Thank you, friends, for your overwhelming response to my friend’s story. I’m blown away by how God is already working in lives and marriages because of it.
But last night, even all Benadryl-ed up because of a yucky cold, I couldn’t fall asleep. I was thinking about some of the comments and how I wished I would have made it much MUCH more clear what my purpose was for giving my friend story-space on my blog.
I prayed and prayed that God would give me words and help me make it right. That I could clear things up so there wasn’t any unnecessary judgment of my friend OR unnecessary feelings of failure on anyone’s part. I sooooo wanted everyone to get the super-important memo that: EVERYONE’S SITUATION WILL BE DIFFERENT. And YOU HAVE TO ASK GOD WHAT’S RIGHT for YOU. And CHRIST HAS TO BE AT THE CENTER. FOR BOTH OF YOU.
And then my friend sent me a response she had written. It’s long, but it’s perfect. A complete answer to prayer. Here you go:
Thanks to each of you for reading, encouraging, and praying. As I have logged on each day to read the comments, I’ve been thankful for each one – and especially thankful to Marla for her continual support and encouragement in between. After reading some of the “concerned” comments, which I truly appreciated just as much as the more “supportive” ones, I felt God stirring to explain further.
I won’t even “defend” my choice to stay. Sharing my story on a blog was difficult. There’s so much in between that we can’t possibly share and no one could possibly understand – or even care to know. When writing this story, there was a fine line between Days of our Lives and glorifying God. My heart is always to honor my husband, honor the others involved, and above all honor God, not provide details that would help you to better understand my decision – epecially at the risk of hurting others.
I also had a word limit. My writing mentor, who read this first, shared with me that many of the “scenes” needed further development. Indeed, they do. And, and I’ve been working on that. Again, our journey is too long to be shared in 3,000 words or less, so perhaps compacting it was a disservice to the story, leaving out too many important elements.
Still, I’d like to clarify a few things.
- Sharing Publicly: There is no one size fits all. We share our story with friends and have shared it with our small group. I have shared with those I am walking with through a similar situation. I share when God nudges for His purposes.
For us, we realized that freedom could not be found in secrecy. We felt fake and dishonest. We were hiding this from those we “do life with.” We also felt that “hiding” caused us to lie or remain silent when we knew truth. God’s glory was being hidden. HE did all this work in our lives – miraculous work – and only we knew.
We also can’t help others if we aren’t willing to share. I think of the Bible. All those redemption stories: David, Paul, Abraham, Moses, and many more, pointing to the ultimate redemption story: Jesus. These stories show us Jesus and teach us about redemption, forgiveness, and so much more. Then, I think of our society. What if no one ever shared any sin? And the work God did in that sin?
I’d also urge anyone to check his/her heart before sharing. If I had shared a year ago, nothing but hurt and revenge would’ve poured out. My motive and heart for sharing would not have been my love of Jesus and others. My heart would’ve been “you’ve made me suffer, so now I will make you suffer.” Please, know and check your heart. Sharing out of any place but love and healing is sinful.
Again, sharing is NOT for everyone. There are so many things to consider and pray about first. I have helped others make this decision; no two are the same.
- Counseling: I can’t sing the praises of counseling enough. We’ve been in Christian counseling since 2007. We see a marriage counselor together and my husband has a separate counselor that only he sees. We also have accountability partners and we met with our pastor until recently. Each morning we read God’s word and pray together. At the end of each day we send one another a note about the day: What was great, what we are thankful for, what we need to think about, etc. We process those the next morning in prayer. I know it seems like a lot, but when we decided not to divorce after affair three, we had to become very intentional.
NOTE: Friends are wonderful and necessary too. We know that having our pastors and friends pour into us and support us was essential. However, I would caution against sharing too much or leaning on family. I know it seems odd, but families take sides – even if they don’t mean to – and once you’ve crucified your spouse’s character to your family, you can’t take the words back. A few have said to me, “your husband deserved to have his character crucified.” No, no one does. He’s a sinner. I am a sinner. Both saved by grace. We “deserve” nothing short of death since the wages of sin is death. But, Christ offers mercy and grace – and above all – forgiveness.
- Emotional Abuse: From one commenter: Marla, your friend is incredibly brave for sharing her story. And her desire to help others through her pain so so admirable. Yet, a couple of points cannot be ignored. This woman was in an abusive relationship and God never called any woman to remain in an abusive relationship. Three times??? THREE times in four years?? And she never left…even for a period? No pastor or counselor worth his salt would not advice a spouse to take a period of time AWAY from the spouse and situation. It seems like her only option was divorce or stay in the marriage under the same roof as her abusive husband with no reprieve. Never a single period of separation??
I appreciate the compliments of “brave and admirable” – truly. But, I don’t desire to be either. I desire to be obedient and loving. Was I in an abusive relationship? That’s debatable. Between pastors (three), friends (6/three couples), and counselors (two), I got mixed explanations and opinions. I would never stay in a relationship I – or anyone else – deemed abusive. I can’t really convey my husband’s issues or reasons; I can’t explain what our life is like apart from the affairs – you’d have to know us. Without sharing too many details, I could never explain why it was best not to leave at all and why our counselor never deemed it abuse – although I assure you that came up much.
But, I am thankful for those who pointed to it as abuse, which caused me to reflect, pray, question, and dig deeper.
Again, there’s no simply or straightforward answers. No definite “stay for six months but then leave.” God wrote all of our stories for just for us. They’re all different.
- What’s the Point? I think another commenter said it best, “I think the underlying message is not for women to tolerate a similar situation, but to really place God first in your life. You never know what you may be able to make it through when He is the center. And what better way for this husband to see the true meaning of Love. Even when we don’t deserve to be loved, we are loved. Jesus suffered a lot of abuse too, but he still died for our sins and died so that we may live and be set free.”
During all three affairs my husband was not a Christian. He came to Christ in May. Did he call himself a Christian? Go to church? Say a prayer before meals? Teach his children moral values? Read the Daily Bread? Yes to all. He appeared and acted “Christian” as so many do. But, his heart had never been transformed by the saving power of the cross.
In May I was leaning toward divorce. I felt my husband was changing but it felt like it was HIS effort, not Christ’s work in him. I felt a bit hopeless. I’d been there and done that twice. So, he agreed to a weekend retreat. He was desperate to know Christ, but felt shameful, unworthy, unloved…he felt his sin was too big, his harm of his family too great. He was at rock bottom. (My husband’s “side” is another story.)
My husband came home a new man. No words can explain the transformative, saving power of Jesus. Did it solve all our problems? Was the hard work over? Does it guarantee he will never stray again? No, no and no. But, now my husband knows and understands forgiveness; he mourns his sin (Matthew 5); he gets guilt vs. shame; and he knows grace inside and out.
If you’re walking through adultery, here’s what I hope you hear…
- There is no RIGHT or Godly answer. For me, divorce would have been disobedience. God called me to stay, and while I often didn’t want to or thought it was ludicrous (who in the world stays after three affairs?), I stayed out of obedience. I trusted God, keeping my faith, even when I couldn’t see why or how this might work.
I am the first to admit that if I read my story, I’d call me stupid. I’d say…she’s so abused and lacking self-esteem that she stayed as some kind of martyr. I get all those reactions. Really. But, if you knew me – personally – you’d know I am simply a child of the one true king. My identity is in Christ, not “wife” or “mom” or “writer” – although I am those too. If God had said divorce, I’d have jumped for joy (initially) and moved on.
Obedience to and love for Christ trumps all. Always.
- YOU cannot save your marriage. For my marriage to work, BOTH my husband and I have to be all in. Christ has to be my center, his center, and our center together. There is NO other way. If your spouse wants a divorce, do not beat yourself up, thinking, well she stayed– ugh! NO! It takes two. Two focused on Christ and ready to do the hard work, have the tough conversations, and face the harsh realities.
I could not overcome three affairs. Only He can.
My “story” is a story of how God’s redeeming my life (most are). Notice I said “redeeming” not “redeemed” – I am still in process. Still walking with Jesus daily, trying not to “fix” and “correct” but to rest in his love and grace.
- If your spouse cheated, let no one tell you that you’re to blame. Could you have done things differently or better? All of us could have and can. Should you own your baggage and actions? Absolutely. But, you can never take responsibility for the other’s actions.
- Your story is not my story. When gals contact me and ask for advice, I say early on: I don’t have a formula. No ten steps. No guidebook. I have Jesus. And so do you. He will lead you as he lead me if you pray, seek him, read His Word, and seek Godly counsel. And that probably won’t look the same for you as it did me.
But I can empathize and pray you through seeking Him. I can understand when others can’t. I get the random anger that comes from nowhere. I get why your personality flip-flops suddenly. I get why a drama on NBC called Scandal can tick you off and fill you with righteous anger. (Why, oh, why do we glorify adultery on TV and in movies??) I get it.
Today, my heart is heavy. I have read email after email about adultery and the fall out. I asked Marla yesterday…did you know this was so widespread? Did you know this had affected so many either directly or indirectly? It’s truly heartbreaking. It seems to be one of the church’s best kept secrets.
And, that’s why I share. If I can be God’s vessel for sharing the gospel with one gal – if I can give her hope either through reconciliation or divorce – then all my pain is worth it. After all, Christ died an unspeakable death on the cross for me. I love Him so much, and out of that love, I seek to serve Him.