By now I’m sure you’ve heard of the Duggar family sex scandal. If not, here is the statement from Josh Duggar. What you may not have heard is that his wife, Anna plans to take on responsibility of her husband’s actions.
The New York Daily News posted an article titled “anna Duggar will ‘absorb some of the blame’ for cheating husband Josh Duggar, won’t seek divorce.” The article quotes a source saying she will not leave him. According to a People source, she feels responsible:
“Maybe not publicly, ever, but privately, there will be some suggestion of whether or not she should have been more aware of the pressures Josh was under, of the issues he was facing, and how she could have better counseled him or helped him.” You can read more here.
This matters because Anna is not the only person to be in this twisted and heart-wrenching position. So, for Anna and all women and men who have know this struggle, pain and uncertainty, here is an open letter to Anna Duggar.
Dear Anna Duggar,
I want to share with you what I learned from my mom. I learned the most about courage, heartache, strength and tenderness from my mom. And I learned these things with aching clarity when my parents divorced.
I know there are strong opinions about divorce in the church. I don’t like divorce, but I also don’t like people living in abusive, unloving, damaging relationships. These are my personal thoughts from my own story that I want to share with you.
I have known blind comfort and I’ve known brilliant life. They both come at a cost. I’ve been in a place of soul-draining complacency. My heart and mind were drifting in and out of consciousness because I liked comfort and safety. I stayed stuck and soaked in the murkiness of what was known. I had gaping wounds, but they were buried so deep in my heart, I didn’t know how to get to them or how to begin dressing those wounds. So I walked around with internal bleeding and a heart shut off to the pain.
But then I became desperate. I became desperate for life – life to the fullest like Jesus talked about. I could no longer be satisfied with a life half lived. I stumbled around spiritually and emotionally shell-shocked, weary, lifeless, and fearful. I was a committed Christ-follower, but one who didn’t know how to walk in the newness of salvation. I didn’t know how to get past my fears to embrace my freedom, and I didn’t know how to love myself enough to fall in love with Jesus.
Finally, I learned to leap off that cliff of suffocating comfort one timid step at a time until light and life got the best of my fear.
It wasn’t easy. My mom lost family members, but her dignity was restored. She knew the pain of earthly rejection, but she knew heavenly acceptance and wholeness. She experienced betrayal and loneliness, but she became strong, healthy, thriving and free. And so did I.
This is what I learned from my mom. You must enter into the pain and the darkness to find light, healing and wholeness. God’s grace meets you there every step of the way. A little bit of your grit is exchanged for a whole lot of His grace as you replace lies with truth. Facing your darkness is worth it because of His brilliant light that shines through the deepest grief, the greatest disappointment and the thickest blindness.
Anna, don’t let forgiving him blind you to your grief. Grieving is important. It’s worth it to embrace the healing process no matter how bloody, lonely or painful it is. You will find light in the midst of your darkness. Light, truth and love will be your companion and guide. You will never be alone. You will know deeper and sweeter known-ness than before.
So, forgive, but don’t own what’s not yours to own. Your husband made devastating choices that have killed, hurt and destroyed. Go ahead and feel the hurt. Risk the pain of fully seeing and feeling to be fully alive. Good ol’ fashioned, well meaning Christians will tell you to “forgive and forget,” but from one formerly bleeding heart to another, don’t do it. That is a sure way to let your soul die. Sweet girl, don’t let your soul die.
You can have reconciliation if that’s what you choose, but allow for the long, messy, painful process of forgiveness first. It seems like Christians are quick to do one of two things in response to someone’s big, public mistake – they either ask them to step down from leadership and leave the church or they decide to forgive and forget like magic. I don’t think either of these is the right answer.
Jesus was in the business of restoration. I think He would have trudged with people through the muck of comfort, soul-hiding and pain-avoiding and into the gut wrenching pain of bearing your soul’s deepest and darkest places until you can receive grace and freedom in full. That’s Jesus. He’s gritty and grace-filled and he’s not afraid of any darkness. (He had boundaries too, so don’t do this on your own).
Anna, leave your husband. (Stay with me here). You cannot stay married to this same man. Leave the man who was (and is) so he can become the man who can and should be. Leave the old behind with its lies, pretense, doubt, insecurity, secrecy, and molestation. A public apology is a start, but it’s not enough. His actions have led to deep wounds in you, but they reflect long-standing wounds within his own heart. For God’s sake (truly), don’t let him off the hook with easy blindness – that’s cheap forgiveness. You’re a child of God, you can do better than that.
Feel the pain. Don’t fall asleep by nullifying and numbing yourself to the pain in the name of “Christian forgiveness.” Don’t forget, not yet. There must be change and healing for there to be reconciliation. You don’t have the power to forget. Only God can ease and lesson those memories.
Fight for your heart, for your kids’ hearts and for your husband’s heart too. His decision to cheat and have an affair is his mistake and his sin. It’s not yours to carry. It affects you, yes, but it is in no way your doing or a fault you must own. It’s his to own. Let him own it.
This is grit and grace. It’s not easy, but they can and should go together.
If you decide to walk with him, be sure it’s a process of all that is in darkness coming into the light. This is the process of healing and reconciliation. There is forgiveness and there is reconciliation, but those are two different things.
Awaken your soul even though it means feeling the pain. It will be intense pain with feelings of loneliness and betrayal. But when you embrace the pain and name the lies and wounds, you help break the power they have over you, and with God’s Spirit, you can draw them out of the darkness so your woundedness can turn to healing, life and wholeness.
So here’s my prayer for you and any woman or man going through this type of deep heart pain:
Be strong and courageous – Have spirit and resolve.
Do not be terrified – Have light in your darkness.
Do not be discouraged – Have hope in vulnerability.
For the Lord your God – He calls you His own.
He will be with you wherever you go – no matter how dark, how deep or how lonely, He’ll be there.
Anna, He will freely give His Spirit, His favor and His lovingkindness. The process can be messy, but these gifts are yours to receive. Breathe it in so you can breathe it back out.
It’s gritty grace. And it’s yours for the keeping.
Alongside many other brave, Jesus-loving women, like my mom, we’re praying for you and we’re with you.