I never thought we would get this far during those 2 horrific years. But, amazingly, and by the wonderful grace of Almighty God, my husband and I celebrated our 16th wedding anniversary in September. It was a time for us to look back on all the things we have been through. All the ways God has been with us, even when we were at the brink of destruction. All of God’s favor and goodness to us, even when we most certainly did not deserve those things.
The past few years, our marriage has been better than ever. We have reached new depths of intimacy in every area of our relationship. We have rekindled the friendship we lost during his affair. We have shared our hopes and dreams, many of which have been reborn. There are some things we have shared with each other that are just little glimpses of how well God knows us, the deepest, even the silliest, of our desires. For example, my husband told me that he had always liked my name (my first name) long before he met me. The cool thing is that his first wife was supposed to be named my name, but not long before she was born, her mother and father decided to name her something different. So, that little seemingly insignificant desire my husband had eventually came to pass, even though he had to go through some very hard times to see it fulfilled.
We have had lazy Saturdays where he have cuddled up in bed and watched movies or television and just talked about things, some important, but mostly just getting to know each other better. Those are the times that have really strengthened our relationship. Those are the conversations that have given us glimpses into who each other is and what our marriage can be as we move forward.
One night, my husband and I watched a movie on Amazon. The name of it was “The Song.” It is about a man whose father committed adultery, and it ruined his life and the life of his family. The man’s actions had a profound effect on his son, from whose perspective the story was told, and the son grew up desiring only one thing of God: wisdom. Like Solomon, he asked God for wisdom. I need to add that the narrator quoted parts of the book of Ecclesiastes throughout the movie. The man’s father had been a successful country singer, and the son struggled to overcome his father’s shadow. The son met a beautiful young lady, whom he married. She inspired him to write a song about her. The song catapulted the man to stardom. Unfortunately, success and fame did to the son what it did to his father. He ended up cheating on his wife. As he pursued all the things Solomon mentions in Ecclesiastes, things that we pursue because we think they will fulfill us, those things dismantled and destroyed his life. I won’t tell you the rest of the story. You can watch the movie to see what became of the man and his life.
Needless to say, my husband could definitely identify with man. The movie sparked some conversation between us. One thing my husband revealed to me was that he knew when I told him I forgave him that I would not divorce him. I told him I did not know at that point that I would not divorce him, but he said he just knew. He then told me that he also realized at that point that if he wanted out, if he wanted to marry the other woman, he would have to divorce me, but he knew he could not do that. Although he was in sin, he understood that God would not bless that relationship, not even if he divorced me. Because in God’s eyes, he would still have been in adultery. He knew he could have had no peace in that relationship. He would have been miserable, not necessarily from the other woman, but from knowing deep down that it was wrong.
I am sharing these experiences with you to offer you hope. I do not wish the hell I went through on anyone, and I would not have chosen that path for myself. But, when I see where my marriage is now, how much my husband and I have grown as a couple, how we have grown individually, I can see enormous value in the experience. Painful though it was, it brought good things, but we had to be willing to confront our pain, our anger, deal with our issues, and engage in honest communication. We had to do some very painful work that at times seemed overwhelming and pointless, but it was worth the struggle.
None of us like suffering. We don’t like pain. We don’t like facing the truth. But suffering has a purpose. In those dark times, we learn lessons about ourselves, about life, about God, and those lessons remain with us long after the suffering ends. Those lessons change us; they help shape us. They give us a perspective we would have never had. They are stepping stones to a brighter future, a deeper relationship with God and with each, a better understanding of ourselves. If we are willing to press through. If we refuse to give up. If we are willing to do the work. Growth doesn’t come easily to most of us. Growth and healing cannot come as long as we refuse to be honest, as long as we run from the pain. As a song by Francesca Battistelli says, “The truth is harder than a lie” (from If We’re Honest). But the truth is what we need to acknowledge and embrace if we have any hope for positive change.
So, I am now on the other side of the darkest valley of my life. I’m on the other side of soul-baring, life-altering pain and struggle. I’m on the other side, and it is a wonderful, liberating, beautiful place to be. Some of you, maybe most of you, will not make it to the other side with your marriage intact. But all of you will make it to the other side, whether as single or married. What awaits you on the other side is largely dependent on you–on the choices you make now. On how willing you are to let go of the pain, anger, and disappointment. On how willing you are to forgive those who have hurt and wronged you. What do you want the other side to look like? What can you do to make the other side be a good place for you?