That first night alone in our hotel room was heartbreaking and painful in every way. There was nothing warm and fuzzy about this little spur of the moment getaway together. It was the dead of winter and everything felt cold.
It was all so much deeper than just the affair alone, we both knew it. Maybe we had been running from the truth for longer than we cared to admit. Ample amounts of honest words and disappointments mingled with tears came as we sat there on that bed together those few days and nights.
Despite what I had done, how I had strayed, and the disappointment in his eyes, every part of me still longed for the man whose name I carried. So little of it had to do with him; try telling that to the one living the pain of the broken heart of betrayal.
Soul wounds that had never been dealt with and healed, insecurities, boredom, apathy, disappointment, loneliness, no accountability, resentment towards him – I had neglected to tend to my heart and it showed up in my life. Spirit or flesh, what we feed grows.
These are subtle makings of an affair.
I reached out to touch him, he withdrew.
Sin always rips us apart, separating us from the good.
There I was in the same room with him, yet he felt a million miles away. How far I was from the warm and intimate relationship we had once enjoyed together. I longed for the warmth of summer again, it felt so desperately far away.
We were both so soul weary and there were moments, even days, that the chasm between us seemed too far a distance to reconcile.
But I wanted him.
Enough to do whatever work it would take to earn my way back to him. I was still to learn that you cannot earn grace, nor is it possible to strive your way back to acceptance.
There were so many words and tears those few days alone together, too many. Time and healing has helped me forget much of it. But in one moment I will never forget as long as my body has breath, through eyes brimming over with tears he looked straight into my mine and posed this question:
“Let me ask if you this, if you were to have an extremely rare and valuable one of a kind ring on your hand and one day you were out walking and it slipped off your finger and fell into the mud and the beauty of the ring was covered up with dirt and it didn’t seem at all the same. Would you just look at the ring and say, “Oh it’s too big of a mess to reconcile” and walk away to find a new one? Or, would you pick up, clean it up, and slip it back on your finger again… because nothing else could ever replace that particular ring to you?
I don’t know how all this is going to work out, but what I do know is that is where I’m at. You are the valuable and precious ring to me that can’t just be replaced. And I’m not just leaving you there in the mud to go find a new one.”
Grace doesn’t abandon because we fail to measure up to a standard.
I’m not sure how aware I was just yet, but through the messy conduit of failure and betrayal, I had stepped into the beginning of an life-changing encounter with the very grace of God.
In the midst of my husband’s own deep pain, He was Jesus with skin on to me that night, and many more days and nights to follow. He was bandaging my wounds of guilt and shame with tender mercy.
Sometimes the grace of God looks like a bloody cross on a Friday night, and sometimes it sounds like merciful words from the lips of a betrayed one. Sometime grace still comes down to earth to us in the form of Jesus with skin on.
What is this grace? My heart quietly whispered as I drifted to sleep in the embrace of strong arms wrapped tightly around me.
So new and unfamiliar, yet beautiful and life-giving. This grace was different from the grace I had learned in Sunday school that might get us to Heaven if we try hard enough, one that was even better when I memorized the ten commandments and followed all the rule rules about how to earn favor with God and make it to Heaven one day.
This grace met a confused and broken young wife in a hotel room on a cold December night when I was ugly and broken and said “I don’t condemn you. I still want you. Now go, and sin no more.” The very same way it had met the woman caught in an adulterous act some two-thousand years ago.
“I want neither a terrorist spirituality that keeps me in a perpetual state of fright about being in right relationship with my heavenly Father nor a sappy spirituality that portrays God as such a benign teddy bear that there is no aberrant behavior or desire of mine that he will not condone. I want a relationship with the Abba of Jesus, who is infinitely compassionate with my brokenness and at the same time an awesome, incomprehensible, and unwieldy Mystery. ”
― Brennan Manning
Sure, we had issues. Just like every relationships that lasts longer than two weeks. But there were no monumental mountains to conquer in our marriage, just the deep wounds of two war-torn souls fighting our way back to one another. We went to marriage counseling, it was good, it just wasn’t what we needed most. We weren’t afraid of honest conflict and communication – and mostly we knew what we needed to do.
We were never alone. This is what has made all the difference.
Honesty, work, and the untethered determination of two hearts to wrestle and fight and love our way back to one another.
We knew that we needed, we wanted more than survival and just making it together. We wanted to do more than limp through life together – we wanted to run.
We wanted healing.
We wanted more than apathetic existence.
We wanted passionate pursuit.
We decided we didn’t want to up the couple sitting next to each other in apathetic existence twenty years down the road with gaping wounds we just bandaged over and forgot. Maybe apathy played a small part in what got us here, but if we just covered it over but didn’t truly heal this fracture, it would become a force that would eventually break us in two, or leave us together, and lonely.
When one or the other partner stops caring, goes belly-up, and no longer invests energy in resolving conflict or in even fighting for the future of the relationship, then it’s often a signal the end is near. Apathy shows up as unconcern, indifference, lack of interest, lack of physicality, and lack of emotion.
Apathy doesn’t just appear in a marriage randomly or in one big explosion. It creeps into a marriage or relationship like a snake on its belly, poisoning the joy and connection in the relationship. Apathy is subtle, and sometimes even the apathetic partner doesn’t realize what’s happening until they wake up one day and realize they have no more to give in the relationship.- Barrie Davenport
We made a decision. Decisions are the pivotal points that can change our lives if we will be bold enough to make them, brave enough to follow through.
What is the secret?
The secret is, there is no secret. The magic began the moment that kindness and grace collided with my own free will to stay as I was, or turn from my ways and run towards him.
Grace met with repentance unlocks the padlocked door to restoration and healing, to re-write the most beautiful ending to our saddest stories.
When repentance and grace kiss, the supernatural is born.
Because salvation is by grace through faith, I believe that among the countless number of people standing in front of the throne and in front of the Lamb, dressed in white robes and holding palms in their hands. I shall see the prostitute from the Kit-Kat Ranch in Carson City, Nevada, who tearfully told me that she could find no other employment to support her two-year-old son. I shall see the woman who had an abortion and is haunted by guilt and remorse but did the best she could faced with grueling alternatives; the businessman besieged with debt who sold his integrity in a series of desperate transactions; the insecure clergyman addicted to being liked, who never challenged his people from the pulpit and longed for unconditional love; the sexually abused teen molested by his father and now selling his body on the street, who, as he falls asleep each night after his last ‘trick’, whispers the name of the unknown God he learned about in Sunday school.
‘But how?’ we ask.
Then the voice says, ‘They have washed their robes and have made them white in the blood of the Lamb.’
There they are. There *we* are – the multitude who so wanted to be faithful, who at times got defeated, soiled by life, and bested by trials, wearing the bloodied garments of life’s tribulations, but through it all clung to faith.
My friends, if this is not good news to you, you have never understood the gospel of grace.” – Brennan Manning (The Ragamuffin Gospel)
We live in such a fallen world and nothing would ever be perfect. But before we left that place, we re-united in the most beautiful time of physical intimacy for the first time again, with such a deep understanding of all that it meant, not taking a moment of this new grace for granted. It was a re-affirming of a sacred covenant with God and with one another all over again, that despite everything we had done to separate ourselves from one another, grace was greater.
I was his, and he was mine.
This is the gospel. So much bigger than a ticket to Heaven. But giving us the personal supernatural power of the cross to live – living and breathing and bringing dead things back to life.
Even a marriage.
There would be many more hard days and sadness and obstacles to come, but deeply – together, we drew that first breath into our lungs, and I knew we would live again….maybe more richly and passionately than anything we had ever known before.
Because on the third day He busted out of that tomb and conquered the death we had brought. This is the power of the cross. The promise of new life is what the cross has done.
I had just begun a deeply intimate encounter with grace that would change my life.
(to be continued….)