The Scandal of Grace {The Affair}

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The Scandal Of Grace {The Affair} 

It was just six days before Christmas.

To everyone on the outside, our lives probably seemed sickeningly close to perfect. But what no one knew is that on this particular night, I found myself sitting alone in my car in the driveway of our home all brightly lit up for the season. What I or anyone else could have have seen with our eyes that night was lovely. But it was what was on the inside that was truly the most beautiful of all. I sat there imagining my husband gently tucking in our six year old daughter and four year old son for the night. I imagined him waiting up for me to come home, because he never goes to bed until he knows I am safely home.

My mind replayed scenes from the past nine years of  life with the man inside our home, an imperfect man who had loved me deeply. Yet here I was, sitting alone in the dark of the night contemplating the idea of giving up, of walking away from it all for good.

I look back at that night often and wonder what could bring a person to a place of walking away from everything that is good in life in effort to pursue what they honestly believe at the time to be a better life with someone different.

With someone else.

That was the tragic night in which months of unfiltered thoughts, under the table flirtation, late night chats, and hiding it all, ultimately culminated in giving myself away to a man who had never promised his heart to me.

night-driving-06-0312-lgn-9258As I drove to meet “the other man” earlier that night to just sit and talk, there was a part of me that knew it was all so wrong.  The thing is, somewhere along the way, I had stopped caring; stopped listening to that still small voice inside, gently nudging me towards truth. I just knew that I wanted what I wanted. After all, it was my time to make myself happy, to have a little fun, and find my own escape from the pressures of life for a while. While I genuinely believed it was possible to entertain an evening with a man who wasn’t my own to just sit and enjoy one another’s company, I was dead wrong.

It is impossible to play around with fire and think you are above getting burned. I had believed I was. I had believed that my own goodness and strength was enough, that I could never go down like that.

The truth is, I gave away much more than time and attention in the back of a truck on that December night. What began as something that almost seemed innocent, gave way to something that would threaten to ruin my life in every way possible for a person to be wrecked. I gave away parts of myself that had only, should only ever be for the one man who had given me his name those nine years ago. And yet, his name was no longer the only one spoken on my lips. 

7c167051910d25b2e1715d6319204f26The next days of my life would prove to be a collision of intoxicated emotion and hellish reality. I was falling and wrestling. Falling further and deeper into an unfamiliar forbidden realm, while wrestling with myself and everything, everyone that opposed what everything in my flesh so desperately wanted.

I wanted to go and I wanted to stay. 

Somehow I began to convince myself that I could have both and that maybe I should, that I could actually live smack dab in the midst of two worlds and make it work. I told myself I could continue to do all the things that I should do, I could have a little fun, and in it all, I could make myself happy.

What I would eventually come to realize is that it is not possible to live a lie and live happy. That truth and darkness cannot co-exist. 

I couldn’t take back any of what had already been done. It was done. There was no going back and undoing it all. Still, I knew that I had a decision to make. It was staring me down as if my whole life depended on it. I had a choice to make that no one except me could make. 

I was at war with all that was right, but mostly I was at war with myself.

I desperately needed to face the truth, the truth that my marriage wasn’t the fairytale I had believed it would be, and that I was more broken than I had ever believed I could be.

Either way, the story of our marriage and my life was becoming more scandalous by the day.

I had some pivotal decisions to make. What would I do? Which life would I choose? And how would he respond if he knew the truth?

(to be continued in part 2)

{Disclaimer: Every word of our true story was read, and fully approved by my husband Anthony. Also, the names of any other persons involved will not be shared to protect their identity and reputation. Anthony and I have both entered into this with much thought and prayer, and we know that there is good reason to share our story so that others will be free to share their own story, and still so that others may find hope and healing in the midst of their own storms. Our own small story doesn’t really matter all that much, but we know that the scandal of grace will always be a story worth telling.} 

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The Scandal Of Grace {Running and Hiding}

I must have sat there in our driveway that night for a good half hour before mustering up enough courage to move my body out of the car and up the walkway that would lead to our living room where I knew my husband would be waiting up for me.

Just like I had imagined, and much to my disappointment, there he was, faithfully waiting up for me.

The scene of walking into our home that night is forever imprinted upon my memory. I will never forget how beautiful he was. A gentle smile came across his face when I walked into the room; which just seemed only to make everything much worse than it already was. I didn’t want him to be happy with me or to show me the love I didn’t deserve. In fact, it would have been easier if he hated me and was a horrible husband. I just wanted to sneak into bed alone and let him live apart from me. I knew what I was doing and that I wasn’t planning on giving it up, but I also knew he didn’t deserve my betrayal the same way I knew I didn’t deserve his love.

I felt dirty, ashamed, and like a total fraud. In fact, nothing about my life made sense or was clear anymore and I began to become disillusioned to truth and wonder if any of the good my husband and I had together had ever been real to begin with.

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Truthfully, I desperately wanted to wish away the good as though it would better excuse my choices to destroy what we had together if nothing had ever truly been good to begin with.

I mean, why would I willingly choose ruin everything if my marriage was mostly good?

For the first time, I actually began to wish I could come up with some awful truth about the state of our marriage or the man I was married to that would make my fleshly indulgence a bit more palatable to my own conscience, and to the rest of the world.

But in the end, even in all of it’s imperfection, I knew that I could not blame our marriage or my husband for my choices. 

While it is true he had been working a lot, so often I felt more like a single mom than a married woman, even then I knew that would never hold up in the grand scheme of things. How many faithful spouses could say the exact same? How many single and married women alike would give their right arm for what I have?

Then there was his pornography addiction we had struggled and worked through time and again for years earlier in our marriage that maybe a part of me was still a little resentful over, but I had forgiven him. Even then I wasn’t naive enough to believe that any marriage is perfect or never goes through dry spells, or that any imperfection is a legitimate excuse to wholly betray the man I loved; the man I had promised my heart and my faithfulness to some nine years ago.

On the other hand, the other side, the much less logical part of me wasn’t so sure I was ready to out myself and end it all; because after all, it is wholly true that there is pleasure in sin… for a season. I would be lying if I didn’t admit that so much of me was enjoying the intoxicating emotional high of the new love and lust (mostly lust) of a secret affair. Truth, it was overwhelming and empowering – intoxicatingly so. Like living in another dimension of another world, in someone else’s story that wasn’t your own, an escape from the reality of the real world, with all of its pressures and struggles. As awful as I felt about it all, I wasn’t exactly ready to just give that up.

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So on this night, and others to follow, I went to bed with my husband, as if everything was exactly as it should be, and loved him. I never stopped loving him, not even for a moment. Even in the midst of my ridiculousness. And as much as I might have wanted to or wished I could, I never blamed him for my actions, or anyone for that matter.

{The unbearable weight of my sin would eventually fall squarely on my own shoulders for a time. But not today.}

I was fully aware of what I was doing and fully aware of the consequences that could follow. But for now, I decided not to care. I was having far too much fun “making myself happy” to call the whole thing off, confess, and come clean.

*****

The days that followed that first night continued in an obsessive whirlwind of endless texts, phone chats, plans for secret getaways, and plans of a future together which included discussions of us both walking away from our present reality for a new life with one another. It would be simple, we would both leave our spouses and raise our children together in a new place, with a new life. Easy right?

People in the midst of affairs and fleshly pleasure (emotional or otherwise) don’t stop to contemplate the inevitable devastation to come. Nor do they realize that in the end, no one gets out happy. 

But even then, I was at least acutely aware of how ridiculous the entire thing was. But I was plain tired of not being ridiculous. Truth is, I was tired. I just wanted a divorce from reality. I wanted to know what it felt like to not always “do the right thing,” I wanted a vacation from the role of responsible wife and mom who held it all together, to have a little fun – to enjoy being young and beautiful and passionately wanted by someone who didn’t have to want me, but did anyways.

{I’ve spent the past five years since the affair analyzing and picking apart the details of my story and my actions only to admit, there is no sense to made of sin other than this truth}:

I just wanted what I wanted.

And for a time, I sincerely didn’t care about whatever wreckage it would create, the hearts it would break, or the pain we would all endure. I did not care.

I wanted what I wanted. I wanted to be selfish, indulgent, and reckless because I had darn well earned the right to have a little fun and make. myself. happy. for once.

Such is the natural state of every single human heart apart from truth. 

I could never speak for others, but I do know that the major problem for me in living like I was was this, I was never my own, my life was not my own. I had already been won over by love and bought with a price. If I chose to run from that forever I would eventually lose the very thing I had convinced myself I was trying desperately to save – myself and my freedom. 

11600624Still, for now I was both hiding and running.

Hiding from the truth inside that chased me down like a wave chasing the inevitable shoreline. Running, full force ahead into a dark world of my own making. A dark world that would threaten to change everything, to destroy everything, forever. 

    You discern my going out and my lying down;
    you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue
    you, Lord, know it completely. You hem me in behind and before,
    and you lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
    too lofty for me to attain. Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? ~Psalm 139:3-7

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The Scandal of Grace {The Tension Between Light and Dark}

The next days following that first night would continue to feel like a whirlwind of about every emotion I had ever experienced up until this point.

My husband began working out of town on weekdays, I was left alone again and things were about to get dark.

Plans on how to sneak a new man around my children, into my bedroom and back out in the mornings without them knowing, were the musings of my mind. My thought life became like a ripe sewage pit of indecent schemes and lies, crowding out what little bit of common sense, self-respect,  and dignity I had left.

Darkness when left to run rampant in the heart, takes a person down a path towards steady, slow, but sure destruction. 

And because I’m an all or nothing person, I had decided that if I was going to do this, I was going all the way. I spent much of my mental energy constructing scenarios in my mind on how would I leave him, imagining my life without the man I had built a life with for nine years.

My heart felt cold and numb, like all life had been removed. I hardly even knew who I was becoming.

How could this be the sum of the girl who grew up on a church pew and sang the name of Jesus for the past twenty something years of my life? I knew everything there was to know about right and wrong. I felt like a fraud, a pretender. And had there ever been anything good in me that had ever been real to begin with? In my own blindness, I began to question the goodness of the very One whom I had believed in since I was just a girl just old enough to hold a hymnal and pray prayers in my room before bed at night.

NorseTx1917OldRockChurch0205BGMaybe it was high time to just leave it all behind to exist in a brand new world of my own making. I wanted something, I needed something. Something to satisfy that I had desperately been searching for for a long time and I hadn’t been able to put my finger on what it was. Maybe I had found it here.

Yet, smack dab in the midst of the exciting rush of a secret affair that still not another soul knew about, inside of my heart were the first cracks an inner collapse. 

Everything irritated me.

I was intoxicated with all these strange new emotions, yet the first buds of internal unrest were setting in on me like a dark, sinister cloud overtaking a sunny day at sea.

It is completely possible to park one’s life smack dab in the tension between dark and light. Still, there is no refuge of rest, peace and contentment to be found in that place. I know that well.

Sleep and rest eluded me. I barely ate, I stopped answering phone calls from anyone else, I wasn’t doing a great job holding together the basic responsibilities of mothering, and I was completely mentally absent from my work. I was losing control.

No one would have ever suspected it because well, I was good at saving face. Religion teaches that well. 

I struggled just to muddle my way through the basic routine of daily life. There was a moment in which my six year old daughter and four year old son burst through the closed door of my bedroom while I was on the phone with the other man and I completely lost it. I knew they didn’t understand why. I will never forget the hurt on their faces when it became ever clear that mommy was too busy living in another world to want to be with them.

Truth was, I didn’t even like myself.

This charade that had begun as a fun little harmless rendezvous was wrapping it’s dark tentacles more tightly around my soul with every passing day. It felt like a forcefield in which I had become captive to something of another world. I desperately wanted and needed the madness of it all and the dizzying speed at which the darkness was accelerating to stop a minute, so that I could catch my breath and breathe freely again. But it was becoming harder and harder to think straight, it was suffocating my life like a wet blanket over fire.

In chasing after freedom, I was losing it. 

Sin can never bring freedom, life, or anything that is good for that matter. I was choosing to go on pretending that it could, that the rules didn’t apply to me. 

The actual days in which I lived in that exhilarating and excruciating tension between light and dark were few, yet it felt like an entire lifetime.

Part of me wanted to run and free myself, another part of me wanted to stay. Part of me wanted to live, but mostly I needed to die. This was becoming the daily torment of living in that tiny margin between good and evil.

*******

I woke up the next Sunday morning that rolled around, sat up in my bed and told God out loud that I was going to church anyways. Only to prove that if He cared anything at all about me enough to want me to turn from the path I was headed down, He would figure out how to stop me. Send me a sign, knock me off my horse, send somebody with a word to call me out in my mess…something! As if it is possible to intimidate and manipulate God with bitter words.

I sat alone in church that Sunday morning.

I wanted to be alone. 

Alone because there, I could hide.

There are two things alone that break the hold of darkness. Confession and accountability. 

But for now, solitude felt most comfortable because there I could sit in my disappointment and disillusionment with life. I could wallow in my shame, my anger at myself, and at God. Yes, I was mad at God. I never hid that from Him, but then again, I’m pretty sure the same shoulders the carried the cross can handle the weight of our human disappointment.

I was plain disappointed in life and so tired of being angry about everything in my past I was still hurt about and couldn’t seem to get over.

“There has to be something more!”

These were painfully honest words my lips uttered often on teary evenings alone curled up in the corner of my bedroom and on late night fights with my husband throughout the years

More.

I had been searching for more than the ordinariness of this earthly life. Like that I had been made made for something that couldn’t be found here, that I couldn’t quite put my finger on, but wanted it so desperately.

Much to my disappointment, I had not managed to find more in possessions or accomplishments or marriage, so this was my go at finding it in pleasure.

Inner turmoil isn’t a mere concept found in books on the human psyche, it was becoming my constant and ever-growing reality. As clearly as I’ll ever know anything in life I know that there was a war going onside inside of my soul. I wanted out, but I felt helplessly powerless to fight back the force of darkness that was overtaking my whole life. 

As the pastor preached that morning, I was riddled with so much chaos inside I’m not even sure I heard a word he said. Truth, words weren’t what my soul needed that day. I had heard them all my life. I needed something so much richer and deeper than head knowledge and belief systems. 

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As I sat there, I took out my phone and tweeted one word that morning sitting there in church alone: “Wrestling.”

Strange as it may seem, that word was my random cry out into the dark. Mostly I didn’t want to be seen, but there was a small part of me that wanted to be heard. I wanted both to live in the pleasure and thrill of a dark world, and to know the freedom of the light again.

My heart desperately cried out for something, someone to help me get a grip on myself and stop this out of control carousel I had jumped on. Something to stop this dark force that had taken my heart hostage. Someone to see into my pain, into my longing, into my self-made wreckage. Someone to love me anyways.

And if by some ridiculous chance I were to call the whole thing off and decide to stay, who then would not turn away from the wreckage I had created, and the woman I had become? Who could ever bear the crushing weight of my shame and darkness?

“Do not abandon me, O LORD. Do not stand at a distance, my God.” – Psalm 38:21

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The Scandal of Grace {When I Make My Bed In Hell}

“If I go up to heaven, you are there. If I make my bed in hell, still you are there.” Psalm 139:8

I had made my own bed in hell, which adequately describes how I was feeling inside. 

Over the next days I would continue to wrestle with living in the tension between light and dark. I was becoming more entangled with him, yet more miserable with each passing day. The actual days I lived in this place were few, but seemed to drag on for an eternity.

I knew what I needed to do, and lacked the courage to do it. I needed to break free from the chaos I had created. Trouble was, I was starting to believe I was already in too deep to turn back. I wondered if it was just too late, if it would just be easier to live the way I was living than to do the hard work of figuring out how to make my way back up to the surface.

The trouble with sin is the more entangled we become, the more convinced we become that we should stay there. Darkness makes chaos out of everything. Every line becomes blurred, we begin to tell ourselves that there are no moral absolutes, that we are fine to stay just as we are, and anyone or anything that doesn’t align with our belief system is just judgment, to be disregarded. 

Seemingly out of nowhere came the first of many, yet most important pivotal points in the story of what would become of me, of our marriage, and of life as I had known it.

“Rachel, what’s going on?” was the text message from an old friend that I awoke to on my phone the next morning.

By some divine twist of fate, this real life and virtual friend had taken note of a random twitter message out into the dark that read “wrestling” – written by a confused woman in a wrestling match between my own flesh and the truth.

As cryptic as that text message sitting on a church pew had been, someone had noticed my dimly lit flare out into the dark night.

I’m pretty positive that friend had no idea what was really going on in my life at that point. I’m even more sure she will ever realize how deeply one simple question impacted my life on that particular winter morning.

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Her genuine concern would become my first life-line to grace. 

I sat there staring at my phone for a while, which seemed to be all but demanding my answer. I paced around inside my house doing mental battle over whether or not I wanted to respond and begin to free myself, or to ignore her and stay full force ahead on the same path I was on.

“Can you meet me for coffee NOW?” 

I still didn’t know which path I would choose in the end, but in that particular moment I had mustered up just enough courage to intentionally make the first decision of many that would significantly alter the trajectory of everything.

Every decision made of my own free will was as if I was poking holes in my own darkness, beginning to find my way back into the light. 

Decisions are pivotal moments we must allow ourselves to come to when changing paths in life, because nothing ever changes until we make a decision to change, to start doing things differently, to take the fork in the road.

best+friends+foreverAn hour or so later I was sitting across from the first human to know exactly where I was and what was becoming of me.

I confessed. Everything.

I cried my way through the startling new details of my life, and the state of heart. I don’t remember much of what was said that day except one thing she said that will forever be imprinted on my soul:

“Rachel, you need to know that what you did is not who you are. And that the cross is sturdy enough to shoulder what you’ve done.” 

In one tender moment of compassion and grace, the weight of my shame began to shift just enough for me to entertain the idea that my failure didn’t have to trap me there forever.

My failure didn’t have to define my life. It didn’t have to be the end of the story.

I had been hiding because I felt so dirty and ashamed. I doubted that anyone could love or want me after what I’d done. img_8240blog

On that day, she did the opposite of what I had been used to in religious circles, and what I had been most afraid of. Instead of throwing dirt on me, through tender words of compassionate truth, she gently lead my messy heart to the cross.

In her words, I found slivers of grace in place of shackles of condemnation. And I began to see the first glimmers of hope. 

A lifetime in religion had done its job of convincing me that it is far better to sweep our dirt under the rug neatly tucked away, than to be honest and come clean – because the condemnation of many of the saints just wasn’t worth it. 

She asked me all the obvious, yet pivotal questions that day. “Do you want out? What are you going to choose now? How are you going to break out of this? Will you tell your husband?” 

Before we parted, she held my hand and prayed with me, reminding me that she would stand with me.

I had needed grace to stand for me, when I could not.

She became the very first embodiment of grace that stood firmly and boldly in between the force of good and evil that day, and gave me the courage I had needed to make my way into the light.

I drove home that morning, struggling to see through the foggy blur of a flood of tears. That first confession had brought new perspective to my mind, and hope to my heart. Grace that I would desperately need to cling to as I moved forward, courage that would compel me to just get honest, and hope that I could actually relinquish my fear of not being able to control the consequences that what I had done might bring.

*****

The rest of that day was consumed with even more of “him” intertwined with memories of the meeting with my friend that morning. His words reminded and encouraged me of the new and exciting life we could enjoy together, her words reminded me of the grace that was already mine for the taking.

Even still, in the midst of continuing to engage in a fantasy with a man who wasn’t mine, I wanted out.

I wanted to return. I wanted to undo it all. I desperately longed to be free again.

I didn’t know just how the story would end, I just knew that I longed to be free in the kind of way that exchanges freedom to live in pleasure for freedom to live in the light; to go bed at night with a clean conscience, untethered from the suffocating blanket of guilt.

The load I was continuing to carry had become far too heavy to shoulder alone, and I was getting more weary by the day. There was only one thing on earth that could ever hope to strip off the heavy cloak of the guilty one I had become, that had wrapped itself all too tightly around my heart.

It was time to stop hiding.

It was time to come clean. 

“Getting honest with ourselves does not make us unacceptable to God. It does not distance us from God, but draws us to Him – as nothing else can – and opens us anew to the flow of grace. While Jesus calls each of us to a more perfect life, we cannot achieve it on our own. To be alive is to be broken; to be broken is to stand in need of grace. It is only through grace that any of us could ever dare to hope that we could become more like Christ.” – Brennan Manning 

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The Scandal Of Grace {The Confession}

I had made up my mind. It was time to confess.

Time to get free from the dirty pit I found myself in. As much as I wanted to be clean again, I knew that there was only one way to break the grip of the dark secret I had been harboring inside, for good.

I needed to out myself to the one person I was most afraid of finding out – my husband.

I honestly didn’t know what I would say or how I would say it. Is there any good or easy way to ravage the heart of the one who has loved you deeply, of whom you love more than anyone else on earth?

I had been his whole world for the past nine years and I was about to walk in and wreck everything with one excruciating admission. 

I knew that as ugly and horrible as it may be, I could not, I would not lay beside him another night living anything other than the truth.

And so, cell phone pressed tightly between my shoulder and my ear as I talked to “the other man” as I prepared dinner for our little family of four that night, knowing all the while that it would be the last time we would speak, the last time that our little secret affair would feel so light-hearted and free from the crushing weight of reality.

I never told him that by morning, this fantasy world we had together would be shattered into a million pieces.  

I had my reasons. Mostly I didn’t want him to know I was about to out myself and destroy “us”, because I didn’t want anyone in the world to talk me out of what I knew I needed to do, and I was afraid he might. I had made my decision to walk away from a man who wasn’t mine, just as I had made my decision to run towards him on that cold, winter Sunday evening in December of 2010.

*****

I’ll never forget that evening.

Somehow I managed to finish dinner, greet my husband, muddle my way through dinner and getting the kids off to bed.

I felt sick. 

As if my entire body had come down with an awful flu of sorts. It was all I could do to lift my body off the couch and up the stairs to where my husband was. The physical and emotional agony of what I was about to do felt almost too much to bear.

Overwhelming guilt and fear, along with the realization that this unbearable burden was about to no longer be mine alone.

It all felt like a crushing weight that I couldn’t stand up under for even one second more. 

Reluctantly, I made my way up the staircase that lead to our upstairs office where he was sitting alone, ironically enough, working on a Christmas present for me. Just as on that first night of the affair when I came home to him, there he was, so happy and full of life. I knew that he believed everything was so right in our world together.

And yet, my truth was about to shatter his world. 

My heart was just beginning to break… I knew that his would too.

“Babe, please don’t give me anything for Christmas this year. I don’t deserve anything good from you, ever… I mean it.” 

He turned and looked at me with a puzzled look.

“I need to tell you that I’ve been having an affair with _______.”

I said his name.

Just saying the name of another man I had been so intimate with out loud to my husband was a mixture of both horror and relief.

I watched his face change.

I know that it is possible to witness a human heart-break because I watched the heart of the man I love break that night. Over and over again without end. 

Out of nowhere there was pain. Unimaginable pain. Waves of grief rolled across his face like waves in a turbulent ocean. 

I saw so much hurt in his eyes when he looked at me.

It had been the first time in over nine years I had ever seen anything in his eyes but delight in me. And all in one moment, everything he had known and we had known together was permanently altered, changed forever.

Our hearts broke in two as we stood there in that first of many painful scenes amidst the horrible wreckage of a life, a heart, a marriage gone wrong.

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I had never stopped to envision this scene on those nights when I was too wrapped up in a world with another man to count the cost. A cost that all of a sudden seemed much too high a price to pay. Far too much pain to endure.

That’s the thing with choosing to live outside of the boundaries of truth, nobody tells stories and paints pictures in their minds of the wreckage it brings in its wake until we are living the awful aftermath of the destruction it inevitably brings. 

I witnessed the strongest man I know crumble that night.

I watched as his shock turned to hurt, his hurt turn to anger. The multitude of emotions the human heart is capable of feeling all at once can be staggering and unbearably overwhelming. 

I had confessed and begged for his forgiveness, still I knew this was only the very beginning of a long road back to anything that resembled life. I was not naive enough to believe or expect that life would ever go on just as it had been before.

I knew he needed to feel everything he was feeling, and I wanted him to have that freedom and time. There wasn’t then, and there never will be a way for me to fully know the depth of pain my failure brought to his heart.

The weight of darkness I had been carrying had been placed on his shoulders, and it was too much to bear.

We are not islands to ourselves. Everything we do, every choice we make, every undisciplined action affects the lives of those around us; maybe in a more intimate and profound way than we have the human capacity to understand. 

He walked away from where I stood to find his coat and grab his keys.

It was the first time that the full reality hit me that he did not have to stay. Because of what I had done, he was free to leave. After all, who would blame him?

I begged him not to leave. I didn’t know what his leaving meant. Was he leaving for good? Would he ever be back? Had I ruined everything forever?

I wrapped my arms around him, sobbing as I pleaded with him not to leave. I had never felt so wrecked and humiliated and distraught in all of my life. He peeled my arms from around his waist and firmly said, “I need to go! I just need to go.”

I watched the only man I’ve ever loved walk out our front door into the cold, dark night; not knowing if he would walk back in that same door. I knew there was no one to blame but myself.

1bec88543e49009c46613fcc7cb3a4aaI laid upstairs until the early hours of the morning and wept until I had no tears left. I felt sick from all the crying and the anguish of it all. I didn’t have the will or the energy to move my body. Besides, I felt far too dirty to sleep in the bed he and I had shared together for all those years.

I was beginning to break. Maybe for the first time in my life. I had come face to face with my own darkness, and I didn’t know what to do with it.

My hands were so dirty. All of my self-righteous pride hadn’t been enough to save me from the truth of myself this time.

I did not understand then, but this would be just the beginning of a process of brokenness that would not ever be completed.

But I knew this, no matter what he chose, to go or to stay, in the end, he could not save me from my darkness. He could never lift the weight of shame that had blanketed over my life like a thick dark fog.

I felt so separated from him, from everything that was good. It was the loneliest place I’ve ever been. I just wanted to undo everything. I would have traded every second of what pleasure I’d had for just one moment of my world being whole, for one even one small portion of healing.

That was the dark night our hearts broke, our world caved in, and everything changed forever.

But little did we know, this end would be just the beginning. 

With sin present, fellowship is broken. A blackness of soul that leaves us alone in a world that is no longer good. We become marked sharp with blood-guilt, emptiness and pain.

We’ve been born with conflicting desires: the fellowship we were created for and the selfish sinfulness that fights for our allegiance. And the sinfulness will win over our desires for fellowship every time. We’re not strong enough to fight it, not good enough in ourselves.  

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The Scandal Of Grace {Broken Together}

I don’t know how many hours I laid in the dark alone that night, but it felt like an eternity. I awoke to a soft whisper that said, “Come down with me, let’s go to bed and get some rest.” He had come back home to me after a few hours with a trusted friend.

“I honestly can’t sleep in our bed right now.”

I felt so dirty and ashamed, far too unclean and unworthy to resume everything as it had been before my fall.

He didn’t force me.

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He put a song on repeat in that room titled “Beautiful Things” by Gungor before coming to join me right where I was. He wrapped his arms around me and held me. We laid there in the dark just holding each other, as if our life together depended on it. Little did we know then that it did. There were no words, only one constant embrace as we cried ourselves to sleep that first night as we listened to words over an over that reminded us that “He makes beautiful things out the dust.”

Just hours before I had confessed to the ultimate betrayal of a marriage covenant and had broken his heart in two. He had given me everything he had to give. His name, and access to every privilege of being his wife, and I had thrown it all in the dirt like it meant so little. He had every right to toss me to the side and walk away to start over with someone new, someone less disappointing. Yet, because of His agape love for me, in my weakness, and in the midst of his own pain, he knelt down to embrace me. He came down to where I was and joined me there. He embraced me where I was, just as I was. 

This was my first real life encounter with the God and the faith I had grown up singing of. Grace was coming down to where I was, asking for nothing in return, embracing me right in the middle of my mess, without asking me to clean myself up first. 

******

The first rays of morning light pierced through the upstairs window of the room which we had slept for a few short hours. I searched for the arms that had held me tightly, but they were no where to be found. My entire being felt as if I had just been through the first round of a long boxing match. Everything hurt, my swollen eyes burned from the endless tears of my own grief and shame.

There is no pain deeper than the realization that you have broken the heart of the one who loves you most, the one who know would lay down their very life for you.

It is the suffocating weight of shame that threatens to separate us even further from the one whom we have offended. Guilt reminds us that we have failed, but shame is like a terminal cancer that eats away at us until everything left that was still alive is completely destroyed, leaving no chance for healing and restoration.

I pulled my body up from the place where we had slept and went downstairs to figure out how to face my life again; a life that I knew would never be the same.

There was no going back.

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Our six and four year old children ran to greet me that morning. They were my first reminder on the first of many days, of the new reality we would have to figure out how to navigate all over again.

I felt so raw; so broken, and fragile. 

Too fragile even to carry out the basic responsibilities of life; a house, kids, a job, and a newly shattered marriage. I looked around me and everything seemed more like a battlefield at the end of an intense night of bombing, running, and suffering than it resembled the beautiful life I had once known.

What I wanted more than anything was go to bed and hide in my room under my covers and never ever come out to face the world again. I wanted him to stay, but a small part of me wanted him to leave me alone to wallow in my own grief and shame.

Still, I wondered where he was.

He had gone downstairs early that morning before I awoke. In fact, I’m not sure he slept at all that night.

The thing about love is that when we open up ourselves to love deeply and to be deeply loved, we become most vulnerable to our hearts being broken in two. Loving anyways means we are willing to believe that love is worth the risk. 

5562His heart was so broken.

I had been his whole world. Right or wrong, he had set me up on a pedestal, one from which I had fallen hard from.

He grief was so deep, possibly deeper than I will ever fully understand. I wandered into our bedroom and found him alone on the floor of our walk-in closet sobbing. His pain was so tangible it physically hurt to stay and acknowledge it. I felt suffocated by the weight of his crushed heart and two grieving souls.

I was coming face to face with the reality that there was no amount of confessions or apologies that could undo the damage or soothe the pain. 

I had owned up to my betrayal, now it was time to face the devastation of the situation, and hold his hand as we walked through the wreckage of the aftermath, together. 

I sat with him on the floor of that closet. It was so dark. Everything. The closet we cried in together, and the place we found our lives in.

******

“We need to get away, just you and I. We need to go away together now. I can’t do this here” were his words to me on that closet floor.

It was just four days before Christmas… and nothing was prepared. It didn’t matter, I knew he was right. We needed to get away and figure out how to work through this, if we even wanted to work through this, and to shield our young children from the emotional devastation of it all.

I called my sister and arranged for her to keep the children for a few days, not giving any explanation, just that it was urgent. I know she much have thought it was strange that we were going away spur of the moment the week of Christmas, but she didn’t pry, and I was grateful.

Still, no one knew anything except for the other man, the friend I first confessed to, and the friend he sat in a truck for hours with just the night before. At this point we just didn’t want any else to know. First, because it was Christmas, second, because it would make things more complicated than they already were. We would tell in our own way, at the right time, but not now. For now we needed, we wanted to sort through the complexities of our mess alone.

And so, we dropped the kids off and drove away to another city.

The car ride was tense and awkward. Everything about life seemed smothered in pain… the beautiful faces of our children, a car ride, a meal, a night of sleep, everything. All reminders of all that we had together that we stood to lose.

Where did we even begin? The man with whom I had felt so one with, suddenly felt so unfamiliar and estranged. I gave him permission to ask me anything and promised to be honest with him, and I was.

We went back to the place where I first gave myself to another man. With every new detail it was another blow to heart, until we both realized that at least for now, knowing all the details of betrayal would not help us move forward from this painful place.

After a couple of hours of a very sad car ride, we arrived in a new city, checked in, and he opened the door to our room. Only this time we were not the beaming, happy couple who had run away together nine years ago.

A key hangs in the lock at room 333, one of the most haunted rooms of the Gadsden Hotel in Douglas, Arizona, October 29, 2012. While many hotels in the United States claim ghosts, staff and guests at the Gadsden have recorded scores of supernatural encounters from the top floor right down to the maze-like basement - not just at Halloween, but year round. Picture taken October 29, 2012. REUTERS/Samantha Sais (UNITED STATES - Tags: SOCIETY ENTERTAINMENT) - RTR39TBL

We stepped into that hotel room together that afternoon not fully understanding that we were stepping into a journey that would hurt more deeply than anything in life we had known up until this point.

We had chosen to face our searing pain head on, acknowledge our broken hearts, and look straight into the face of the real enemy, and fight our way back to one another.

Would we make it together, how did this happen, what would be do with our pain, could he really forgive, how could we ever truly heal? These were the questions that neither of us had the answers to. I’m not even sure we realized just how much back then, but looking back, these were the excruciatingly raw yet critical nights of being broken together that would determine everything else from this point on.

The fairytale marriage was shattered. 

We needed to access the damage and weigh the cost of rebuilding. We were both broken, in one way or another. We could let that brokenness rip us apart forever.

There was no denying the fact that we would either be broken alone, or we could be broken together. We were just beginning to learn that the only way we would last forever was to be broken together. 

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The Scandal Of Grace {Broken Together}

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.”

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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.woman_9

“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. 

Soul work. 

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.

{Apathy.}

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.

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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)

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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.

The Scandal of Grace {The Rejection}

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.

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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.1918462_160432367846_2973008_n 

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?

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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:

“Rachel,

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.

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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.

Atheist-logoLike 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.

******

“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

The Scandal of Grace {Beautifully Broken}

It sounds terribly dramatic, but there were days I wanted to die. I still can’t explain all of why, but I felt soiled and ashamed – fallen. I didn’t want to live anymore. I went to bed at night asking God to have mercy on me and just let me stay asleep and not wake up. Not wanting to live was a feeling I had never before experienced but there I was.

Truth, it was much deeper than just the affair. It was the raw realization that I was no longer sure of anything I had once been so sure of. Religion alone teaches us to walk a line and not question things. Trouble is, my entire world had been shaken in several ways and I wasn’t sure of anything or anyone, namely myself and the faith I had blindly clung to since childhood.

I cried…. a lot.

In fact, I wallowed in shame and self-pity because that feels easier than surrender.

Guilt says “you did it” but shame is guilt’s next door neighbor that says “you are what you did.” And my heart had decided I was doomed to live smack dab in between them. 

Maybe it was high time for my faith to be totally re-worked, to be my own. Not just some nice sounding story about rule following, happy living, and making it to Heaven one day.

How is it possible to love God, to feed homeless people, to sing on the worship team, and to behave in a way that is the exact opposite of everything I had presented myself to be? I wondered if I was exactly what she had said I was, a fraud. Maybe none of it was ever real at all. Had I faked the last twenty years of my life?

That’s the trouble with religion.

Religion creates a dangerous self-righteous dependence on human effort, in being good, in trying hard enough. Religion apart from grace is a house built on sand that will eventually fail when the waves of life come thrashing against it.

I had spent my childhood reciting the ten commandments and the laws of the Bible only to discover at twenty-eight years of age that I was completely incapable of keeping any of them.

I felt so disappointing to God, looked over, deserving of being discarded for further use.

What I didn’t know then is that the whole point of the Law is not to demand we keep it all, but to show us that it is literally impossible to keep any of it. The Law is a bridge between fallen humanity and grace. It was never meant to condemn us when we realize we can’t ever be good enough but to show us our need for the cross.

“The sinners to whom Jesus directed His messianic ministry were not those who skipped morning devotions or Sunday church. His ministry was to those whom society considered real sinners. They had done nothing to merit salvation. Yet they opened themselves to the gift that was offered them. On the other hand, the self-righteous placed their trust in the works of the Law and closed their hearts to the message of grace.” – B. M. 

Who was I really? Would I ever be whole? Could what was broken in my marriage and in my life ever be restored again? Was God good? Was He faithful, even when I was not?

I longed to reconcile the monumental chasm between what I had thought I was, and what I truly was.

******* 

If there is anything I remember about the months following the affair is that I teetered on the brink of depression. I didn’t recognize it for what it was then, but looking back I know I was falling further and further into a bottomless dark hole. That’s what depression feels like.

Lonely.

Separated.

Different.

Broken.

One morning in particular, I stumbled out of bed to stand in front of the mirror and stare at myself in disappointment as had become my habit of doing. Only this morning, in place of shame and self-hatred I looked to see in my face were these words:

So then, since we have a great High Priest who has entered heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to what we believe.  This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin.  So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most. -Hebrews 4:14-16

Come boldly.

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It’s hard to be bold about anything when you’re clothed in shame, when you feel like a total fraud. Much less to come boldly to the throne of the same God of whom you’ve broken His laws big time and failed miserably.

“There you will receive mercy…”

Mercy (noun) Compassion or forgiveness shown toward someone whom it is within one’s power to punish or harm.

How I needed, I wanted mercy.

Was this really who God was? So different than the image imprinted on my mind as a child growing up in Sunday school reciting the ten commandments and hearing messages of hell fire and damnation for sinners, and kneeling in my bedroom to beg for forgiveness when I made had disobeyed and made my parents mad big time?

Could this be the same God with the angry disappointed glare looking down at me, waiting for me to prove that I don’t deserve anything that faith in Him offers.

“….and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.”

Grace: (noun) The free and unmerited favor of God, as manifested in the salvation of sinners and the bestowal of blessings. 

Free and unearned.

I had heard and sung about it the past decade of my life, but never truly, deeply experienced the unexplainable miracle of grace.

The thing is, grace is reserved only for those ragamuffin souls like me, who recognize their own poverty. It is not for the self-righteous have it all togethers. I was broken. And my brokenness had brought me face to face with the emptiness and darkness of my life apart from the life of grace the cross came to give me.

I needed to surrender.

It’s an odd concept that grace would require submission, but it absolutely does. We cannot receive grace while attempting to do the work of the cross for ourselves. Pride convinces us we can be enough on our own, surrender says “The work is all up to you God. I am nothing apart from what you’ve already accomplished.” 

“For Ragamuffins, God’s name is Mercy. We see our darkness as a prized possession because it drives us into the heart of God. Without mercy our darkness would plunge us into despair – for some, self-destruction. Time alone with God reveals the unfathomable depths of the poverty of the spirit. We are so poor that even our poverty is not our own: It belongs to the mysterium tremendum of a loving God.” – Brennan Manning

Grace was the gift of the cross. Free, unearned, undeserved, no strings attached.

And all mine for the taking. 

Those words, and others like them left here and there by my husband became like life-giving oxygen to my weary soul. Just as that first friend I confessed to, the man whose heart I had broken in two was carrying my worn, shame-filled body to the cross where we would begin to find every single thing those verses had promised, and more.

12814499_10154159615667847_3084119717731989210_nHe read to me, night after night. Stories of redeeming love, of the power of mercy and grace – of the power of the cross.

I had come face to face with my own brokenness and poverty of soul, and it hurt like hell. I just wanted this season to hurry up and end. Could we just go back to pretending to be whole again?

But the wonderful mystery of the cross is that it reveals our true selves to us, it breaks us, so that it can redeem what is broken and remake us into something new. 

My heart had been seized by the power of a Holy affection, and I would never ever be the same.

What I have discovered and come to embrace about brokenness is that it isn’t something that comes and then goes away again, brokenness is an unending process of falling, and looking to mercy to pick us up back up again and again. Brokenness is living in a constant state of fully recognizing our own poverty apart from it. Grace says,”No matter what you do, I think you’re worth so much that I’ve already paid the ultimate price for you.” Grace says, “I still want you, just as you are.”

Although it is painful, brokenness is a beautiful gift that many will never experience because they never allow themselves to be broken. There is good reason that the most unmerciful, mean, unhappy, bitter people on earth are the most religious.

Religion, self-righteousness, and pride will forever separate us from experiencing the miracle of grace because brokenness requires humility, it demands poverty of spirit. Brokenness is one of life’s greatest gifts because it drives us straight to the feet of the healer because we know that we will never be whole on our own.

Mary Magdalene YouTube

Failure, shame, and depression only revealed my own inner brokenness that had been there all along. But I needed to be completely and obviously broken so that I could acknowledge it and experience the tender mercies of the healer, so that the faith of my girlhood could be re-built all over again, but this time on the firm foundation of grace. 

The woman who rejected me may have “outed me” to many, some of whom will not even speak to me if I run into them in public to this day. But I do not fear brokenness or transparency or being outed by others about who I really am, because the strange thing about the painful, bloody cross is, it completely heals and removes what seemed like permanent stains of shame. There is nothing left to condemn, because “He who the son sets free is free indeed.” John 8:36kintsukuroi3

And after all, grace is the only way we become most beautiful in the places in which we have been broken. Grace meant that my scarlet letter was being forged forever in gold.

The scars of my brokenness would be branded on my life as an emblem to all the world that shouts, “THIS is what the cross has done!” 

All that was sad and dark, was coming untrue. Grace was changing everything.

“The confessing church of American Ragamuffins needs to join Magdalene and Peter in witnessing that Christianity is not primarily a moral code but a grace-laden mystery; it is not essentially a philosophy of love but a love affair; it is not keeping rules with clenched fists but receiving a gift with open hands.” B.M.

To be continued….

The Scandal of Grace {Can I Come Home?}

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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.

Self. Ego.

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.

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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.”

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(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.”

The Scandal of Grace {His Side of the Story: Leave or Love}

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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 sat in the car and 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 festered 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 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 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 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 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 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 back His bride 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.

But how?

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.)

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

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

The Scandal of Grace {Tell Me Every Little Thing}

“Tell me anything and everything. I want to know you, everything little about you. Even the secret corners of your heart that feels hardest to let be seen and known. I want to know those places most of all.”

Fast forward to our 15th anniversary, February 11th 2017, six years after the affair.

This night we sat across from one another celebrating more than just the fact that we made it. On no, we had so much more to celebrate than just making it together.

Grace had won! It means that failure, guilt, shame, bitterness – even death, didn’t get the final say.

Life and love won out and we were IN love, which is so much different than just making it together.

We made it out to the other side of this having gained so much more than we had before. That is the true miracle we’ll never get over. Something much bigger, greater than us had come into our darkness and breathed life into all that was dead, and filled us full to overflowing of the all the grace and power that we could never have conjured up on our own.

On that night of our 15th anniversary, Anthony had lined up a different restaurant for each phase of the evening and we made our way through them; eating, drinking, laughing, talking. It felt much like when our love was brand new and we were getting to know one another for the first time, falling in love, only better.

Better because this time, our love was different.

This new love had been deeply forged in the fire into a love that is deep and wide and sturdy.

Because we have seen the darkest parts of one another; and stayed to walk through the dark together hand in hand, on our knees, one carrying the other at times – we remained still when we wanted to run, instead choosing to do the hard work rather than walk away and discard everything good and everything that went wrong in hopes of a better, brighter life with someone else.

The truth is that the more intimately you know someone, the more clearly you’ll see their flaws. That’s just the way it is. This is why marriages fail, why children are abandoned, why friendships don’t last. You might think you love someone until you see the way they act when they are out of money or under pressure, or hungry, for goodness’ sake. Love is something different. Love is choosing to serve someone and be with someone in spite of their filthy heart. Love is patient and kind, love is deliberate. Love is hard. Love is pain and sacrifice, it’s seeing the darkness in another person and defying the impulse to jump ship. – Anonymous 

We shared so much that night, holding nothing back. And I realized that after 15 years of marriage, we have learned how to be emotionally intimate with one another…which adds a much greater depth to our love that mere than physical intimacy ever could.

Every year on our anniversary since the affair, we’ve tried our best to make it a point to go away alone together. It always, always brings back the memories of those few days we spent together just after my admission of the affair. How dark and how painful that time was, reminding us just how beautiful is the new season we’ve come to know.

The entire weekend was more that just a celebration of us, it was a time of reflection and celebration of what we know God has done. What He brought us from, and where we know He is taking us. It was a night (a weekend) we will never forget for as long as we live.

————————————————————————————————————————

We’ve had more people than we can count, ask us this one question: “How? How do you get from there where you were to where you are now?” It’s an incredibly intimidating question to try and answer because any answer almost feels insufficient. And truth is, we know that none of them come with a promise that things will turn out well for every relationship.

And ya’ll, I hate lists and bullet points when it comes to the stuff of life because well, life never fits neatly into human formulas or bullet point lists. This, I know well.

But if we had to attempt to lay out the skeleton of a blueprint for how we not only made it through my affair, but how we have learned to continuously forge a marriage that doesn’t just defy all the odds, but is beyond ordinary; these are the things we would list as the most important “weapons of our warfare” and we want to let you in one every little nugget of truth for a wonderful marriage that we have tried and found to work.

  • God. I’m sorry if this seems “canned” or too “Christianized” for some. There is just no way around the fact that the Holy Spirit was and is the only reason we are anything at all. Period. If you are looking for a different solution to your mess and your hurt, I’ve literally got nothing for you. We invited Him into our mess, and He empowered us to do and feel all the things that would never have been humanly possible in our human strength. His enormous presence in our story made (and still makes) ALL the difference. Nothing we list below would matter much at all without this first, most critical weapon in our arsenal against the many enemies of our marriage, our family, and our lives.
  • Our faith. Our faith IN God, is the literal foundation that we have tested thoroughly and found to be sturdy and sure when everything else in our lives is not. When everything was dark chaos, and the bombs had obliterated everything we thought we had, the foundation our faith rests upon never crumbled or even shifted beneath us. Jesus was what we clung to when He was literally all we had left, and who we continue to cling to as we work to build a life and love together that stands when everything in life falls away.  
  • Removing divorce as an option. We realized early on that as long as we entertained divorce as an option, and kept throwing around the word at each other on the worst days when emotions were raw and hurt was so deep, we would have little reason to fight to do the hard work of rebuilding from the ground up as long as there was a big flashing, red “EXIT” sign on the most painful doorways of our marriage. As long as divorce remains as an “out” there is little chance of saving a marriage, much less rebuilding anything that is healthy and good.
  • Restoring & building emotional intimacy. = “Into me you see”.  We figured out real fast that if you can’t get 100% honest with one another about everything; the good, the bad, and the real ugly, then you literally don’t have a ice-cube’s chance in hell of healing or having a great marriage. Emotional intimacy is hardest for men, but necessary and possible when a man (or woman) is willing to lay down their natural bends and “comfort zone” for the good of the relationship. It is a learned part of any relationship and takes two to forge a deep, emotional bond of 100% transparency and honesty. Healthy emotional intimacy literally means you give one another the freedom to bare your whole soul (past, failures, disappointments, hurts, fears, hopes, dreams, fantasies, ect.) without fear of anger, consequences, or judgment. 
  • Individual introspection & soul work. Introspection is the ability to reflect deeply and critically (not judgmentally) on oneself and honestly evaluate what is good, what is life-giving, what might need work, what is toxic, and what needs to change. Soul work is like taking a good look at your heart from an outside perspective and realizing, “Oh, these are the rooms, the places filled with junk and need to be cleaned out so the light can shine through.” When we stopped focusing on what was wrong in one another and started to ask God to reveal the truth about our own heart, healing took on a whole new momentum. Soul work is done individually and personally, and can look like: prayer, repentance before God and the other person, digging in the Word of God, reading books to help gain wisdom, counseling, journaling, times of reflection, and listening to (and acting on) the wisdom of wise friends, mentors, pastors, and counselors. A marriage is only ever as good as the private inner life, spiritual health of the man and the woman individually because we can never give out what we do not possess.
  • Counsel Seeking out wise counsel is critical in all points of life, but never more necessary than when you’re in the midst of a crisis. In fact, it’s scriptural! “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man is he who listens to counsel.” – Proverbs 12:15 “Where there is no guidance the people fall, but in abundance of counselors there is victory.” – Proverbs 11:14
    Wise counsel often takes the form of spiritually mature friends and mentors in our lives, a non-judgmental pastor or spiritual leader, wise and spiritually seasoned family members, and of course, professional (faith based) counseling. We KNOW this is a hard step for many. No one is comfortable with the raw vulnerability of laying bare their darkest places in front of anyone, and then doing the hard work of working through the tough issues. It’s never easy or fun. We get it. But this is a step you can’t just skip past and think you’re going to heal individually or together in a healthy way. It’s worth every bit of the hard work, every tear, every hard discussion, every cent.
  • Repentance & Forgiveness If there is one thing we realized, was the no affair is ever about just one spouse. It is rarely (if ever) just about one person screwing up. Affairs are the symptom of a festering problem within the person and in the marriage. And since a marriage consists of two, both have to shoulder their own role to play in it all. This was certainly true for us. And there were crucial and pivotal moments in which Anthony and I both had to get so honest about our individual junk (sin) with one another. You know, all those places we keep hidden away so we don’t have to face or deal with them, convincing ourselves that they aren’t that bad, all the while hoping no one else will notice or call us out on it. Our marriage healing, was a time when nothing could be left uncovered or undealt with.  It was “get it all up and out” time because I mean, what else did we stand to lose? We intentionally pulled the black sheet off of every hidden corner of our hearts and in humility (not shame) confessed them, asking for the forgiveness of both one another and of God – without condemning one another. I believe that this one thing alone made ALL the difference in things. For there to be healing, there MUST be repentance (genuine sorrow for sin & turning away from it) and genuine forgiveness must be mutually exchanged.
  • Accountability Truth, though not impossible, it is much more difficult and less likely that we would fall into the traps of pornography, infidelity, addictions, ect. and not be open and honest with one another about it if we have true accountability in our lives. Scripturally, accountability should be a given in our lives that we have other people we stay in community with and are also accountable to, even with our private lives. But in our individualistic society, this just will not happen unless we make it a priority. Anthony and I have first made ourselves accountable to one another..and a trusted (spiritually mature) friend or two that is truly for you that you can confide in and they won’t spread your dirt. For example, if he is struggling with his private thought life or temptation to run to porn, he comes to me and lets me into his private world and we walk through those things together rather than just struggling alone. When I am struggling in an area or tempted, or a man attempts to start up a private conversation with me via social media or text, ect., I tell him. We do this to “out ourselves” because sin literally cannot grow when it becomes exposed to light. When we use the honesty of accountability to shine a bright light on the dark corners of our own heart and let one another into that place, much of the private allure fades away and we can hold one another to a higher standard of purity in all areas of life. If it can’t be your spouse, find a trusted friend who will hold you to that standard and BE HONEST.
  • Boundaries Through the affair, one area we realized we had been lax was in the area of setting boundaries in our marriage. And to be honest, there have been times since that we have missed the mark in this area. But we regularly evaluate things and put boundaries in place that make it harder for either us to end up falling into a well-placed trap. A few examples of current boundaries are that we do not text or message members of the opposite sex on our phones or social media UNLESS we include the other in on the conversation. We do not meet in private with a member of the opposite sex for any reason – even for counseling. And we do not engage in any behavior on our devices or in real life that we would need to “delete” or hide from our spouse. These are the simple “seemingly innocent” ways that most forms of infidelity in marriage begin and can be lessened simply by having firm boundary lines up front that you have decided you will not cross.
  • Lots of  intentional quality time alone together  I do not put this one last because it is least important. In fact, it should be up closer to the top of the list honestly. Our marriage comes first. Period. The kids do not, work does not, friends do not, church does not and family does not. We have learned the need to be intentional about making margin in our lives to get away together (if it just means shutting our bedroom door for a few hours on some weeks) because if we don’t, the demands of life crowd in and we find ourselves collapsing in bed together a 9 pm realizing that the best parts of us have been spent on everything in the world except one another.  And that is how any marriage begins a slow, sneaky decent downward and in completely opposite directions. Quality time and actually doing life together is one of the most powerful ways we prevent ourselves from ever finding ourselves sitting across from one another in a lawyer’s office realizing we have become two strangers who used to be in love, on two totally different paths in life, wishing to just go our own ways.
  • Pursuit  Why is is that we pursue one another when we are dating and then stop when the honeymoon is over? I mean, does passion really have an “on/off” switch? The truth is, I had missed being pursued by the man who held my heart, and so did he. When this happens in a marriage we begin to selfishly try to fill up those holes of longing with “other things”. Pornography, food, children, ministry, work, sex, addictions, toxic relationships, other people. They are all cheap substitutes that will never ever take the place of holy, passionate pursuit of God and of one another.  When we began to go out of our way to pursue one another again, we started to fall in love with one another all over again in brand new ways and deeper levels.
  • Leadership in the home  First of all men, I don’t care how she may come across at times. If there is one thing almost every woman secretly longs for in a man, it is a strong leader who will fight for her. Even one who will stand up to her as he loves her and consistently fights for and pursues her heart. Sure, she may be yelling and throwing dishes (or giving the silent treatment) but what her soul is secretly crying out is, “Lead me!” It is built into women to desire to be lead. The trouble is that too few men are leading. This was an area of our marriage that we needed to address, and one of the hard things I learned to express to him. Apathy slowly sneaks in and our strong leaders turn into apathetic, luke-warm couch potatoes who barely even notice that the enemy is rummaging their house, stealing the best of the goods, much less have the desire or capacity to do anything about it and lead. Men, MAN. UP. Stop apathetically allowing the women to lead and leaving them in want of someone to lead them and BE THE MAN of your home and the man that your wife longs for and deserves.
  • Submission Submission to God and to one another is a cornerstone of a Godly, fruitful marriage. As we serve and submit to the working of the Holy Spirit in our lives, the natural fruit of that is service and submission to one another. As Anthony serves and submits to the leaderships of the Holy Spirit in his life, I can submit myself to him…even when I don’t understand or agree, because I trust His leadership and this his heart is for me.

This “list” though certainly not exhaustive, is the meat and potatoes so to speak of the logical action steps we took in the very beginning of working through the aftermath of the affair, and what we do today to continually build and maintain a thriving marriage that is mutually fulfilling and life giving.

Do we get it right all the time? Definitely not. We are human. We get distracted, side-tracked and just plain tired sometimes just like everyone else. But what we have is a sure and steady foundational blue-print to go back to when things start to feel dull and shaky or just plain off kilter.

These are the “every little things” that have become the sturdy foundation we have built beneath us from which every single other thing in our life flows out out; our home, our children, their futures, our futures, and how we are able to impact a watching world to come to know by seeing this Gospel of grace and power lived out; this Jesus who has saved us in every way possible for two lives to be saved. 

“Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock. Though the rain comes in torrents and the floodwaters rise and the winds beat against that house, it won’t collapse because it is built on bedrock. But anyone who hears my teaching and doesn’t obey it is foolish, like a person who builds a house on sand. When the rains and floods come and the winds beat against that house, it will collapse with a mighty crash.” – Matthew 7:24-27

(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.)

 

The Scandal of Grace {The Anatomy of an Affair} 

We were the couple with the marriage others envied. By our late twenties we were earning enough to live comfortably, we had the little white house in the suburbs, new cars we loved, two beautiful kids, and were even heavily involved in ministry at our church. In many ways, we had it all…so it seemed. It is fair to say that literally no one realized our marriage was in trouble, not even us.

While it is true that it isn’t exactly reasonable to blame an entire marriage crisis on just a few issues, or even just one spouse; as I peeled back the layers of my heart post-affair, I began to discover the deeply hidden issues that had quietly, sneakily began to invade my heart like a slow growing cancer that would eventually begin to drain the life out of the foundation of our marriage.

These are a few of the “cancers” we found there that had quietly constructed the framework of unfaithfulness which would eventually become the entire anatomy of my affair.

  1. Resentment    Nine years of his little personality quirks that irritated me, built up hurt from times he had failed me, times I felt like I wasn’t enough, disappointment with how much he was away for work leaving me to handle things at home, and literal disdain for the job that stole him from us, all combined with my unwillingness to be open and transparent with him and talk through the issues rather than just stuffing it all away – led to deep resentment of my husband that I wasn’t even aware of. My resentment towards the man I had once been madly in love with had festered and grown into a dark cancer that had permeated so much of my heart for him, that I stopped even being able to see what was good and praiseworthy about him. This was a heart problem, not a him problem; one that I had to get willing to acknowledge, admit to, confess to him, and repent of.
  2. Lack of Respect & Admiration    You know the saying, “Familiarity breeds contempt?” It would be fair to say that in many ways we had both allowed familiarity with one another to morph into a culture of disrespect in our marriage. I had a definite disrespect for him as a man due to my own deeply rooted issues in that area, and since I am wired differently than my husband, I often felt like he didn’t respect things about me that were important to me and much a part of who I am as a person. And then, I started to hear these kinds of words from someone else other than my husband… “I LOVE the way you write, your passion for life. Maybe you could co-write my book with me. I think it’s awesome that you run, my wife isn’t interested in fitness at all but I love it. Let’s run the loop together sometime! You’re so beautiful. I hope you hear that often. It’s pretty incredible how you keep it all together and running, I know Anthony works a lot and you’re alone. You’re just amazing.” Because I am human, or course those words built up my fleshly ego and made the parts of who I am that I didn’t feel my husband barely noticed much less respected me for – suddenly feel appreciated, valued, and respected.
  3. Lack of Appreciation    It is true that when we don’t respect and admire a person, it is almost impossible to appreciate anything about them…even the good. We don’t see the good in our spouse because we literally can’t see it; our hearts have become overgrown with gigantic weeds that blind us of their admirable qualities, only revealing all that they aren’t. So we become deeply ungrateful, believing that somehow we’ve been ripped off, we married the wrong person, and are sure that someone else could have given us a better life and made us happy. 
  4. Bitterness    When I started counseling, my counselor said these words to me, “Rachel, you have a good, good heart and so much talent to offer the world. You’re really going to do something with your life, even with all your painful experiences; but girl you are bitter. And we need to get from bitter to better if you ever want to go anywhere worth going and truly be able to help others.” Hard words to stomach. To be honest I sat in my car for a bit and cried after that session. Me? Bitter? Who does he think he is? But because I really really wanted healing, his words caused me to do the word of deep self-examination. Maybe he was right. In fact, despite the prideful arrogance of my human ego, something in me knew he was right or I would have quit that very day. Bitterness is like the roots of a tree. Roots are much smaller than the tree, seemingly insignificant, mostly unnoticeable and they grow slowly. But roots are the very thing that grow an entire tree and then hold it in place. I came to realize that so many of the roots of the tree that was my life, were bitter roots that only appeared to be sturdy because they were covered over in determined anger that I would prove something or force people to change to suit me. I could not blame shift this on to anyone, or anything else. My own unresolved and undealt with hurt and disappointment had grown a gigantic tree with bitter roots that produced bitter fruit. I needed to face it, own it, and allow all those bitter roots that had entangled their way around my heart to be uprooted so that the fresh soil of love, and gentle but sturdy roots of grace could replace where the bitter roots had once anchored my life to the ground.
  5. Lack of Romance    Let’s face it. Life gets crazy; jobs, paying bills, kids, different schedules, and we find ourselves plopping in bed together at 10:30 with a quick kiss and lights out. I mean, who has time for romance when there is an American dream to chase? Want to know what I’ve noticed with older couples who still live together in passionless marriages? They think little of romance. “I told her I loved her when I married her, if anything changes, I’ll let her know.” Sorry but, I call bull crap… and let me know how that’s worked out for ya! Lack of romance throughout a marriage leads to couples who exist in loveless marriages of her living her life and friends, and him living his. Two married strangers with nothing in common who plop down together in their chairs in the evening to numb out conversation with the television and then shuffle to bed only to begin the same old cycle of apathetic love the next morning.

Take the trip together alone, shut the kids out of the bedroom, dress up for one another, go on a regular date night, buy the flowers, have FUN together, hold hands and laugh – do allllll the cheesy stuff that boring, stuffy couples roll their eyes at! It matters!

Romance in marriage is absolutely essential. Without it, apathy will take over and passion will die. Marriage is just like a beautiful garden that needs constant tending to keep the weeds out and everything else healthy – even planting in new things on occasion to keep it fresh, thriving and growing. 

6. Lack of Transparency    I often thought about how differently things might have gone if I had let my husband in on the first glimpses that things weren’t going in a healthy direction with the man I had the affair with. What if I had confessed that we talked rather than deleting the conversations? What if I had confided in my husband how it made me feel when I was around the other man, rather than just giving in to it and enjoy it? What if he new we were supposed to meet? There aren’t many things I have been absolutely sure of in all of this, but one thing I am positive of is that one moment of transparency, one single honest confession on my part would have changed everything. 

Truth is, everyone loves the idea of total transparency until they have to give it. The word transparent literally means: allowing light to flow through so objects behind can be distinctly seen; easy to be seen or detect; having thoughts, feelings, or motives that are easily perceived. From what we’ve learned, a lack of transparency in one area of life leads to hiding and lying in many others.

So it was with us. He would sneak and lie about his porn on occasion, so surely it was no big deal if I deleted a text or Facebook chat on occasion. I mean, I basically deserved it eh? Let’s get one thing straight, if you find yourself viewing, chatting, texting, calling, messaging, ect. another human being other than your spouse and hiding it? You’ve already crossed the line into cheating territory; whether you’ve slept with them or not. So when other women ask me, “I mean come on, do you really tell your husband EVERYthing? The answer is yes.” I tell him everything to protect myself from hiding. Another reason that hiding is dangerous is because when we end up ensnared in trap, we find that we are alone in it, with no one to help us out because we haven’t been honest all along. Lack of transparency and hiding is when we set ourselves up to fall flat on our face and screw things up big time. Take from a gal who knows, please just don’t. Strip yourself bare and get honest.

7. Old Wounds     No surgeon would ever think about suturing up a patient with an internal infection and expecting them heal or function normally. “Oh well, it’ll just scab over and hurt for life, but they’ll make it.” Everyone knows how ridiculous this would be. But so often that is what we do with the internal wounds of our soul. We go through painful things, words said to us, betrayals, put downs, abuse, and we never deal with it. Our wounds become infected parts of us that effect our entire being – especially taking our toll on our closest relationships.

I had a person in my life that literally refused to confront hard issues, get it all out, work through it, and heal. You could not go to them and work things out, or talk about what was wrong, or how it was damaging the relationship. The only option was to ignore the issues and sweep it under the rug, all in the name of keeping the peace. Problem was, every time there was much interaction between them and others – the outcome was almost bad. I’ve since come to understand that the reason some people do not deal with old wounds is pride and apathy (unwillingness to do the work). They simply don’t care how their personal wounds continue to wound those closest to them in life and so eventually, relationships crumble and those they love most distance themselves to protect their own heart from damage.

I say all this to say this, whatever we’ve been through, no matter how hard and awful it was or whose fault it was; do the work, get honest, face the music, get whatever help you need to heal those old wounds and leave them behind. Old wounds from the past never just go away, they will drive you and your spouse further and further from one another. And in the end, we all lose.

(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.)

The Scandal of Grace {There’s Nothing Too Dirty}

So it’s been six years since my affair and since Anthony and I began our journey to heal our marriage and to create a brand new love. It has been (and is still) the hardest yet most beautiful and worth it journey of our lives and I really wanted to do something to symbolize the newness of life and love we’ve come to know, and the personal healing I’ve experienced over the past six years.

As “random luck” would have it, I found a vintage wedding dress while out thrifting with my family and it was EVERYTHING I would have chosen in a wedding dress…had I been in actual need of one. But just for fun I tried it on, and it fit like it was made for me. To boot, it was just $49!

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Still, I hung the dress back on the rack and left. As the day went on I couldn’t shake the feeling that I should go back for it…not even knowing what I would do with it. But then my mom encouraged me to go back for it, and so… I did! Dress in hand, I emailed my photographer and asked her if she would do a bridal shoot for me. I was a little thankful she didn’t laugh, rather she thought it was the sweetest idea ever and agreed to do it in time for me to be able to gift it to Anthony on his birthday.

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The day of the shoot was so fun because it just felt like the sweet surprise that it was. I gathered up some light pink roses (the first flowers he ever gave me) I found on sale and some satin, and made my own little bouquet – nothing fancy, just a symbol of something I knew he would understand. The day was extra special to me because my grandma, my mom, my sister, and my daughter insisted on coming along with me! My 15 years later shoot…and still, they understood it’s worth. They got me in my dress and we battled hurricane force winds, my daughter even having to get under my dress and hold it down, while we captured as many pictures as we could before we all blew away!

IMG_1512-Edit-Edit{Images credit: Jennifer Edwards – The Photographerette}

My shoot doesn’t have that “every hair in place” perfected look like most bridal shoots, but I actually ended up loving that about it all the more because I felt like it captured who I am…a vintage soul who loves beauty, and just so happens to be a little undone and messy at times. But despite the difficulty of the shoot due to the weather, I felt so happy and at peace that day, and they captured how my heart felt so well.

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The main inspiration behind it and what was running through my mind throughout this whole process was how that our marriage healing from the unfaithfulness of us both has been an accurate reflection of the Gospel we base our faith in – a reflection of the faithful goodness of Jesus and the Gospel that redeems what is sad and dark and broken, and transforms everything ugly and dark into everything beautiful and full of light.

And when we look at these pictures hanging on our new bedroom walls they will forever be our permanent reminder of the miracle of grace that we lived, and the faithfulness and goodness of Jesus even when we are not.

I hope I never get over this love.

This is the story of a human man who reflected the love of a greater Husband and who loved her like Jesus with skin in, and how an unfaithful woman encountered grace and became the clean and radiant bride whom He adores and delights Himself in – and was forever changed.

And His grace and mercy meant that she could live without the chains of shame that had once threatened to put out her light; so fully alive and free.

As long as she lives her world would know that there is nothing too dirty, that He can’t make worthy.

The end.

The Lord says,
“Then I will heal you of your faithlessness;
    my love will know no bounds,
    for my anger will be gone forever.
I will be to Israel
    like a refreshing dew from heaven.
Israel will blossom like the lily;
    it will send roots deep into the soil
    like the cedars in Lebanon.
Its branches will spread out like beautiful olive trees,
    as fragrant as the cedars of Lebanon.
My people will again live under my shade.
    They will flourish like grain and blossom like grapevines.
    They will be as fragrant as the wines of Lebanon.

“O Israel, stay away from idols!
    I am the one who answers your prayers and cares for you.
I am like a tree that is always green;
    all your fruit comes from me.” 

~ Hosea 14:4-8

(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.)

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7 thoughts on “The Scandal of Grace {The Affair}

  1. This makes my heart overflow with love and hope for the future of relationships! I want to thank you for pouring out your soul here. It is a beautiful mess but it is with God’s grace we are healed and made a new. I am so proud of you and Anthony having the courage to share your story.
    I was the betrayed one in my marriage and I know the pain Anthony endured. I praise God that you found the ability to move beyond it thru God’s grace. My love to you both!!!!

    Like

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