I don’t know how many hours I laid in the dark alone that night, but it felt like an eternity. I awoke to a soft whisper that said, “Come down with me, let’s go to bed and get some rest.” He had come back home to me after a few hours with a trusted friend.
“I honestly can’t sleep in our bed right now.”
I felt so dirty and ashamed, far too unclean and unworthy to resume everything as it had been before my fall.
He didn’t force me.
He put a song on repeat in that room titled “Beautiful Things” by Gungor before coming to join me right where I was. He wrapped his arms around me and held me. We laid there in the dark just holding each other, as if our life together depended on it. Little did we know then that it did. There were no words, only one constant embrace as we cried ourselves to sleep that first night as we listened to words over an over that reminded us that “He makes beautiful things out the dust.”
Just hours before I had confessed to the ultimate betrayal of a marriage covenant and had broken his heart in two. He had given me everything he had to give. His name, and access to every privilege of being his wife, and I had thrown it all in the dirt like it meant so little. He had every right to toss me to the side and walk away to start over with someone new, someone less disappointing. Yet, because of His agape love for me, in my weakness, and in the midst of his own pain, he knelt down to embrace me. He came down to where I was and joined me there. He embraced me where I was, just as I was.
This was my first real life encounter with the God and the faith I had grown up singing of. Grace was coming down to where I was, asking for nothing in return, embracing me right in the middle of my mess, without asking me to clean myself up first.
The first rays of morning light pierced through the upstairs window of the room which we had slept for a few short hours. I searched for the arms that had held me tightly, but they were no where to be found. My entire being felt as if I had just been through the first round of a long boxing match. Everything hurt, my swollen eyes burned from the endless tears of my own grief and shame.
There is no pain deeper than the realization that you have broken the heart of the one who loves you most, the one who know would lay down their very life for you.
It is the suffocating weight of shame that threatens to separate us even further from the one whom we have offended. Guilt reminds us that we have failed, but shame is like a terminal cancer that eats away at us until everything left that was still alive is completely destroyed, leaving no chance for healing and restoration.
I pulled my body up from the place where we had slept and went downstairs to figure out how to face my life again; a life that I knew would never be the same.
There was no going back.
Our six and four year old children ran to greet me that morning. They were my first reminder on the first of many days, of the new reality we would have to figure out how to navigate all over again.
I felt so raw; so broken, and fragile.
Too fragile even to carry out the basic responsibilities of life; a house, kids, a job, and a newly shattered marriage. I looked around me and everything seemed more like a battlefield at the end of an intense night of bombing, running, and suffering than it resembled the beautiful life I had once known.
What I wanted more than anything was go to bed and hide in my room under my covers and never ever come out to face the world again. I wanted him to stay, but a small part of me wanted him to leave me alone to wallow in my own grief and shame.
Still, I wondered where he was.
He had gone downstairs early that morning before I awoke. In fact, I’m not sure he slept at all that night.
The thing about love is that when we open up ourselves to love deeply and to be deeply loved, we become most vulnerable to our hearts being broken in two. Loving anyways means we are willing to believe that love is worth the risk.
His heart was so broken.
I had been his whole world. Right or wrong, he had set me up on a pedestal, one from which I had fallen hard from.
He grief was so deep, possibly deeper than I will ever fully understand. I wandered into our bedroom and found him alone on the floor of our walk-in closet sobbing. His pain was so tangible it physically hurt to stay and acknowledge it. I felt suffocated by the weight of his crushed heart and two grieving souls.
I was coming face to face with the reality that there was no amount of confessions or apologies that could undo the damage or soothe the pain.
I had owned up to my betrayal, now it was time to face the devastation of the situation, and hold his hand as we walked through the wreckage of the aftermath, together.
I sat with him on the floor of that closet. It was so dark. Everything. The closet we cried in together, and the place we found our lives in.
“We need to get away, just you and I. We need to go away together now. I can’t do this here” were his words to me on that closet floor.
It was just four days before Christmas… and nothing was prepared. It didn’t matter, I knew he was right. We needed to get away and figure out how to work through this, if we even wanted to work through this, and to shield our young children from the emotional devastation of it all.
I called my sister and arranged for her to keep the children for a few days, not giving any explanation, just that it was urgent. I know she much have thought it was strange that we were going away spur of the moment the week of Christmas, but she didn’t pry, and I was grateful.
Still, no one knew anything except for the other man, the friend I first confessed to, and the friend he sat in a truck for hours with just the night before. At this point we just didn’t want any else to know. First, because it was Christmas, second, because it would make things more complicated than they already were. We would tell in our own way, at the right time, but not now. For now we needed, we wanted to sort through the complexities of our mess alone.
And so, we dropped the kids off and drove away to another city.
The car ride was tense and awkward. Everything about life seemed smothered in pain… the beautiful faces of our children, a car ride, a meal, a night of sleep, everything. All reminders of all that we had together that we stood to lose.
Where did we even begin? The man with whom I had felt so one with, suddenly felt so unfamiliar and estranged. I gave him permission to ask me anything and promised to be honest with him, and I was.
We went back to the place where I first gave myself to another man. With every new detail it was another blow to heart, until we both realized that at least for now, knowing all the details of betrayal would not help us move forward from this painful place.
After a couple of hours of a very sad car ride, we arrived in a new city, checked in, and he opened the door to our room. Only this time we were not the beaming, happy couple who had run away together nine years ago.
We stepped into that hotel room together that afternoon not fully understanding that we were stepping into a journey that would hurt more deeply than anything in life we had known up until this point.
We had chosen to face our searing pain head on, acknowledge our broken hearts, and look straight into the face of the real enemy, and fight our way back to one another.
Would we make it together, how did this happen, what would be do with our pain, could he really forgive, how could we ever truly heal? These were the questions that neither of us had the answers to. I’m not even sure we realized just how much back then, but looking back, these were the excruciatingly raw yet critical nights of being broken together that would determine everything else from this point on.
The fairytale marriage was shattered.
We needed to access the damage and weigh the cost of rebuilding. We were both broken, in one way or another. We could let that brokenness rip us apart forever.
There was no denying the fact that we would either be broken alone, or we could be broken together. We were just beginning to learn that the only way we would last forever was to be broken together.
(to be continued….)