First came the shock.
The girl who had passionately loved God since childhood –the one who had walked it out right until now – the girl who had sincerely saved herself for her husband – who took seriously and believed in covenant…the one who had fought and believed for her husband and her marriage for years…. The girl who had been put on a pedestal by the ones who knew her best…that girl had fallen….hard.
My own mother didn’t believe my husband when he called to break the news. Besides my parents and the other family – we kept it a secret for the first several weeks while the shock was absorbed. The details that filled the next hellish year could easily fill a novel.
My husband’s shock and anger was to be expected at first, but nothing could have prepared me for his response. I clearly wasn’t thinking about these kinds of things when I made the sinful choices I did, however, at this point, I think I really expected my heart to be seen. I was truly repentant for what I had fallen into and I truly wanted out – I also wanted help to sort through the deception, wrong beliefs, and desperation that had gotten me to this point. While I had clearly not thought through the consequences, I guess I honestly expected mercy and forgiveness from my husband where mercy and forgiveness had been given many times over.
The best way I know how to explain the next several months is that my sin exposed what was really true about my whole life. I began to see things in my husband that had not been fully revealed – or more accurately, things God was revealing to me that I hadn’t been willing or able to see before – and over time, my pain began to make sense. His actions revealed hard truths about our relationship that I had not been willing to accept before now. I could no longer deny the reality that I was treated as a possession – I was always trying to do the right thing by him, and my heart was always keeping me in a position of one-down. But before now, I had never truly tested his ability to love and forgive me despite the fact that I had failed miserably and hurt him deeply. I stayed in a marriage where I was not honored and valued because I truly believed if I was a good enough wife, if I did and said the right things, and if I prayed hard enough, that eventually something would change. My heart was changing in a way that was healthier, and it was becoming painfully clear now that I had failed and was no longer the “perfect wife”, he didn’t want me anymore.
(Just a side note – I do believe that God was at work and would have eventually either changed his heart, or allowed another set of circumstances that would have gotten me out of the relationship. And hopefully I have made it clear that my choice (even through the pain, deception, and temptation by the enemy) to try to get my needs met apart from God was wrong and incredibly destructive. But even still, God has and is using it all.)
I was completely open to “punishment” for what I had done and was willing to do almost anything to save my marriage. Having been betrayed and mistreated long enough, I understand full well that reconciliation, forgiveness, and rebuilding trust is a process. I was all for walking through this process and getting whatever help I needed. I was also completely overwhelmed with guilt and shame for what I had done.
The other family decided right away that they were going stay together and do whatever they could to preserve his career/image, yet I have no idea what that has meant for them. But what very few people understand, and what complicated the situation even further, is that it appeared as though I was not going to have that same option. My husband completely lost it, and I became a prisoner of his rage.
I literally became a captive in my own home. He monitored my every move and every word. Like I mentioned above, I was not opposed to this due to the circumstances…had it been in a healthy way with the right motives, but it was not. He wanted to punish me. I found out later he decided early on that he wanted a divorce and had sought legal counsel on how to walk it out and protect himself – once again fitting the theme that I wasn’t really worth it, I wasn’t valued, and it was never about having a mutually loving and intimate relationship. But I have always mattered to my Heavenly Father…..and I was embarking on a journey of knowing Him on a whole new level and discovering Him as the perfect husband.
My husband hired a technical investigator to get my cell phone transcripts from the past few months and reviewed, analyzed, and obsessed over every word of the affair. There was no rest during that season. He would completely lose control in fits of rage day and night – I never knew when and what would set him off. He would come and find me or wake me and terrorize me with the details. The abuse was mostly verbal and emotional, although a few times it did become physical.
I was not allowed to talk to my own parents or anyone who would try to speak life or hope into the situation. In fact, he would cut out and discredit anyone who would say anything except how horrible I was. There was no doubt that the situation was excruciatingly difficult, but at some point, you have to make a choice to move forward, and he would not.
I really felt that I deserved his anger. I kept hoping that something would change. I prayed he would turn a corner and decide to try to work it out. I wanted reconciliation desperately, especially for our daughter. I was absolutely heartbroken, sick, and grief-stricken for her sake. But his anger didn’t subside. In fact, the fits of rage just worsened…and he no longer filtered his behavior in front of our daughter. That’s where I had to take a stand.
We had been seeing a counselor, but after he lost it a few times in therapy and stormed out, it was mutually decided that the first counselor was not the best fit, so we were referred to another counselor through our church. Plus, I wanted and needed both spiritual and individual counseling as well as the marital counseling, and he wasn’t willing to pay for me to get the help I needed. Counseling was free through the church for crisis situations, which was the main reason he agreed to make the switch. Again, the painful reality that I wasn’t worth it rang true….yet not to my Heavenly Father. He was at work behind the scenes.
I am so thankful for the hand of the Lord that literally covered me during this season. He protected me, our daughter, and my unborn son. And furthermore, he orchestrated divine connections that would be crucial for my healing and my future. It was through the counselor at the church that we were able to make some of the decisions that needed to be made (ultimately the decision to separate). She also referred me to the counselor that I am still meeting with regularly to this day. These were absolute God appointments that I am humbled and beyond grateful for.
After a few sessions with the new counselor, my husband’s rage continued – he simply could not handle addressing anything beyond “what I had done”, and was unwilling to talk about our relationship as a whole or his role in any of it. After a frustrating session, he accused the counselor of being unqualified, stormed out, and refused to return.
He also refused any kind of meeting with the other family. I went along with it, as I was still trying to submit to “the process” and save my marriage. Looking back, for so many reasons, I believe the Lord’s hand of protection was also on those details. Furthermore, my husband pushed some things legally with the other family that I’m not sure I would have had the strength or courage to initiate on my own, that have ended up being necessary. Even then, God’s mercy and grace was at work.
What it all came down to as the birth of the baby was approaching was the decision I was going to make….whether I would keep the baby or place him for adoption with another family. The other family had indicated early on that adoption would be the best option for them – as they just wanted their lives to go on as if nothing had happened. That seemed to be the theme for them – they just wanted it all to go away. While I do not believe it is necessary to go into all the details, I will say the way things were handled with the other family only added to the mess. Their response ultimately resulted in a restraining order and everything needing to be handled in court. It was all so surreal – I could not believe what was happening. It is important for me to share that after I had the baby and things settled in a little, I did send a letter seeking forgiveness, which never received a response.
My husband had decided that he would not be able to parent a child that wasn’t his. He had indicated that if I did choose to place the child for adoption, he would try to forgive me, but as I prayed and sought the Lord, I knew in my Spirit that he would never be able let it go to the point of reconciling the marriage relationship. The double standards he held had been too real and too consistent. I had been willing to live like this for so long because I thought it was what I was “supposed” to do to be a submissive, God-fearing wife. But I could no longer deny that what was ok for him was not and would never be ok for me. And I knew the Lord was not asking me to give this child up.
But still, I agonized over the decision and was diligent in the decision-making process. I met with different counselors, including an adoption counselor. What would be best for this baby? The unknown with me or the unknown with a two-parent home? I was still overcome with guilt and shame and wanted to do what was “right”. While there are so many more details that played in to the decision, I decided to go with what I felt the Lord was saying to me, trust His promises to provide, and keep my son.
And so, with the volatile environment at home and my desire to protect both of my children, I moved out a few weeks before my due date, still hopeful that my husband would have a change of heart and choose forgiveness and reconciliation. I left with half of our bank accounts and a few things from our home (which wasn’t much) and faith that God was going to provide. I didn’t take everything the day I moved out, just the basics, thinking that I would come back for loose ends. Little did I know that within a couple of weeks, despite the fact that the home was still ours, my husband would change the locks and not allow me back in.
There’s a reason the Scripture says that God hates divorce. It is truly the most painful experience I have ever encountered – the ripping apart two lives and two people who had become one. And to have children involved makes it even worse.
And so – there I was – completely abandoned by my husband because of my mistakes, abandoned by the father of my unborn child who refused to take any responsibility willingly, abandoned by people who I thought were my friends. It was like I was at a masquerade ball and everyone around me was taking off their masks one by one – from my husband, to the other family, to those less involved. My shell of a life was in pieces all around me. Battles raging on every side – relational battles, legal battles, and the grief and shame I was battling within – all while preparing to bring a child into the world – unsure how it was all going to play out and how I was going to support myself and my children.
Here’s what I’ve learned. I did not lose my salvation, although my sinful choices have had grave consequences. I never stopped loving God and He never stopped loving me. He was not angry with me – Isaiah 54:9 – “Just as I swore in the time of Noah that I would never again let a flood cover the earth, so now I swear that I will never again be angry and punish you.” Was He grieved by my selfish and sinful choices? – Yes. Did I hurt and disappoint a lot of people? –Yes. Have innocent people been negatively affected by my sin? – Yes! Have I walked through a season of the Lord’s discipline? – Absolutely. But He never left me. He has truly made His presence known in the midst of the mess – every step of the way.
It’s His kindness that leads to repentance. And that’s why we’re called to be kind to each other; and not to JUDGE. We rarely know the whole story or have all the facts – just as there are other sides to my story. We’re called to LOVE – first God – with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength – and then one another. And we’re called to FORGIVE each other just as we’ve been forgiven.
Romans 2:1-4: “You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. 2 Now we know that God’s judgment against those who do such things is based on truth. 3So when you, a mere human being, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment? 4 Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?”
1 John 4:7 – Beloved, let us love one another, for love is (springs) from God; and he who loves [his fellowmen] is begotten (born) of God and is coming [progressively] to know and understand God [to perceive and recognize and get a better and clearer knowledge of Him].
1 John 4:16 – And we know (understand, recognize, are conscious of, by observation and by experience) and believe (adhere to and put faith in and rely on) the love God cherishes for us. God is love, and he who dwells and continues in love dwells and continues in God, and God dwells and continues in him.
In my naivety from a lack of life experience, I used to be a little judgmental and self-righteous myself – a bit of a Pharisee, if you will. Let me tell you…no longer. There’s nothing like falling flat on your face, having your pride completely shattered publicly, being stripped of your life as you’ve know it, and then being judged and refused forgiveness by almost everyone around you on top of it all to change your perspective!
To say it’s been a difficult couple of years would be an understatement. I’ve worn a “scarlet letter” – and been through a season of literally being afraid to leave my house. The shame has been overwhelming at times. Could I have given up or chosen to become hard and bitter? Sure. But through it all, I’ve come to know God and experience Him in all the ways that were only concepts and ideals before.
You see – I had all the head knowledge, I’d been reading ABOUT Him for years – but now I was forced to depend on God for literally everything. He has been my perfect Husband, my Counselor, and my Peace in the moments when the pain, fear and anxiety were paralyzing. He has been my Covering and my Provider…step by step, day by day, month by month – He has helped me rebuild my life from nothing – He has provided a place to live, a good job, and just enough money to pay my bills and feed and clothe my children. It has not been easy, but I am here to testify of the goodness and faithfulness of God even in the midst of my sin and failure.
He has been a Father to my children – He’s covered, shielded, and protected them in ways I know I’m not even aware of. He’s given me strength to make it through the days and nights when I was responsible for a newborn and a toddler and exhaustion was threatening to destroy me. He was with me in the hospital when I gave birth to my son, not knowing what tomorrow would hold – rejoicing with me over his life – a life that is fearfully and wonderfully made, and predestined to be, whether I can wrap my mind around it or not (more to come).
He’s given me wisdom, discernment, and favor through the legal battles – and been my companion when I’ve had to face and literally look my greatest fears right in the eyes. And even though I’ve known pain beyond description, He’s been with me through every accusation, betrayal, and judgment passed. I know He is my Shield and Defender. It’s been incredibly difficult for someone like me to feel so misunderstood and to feel defined by my mistakes….but God has been in every detail – more than I can list and more than I even know.
Treat people gently. Love generously. Be quick to forgive. You just never know what someone is walking through. And you never know when you’re going to need forgiveness. I know I’ve caused great damage and my choices have negatively impacted many lives. I’ve grieved and still grieve these things more than I can describe. I’ve had to walk heavy consequences, and I still have to choose on a regular basis to forgive myself.
I’ve been hard enough on myself, and I certainly didn’t need anybody else throwing stones. The moments of kindness, compassion, empathy, and encouragement I’ve received have meant more to me than I can describe. I know I am unworthy and undeserving, but isn’t that what Christianity is all about? We were all unworthy and undeserving, but God still sent his Son Jesus to die so that we could be restored to righteousness and relationship with the Father. I realize now more than ever that even though my salvation is secured through my continual faith and belief in Jesus Christ and my sins are forgiven through His blood with confession and repentance, MY CHOICES STILL MATTER. I have hope that my life is not over – that as I continue to walk in repentance, humility, faith and obedience, God can and will work ALL things together for good. I also have hope that He is able to bring healing and restoration to the broken hearts and broken relationships – in His timing and for His purposes.