Not very long after my husband ended his affair with the OW, we got a package from the OW in the mail. By package, I mean a box, not simply an envelope. Not knowing what to expect, my husband opened the box and looked in it first. I then looked it in. It was full of mementos from their tumultuous relationship. It was puzzling that she would waste her time and money to send such a package, and it was absolutely pointless. I do not know what her intentions were in sending the package, and I really do not care. It is what my husband and I did with the package that is of importance.
There was no long, drawn out, tense discussion about what to do with the box and the items it in. My husband wanted nothing that reminded him of that relationship, and, if he had wanted something, my answer would have been a resounding “No.” There was no way we were keeping any of the items, but we weren’t going to waste our money by sending the items back to her. Instead, we promptly agreed to burn the box and everything in it, and that is exactly what we did. As we stood outside, holding hands and watching the contents of that box go up in flames, I felt some satisfaction and peace. It was as if by burning those mementos, we were burning any existing bridge to that ungodly relationship. It was a moment of great significance to me, and I believe it was a turning point in our marriage.
Now, by this time, my husband had vowed that he would spend the rest of his life trying to make up to me all the hurt he caused. He had already told me he would do whatever was necessary for me to trust him again. He told me and others in our family that he would NEVER under ANY circumstances give me any reason to even wonder if I could trust him. He would never put me in such a position again. He had been living what he had been telling me at the time we got the package, and he continues to live up to what he told me then to this day.
By the time of the “bridge burning” I was already reading every email, text message, letter, etc. that he and the OW exchanged, and had been doing so for quite some time, so I knew exactly what was/was not going on and who said and did what. At random times, with no warning, I would get his computer or his phone and see who he had been talking to or which sites he had been visiting. He never had any problem with me doing any of those things, either, because he no longer had anything to hide. There would be no more secrets or lies. I knew he was serious about trying to save our marriage. He showed me this consistently by his actions, not just his words, over a long period of time. He knew it would take much more than his words to earn my trust again.
I do not claim to know all that happened in that relationship, but I know far more than people realize. I know my husband lied to me countless times, he manipulated me, he deceived me, and he greatly dishonored me. The OW also is guilty of her sin and her part in the relationship. Frankly, I do not care to know every little thing that happened; I know the things that matter. I know how my husband got to the point where he could cheat on me, I know how and where they met, and I know that both were guilty. I also know when my husband ended things with her for good and his reasons for doing so. Those are the things that mattered to me. I never have desired to know everything that happened. I still don’t care to know. It is totally irrelevant to me now and has been for a very long time. I refuse to live in the past, and choose instead to continue to move forward. There is absolutely nothing that I could learn or discover that would change my decision or change my opinion of my husband. The man he was during the affair is NOT that man anymore, nor is that adulterous man who sinned for a season of time the same man I married. All the horrible stuff that happened was then; this is now. I’m living in the present, not the past. You can’t go back once the bridge has been burned, which is why it was so important to burn it, even if only symbolically.
When I forgave my husband, I forgave him of all his wrongs against me. Of course I knew that I didn’t know everything. I’m not naive. Forgiveness did not mean I condoned what he did and that he never needed to be confronted to own his part of it. And it does not mean we have not talked about the relationship from time to time. Of course it is necessary to talk about things, especially since he has a son from that relationship. If he had not had a son with the OW, we would hardly ever, if ever, talk about the relationship now. We are well past the point where that relationship is front and center in our minds or in our lives. It is a sad, regrettable part of my husband’s past, the absolute worst relationship he has ever had. Why would either of us want to dredge it up unless it was absolutely necessary?
Now, when trust is being rebuilt, there are some very honest and painful discussions that cannot and must not be avoided. Like forgiveness, rebuilding trust is a process. There is no easy way to go about rebuilding it. It is very hard, and there is no set time frame on how long it will take to begin to trust again. I didn’t just start trusting my husband again all of a sudden. It took months, if not a year or a little over, to really get to a place where I knew the man of God I married was indeed back. He was once again a man after God’s own heart. He hated himself for a long time after ending that affair; indeed, he hated himself while he was involved with the OW because he knew he was sinning. He also had to forgive himself, and that took him quite a while, too. He never had peace or true happiness in that relationship because he knew all along he was sinning, and, despite his great sin, he knew enough about God’s character to understand that God could not and would not bless that relationship under any circumstances. He wrestled with those issues until it got to the point where he was broken before God with godly sorrow. Once he humbled himself before God, confessed his sin, and asked for forgiveness, he was able to pick himself up from the pit he was in and walk on with God’s help.
The Bible tells us that when King David committed adultery, he attempted to cover it up by having Bathsheba’s husband killed. However, everything done in secret comes to the light; God sees every thing. When David was confronted by the prophet Nathan about his sin, David admitted it and cried out to God for mercy and forgiveness. You can read David’s prayer of repentance in Psalm 51. I witnessed that same kind of brokenness and godly sorrow in my husband. Without godly sorrow, sorrow we feel because we know we have sinned against God and we know it breaks God’s heart, there can be no true repentance or change. My husband’s sorrow was not over getting caught; he had already been caught not long after the affair began, but he did not end it then. His sorrow, the sorrow that led to him getting his heart right before God and finally ending a relationship he knew all along had been sinful, gave him the willingness to, from that point forward, be completely honest with me and to do whatever it took to see our marriage restored. He was leaving his sin and that relationship in the past, where it rightfully belongs, just as the apostle Paul admonished in Philippians 3:13-14: “Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” For my husband to go forward in Christ, he had to let go of the past. In order for me to move forward, I had to let go of the past, too.
I hope that one day you will each get to have a “burning bridges” celebration. A celebration that means there is no looking back and no living in the past. A celebration in which you, for the first time in a long time, feel like the worthy, beautiful, and highly valued woman you are. A celebration when you realize that you are once again the one your husband desires and treasures above all other people and feel the joy of knowing that your husband thanks God for you because you refused to give up on him. My husband tells me every day that he loves me more than I will ever know, and I know he means it. He thanks God for me every single day because I am a virtuous woman who fears the Lord (Proverbs 31), and that virtue is what made me fight so long and so hard. Where he once dishonored me, he now honors me, and he has yet to give me any reason to question his character or his faithfulness. He made a terrible mistake, but he refuses to let that mistake forever define who he is. He chooses instead to let God define who he is and to let God continue to mold him into His image.
However, I am quite aware that many of you will not experience a “burning bridges” moment. Sadly, your husband may refuse to repent, or you, for reasons I can well understand, just cannot get past the hurt and pain he caused and cannot bring yourself to ever be able to trust him again. Even if you find yourself in that situation, you can still choose to burn the bridge to your past. It does not mean you will forget about what happened; it does mean that you refuse to allow it to define you or defeat you. You will never be able to move forward in life if you keep looking over your shoulder at the past and keep one foot (or both) firmly planted there. It takes faith to take the first step towards finding peace by letting go of the past. It is hard, no doubt about it. If for no other reason, do it for yourself. Don’t allow yourself to remain in chains over what happened to you. Break free of that bondage so you can run the race that God has laid out for you. “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.” (Hebrews 12:1-2, NIV)
When anyone refuses to forgive someone who has hurt them, regardless of who it is and how badly they were hurt, the one who withholds forgiveness is hurting him/herself. Your lack of forgiveness says a lot about the condition of your heart, as well as your relationship with God. If you are a Christian, you do NOT have the right to withhold forgiveness from anyone. Choosing not to forgive someone hurts you, not them. Don’t live in past. Let it go so you can find the peace you so desperately need. No matter how badly you have been hurt or how much you think the other person does not deserve your forgiveness, consider Jesus, who never wronged anyone, yet went to the cross so you can be forgiven if you ask it of him. You did not deserve his forgiveness. I did not deserve his forgiveness. He forgives us when we ask because he LOVES us and love keeps no record of wrongs. You cannot say you love God and choose to withhold forgiveness. So, if that is your stance, then read the Bible and all Jesus had to say about forgiveness. If you do that and still believe it is okay for you to choose not to forgive and to stand in judgement of others and throw their sins against you up in their face every chance you get, I can only pray that before you die, you will truly find God, because you are only fooling yourself now. And it will destroy you!
“O, what a tangled web we weave when first we practise to deceive!” – Walter Scott, Marmion, Canto vi. Stanza 17
Have you ever played with Play-Dough? Have your kids? If you have any experience with Play-Dough, you know that it is only useful and can be shaped when it is soft and pliable. Once it becomes hard, it is brittle, and is useless. That’s a great analogy for the heart. The Bible has a lot to say about the heart.
“You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.” (Matthew 12:34)
“A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.” (Luke 6:45)
“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” (Proverbs 4:23)
“For out of the heart come evil thoughts–murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander.”
“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? I the Lord search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings.” (Jeremiah 17:9-10)
“Anyone who hates another brother or sister is really a murderer at heart. And you know that murderers don’t have eternal life within them.” (I John 3:15)
“But I say to you, anyone who stares at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Matthew 5:28)
All sin begins in the heart. What is in our hearts will come out of us, in our actions, our words, our attitudes and our thoughts. There is no way around it. If we have bitterness, hatred, anger, pride, or resentment towards someone, it will come out of us. If we have compassion, grace, and mercy towards someone, it will come out of us, too. It all comes out, the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Let me make it clear. We all have things in our hearts that need to be gotten rid of. If you hate someone, the Bible says you are a murderer. If you look on someone with lust, you are an adulterer (man or woman). If you are deceived, dishonest, and a liar, those things will come out of you. You may be able to wear that fake mask for awhile, but at some point, we all have to face what is in our hearts. God knows what is in our hearts. We may be able to fool other people, we may even be able to convince ourselves that we are a “good” person or a “Christian” person because we don’t do X,Y, or Z, but God rightly knows who we really are. We cannot fool him. The heart is deceitfully wicked. Notice those two words: deceitfully means that it misleads us or gives the appearance of being something it is not, and wicked means evil or sinful. Our hearts will deceive us and lead us astray if we are not careful.
I have had a glimpse into my heart lately, and I needed it. We all need it. We must confront the evil lurking inside of us, threatening to control us. If we don’t deal with what is in our hearts, we are in danger of losing our souls.
I have seen numerous people ruin their lives and the lives of others because they refused to look into their hearts. They refused to examine their words, actions, attitudes or thoughts. They didn’t check themselves. They didn’t ask themselves if the words they spoke showed anger or hostility or bitterness. They didn’t ask themselves if their thoughts showed warped and sinful thinking that was not in line with God’s word. They didn’t ask themselves if their actions were hateful or spiteful or hurtful. They didn’t ask themselves if their attitude was one of pride and arrogance or one of humility and brokenness. And, their lack of self-examination, their lack of honesty, destroyed their lives, the lives of others, and their souls. None of those sinful things are worth your soul, are they?
Sin is a cancer. The dark and ugly things in our hearts–anger, malice, jealousy, pride, bitterness–those are cancer. Unless those things are dealt with, they grow. At first, we may be able to “control” it, but at some point, we become its slave. It rules us; we cease to rule it. Satan is set on destroying you. He is a liar. He is determined to have your company in hell. That is his heart. That is his intention. What was in Lucifer’s heart before he was cast out of heaven? Pride. He wanted to be worshiped. He wanted to be a god. And, sadly, he is the god of many more people than we would like to believe. If God is not our God, Satan is our God. All the other little “g” gods we worship–power, money, sex, status, possessions, our children, our ego, our intellect–are cleverly disguised, but they are, in fact, the worship of Satan. If we worship ourselves, and not God, then the only other alternative is Satan. Every other road but God leads to Satan and to eternal damnation.
Our hearts, as manifested in what we say, what we do, what we think, and what we believe about ourselves and others, tell us what we worship. Are you always talking about money? Are you always talking ugly about someone? Do you despise someone? Are you always wanting more things? Do want another high?What are your desires? What drives you? “For where your treasure is, your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:21)
Don’t be afraid to come into the Light and let God show you what is in your heart. It is necessary, unless you are just kidding yourself and are playing Christian. Being a Christian takes work. We have to guard our hearts diligently. When we see bitterness or anger, for example, through something we have done or said, we have to pull it up and get rid of it. We have to exercise the fruits of the Spirit. We have to run the race. We have to walk in humility. Those things take work on a daily minute-by-minute basis. Your work as a Christian will not be complete until you pass into the other side of eternity.
If we don’t look at ourselves and examine our lives, we can become hard-hearted and calloused to the things of God, and that will ultimately be reflected in how we live our lives.
I have said it many times in this blog, and I am sure I will say it many more times because it bears repeating. Do the right thing. Be obedient to the leading of the Holy Spirit. Don’t worry about what the other person says or does. That is irrelevant. You don’t have to answer for them, but do you have to answer for yourself. Do you want to please God and have his approval? Or do you want to please yourself and others? If you want to please God and have his approval, you have to do it his way. If you are in unrepentant sin, stop! Turn away from it. If you have an offense against someone, forgive them, even if they don’t ask or you don’t think they deserve it. If you hurt someone, apologize. Be humble and stay humble. Keep your heart soft and pliable before God. When he shows you something in your life that you need to change or make right, be thankful for it because it means He loves you too much to leave you to your own devices. The Lord disciplines those he loves (Hebrews 12:6).
What does God require of you? How does he want you to live? The answer is in Micah 6:8: “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God”. This is how you show God and others that you love Him: “If ye love me, keep my commandments.” (John 14:15). John 14:23 says, “Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.” If you love God, obey Him, and don’t worry about what others do or say. Live to honor God. He will sort it out in his way and in his time. Let others mock you, ridicule you, insult you, call you names, hurt you, lie about you…It doesn’t matter. That’s a problem of their heart. Pray for them that they will allow God to teach them how to live.
I will make mistakes, and you will make mistakes, but we don’t have to stay down. We always have the choice to get back up and keep walking. But it requires humility, courage, and commitment.
Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails. (1 Corinthians 13:4-8).
Jesus was always motivated by love. If our motives are not rooted in love, then our motives are wrong. These verses are the essence of why I fought for my husband and for my marriage. He was worth the fight; marriage is worth the fight. Only what is done in love will remain.
No. This is a LIE! Those who make this statement do not understand repentance. I heard this statement from my sister when I told her about my husband’s affair. I disagreed then, and I disagree now. You see, if my husband had never confessed his sin to me or to God; if he had never ended the affair; if he had continued to lie to me and had remained in sin, then there would be truth to this statement. But, he did confess his sin; he did end the affair, and he does not lie to me at all anymore. His life is an open book, as it should be. I witnessed his heart change. It was manifested in the way he began treating me and our marriage. I saw his godly sorrow for the sinful choices he made and for the pain he caused. I have been married to my husband for over 15 years. I know him better than anyone else on the face of this earth. I have seen his dark side, and I have seen his good side. I have seen him fall and I have seen him rise again. He is not perfect, but neither am I; nor are any of us for that matter. If I say that people cannot change, then for that statement to be true, it must also apply to myself. If my husband could not change, then I could not change. If I can change but he cannot, then I need to have a serious talk with God because I am lying to myself. I need to ask him to show me my sin so I can change. None of us get to heaven without changing. When we get saved, God begins changing us. It is a lifelong process, but the change does occur. None of us have to be bound by our past.
But, I point you to Scripture, as I always have, to show you the truth. We are all wretched sinners, beyond hope or help, except through the blood of Jesus. If none of us can change, we all are doomed to eternal separation from God. That is the truth. The apostle Paul wrote in 1 Timothy 1:15: “Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners–of whom I am the worst.” (NIV). But that same Paul was transformed by the power of God. He writes in 2 Corinthians 5:17: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” Why could Paul write that? Because he had been changed. Before he met Jesus, he was a murderer. He encouraged and oversaw the persecution of Christians. He was present at the stoning of Steven. He had been an awful person. But, he was changed.
I do not hold my husband’s sin against him or over his head. For me to do so would be for me to be in sin. For one reason, that is not forgiveness or love. For another reason, I would be standing in condemning, unmerciful judgment of him, and that is not my place. It is God’s place. God will judge each of us with the same measure we judge others. Jesus made that truth very clear in Matthew 7:1-5: “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye. You hypocrite! first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” Jesus used some strong language in this passage for those who use hypocritical, self-righteous judgment. He called them hypocrites, not because there was no sin in their brother’s life, but because they were ignoring the sin in their own lives and refusing to deal with it.
When you are in sin, when you refuse to acknowledge your sin, if you judge others, God calls you a hypocrite! Not the one you are judging. Get your life right with God before you try to “help” someone else get their life right with God. Even if I am living right with God, there is a right way and a wrong (sinful) way to speak to others about their sin: “Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted.” (Galatians 6:1). Galatians—there’s another book by the apostle Paul who referred to himself as the worst of sinners. Paul says to restore people gently, not in harsh judgment. In Ephesian 4:15, Paul admonishes those who claim to be Christ’s: “Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.”
Paul tells us to restore people gently and in a loving manner. How many of us do that? Instead, we puff ourselves up, somehow putting ourselves in the place of God and play judge, jury, and executioner, deceiving ourselves into thinking that we are somehow above someone else just because our sin is not the same as their sin. That is just as sinful as what we are judging someone else for!
Sin is sin is sin. It does not matter what your sin is. It is just as repugnant to God as my husband’s lying, cheating, and adultery were. God will judge each of us according to our sin—not according to the sin of others. I alone am responsible for my choices and my sin, just as you alone are responsible for your sin. If you disagree with that statement, talk to God about it, because it is the truth. Why is it true? Because God, not mankind, determines sin. He has told us in his word what sin is. None of us are excused. What my husband did was sin; what the OW did was sin. Neither were innocent. But I also sinned, and I have shared some of those times with you. When I stand before God on judgment day, he is not going to ask me to give an account for anyone’s life but my own. God will not accept, “But my husband did this, God. You don’t understand.” Nope, that’s not the way it works. God will deal with each of us for our choices that we made freely and willingly. God will not play the blame game or allow any of us to point our fingers at others. His question will be, “What did YOU do?” Do you think that the guards in Hitler’s army were without blame for murdering millions of Jews? Do you think they could argue before God, “But Hitler told me to do it.” No! Hitler did not make them do anything. They CHOSE to do what they did. Just as all of us CHOOSE what we will do. It is my sin, so I will own it. It is your sin, so you must own it. That’s the way it works.
Lying, cheating, stealing, cursing, having sex outside of marriage, having sex with someone you are not married to, taking God’s name in vain, adultery, pride, arrogance, conceit, jealousy, bitterness, wrath, malice, unforgiveness, condemning judgment, murder, greed, lust, idolatry, sloth…All of these are sins, but this list is not exhaustive. If you have ever lied, ever stolen, ever cursed, ever slept with someone you were not married to, ever committed murder, you are a sinner, just as I am a sinner. That’s why we all need Jesus. Satan was kicked out of heaven for his sin of rebellion birthed in pride, so why should any of us think we will get INTO heaven in sin? We are deceiving ourselves if we think we can. God is loving, merciful, compassionate, patient, gentle, and kind, but he is also holy, just, and righteous. He will judge all sin because he is a holy God. He will use the same standards for everyone, and no one’s sin will be excused.
I have shared with you how God turned what was intended as evil against me into good, how he changed something ugly and painful into something beautiful. If God can change such a bad situation, He can certainly change the hearts of men, just as he did my husband’s heart. Just as he did my heart. Just as he has changed countless hearts. Nothing is too hard for God.
Now, if my husband was still lying and cheating, then I could not say he has changed. I would not say he has changed. I have never attempted to condone his actions or choices. He did some horrible things, but his sin was no worse than your sin or my sin. All sin is ugly to God. God hates all sin. There is never a defense for sin—any sin—no matter how big or small we as humans may see it. God does not see sin as “big” or “small.” Your sin, my sin, our sin—SIN sent Jesus to the cross. Jesus’ work on the cross is the remedy for sin—ALL sin. So, if you for some reason are are presuming to be God, take some time to look at yourself in the light of God’s truth. Allow God to show you areas where you need to change (areas of sin). He loves you, and will show you if you sincerely and diligently seek him. He does not want anyone to die in their sins. That is not his perfect will. Looking at ourselves and acknowledging our sin is hard. I know, but it is absolutely necessary if any of us hope to change. Because only those who have been changed into the image of Jesus will see God. God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble. A proud heart is a judgmental, self-righteous, hypocritical heart that refuses to acknowledge its own sinful depravity. A humble heart says, “Jesus, I have sinned against you. I confess it as sin. Please forgive me and help me not to do it anymore.” Humility or pride—choose the one you want to live by, but my choice is humility because I want to be like Jesus. What about you?
Once a cheater? Yes. But not anymore, by the grace of God.
I have shared with you my struggles about coming to terms with the baby conceived during my husband’s affair. Now, I am going to tell you about the choice I made, and why I made the choice. Then, I will tell you the results of my choice.
My choosing to accept or reject this baby would not change the fact that the baby existed. It would not change my husband’s moral, spiritual, or financial responsibility for the baby. I could reject the baby. I could have walked away or refused to let my husband have anything to do with him, but what good would that have done? Would it have accomplished anything good? It certainly would not have changed the situation. What was done was done, and I had a choice to make.
Like many of the other decisions I made during this time of my life, I agonized in prayer over how to handle that baby. I didn’t want anything to do with that baby, but I also wanted to do what God wanted me to do. It took a few months to really begin to see where God was leading me. My life was enormously complicated, and that baby would only make it more complicated. But, God never promised me an uncomplicated life. In fact, the opposite is true. Jesus made it clear that we would face troubles of all kinds, and James and Paul stated that truth as well in their epistles. We also see that truth throughout Scripture in the lives of Moses, Joseph, and David for example. They were called by God for a certain purpose, but fulfilling that purpose also meant embracing the troubles, pain, and trials that came with it. So, what was my purpose in this matter? What was the purpose of the matter–the whole ugly, messed up ordeal? What was the purpose of that baby? Simply put, God was using it all to clean me up–to get garbage out of me, to make me more like Jesus. To testify of God’s goodness and faithfulness. It was never about the circumstances. It was about what God wanted to accomplish in me and through me. And, if He chose to use a baby, then so be it. None of us get to choose the tools God will use to chisel away at us in the process of perfecting us.
I knew it would have been wrong to deprive my husband and that baby from having a relationship. I understand the importance of children having a relationship with their fathers. I knew the significance of the mantle of responsibility that was placed upon my husband. I could not, in good conscience, tell my husband he could not see his child or have anything to do with his child. The other woman tried to do that, but that was and is between she and God. I wasn’t going to be a hindrance. That baby needed a loving, caring father, and I knew my husband was that man.
At first, the other woman would let my husband come see his child for a couple of hours on the weekend. By this point, my husband had ended things with her, and he had determined that he would never again be alone with any woman, especially her. So, he told her he would be bringing his mother and his daughters with him. She fought it and eventually told him it was not “appropriate” for his mother and daughters to be coming with him. If he wanted to see his son, he would have to come alone. He refused to do so. She refused to budge. So, guess what he did to show me that he valued me and our marriage far more than any other person? He told me he wanted to have a relationship with his son, but he would only move forward if I was agreeable to it. He honored me by giving me a choice and letting me know that he would respect my decision, because he knew how hard it was for me. We discussed things, and both of us knew that the only way my husband could see his son without meeting the other woman’s demands was if he took her to court to obtain visitation. We both knew exactly what the implications of that decision were. But, again, my husband reiterated that he would only take that action if I was in agreement. I gave him my consent. I am actually the one who began calling attorneys so my husband could have visitation rights. That speaks volumes about what God was doing in my heart.
After an unnecessarily difficult agreement was reached and signed by my husband, the other woman, and the judge, I knew there was no going back. That baby would be a part of my life for as long as I lived. The other woman lives about 45 minutes from our home. During the drive to pick up my stepson on the first weekend my husband was scheduled to have visitation, I cried the entire way there. I told God over and over, “God, this is so hard. This is hardest thing I have ever done. I don’t know if I can do this, God.” He reassured me to trust him. He had walked every step with me so far, and He would continue to walk with me. I was not alone.
I think the main reason things were so hard for me at first is that I was terrified that every time I saw that baby, I would remember my husband’s affair, and I would feel the pain all over again. But, it wasn’t like that at all. I fell in love with that little baby boy, and he fell in love with me. I’m telling you–God worked a miracle. He gave me a supernatural love for that little boy. Everyone who has seen me with that little boy will attest to how much I love him, and how much he loves me. That little boy, the one that offended me so badly at first, has become such a blessing and joy to me. He and I have a close relationship. When he is with us, I treat him as if he is my own, because, in some ways, in the most important ways, he is. Amazingly, he isn’t a reminder of my husband’s affair, and I don’t feel pain when I see him.
You see, before that baby was conceived, God already had a plan for his life, and I was part of that plan. He was part of God’s plan for my life, too. I don’t know the other woman’s spiritual state. I don’t know if she loves Jesus, so that makes my role in that baby’s life even more important. I am a godly influence on that boy. That is part of my purpose–to influence him for God’s glory. I don’t take the responsibility God placed on me lightly. I know that just as I am leaving a godly heritage to my daughters, I am leaving a godly heritage to that little boy.
God has used that little boy to soften me, to make me more compassionate, and to show me that love never fails. I’m certain that over the years God will use that little boy to teach me more things and to bring about more godly change in me. The situation is far from ideal, and it is still complicated. Dealing with the other woman is trying and hard at times. But, I knew if I chose to accept that baby, that his mother would be an inevitable part of my life–much like the apostle Paul’s thorn in the flesh.
Some burdens can become blessings if we allow them to be. God can take any situation and turn it around. He redeems more than souls. What’s amazing is that I have seen only a small bit of the purpose of that little boy’s life, and the purpose of my life, and, despite the painful and dark path that I walked along to get where I am, God’s plans are always perfect and good.
Isn’t that the age old question? How am I going to deal with this baby? Of course, the baby I am talking about is Jesus. We all decide at some point in our lives how we are going to deal with Jesus. There is no way around it. Even those who choose to deny God’s existence and reject the divine nature of Jesus have decided how they are going to deal with Jesus. But, how we settle the question of what to do with Jesus determines so much more than we realize. When I became a Christian, my heart, mind, desires and perspective radically changed. I became a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17). The decision I made about Jesus then should now be reflected in every area of my life and in every decision I make, including how to deal with this unborn child.
Before I surrendered my life to Christ at the age of 28, I had religion. I believed in Jesus and believed He was the Son of God. I believed in God. I knew right from wrong and tried to do what I thought was right and good, but I had not been changed. I had never gotten to the point of desiring an intimate, transforming, and all consuming relationship with the only true God through the only means He provided–His Son, Jesus. So, I had religion. I worshiped something, but not Jesus, just as all people worship something (ourselves, our intellect, our reasoning, our understanding, money, sex, power…insert whatever word you want, because the list is endless). Religion does not change anyone. Religion is dead, dull, and legalistic; it offers no hope, no peace, no purpose, no chance for redemption, and it is powerless. But, true Christianity is a relationship. It is a living, breathing, dynamic relationship between us and the God who longs after us, so much so that He sent His only Son to do what nothing else and no one else could do–save us from sin.
But, I digress. Back to my question. What was I going to do with this baby? I had the power of God living inside of me. I had already seen God do some amazing things. I was a living testimony of His grace, mercy, strength, and faithfulness, but that did not change the decision before me. This baby–he represented a threat to me, just as Jesus represented and still represents a threat to many people. He offended me (just as Jesus did and does). Basically, I did not want anything to do with this baby (once again, see the parallels to Jesus). I was already in enormous pain and had too much to deal with. I did not see how I could handle this child–her child, a child conceived out of an adulterous affair, conceived in sin committed against me. I wanted to hate the child. I wanted to hate my husband. I wanted to hate her. But the love of God compelled me to love in spite of the wrongs and the evil intentions. To be brutally honest, I prayed at times that she would have a miscarriage. That seemed like the only way out. (Yes, it was wrong, but I am only human. I’m not some super spiritual Christian who has all the answers and never thinks a bad thought or utters a bad word.) What, then, was I supposed to do?
As much as my husband had wronged me, as much trauma and pain as he caused me, I still loved him. I could not escape that fact. I was beginning to see his anguish over this sinful relationship. I was beginning to realize that he was at war within himself to end it, but he didn’t know how. Now, he had a choice to make, too. He had to fully face the consequences of his actions, actions he would be reminded of every time he saw his child. God was revealing to me how twisted and dark my husband’s mind had become. He had been so deceived, and now his sin had caught up with him. He hated himself for what he had done, for what he was doing, but he saw no way out. Amazingly, as God revealed more and more to me of the darkness and confusion in which my husband walked, He began to give me great compassion for my husband. I did not marry the man that was now caught up in this quagmire of sin and deception. I married a man after God’s own heart. A man of integrity, a man of understanding; a gentle, kind, and humble man. Everyone who knew my husband thought he would be the last man on earth to commit adultery. That’s the kind of life and Christian walk he had. That was the person I married. That man was still in there, somewhere…perhaps that is why I could not bring myself to stop loving him. Maybe that is why I was fighting so hard and warring for him in prayer so much. He wasn’t a horrible person; he was a fallible human who made a series of bad choices that led to terrible mistakes and actions.
I knew if I rejected that child, I would be rejecting part of my husband. My husband loves being a Daddy. He has always loved children, and he has such a gentle and calm way with them. I saw it in how he dealt with his daughter from an earlier marriage, and I saw it in how he dealt with our daughter. He is the kind of father more children desperately need. I knew he could not deny this child, his son, anymore than he could deny his two daughters. I knew that he would love his son just as completely as he loved his two daughters. I knew that, if given the opportunity, he could raise his son to be a mighty man of God and instill in him a great faith.
Part of me was thinking, “Why do you even care how your response to this child will affect him? Are you crazy? Look at all he has done.” But, the part of me in which God was working compassion did care. You don’t repay evil with evil. You repay evil with good, and you overcome evil with good (1 Peter 3:9; Romans 12:17-21). That is the hard truth God was speaking to me. It was as if God was asking me, “What kind of person are you going to be? What kind of legacy do you want to leave? What do you want to teach and show your daughter about Me? about yourself? about love? about forgiveness? about faith?” Again, I found myself at a crossroad. One path, the path of obedience, would be hard, but it would lead to blessing; the other path would lead me into greater anger, bitterness and resentment. No matter which road I took, my choice would have consequences that were no less important than the consequences of my husband’s actions. Did I really believe that God could and would use what was intended as evil against me for good? If I did, then my actions should demonstrate my faith. If I did not, then why was I still there? I could almost hear the voice of Mordecai speaking to me just as he spoke to Queen Esther centuries ago, “And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14, ESV).
(This story is not over yet, so please hang in there with me. I cannot possibly tell all of it in only two posts.)
As I consider the birth of my Savior this Christmas season, how one baby forever changed the world and the hearts of men, I also know how the birth of one baby changed my world forever. My husband’s affair began sometime around May of 2007. As I was working through waves of emotions, trying to figure out how to even begin to pick up the pieces, things went from bad to worse. I remember the day like it was yesterday. I was in the master bedroom sitting on the edge of my side of the bed. My husband walked in, his face stoic. He said, almost without emotion, the two words I feared hearing: “She’s pregnant.” I literally felt my heart sink into my stomach. With those words, what was left of my world was obliterated. I lost all hope my marriage could be saved. I was angry–again–at what my husband had done and angry that he had lied to me about the affair ending. If he had ended things with her, the pregnancy never would have happened. But, the situation was what it was, so there was no need to dwell on “if only” thoughts.
I looked at him and said as calmly as I could, “I need to be alone.” As soon as he left the room, closing the door behind him, I called my pastor (my pastor’s wife). I told her what was going on. At the time, I was a small group leader at my church, and as she and I talked, I realized I could not continue to lead women with all I was dealing with. I was in spiritual and emotional shambles. She agreed with my decision to step down, and she prayed for me and cried with me. After I got off the phone with her, I cried some more, spilling out my confusion, anger, hopelessness and sense of utter despair to God.
When my husband and I talked about the pregnancy again, I knew the other woman had connived and schemed and intentionally gotten pregnant. I can only presume it was because she thought the pregnancy would be the death of my marriage and the beginning of what she thought would be a happy marriage with my husband. I was angry with my husband because I knew he could have insisted on using birth control and could have ended the relationship before the pregnancy occurred. I felt the betrayal again.
This pain, though, was different and cut much more deeply than the pain I was already experiencing because of my husband’s adultery. Honestly, I felt like God was slapping me in the face. I desperately wanted to have another child, but I was having trouble conceiving. There I was, a woman who was seeking God and trying to live a holy life, a woman who had saved herself for marriage, a woman who had been crying out to God, unable to conceive. There she was–a sexually promiscuous, immoral person, who already had two children out of wedlock, a woman who cared nothing about how she was living her life, a woman who cared nothing about God…Yet, she was pregnant and I was not. There was something horribly wrong with that picture. I could not wrap my mind around it. Why was God blessing her with a child conceived in sin but withholding another child from me? Why didn’t he stop it? He could have closed her womb. But, He did not. Sin has consequences, and one consequence of her sin and my husband’s sin was a pregnancy. Like all the other sins my husband had committed against God and me, I seemed to be the one paying the biggest price, bearing all the consequences.
I’m not entirely sure how to explain what God began doing in me at this point. Even though I was still not sure if I wanted my marriage to be saved, I also did not want to curse my marriage. I remember telling my husband, “I don’t think I can handle this,” but I added, “but I don’t want to curse our marriage.” (My husband only heard the first part of the sentence, though.) Despite all the anguish my husband had caused and was causing, there was still a part of me that didn’t want to give up on our marriage. I surprised myself. I had thought that if she got pregnant, I would leave–slam the door on my marriage and walk away, never looking back. I was wrong. It was not that easy. I could not bring myself to do it. In retrospect, I know that God was keeping me where I was because He did not want my marriage to end. In the face of her pregnancy, I thought for sure God would release me to divorce my husband. However, like other times before, He answered, “I hate divorce.” How? How, God? How can you keep me in this marriage after her plotting and scheming and all the pain that has been caused? How can you do that to me? Spiritual temper tantrum–probably so. I was once again wrestling with God.
In spite of all that was happening, the Holy Spirit kept repeating truths in my soul. First, with God, there are no mistakes; therefore, this pregnancy was not a mistake. Just as I knew God had a plan for my life, I knew that God had a plan for the life of that unborn child. Secondly, God was still in control, even though my world was crazy and chaotic. This pregnancy did not take Him by surprise. For some reason, He allowed it, and He could and would use it for my good if I would let Him (Romans 8:28). How, though, God, I often asked, can this pregnancy possibly be for my good? I don’t see it, God. I just don’t see it.
Wham! Revelation moment. The story of Joseph. Joseph, a brother sold into slavery because of the wicked and selfish plans of his brothers. A man falsely accused and thrown into prison. A man forgotten about for a time. Joseph had his faults, but he loved God. He did not do anything to deserve what his brothers did to him. He paid a high price for their sin. Yet, throughout his journey, Joseph held on to God. I’m sure he didn’t understand. I’m sure he had questions. But, no matter what happened, Joseph kept his faith. Eventually, Joseph went from a dark, dank, and musty jail to being the second highest in command in Egypt. God gave him favor with Pharaoh. God gave Joseph wisdom and supernatural understanding and dreams so that he could could help Egypt prepare for the famine that God had told him was coming. That famine was what made Joseph’s brothers go to Egypt. That famine was what God used to weave a beautiful story of redemption into Joseph’s life. When Joseph’s brothers finally realized that Joseph was alive and that he was in such a high position in Egypt, they were terrified. Notice how Joseph responded, “Don’t be afraid. Do I act for God? Don’t you see, you planned evil against me but God used those same plans for my good, as you see all around you right now—life for many people. Easy now, you have nothing to fear; I’ll take care of you and your children.” (Genesis 50:20-21, The Message). Joseph came to realize what God was revealing to me: all things were working together for my good because I am a child of God. I knew that what the other woman did was done with evil intentions, but she was not the One who had the final say. Her plans were evil, but God could use her evil plans for my good. His plans, however, went beyond me. They would also extend to others, so that, through the ugly, yet beautiful, mess, God’s redemptive message could be known.
There is more to this story to tell, but for tonight, I will let you ponder the message of this post. Also, I want to wish all of you a very Merry Christmas! As you celebrate the birth of our Savior, may you fully know the depth of His love for you.
I know you feel unloved, unworthy, and undone. Your self-image has taken a major blow. You have been left to feel like you are not good enough, strong enough, capable enough–simply put, you don’t feel like you are enough. You have to come to point where you question your worth and value. Remind yourself of who God says you are, of what God says about you. It does not matter what man thinks about you. It only matters what God thinks about you. God sees you so much differently than you see yourself. He sees past all your mistakes, failures, weaknesses, and shortcomings. He sees past all the exterior, temporary things that you may feel define you. God defines your worth, not anyone or anything.
“The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.” (Proverbs 18:21)
Have you ever had a moment in your life that you believed was relatively insignificant only to realize several years later that the moment was far more important than you could have possibly imagined? I am going to share with you one such moment in my life. In order for me to adequately address the importance of the event with you, I must share some of my background.
I grew up in a home where we were in church every time the doors were open. I have vivid memories of seeing my dad sitting in his recliner, reading the Bible every morning. I remember my parents praying with my two sisters and my brother and I every night just before bedtime. From all accounts, I grew up in what many would consider a Christian home. You can imagine my surprise when my parents announced to my siblings and I that they were getting a divorce after nearly 25 years of marriage. I was thirteen at the time, and my world was shaken terribly. For quite some time, I was not only immensely and deeply hurt, I also was angry and confused. How could my parents just throw away 25 years of their lives? I did not understand.
The rest of my years of adolescence were hard. I wrestled with issues of self-esteem, and I felt very insecure and rejected in my relationship with my father. The feelings haunted me well into my twenties. With the exception of coming to Jesus at the age of 27, my parents’ divorce is one of the most significant events in my life. My world completely changed, and not for the better. My life became classified into “before my parents’ divorce” and “after the divorce.” The divorce affected the way I saw life, the way I saw myself, and the way I saw God. Everything in my life was filtered through that lens. Because of the anguish my parents’ divorced caused, I vowed that I would never put my child through what my parents had put my siblings and me through. I did not want my child to have to make a choice about which parent to live with. I did not want my child to ever have to feel the rejection and insecurity I felt. I knew full well how profoundly divorce can affect a child, and I wanted no part of it.
Not long after my husband and I were married, we moved to his hometown. Before long, we had found a church home. We knew the first day we visited our church that it was where God wanted us to be. Our church, which I will call NC, taught some things that I had never heard, yet the truth resonated within me. I knew that the preaching and teaching we were sitting under was pure and true, and so did my husband. At the time, NC was having what were called “Encounters.” Encounters, which lasted an entire weekend, consisted of a series of teachings about various topics that were aimed at helping members encounter their past, encounter themselves and ultimately, to encounter Jesus in a new way. The teachings dealt with such topics as forgiveness, healing, recognizing open doors in our lives, and canceling curses that had been placed upon our lives for any number of reasons. During the teaching on generational curses, I realized that one curse that was active and had never been addressed in my life since coming to Christ was divorce. My parents divorced; many of my aunts and uncles (on both sides) divorced. My husband’s parents had divorced. The legacy of divorce existed in both families. I had to face the truth that apart from God’s help, my marriage could quite possibly end in divorce. My husband and I, though strong Christians, had not been raised in homes with healthy marriages. We had both learned some dysfunctional relationship and communication patterns that were starting to strain our relationship.
As I heard the teaching on canceling generational curses, on slamming open doors that were giving Satan access to our lives, I began to weep. I wept because I realized just how profoundly my parents’ divorce had affected and was affecting me, and I understood that I was on the same course without some drastic changes. At the end of the teaching, I realized divorce was an area where there was an open door; it was an area in my life where Satan had a foothold. I began to ask Jesus to help me. I did not know where to start or how to start, but I knew that I did not want divorce to be a part of my legacy. The leaders began to lead us in prayer, and any of us that desired could go forward and have one of the leaders pray over us and with us. As I stood there, waiting for my turn, God’s spirit spoke to me. I knew I had to speak life over myself and my marriage. I remember that moment so clearly because it was so liberating. With conviction and raw determination, I said, “The buck stops with me.” Five little words. So simple. Yet so powerful. I was not going to let divorce be visited upon my children.
Looking back, I had no clue how spiritually significant that moment was. I had no idea that those words that flowed out of me would be of much consequence 7 years later. I never imagined that speaking those words could cause a force to be unleashed in the spiritual realm. I had no inkling that those five small words would be so severely tested 7 years later. In some ways, the event was somewhat prophetic. I was, in essence, prophesying over my marriage, reclaiming lost ground, taking back authority that had been given to Satan. When I found myself, several years later, wrestling with God over the issue of divorce, He reminded me of those words numerous times. I suppose I was naïve enough to think that what I spoke out of faith years earlier would never be tested. How wrong I was!! Satan was not easily giving up the ground I had taken back in the spiritual realm 7 years earlier. Those words now required action. I had talked the talk; now I had to walk the walk. My words meant little if I was not willing to fight to see them fulfilled. I resolved to do all I could do to stop the curse of divorce from landing on my children and on my marriage. I had no control over whether my husband would choose to let that curse fall on our child, but I was determined that, as much as it depended on me, I was nailing divorce to the cross where my Savior died to destroy ALL the works of the devil.
Praise God that the buck stopped with me!
Words… Never underestimate their power. The power of life and death is in the tongue! Speak life!
When you are mad, bitter, and resentful towards someone, it is easy to curse them. By cursing, I do not mean using “curse words,” but rather words that demean, disrespect, and denigrate them–words that are aimed at them for the purpose of hurting them. Out of your hurt, you say things in anger because you want your spouse to hurt like he hurt you. You think that by hurling insults at him, he may possibly feel just one-tenth of the pain he has inflicted on you. Maybe some of the things you think about your husband are true, and many of your feelings are understandable and normal. But, I want to urge you to think before you speak, especially when you are angry. I cannot recall one moment in my life when speaking or acting out of emotion helped me or the situation. On the contrary, when I have spoken out of my hurt or anger, I made things worse and caused more pain to myself and to others. The Bible in James 1:19 admonishes us to “be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry.” (NIV)
The Bible has much more to say about anger, though. We are wise to consider the advice of those who have gone before us and have seen the damage that anger, haste, and hurtful words have caused.
Proverbs 14:29 “Whoever is patient has great understanding, but one who is quick-tempered displays folly.” (NIV)
Proverbs 14:17a “A quick-tempered person does foolish things…” (NIV)
Proverbs 16:32 “Whoever is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city.” (ESV)
Proverbs 15:18 “The quickly angered man stirs up contention, but anyone who controls his temper calms a dispute.” (ISV)
Proverbs 19:11 “Sensible people control their temper; they earn respect by overlooking wrongs.” (NLT)
Proverbs 29:11 “Fools give full vent to their rage, but the wise brings calm in the end.” (NIV)
Proverbs 29:22 “An angry person stirs up conflict, and a hot-tempered person commits many sins.” (NIV)
Proverbs 10:12 “Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all transgressions.” (NASB)
Proverbs 15:1 “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” (NIV)
Ephesians 4:26-27 “And ‘don’t sin by letting anger control you,’ Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, for anger gives a foothold to the devil.”(NLT)
Ephesians 4:31-32 “Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.” (NLT)
Here is James 1:19-20: But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger, for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God. (NASB)
I know you are angry; you are hurt; you are bitter. Sometimes, you feel like you cannot contain all the rage you feel. You want to explode, blasting harsh, cruel, and hurtful things at the person who has deeply betrayed you. I have been there, and I made the same mistakes. I learned the hard way. At times, I hated my husband. I could not stand to be in the same room with him. I insulted him, screamed at him, called him ugly names, and slammed doors in his face. I verbally attacked him with all I could muster, and, believe me, it was not difficult to find ways to hurt him. But, you know what? In doing all of those things, though you may think they were justifiable after what he did to me, I sinned. I sinned because I let my anger, pain, and bitterness control me instead of exercising self-control, which is one fruit of the Spirit. I sinned because I did not treat my husband as I wanted to be treated, which is what Jesus would have had me do. I sinned because I was not kind, gentle, or forgiving. In my foolishness, I created more strife and conflict in my marriage when Jesus was calling me to be a peace-maker. Instead of being a minister of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18), I was sowing seeds of discord, which further plunged me into bitterness, wrath, and resentment.
The brutal truth is that I was disobedient to God when I acted and spoke in anger. Never mind what my husband did. My husband’s actions towards me were NOT a righteous reason for me to lash out at him. I alone was responsible for how I responded to my husband; I had a choice, and I made the wrong choice by giving in to the enormous rage that I felt and letting it all out on multiple occasions. It accomplished nothing good. NOTHING. All it did was stir up more conflict and create more negative feelings. My angry and foolish words did not help me, my husband, or my marriage. Not one bit.
Here’s the thing about anger—it grows and morphs into something so horribly ugly and destructive if you let it control you. Anger, bitterness, resentment and rage are all spiritual cancer. Avoid them. Anger gives the devil a foothold in your life. We already know that Satan desires to steal, kill and destroy, and anger is one of the tools he uses. Anger that is not addressed and resolved in a biblical, God-honoring way will destroy you. It will make you a bitter, scornful person who refuses to forgive and walk in the love of Christ. Anger will keep you from having the blessings that God wants to shower upon you. Anger will imprison you. The apostle Paul states in one of his epistles that we need to get rid of every ROOT of anger and bitterness. Get rid of the root. To get rid of the root, you have to do some digging, and the digging may be painful and hard, but it is necessary. Examine yourself. Admit that you are angry; confess it to God. He understands! Agree with God that your anger will not accomplish anything good and ask Him to help you control your anger. Ask Him to help you speak in love and kindness to your husband, instead of repaying evil with evil. Ask Him to give you wisdom, discernment and understanding so that you will not act foolishly. Pray for your husband even when you don’t feel like it. It is hard to remain angry at someone when you are praying for them.
I know where you are. I know it is unbelievably hard to control yourself and not lash out. I know the last thing you want to do is bite your tongue and offer a gentle and Christ-like response to all your husband has done to you. I know how hard it is to just walk out of the room without saying anything rather than saying things you know are hurtful and wrong. I know how hard it is to keep turning the other cheek when your husband just keeps slapping it. Speaking calmly and kindly and extending forgiveness and grace seems impossible. But, as a Christian, you have the power of God inside of you. The same power that raised Jesus from the dead lives in you, so, though it may be hard, it is NOT impossible.
Expect setbacks. There will be times when you blow it. But, do not let those times of failure keep you down. Get back up and keep walking in obedience. Ask God to forgive you and ask your husband to forgive you. Humble yourself so that God can help you. Also, when you feel yourself beginning to get angry, refuse to let your emotions control you. Walk away if you must. Go pray if you must. Learn to recognize when you feel like you are about to lose control, and then take positive steps to avoid creating more pain and discord. Choose to be a peacemaker, a woman of quiet strength, virtue, and godly beauty. The choice is yours, so how are you going to respond?
Just listen to the words of this hymn. Let God remind you of who He is and who you are to him. I pray it ministers to you as it does to me.
1. a painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the consciousness of wrong or foolish behavior.
“she was hot with shame”
|synonyms:||humiliation, mortification, chagrin, ignominy, embarrassment,indignity, discomfort|
Perhaps you are where I used to be. Maybe you hear the whispers behind your back or see the glances that you were not meant to see. Possibly, you feel like you cannot look anyone in the eyes and your head is down from shame. You know that everyone in your church or town know what your spouse did, and you can only imagine what people must think about you.
Do any of these phrases ring true for you? “She is stupid for staying with him.” “She must not have much self-esteem or self-confidence if she is staying with him after what he did.” “There must be something she did wrong.” “This is somehow her fault.” “She must think she deserves what happened, otherwise she would leave.” “She’s too scared that she can’t make it without him.” “She is a glutton for punishment.” Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera…
When my husband cheated on me, I was not surprised to feel angry, afraid, confused, bitter, and depressed. Shame, on the other hand, took me totally by surprise. As a matter of fact, several months passed before I realized that what I was feeling was shame. Once I realized this, I was confused. Why was I feeling so much shame? I was the innocent one. I had done nothing wrong. I struggled to understand it.
At one point, I grew so distressed over what I imagined people were thinking and saying about me that I confided in a good Christian friend of mine. I knew she would be honest with me. I told her how I felt so ashamed, like people were judging me for what my husband did and that people thought I must be an idiot for not leaving him. As I talked to her, she began to shake her head. Once I finished, she said, “Oh, no, no, no. I don’t see it that way at all. I, for one, have nothing but respect for you. I totally respect your decision and I have come to have enormous respect for you.” She also told me that people who knew me and knew my heart understood my choice. In time, I discovered that at first, many friends and family thought I should leave my husband and could not understand why I stayed with him. Eventually, though, family and friends revealed to me that they had come to have a lot of respect for me and see me in a different light. They had come to respect my decision to stay and try to save my marriage.
Until this time, though, I struggled with shame a lot. I felt like a teenager again—with feelings of not measuring up and not being good enough. There must be something wrong with me. I was somehow inadequate. The feelings of low self-esteem that plagued me in my adolescence were rearing their pestering heads again, and I was taken off guard. I could not stand it. I did not want people talking about me, gossiping or feeling sorry for me. “Poor little (my name) must not think she’s good enough or else she would leave.” I was under almost constant assault by these feelings and thoughts.
I knew what God was telling me to do, but I was extremely preoccupied with what I thought others were thinking or saying about me. In retrospect, on some level, I had begun to believe some of these lies and think these things about myself. Instead of using the Word of God to combat these thoughts, I fell into the trap of trying to reason the thoughts away. I was trying to do for myself what only God could do. I kept myself in the prison of shame for much longer than was necessary because of it.
After I talked to my good friend, my perspective slowly began to change. Maybe some people were thinking and saying some bad things about me. I had no control over that. I did not have the time or energy to continue to worry about such things. The anxiety was weighing too heavily on me, so I had to find a way to resolve the issue in my heart and mind. Slowly, as I sought God and shared my feelings and thoughts with Him, He began to show me that obeying Him and standing firm in my decision would have far greater impact than caving in to pressure from others, whether the pressure was real or imagined. I began to understand that, in the end, it would not matter what others thought of me; what mattered was what God thought of me. He was the one I was going to have to answer to, not men. The situation was one in which I had to trust that God would sort it all out in the end. I could almost hear God whispering, “So what? So what if people talk about you and make fun of you? Get over yourself and stop worrying about it. You know what to do, so do it. I will take care of the rest of it.” I gradually realized that I should not expect people who had not been where I was to understand. If they wanted to gossip, I could not stop them. God would have to deal with that. In the end, God would help my righteousness shine as brightly as the noon day sun (see Psalm 37:5-7). God would defend me if and when I needed a defense.
I will not lie and say this was easy for me. I found it very difficult at first to continue to cast off the nagging feeling of shame and obey God. I could not stand it that others were gossiping about me and making assumptions that were not true. I wrestled with these things even after God spoke to me. I began to understand, however, that I was already trusting God with so many other things so why couldn’t I trust Him with this matter? He was being faithful to handle all the other things so He would be faithful to handle my feelings of shame and to silence those who were speaking about things they did not understand. Once I came to this realization and began to consistently apply it to my life, the relief and freedom I felt were unbelievable! When Satan tried to lead me back to the prison of shame, I now had the key to defeating him. Like Jesus, I exercised authority over him and said, “Get behind me, Satan!” I set my face like flint and walked on. Only now I was walking in freedom, no longer hindered by the chains of fear and shame. So, if you find yourself wrestling with shame, be encouraged! God has given you all you need to conquer it. In Christ, you are MORE than an overcomer (Romans 8:37). Hold on to the truths of God so that you can recognize and destroy the lies of the enemy!
This is a key question when faced with a spouse’s betrayal. Unless someone has walked through the valley of a spouse’s infidelity, they have no idea what the pain feels like and how deeply the soul and spirit are wounded. Finding out your spouse has been having an affair is traumatic. Describing the pain and the myriad of emotions experienced when faced with a spouse’s adultery is impossible. There are no words that adequately describe the depth of emotions and hurt.
I had been hurt, betrayed and rejected by others whom I trusted before I met my husband and long before I discovered his unfaithfulness. The two situations, however, are not comparable. My husband is the one to whom I have bared my soul. He has seen the most vulnerable parts of me, and he has seen the darkest side of me. He knows me like no one else has or ever will, and that is the way God intended marriage to be. My husband and I are one flesh, which is one reason why his betrayal was much worse and much more profound than any other time I have been betrayed. Because we are one flesh, the shredding, tearing, and ripping of my soul and spirit were much more pronounced than any other time I have been rejected and hurt by friends or family. Imagine one flesh as being like glue and paper. When you glue 2 pieces of paper together and try to tear the papers apart, there is no clean break. Part of the paper rips and tears because you cannot separate the papers from the glue or from each other without obvious trauma to the paper.
You will ask yourself many times how much more you can take, how much longer you will hurt, and how long your pain will last. You will ask those same questions of God. But, you will not get an answer. Trust that God’s grace is sufficient to carry you when you can go on no longer. Trust that God will hold you up with his strength long after you have exhausted all your human resources and abilities. Trust that you can heal, and believe that God desires for you to heal. God does not desire for you to spend the rest of your life in the pain you are feeling and living with every waking moment. With that being said, however, you have a part in how long you will hurt and how long it will take you to heal. There are many emotional, psychological and spiritual factors that will affect how long the healing process takes. There is no magic number or length of time that anyone can give you. It may take months or it may take years. The healing process is different for everyone.
Often, when I questioned how much longer I would hurt, I found myself trying to rush the process. I began to think that I should be past certain feelings or thoughts affecting me so deeply. There were some areas where healing took place rather quickly, but there were also areas where the process seemed incredibly slow and I struggled greatly. I came to realize eventually that I could not rush healing. Healing was not going to be a one time and it’s done event, either. Instead, it was much like peeling an onion–each layer being pulled off only to reveal another layer until you get to the core. With such profound pain and betrayal, there are many layers to work through, and each layer presents unique challenges and issues. I gradually realized that I had to confront each issue, each feeling, each thought, as it came. I could only look past one aspect for so long. Eventually, I had to face each one and resolve it. As part of this, I had to discipline myself to bring my thoughts and emotions captive to God, and I had to learn to recognize when my thoughts and emotions were getting out of control. Please do not ignore your feelings and thoughts or the issues that your spouse’s infidelity caused. You must deal with them or they will nag you and eat away at you, and you will never heal.
Healing can be a painful process because we have to face parts of ourselves that we would rather ignore. In order to move past the pain, we have to confront all the pain, anger, fear, and trauma that exist. When you are in such enormous pain, the last thing you want to do is confront the pain and deal with the trigger of the pain. You would rather remain numb, but numbness will never lead to healing. Confronting these things takes much courage and strength, much of which will have to come from God. Further, you have to be determined to heal. You have to make the choice at some point to deal with your feelings and thoughts so that the wall of pain begins to crumble. At first, you may think that you are not making any progress in your path to healing, but do not let that perception hinder you. Remember, there are numerous layers to confront and the issues and feelings are complex. Healing will take much time and effort. It is not easy and there is no quick fix. Your heart and life have been shattered. Picking up all the pieces, trying to sort out the mess, and beginning to put yourself back together requires hard work, commitment, and great resolve. Much like the process of forgiveness, many things will have to revisited, and with it, you must make a new commitment to continue to move forward and allow yourself to undergo the healing process. You will have setbacks, so expect that and realize setbacks are a normal part of healing.
I want to admonish you to remember the importance of forgiveness. If you have not forgiven your spouse, you cannot move forward to healing. You must not allow yourself to continue to dwell on and rehearse the wrongs done to you. Stop heaping more damage on your wound by constantly messing with it. These things will only lead to more anger and bitterness, which are the very things that will keep you from being able to truly and fully forgive. You cannot move forward as long as you choose to remain tied to the past. Also, if your spouse remains unrepentant and continues the affair, your healing process will be hindered. If you are serious about desiring to be healed and restored, forgive your spouse, release all your pain and negative emotions and thoughts to God, and surrender to His leading. He knit you together in your mother’s womb, so He most definitely can put your heart, soul, and life back together, even if your spouse refuses to repent and your marriage cannot be salvaged. God’s hand is not too short to reach out to heal you in the midst of such circumstances.
My husband’s affair lasted for approximately two years. The affair ended in 2009, and I still have unexpected and errant thoughts and the accompanying sting of pain on occasion. You may think that because I still have momentary seconds of pain that I have not healed, but I disagree. The pain is from a scar that was the result of tremendous emotional and psychological trauma. From time to time, the scar is rubbed the wrong way, so to speak, and a brief sting of pain arises. To use a practical example, I have a scar on the little toe of my right foot that has existed since I was about 16 years old. To this day, if my toe is touched in such a way to aggravate or rub against the scar, I feel a little pain. My toe completely healed, but the scar remains. That is how your healing will be, too, so do not get discouraged.
I want to share a story from Genesis 32:22-31 that illustrates this concept and message of this post. In this passage of scripture, Jacob, who had spent most of his life lying, deceiving, and tricking people, is visited by an angel of the Lord. The angel and Jacob wrestled all night, and Jacob refused to give up. The angel realized he could not overpower Jacob, so he reached out and touched Jacob’s hip, wrenching it out of socket. As morning approached, Jacob told the angel he would only stop fighting against him if the angel blessed him. In verse 28, the angel of the Lord told Jacob: “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and you have overcome.” In verse 29, the angel of the Lord blessed Jacob. What is interesting about this passage is that Jacob’s name (which means “supplanter” or “one who undermines”, a trickster) was changed to Israel, which means God contended or God prevailed. As a result of wrestling with God, Jacob’s character was also changed. The struggle then, resulted in not only a change of character, but also in a blessing. However, Jacob was left with a reminder of his struggle with God–he had a limp that resulted from the injury to his hip during the struggle (see verse 31). That was the “scar” that Jacob carried.
Just as Israel (Jacob) had a reminder of his struggle with God, I have a scar that reminds me of the struggles I faced. Like Israel, I overcame; I prevailed, because I refused to give up or surrender. I pressed through and am now reaping the blessing. My character and soul have been forever changed for good because of my struggle. God used the pain to refine me, even though the process was painful. I have been healed, and my marriage has been healed and restored, but the scars are still there. I guess you can say the scars keep me humble and serve as a reminder of God’s strength and faithfulness in my darkest hours. I know without a doubt that I was able to overcome because of the power of God.
God is no respecter of persons. He healed me, and he can heal you, but you have to want it and to pursue it. You have to embrace the struggle as part of God’s refining process. You have to remain determined and committed to moving past what Satan tried to use to destroy you into the glorious redemptive plan of God. If you stay the course, if you refuse to surrender, you can receive the blessing God has for you. Just remember that you will have a scar, but a scar can be quite beautiful!
The following is a poem I wrote in 2008 in the midst of my husband’s affair. I am sure many of you can identify with it.
Broken pieces lay around,
my shattered heart cannot be found.
Jagged edges, rough and sharp,
cut away, deep into my heart.
Longer and darker
does my journey grow;
where the destination is
I cannot know.
I hope for joy,
await some peace,
yet they do to me seem
out of reach.
Tears to be stored–
how many bottles can there be?–
Will they one day
fall joyfully on me?
Wounds still open,
healing left to do,
Only after the battle
Will I know if love is true.