You can catch up on our story from the beginning here.
I didn’t know it yet, but this was the day my wife would tell me she had been having an affair with another man. As I was leaving work that afternoon a co-worker asked me why I was smiling and what I had to be happy about. I honestly don’t remember how I replied but little did I know, my world was about to turn upside down in a way that would later give me the answer to that co-worker’s question.
It would be Christmas in just a few short days and I wanted to get Rachel something special. I was upstairs at our computer working on my gift to her when she came up and joined me where I was. It was silent and after a few minutes she uttered words I’ll never forget, “Don’t get me a gift please, I really don’t deserve anything…” We love to laugh and joke and I laughed. But when I turned and looked at her face I knew she wasn’t kidding around. There was a deep brokenness that I’d never seen in her before and I knew, this was real and it was bad.
“I’m having an affair.”
My heart was crushed. Like I’d just been hit by ten freight trains that I never saw coming.
To be honest, I was hoping that somehow she was just coming up with some sort of demented joke and was going to quickly tell me that of course she’d never do something like that!
I felt dazed and confused. My heart and my emotions were all too quickly overcome with rage, anger, hatred and every ugly emotion one could imagine. Honestly, I wanted to find him and beat him to a bloody pulp…
I told her I was leaving, grabbed my jacket, and left.
I drove off in my car and called a friend that I trusted and knew would give wise counsel and asked him to meet me right away. I told him everything I knew and we talked about what we could do to get even. But the conversation quickly changed from getting even to salvaging a what was left of my marriage.
He said much, but He something that was almost prophetic that night that I clung to. “I believe God could use this affair to take you both into greater depths with Himself that you’ve never been before.”
Maybe there could be purpose in this pain.
I left that conversation with a wise friend that night filled with resolution, knowing what I needed to do was not to run from it, but to go home and sweep the woman who had broken my heart in two off her feet and love her through it.
We had some hard stuff to face and work through together that I felt couldn’t wait until some day down the road, at a more convenient time. Here it was just 3 days until Christmas and we canceled everything. We stopped life, made arrangements for someone to watch the kids, took time off work, and we left town.
Everything felt horrible and sad, the car ride to and from the place we stayed, being alone together in a hotel room, all of it. But we intentionally took those few days alone to survey the damage, to begin to try and figure out how to wade through the mess and try to start over again. Could we salvage it and start over again? On those days away we had just begun the work of wading through the wreckage of our marriage; but for me, the hard work was still to come.
In all of this my faith was being tested and stretched to something that in the end would be so much more than the man and husband I was before this. But for then, the bitterness I felt inside only seemed to deepen and fester. In the days and weeks after her admission I begun to have deep resentment towards close relationships with a tiny handful of “Christian leaders” we had looked up to and been extremely close to that instantly cut all ties with us, wanting nothing to do with us because of what Rachel had done. And I had literal hatred for the man that she had the affair with, the man who had called himself my friend. I had disgust for how my wife had given away her body to another man. And I just couldn’t resolve how it was that I had never suspected anything at all was going on right up under my nose!
“I want what you’ve got.”
Those were the words that kept ringing in my head. They were the exact words the other man had uttered to me just a couple short months before he took my wife. He was a friend, or at least I thought so. So I had assumed he was telling me that I have a great family and that he yearns for good things for his family. Now I realized that maybe the truth was right up under my nose the whole time, and I had missed it; that it was my wife that he was talking about, only I had realized it too late. How could I have been so in the dark?
Every time I pondered his words and actions, my bitterness deepened. To make matters worse, when I would try to tell Rachel how justified I was in my anger and bitterness toward him her response was, “Well, if you’re going to feel that way towards him that you’re going to have to feel the same towards me because I am equally at fault.”
She took the full weight of the responsibility of the affair and never once blame-shifted.
I guess I wanted a scapegoat, someone to carry the blame; and he seemed like the easiest target. And then I didn’t have to deal with my bitterness…or forgive. The truth that took me some time to realize was that although it was easier to forgive my wife, he stood in the same need of grace as her. And the forgiveness wasn’t for him, it was for me. I could give it or become consumed with a bitterness that grew until it wrecked my soul.
So many details of the dark, hard times in between in all of the early days, most of which have already been written…
But all I know is that together, we invited Jesus right there into our mess. We wanted and needed Him there because the wounds were so deep and so painful that we knew we could never make it out of this with a marriage worth having in our own power. And as He faithfully does when we invite Him, He showed up and never left us alone.
The Spirit who loves me was constantly convicting me of my bitterness, hatred and anger about what had happened. He led me to a reminder of how to forgive with the simple example of how He taught us to pray,
Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespass as we forgive those who trespass against us. Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil, for Thine is the kingdom the power and the glory forever, Amen.
Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.
I am guilty as charged about the sinful, hurtful past in my own life. Was my sin any less offensive to God, or to my wife? I didn’t deserve any of the forgiveness that had been given to me, but it was extended it to me anyways. I know this, He hasn’t one time withheld His love from me because of the many times I’ve fallen.
So am I better than Christ that I should be justified to withhold forgiveness and grace from someone who has wronged me?
Forgiveness. There’s something so beautiful and miraculous that comes out of the choice to give grace. Maybe it’s because it’s something we literally cannot do on our own. It requires relying completely on Christ to be able to truly forgive, and have our broken hearts mended again.
For me in our marriage, this was teaching me how to love my wife deeply, and have grace for her in a way that I never had to have before.
Husbands, love your wives as Christ loves the church and laid down his life for it.
That’s a pretty tough one to stomach God. Did you see what she did to me? How she hurt me? She crushed my heart and though she may not have said it verbally, she told me that I’m not good enough for her. I am not enough.
Yet that truth spoke to me in a new way that I had not truly understood before now. How did Christ love the church who is His bride? He loved her so much that He gave up His place of honor in heaven to come down to serve her, and to die the most humiliating death on a cross to buy back the bride that had betrayed Him. My living example for how to be a husband willingly faced the full penalty for sins that weren’t His own, and He never said a single word in His own defense. He didn’t ask why, He didn’t toss blame, He didn’t run away….. He stayed and He loved her in her mess. He willingly gave up all of His rights to buy her back because she was His prize, His ultimate treasure.
Click! It was like the lights came on in my head and I realized, this is how I respond to her!
I didn’t have all the answers but I knew that it was no longer my job to make sense of it, to get even – to make either of them pay, to wallow in self pity or feel violated, humiliated, angry or bitter. My only job as her husband was to love her; with everything in me to sacrifice my life, to put my rights to death so that I could give her the gift of grace.
It would start with just one offering of kindness and selfless grace that I didn’t always feel like giving, at a time. Because when my heart was crushed, if I was going to stay and love her at all it was going to be out of a source of love so much bigger than I.
And I knew one thing for sure, I either needed to leave her, or love her. And nothing in me wanted to leave.
It’s getting lengthy so I will continue with more with the details of how we healed together in my next post.
To be continued…
(If you know someone who needs to hear our story, please share. It is the only reason we talk publicly about it, so that others will know that they aren’t alone, and that there is hope and grace waiting for those who need it most.)