honest words · on marriage

The Scandal of Grace {His Side of the Story: How We Healed}

{You can catch up on Anthony’s first post “Leave Or Love” here}

…..But how? How could we go on, much less heal from here?

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.


In those early days, and for months…maybe even years I went over and over it all again and again in my mind. Searching for the place where the train of our marriage went off track.

Truthfully, I had been blindsided by it all, completely unaware of what was coming around the bend. But clearly, something had gone wrong, and I had missed all the signs of trouble.

Somewhere along the path of the past nine years we had been married, we had both lost sight of the passionate pursuit of one another that brought us together. We had become “comfortable” with one other. Like a comfy shoe. The passion had worn away from relationship and I had become comfortable in our marriage, apathetically drifting along, leaving her quietly longing for the way I had once pursued and passionately loved her. 

I knew we needed to go through the painstaking process of figuring out what brought us to that point, so that we could know how to move on from there.

Like every marriage, our schedules we busy, we were always going, pursuing “a better life” and we just weren’t intentionally investing in our marriage or emotional intimacy with one another. We took it for granted that we would always be okay. I was involved at church and working a lot and was unintentionally giving my greatest energy and attention to everything in my life except for my wife. We were progressing and moving forward and living together, but we weren’t growing together.

She withdrew and became more inward and silent, I mistook her silence for happiness rather than the glaring red flag I have since learned to take note of as a sign of trouble.

Silence is code blue for many issues, and it definitely doesn’t equal the happiness or inward health of any relationship. 

For most of us, silence means we are shifting our need for one another elsewhere because we have accepted the fact that the way things are are the way they will always be. Silence can almost fool us into believing things are healthy and good, when in fact it is incredibly dangerous because silence and stillness means something is dying.

Apathy, lack of passion, and silence is when the enemy sneaks in quietly with offers of  “a better way”. 

The months ahead brought a ton of self evaluation and trying to figure out what to do. We started by asking each other questions (that lets face it…. nobody wants to ask because we don’t want to hear the brutal answers). I asked her how I was doing as a husband and what I needed to change to help meet her needs – willing to hear her honest answers and respond with change.
We attended “A Weekend to Remember” marriage conference together. One of the things we discovered was that so many of the issues we faced could be resolved if we would learn how to let down our barriers and talk through things each other rather than talking AT one another, tossing around blame.

Emotional intimacy.

I was listening to the radio as they interviewed the author Francine Rivers. They were talking about a book she authored that described rejection and forgiveness. I immediately called and placed the order and our copy of “Redeeming Love” came in just a few days later and we began to read.

The book, loosely based the book of Hosea in the Bible, was a story that became a refuge for us. I read to her every single night (I learned to love reading to her back then). As the story progressed, we began to reconnect and through that emotional reconnection, we were giving each other permission to be honest, and our wounds began the process of healing.

“Lead me.”

I realized she had been begging for me to lead her and I had been too busy with good things and missed the best thing, tending to the rest of the world when I should have been leading my home well.

It’s been a hard, ugly, yet bittersweet process of learning where we went wrong and allowing God to get us on a better path.

I have realized that most people want a bullet point “to-do” list for how to heal or have great marriage. But I can’t come up with any more important answer to how that we made it through better than we were, outside of the truth that we humbled ourselves, and we invited God into our mess.

I am convinced that our marriage should never have made it to fifteen years. If you knew our entire story, you would know that it has had far more than one reason not to. That would likely have been the brutal ending of an already taxed relationship – except for the encounters with the grace and mercy of God we begin to find as individuals, that would then extend to one another over and over again.

I can honestly look back and say to that co-worker I mentioned at the beginning who asked me why I’m so happy…. “I can be happy despite the struggles because my life is about more than just existing from day to day, I have found deep purpose that makes me feel like a rich man.”

Maybe God seems like too small a solution for the hardest things in life to some, but as Rachel and I have talked through this, it is truly the only answer we have left to give.

I know for sure that I serve a God that cares enough about me to give me supernatural grace and strength when my world collapses, because He did.

A merciful and loving Father who when I sought him out, gave me every single thing I needed and lacked on my own to be able to love my wife without measure when she needed it most.

I know that God allowed her to experience His love through me. In so doing, He has in turn brought a richness and depth of love to me through her that I would never have known without this dark season of our lives.

And six years post affair, the work has only just begun! Really, it never should have ended. But we have learned to go back to the things we did when we were pursuing one another and out of our minds in love with one another, and have decided to stay there because it works! Writing love letters, taking trips together, working together, coffee dates, sharing the deepest parts of our ourselves (no secrets) TALKING, shutting the kids out of our bedroom and spending loads of alone time, praying and growing in faith together. We have learned to say “no” more, to shut the rest of the world out on a regular basis to put our relationship first. Because out of it flows everything else we do.

There is a daily dying of self, submitting to God, renewing of mind and heart that has to be done in both of us as individuals. Without it, we could never hope to love one another as Christ intended for it to be in marriage.

It is hard to forgive when we’ve been wronged, but necessary.

It is difficult to get past bitterness, but possible.

Anyone can have an average marriage. But speaking for both of us, we never wanted an ordinary marriage. Our love began with wonderful and now it’s hard to settle for anything less. But building and maintaining a wonderful marriage? Well that is hard work, but worth every struggle to have it. Trust me.

And so at the end of one of the darkest, most painful stories of my life, what do I leave you with?

I leave you with the only thing I’ve got.

Hope.

Rachel and I aren’t extraordinary in any way. We’ve just clung tightly to the truth and grace of Jesus when it was literally all we had and found that just as He promised, two are better than one, but three…. a threefold cord can’t be easily broken.

We took our mess to the foot of the cross and watched his mercy transform it into something that daily blows us away.

I don’t know what your dark night is. And I can’t promise you that your story will have a happy ending. But I can promise you this, if two people will wholly submit themselves to God and give Him first place in your lives and/or in your marriage….He will heal it, redeem it, and then He will make it far more beautiful than before.

I can say that with certainty because… I’ve lived it.

– Anthony Rowell

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