In the months after the affair what I struggled with most was not feeling like I had a right to be home, under his roof, in his bed. Who was I and why did I deserve grace?
Guilt. Shame. Condemnation. Self-pity. Self-righteous pride.
“How could I have done that? How could I have allowed this to happen? What is wrong with me that I went there? How could I ever make it up to him?”
To make it more confusing, the affair wasn’t even about the sex. I wasn’t in a terrible marriage, and I certainly didn’t love the other man. No matter how hard I evaluated every detail, I could never make sense out how I got to where I was.
I can tell you I was in love with the feeling of being wanted and of the excitement of being pursued by someone who didn’t have to want me.
No matter how you slice it, the common denominator was me.
To make matters worst, up until that point I had never wholeheartedly embraced a faith that involved anything greater than my ability to be good enough, until suddenly there was no hiding or denying the fact that I was in fact, not good in myself.
My faith needed a massive encounter with unearned, undeserved, grace that I couldn’t give myself. Because up until then my faith wlak had only understood following rules and being the kind of “good enough” that had seemed to allude me since girlhood.
Selfish ambition, pride, and self-righteousness threatened to hold the same power over me through shame and depression post-affair as they had in the years leading up to the affair.
I was coming face to face with the fact that my affair was a far deeper issue than just the affair. It was a real life, slap in the face wake up call that if left untended to, the scars of the past, massive insecurity, feelings of insignificance, emotional wounds, bitterness, the inability to love deeply could actually destroy everything good in my life.
Affairs and unfaithfulness in any form are almost never about sex, just as alcohol over-indulgence is never about the taste. They are the physical manifestations of a soul crying out for something to be filled that is empty and broken. Something in need of a divine filling and healing that though we seek desperately for it within the confines of this natural world, will only ever be found within a higher realm where grace is.
I was broken.
We were broken.
So desperately broken together.
Maybe for the first time in my life second only to the earlier years of our marriage we had spent coming to grips with and walking through his pornography addiction together.
Here we were at a similar cliff, one that felt even more frightening and almost unbearable some days. To be honest there were more occasions than I can count that we asked ourselves, “Is all this pain worth it? Should we just call it quits and stop ripping each other apart?”
Some days it all just felt like too much. We were so tired, and there was so much work to be done to heal that it was tempting to believe that a new start might be better for everyone involved than repairing what was destroyed.
But we just kept getting up, day after day and putting one foot in front of the other, deciding to do the hard work again for just one more day. And then another, and another, until we were walking a slow and difficult path to healing and wholeness.
We sought out and surrounded ourselves with wise and Spirit filled counsel, the arms of the few that would prop us up through the raw journey of healing and reconciliation that on some days felt more like a minefield than a path to anything wonderful.
It was both excruciating and beautiful; like two war torn soldiers mending and tending one another’s wounds, he lifted and carried me on days when I could barely lift my head, and I listened to and held him as his heart broke over and over again.
Rather than run from it, I allowed myself to sit and face the deep pain in his eyes, behind his words. I wanted to shoulder it with him because if were get through this at all, it was going to be together or not at all.
His own heart still raw and reeling over my betrayal, I was astonished that he had anything left for me at all. Yet, in the midst of his broken heart he pierced the vale of my own personal darkness with arrows of truth and grace.
“So let us come boldly to the throne of grace and find mercy for us when we need it most.”
“Perfect love casts out fear.”
Were the words of truth I would wake up to taped to the bathroom mirror where he knew I would stand in disappointment and defeat and stare at my reflection the morning after the dark nights.
It was over, it was past, and yet the pain was still so raw and tangible. He had been through hell himself and here he was, carrying buckets of water of life to my weary and parched soul.
I remember one night in particular when he ran me a warm bath for me with lit candles all around as he sat on the bathroom floor next to the tub and read to me. Sometimes good words were all we had left. Offerings of truth and grace…the lifelines that were rescuing our hearts one word, one night of tears at a time.
Tiny glimmers of hope amidst the dark nights of tears, of fighting, of anger, of honest words and deep confessions on the true state of our hearts – all the parts of our individual selves we had kept tucked away from the world and from one another in hopes they would heal on their own.
But if we were going to do more than just make it through this together – I mean actually make something of value out of all this mess, it was going to take work. Bloody, deep, honest, soul work.
And we were willing and ready.
We put on our sturdiest pair of work gloves and set out to carve out a new path that would nothing like our pasts, to make a way to a new place where what we would have would together would be far more than either of us would ever have imagined possible.
This love was different. So divine, straight from above. And it was accomplishing so much more than rescuing a broken marriage, it was branding the permanence of deep grace upon our both hearts, that would reach far beyond just the two of us out into a broken world so desperately in need of this miracle we were discovering together.
I had betrayed and wronged him in the worst way possible for another human to be wronged and then essentially asked, “Can I come home?”
And what he offered me in turn for my selfish wandering wasn’t a mere shelter of respite, it was a banqueting table of love.
I had trampled on his heart and threw it back in his face, and in return he sang songs of grace over me.
This man of flesh who had given me his last name was becoming a living example of a greater Husband who delighted in the imperfect, wandering bride He saw before Him. Instead of tossing her away because of her great offense against Him, he reached out His hand and said, “You are mine, and I’m taking you home.”
(photo taken 3 months after the affair)
So rather than giving up and starting over with someone else, we decided to take one other’s hand for the first time again, and let He who IS grace show us how to dance to the brand new rhythms of a love that whispers, “Tell me every terrible thing you’ve done and let me love you anyways.”