke 9.23, Hebrews 13.6, Romans 8.28, Isaiah 43.1-3) Isaiah 7.9 tells us if we don’t believe God, we’re not going to last. If we’re not FIRM in our faith in Him, we won’t be firm at all. I was able to surrender to His way for my life no matter the lack of ease or comfort because I knew I was surrendering to my God who loves me completely. I was surrendering to my Savior who (in Hebrews 4.15-16 says) has lived the pain that I was feeling AND. HE. CONQUERED. IT! We were going to find victory. We were going to be healed. (During this season the songs Oceans and Desert Song by Hillsong became my anthem and I’ll never hear them the same way.)

Steve:  Life is still not perfect. I still get angry at Cam, but we are still married! Divorce was never truly even a remote option. I don’t think it’s fair to say that 100% resolution has happened because that won’t happen here, this side of Heaven. We’re still being made whole ‘til Kingdom come. But we made it through an incredibly hard season alive! We weathered a rough storm, and God taught me that obedience in faithfulness and purity is what He honors. He’s after my heart, a faithful and pure heart. No matter where you are in life, sin’s affects are crippling and far reaching. God is still teaching me what it looks like to be a compassionate, loving husband and father.

Our healing comes from confessing sin and asking forgiveness. Just as in James 5, we forgave each other and have to continue to do so on the daily. Now, our spiritual healing can be seen even in physical healing and unity in our intimacy, healthful habits, (crossfit)ness, serving in our local church, and prayer life. As our kids grow, they become more and more amazing, and our love for them deepens. And they somehow continue to grow into such incredibly immense treasures. Before I even realize, it becomes hard to remember that my salvation (my Savior) and my wife are my greatest treasures. So there will always be that struggle to continue to work out my faith with fear and trembling.  But we always come back to this prayer:

To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul.
O my God, in you I trust; let me not be put to shame;let not my enemies exult over me.
Indeed, none who wait for you shall be put to shame;they shall be ashamed who are wantonly treacherous. Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths.
Lead me in your truth and teach me,for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long. Psalm25.1-5

 

"This is my beloved and this is my friend." Song of Solomon 5.1