The days following my admission of the affair would remind us that though there is freedom in facing our demons and coming clean, though there is grace, the damage that any kind of unfaithfulness and failure creates, leaves behind a great big gaping wound in our hearts that feels impossible to mend.
It certainly had in ours, in different ways for each of us.
We returned home and muddled our way through all of the happy celebrations of Christmas day and trying to smile when our hearts were still so raw and broken inside. Honestly, I don’t remember much about Christmas of 2010. The entire thing is all but lost to my memory. Sometimes I wonder how much of the painful details of life our minds allow us to forget so that we can heal and move forward. I believe it to be more than we will ever know. I’m grateful for that.
Still, no one in our family knew what were in the midst of, and we felt it best to keep it that way….at least for a time. We survived the holiday cheer and then as life must do, resumed to some sort of normal routine as we ushered in the new year.
Here we were.
We had survived what felt like a massive all out bombing attack on our marriage. Battered and bruised, dust-covered faces, bleeding wounds and all, we had emerged the minefield of infidelity still hand in hand, still clinging tightly to one another despite the assault the enemy had so skillfully advanced against us.
There was no way to know that the struggle, my struggle, would not end upon confession and coming clean in every way possible for a person to come clean.
A dark cloud, like nothing I had ever felt, blanketed over my mind and my heart. The tears and the sadness and the feelings of worthlessness surrounded me with the same veracious pull the affair had had on me. I went to bed at nights dreading that the morning would ever come and I would have to face who believed I had become again. When the mornings came, I would lie there staring at the wall and cry until I cried myself back to sleep because sleep felt like the only escape from the darkness inside.
The truth is, I couldn’t face myself – I couldn’t face anyone. I stood in front of my bathroom mirror and saw only sadness and deep regret in my eyes. I hated myself for losing control, for hurting the one I loved the most, the one who had loved me faithfully.
I was a disappointment.
I had let everyone I down, including myself.
Up until this point, I had been well-versed in religion and self-righteousness. But now, it felt like I didn’t know what I believed about anything anymore, including God and my faith. But I knew this – I was far from righteous. So far that it seemed like an elusive idea. I wrestled with how to deal with the new-found realization of the dirty and flawed brokenness of my own humanity. I was facing the truth, and it was almost too raw to bear.
It could be that the idea of righteousness in one’s own strength, apart from Jesus and what He did for us on the cross, is one of the biggest lies that religion separated from the Gospel of grace perpetuates. It leads us to believe that we must constantly strive to be good, to be holy, to be enough. And if we fail to measure up to the impossible standard of the law, then we are worthless.
I had bought into that lie since I was a girl. I didn’t know how else to believe. But I knew this, my failure was yet another glaring proof that I wasn’t good…that I would never be good enough.
I needed to know that it wasn’t up to me to earn grace. In fact, at my very best I was filthy. I needed to understand that Jesus didn’t die to make bad people good, but to make dead people alive. And I needed to be alive.
One morning in particular I was struggling deeply as shame blanketed itself tightly around me so much so that it felt hard even to breathe. Once again, I found myself sobbing alone in my bed, longing for the warm and loving embrace I had known from the woman who had been my closest mentor and spiritual mama for the past few years. We had been close, as close as any real life mother and daughter. I looked up to her, confided in her, prayed with her, wept with her, did life with her, and would often sit at her kitchen table many mornings with coffee cups in hand and listen as she poured into me.
I deeply adored her with all of the love that any good daughter has towards her good mother, and in many ways still do. The painfully true thing about love is that you can’t just turn it off when a person exits your life.
And I had believed she felt the same about me. I was hurting and I wanted my mom. Yet, through many attempts to reach out to her since my admission of the affair, a month had passed and I had yet to even hear her voice.
To this day, I never heard her voice again.
Every phone call, every text message, every email went unreturned as if she had never known me. This only added additional insult to injury and the fragile state of my heart.
The enemy had not succeeded at taking me down completely through the trappings and allure of adultery, so he redirected his plan to target my soul through the bondage of guilt and shame, mixed with a heavy dose of rejection and loss.
If ever there was a time when I felt I needed her love and nurture it was now. Instead, I was met with the kind of cold and unexplained silence that felt too much for my fragile heart to bear.
A few months went by that felt as if I was limping my way through life. I had confessed, I had repented, I was doing the hard work of sifting through the wreckage of our relationship with my husband, so why did I still feel so broken, so alone?
More than anything else, I felt exactly like I’d been thrown in a pile of damaged goods to be discarded.
Broken people aren’t worthless things to be thrown out into the trash pile when they don’t measure up.
Her repeated lack of response to me because of my failure only proved to compound my own feelings of guilt and shame.
I wasn’t giving up easily. I needed her, or so I thought. I felt so separated, so cut off from everything good and warm I had once enjoyed. I believed that if I could just have an audience with her and just tell the truth, bare everything I had done and beg for her forgiveness, she could love me enough despite everything to heal the brokenness I felt inside.
And so, one morning I woke up and decided I was going to attempt to contact her one last time. This would be my final attempt. I called several times and listened as the phone rang until voicemail picked up. Every time.
An hour or so later I was driving and I heard my a text message come in on my phone. It was her. She had responded for the first time via a lengthy text message. For sure I can’t remember every word, but what I do remember that I will never forget as long as I live were these words:
I want you to know that I do love you and have enjoyed our relationship and sweet times together. You have been special to me. But your infidelity has been a deep disappointment to me and to God more than you know, one that I cannot reconcile to continue on as we were. It is clear that you need deliverance and help and I do pray that you receive it. Please contact (insert religious leader name) as I believe she can further help you but I can no longer be involved with you. It is clear that everything about who you were in Christ was a lie and the validity of who you claim to be is in question. I love you and wish you and Anthony the very best. Please do not ever contact me in the future.”
And just like that, it was over. She was gone from my life.
I pulled my car off the road onto the side of the highway and wept until my stomach ached. Violent tears, the kind of grief that overtakes your entire body until it feels like you would rather die than to feel pain this deep.
Hers was the “rejection latter” that would change my life.
I had been desperately banging at the door of the one I had assumed would pick me up, dust me off, and bandage my wounds, only to be left standing in the cold with the door slammed and locked in my face.
Soiled, stained, ruined.
Like the woman with the scarlet letter, adulterer, failure, disappointment, fraud threatened to brand themselves on my being until it became all I could see when I looked at myself in the mirror every single morning.
Because after all, if you’re so disappointing that the ones who are supposed to love you don’t, then who else ever will?
Tears. Oh the tears. A new kind of pain that I had yet to feel. The sorrow went from depth to depth without end.
I know what it feels like for your heart to break into a million pieces in an instant of unexplained loss of someone you loved more than you could ever put into words. I believe it’s even worst when it happens and they are still living. Death would have been easier.
I did not understand, nor could I even see it then, but the complete rejection and ultimately, permanent loss of a woman I loved so deeply, would become one of the greatest gifts of my life. Without her to depend on and look to for sustenance and healing, I had no place to turn to but one, nowhere to run, but into the arms of a grace-filled and loving Father who would never turn me away or abandon me in my own mess.
At least to my life, and not by my own choosing, she died that day.
In my deep grief, I could allow my pain to fester inside and make me bitter, or I could let the weight and pain of my grief push me into an entirely new direction. One that I had not yet, and could not experience without “the cord being cut” and losing the life I had once had, so that I could find it.
Maybe she didn’t, or maybe she did know that in her abandoning me, she was pushing me straight into the arms of the only Healer, the only Redeemer who would, who could bandage every single one of my wounds because He had already been wounded, so that I could be healed.
(to be continued…)
“Rejection hurts so deeply because it attacks the very person that we are. It destroys our self-esteem, and attacks who we are and our purpose in life. This is why it is one of the most common tools the devil will use to destroy a person’s life. God never wanted us to feel rejected or abandon. He desires for you to know who you really are, and realize how deeply God loves, accepts, and appreciates you, so that you can live out the fullness of what all God has ordained you to be. God’s Word tells us that without being rooted and grounded in the love (and acceptance) of God, we cannot experience the fullness of God in our lives:
And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.” -Ephesians 3:19