We are in the last week of February and we will be reading the last of the marital testimonies that have been shared, anonymously, with me. Today’s Marriage Moment is one that is of grace, love and forgiveness; It is also one that reveals redemption and restoration. I pray that as you read through this marital testimony: you will focus on The One who can sustain – even when in a dry and thirsty land, I pray that you will feel hope from He who is a Living Hope – even when walking through the valley of death, and I truly want you to see that He is good and faithful to those who surrender – even when we fail and fall short of His goodness. God is the author and perfecter of love and forgiveness; He longs to pour Himself into your life and your marriage…if you let Him. My big take-away from this testimony: What sin meant to destroy, God used to redeem. I am thankful for the vulnerability and honesty spoken through the beautiful heart of the one giving this testimony, her testimony.
Marriage Moments: From Destruction to Redemption
I never expected marriage to be easy. I assumed every couple dealt with their share of trials and difficulties. Good, bad, ugly…possibly the very ugly, like adultery–but only for those couples who weren’t tight like we were. I can honestly say I never saw it coming. We’d had a rough year–but no more stressful or trying than any other year; in fact I was closer to God than I had ever been. Both my husband and I were serving in several areas of our church. I’d never felt more loved and cared for and devoted to by my husband…ever. Life was crazy but that’s how it is for everyone, right?
One night he confessed, matter-of-factly, that he had been unhappy. How he thought I was failing him in a thousand different ways. How he had resigned himself to being miserable in a sham of a marriage. My heart broke and I cried out to God: “make me a better wife, make me beautiful to him, make him love me again. Make him see what it feels like to not be perfect. Let him know what it feels like to suck. Strengthen our marriage and bring us close to you, Lord! Let us be loving partners committed to doing the work You would have us do. Let him love me again, and let me better love him.”
Things got better for a while. We settled back into our usual routine via avoidance and complacency. That is, until one day, seven months later, something felt very wrong. The day I found out my husband had not only cheated on me but was actively having a full-blown physical and emotional affair, had been for the last nine months, and had no intention of stopping, was the day the earth stopped turning. I felt a death–of myself, of my marriage, of our friendship, of my perception of him, of our life together, of my whole entire world. I couldn’t eat or think or breathe. Every hour brought a new pain, another deep lie uncovered, another stabbing knife right in my heart, and my back, and my brain. I was consumed with grief. My family pushed for me to divorce him automatically: “Even if he stays, things will never be the same, and he will do it again and again. Get out now while you’re still young.” I spent hours, every day, locked in my closet, crying where my kids couldn’t hear me. I prayed and prayed: “God, I’ve been doing my part, and I’ve been faithful and better, and this is the opposite of what was supposed to happen.”
God sent his angels – in the form of the most Christ-like friends and mentors a girl ever had. They lifted me up and shared with me and encouraged me and prayed with me. I was counseled by a few key men and women who had loved and forgiven with the supernatural power only God could provide. I was so covered in prayer and in love. I would not beg my husband to stay, but I would keep my promise to God and I would love Him; and HE would help me love and forgive my husband, no matter what path he ultimately chose.
As his story unraveled over the next few weeks, my husband cracked. Broke. Crumbled. He sought out the wisdom of godly men. He prayed, sweating, crying; continually. I prayed with him. I prayed over him. I prayed alone. He prayed alone. He had hit rock bottom. He was stripped bare and it was agonizing, for both him to experience and for me to witness. My husband, my strong, perfect, and devoted husband–weak and struggling and ugly and hurting. Looking back I know that God could not have answered my original prayer until both of us were at a place where we were forced to take a good long look at our relationship with Him and where we could only depend on Him and Him alone. When I asked that He do a mighty work in us so that we could do a mighty work for Him, instead of just zapping us with happy feelings, God had said “Ok….buckle up and get ready, cause this is gonna sting.”
What happened over the course of the next few days, weeks, and months, was something the world will tell you never happens. God surrounded both of us with angels. Miraculous changes took place in my husband almost daily. He faced and fought his demons with the Lord’s strength. We started visiting a Christian counselor every week. We realized that, up until that point, everything we’d been doing in our marriage had been so, so wrong. We had loved each other ineffectively by not putting God first, not really. And although I may not have physically cheated on my husband, I had broken marriage vows again and again throughout the years by failing to unconditionally love, honor and respect him–but we were more committed than ever to becoming friends again and to seeing each other as Christ sees us, forgiving as Christ forgives, and loving as Christ loves–for better or for worse. It is definitely so much easier said than done but it is the only way to survive even the most problem-free marriage.
There are still so many days that I am absolutely nauseous over the thought of him cheating or over the memory of those days and weeks. I still cannot fully trust him–but I do trust God, and His plans are not only best, they’re unstoppable. I’ve come to better understand the kind of love the bible describes in 1 Corinthians 13: “Love is patient, love is kind, it isn’t jealous, it doesn’t brag, it isn’t arrogant, it isn’t rude, it doesn’t seek its own advantage, it isn’t irritable, it doesn’t keep a record of complaints, it isn’t happy with injustice, but it is happy with the truth. Love bears all things, believes in all things, hopes for all things, endures all things.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7) And I know now that a love like this is only achievable through Jesus.