If you missed part 1, “Severe Mercy”, of this series you can read it here. Join me in this post as we continue walking alongside my friends as they faithfully bare their souls to the healing power of Jesus Christ. I pray you are encouraged….I pray you find strength through Jesus for the hard places in your life like my friends did.
The day after my husband and I’s 8th wedding anniversary, he told me that for the last 4 months, he had been in a relationship with another woman who he had met at the bar. I sat listening to him tearfully stumble through his confession, my emotions a roller-coaster of shock, anger, and hurt. I had recently been memorizing James 1:2-4 “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” Those verses came tumbling into my mind and I was so angry. I remember thinking how cruel of the Lord to ask me to count this trial, a joy.
I loved my husband fiercely. I was his biggest cheerleader. We not only enjoyed life together as husband and wife, but he was my best friend. I had been betrayed by my best friend. I could not fathom what would come of this. How could this be redeemed? I had always lived in the camp of, “If my husband ever cheated on me, I could never forgive him.” The next few days were a blur. I felt like a shell of a woman. I dropped my under- school -age children off with trusted friends and I fled to the mountains. I tried listening to worship music and I couldn’t stomach it. I couldn’t worship. I tried reading my Bible and felt betrayed there. There was plenty of scripture that spoke to the adulterer. Plenty of scripture that spoke to the betrayer. Where were the words for me? So I prayed. Unceasingly. I cried my heart out to the Lord. I shed my anger on the Lord. I knew He could handle it. I journaled. I cursed. I screamed.
I was able to talk to a woman on the phone who had walked through an almost identical experience in her marriage. She reassured me that it was okay for me to feel mad. She reassured me that I didn’t need to protect him, that he needed to feel the full consequence of his sin and really see what he’d done to me. This woman shared an analogy with me that still brings me comfort to this day. She said that Jesus and I were in the midst of a war together. That I had entered into a war for my marriage. She told me that I was wounded, but that Jesus would not abandon me, that He would carry me to safety. Jesus would bear my weight if I could not walk and He would carry me as far as I needed to go so that I could receive healing and care. I needed this picture in my mind of a wounded soldier being carried by another soldier. I needed it desperately, because I had been wounded. I was not sure how I could actually forgive him. How could I someday let him kiss me without thinking about him kissing her? Though their physical relationship did not go beyond kissing, it was an emotionally deep affair and that was more painful to me than the physical relationship. I felt stolen from. But at the same time, I could not fathom my life without him. He was my husband. My one flesh partner. I could not let that go, and I knew he was desperate to hold onto our marriage and my heart.
After a few days to myself, tucked away in a little cabin in the mountains, I allowed my husband to come talk to me. I railed at him. I hit him. I cried and cried. And he took it. He wept. He was a broken man. He knew he had betrayed me. He didn’t try to make excuses. He confessed every detail he could remember. That evening, my husband called his parents (who have always loved me like I was their own daughter) to come and spend the night with me. I came down the mountain the next day and was held up by the arms of my sister and her husband, my in-laws and a few other faithful friends.
In the weeks to come, during our separation, he would call me to reveal anything more that he remembered or was ashamed to confess originally about his months of betrayal. He reassured me that even though he was a broken, sinful husband, that God was my perfect, never faltering Husband. I gave him back my wedding ring. I could not wear something that represented our broken, dead marriage. Our marriage had died, in essence, we were divorced. Our marriage covenant was broken. The future was so uncertain, but even in my darkest moment, I knew the Lord was near to me.
One day, as I was searching my Bible for something, anything that would speak to my heart, I found that I could not escape the verses that talk about forgiving because you have been forgiven. Again, and again, I came across these verses, and yet, I held onto my unforgiveness. Eventually, I realized where I could find the scripture that spoke to the betrayed. It was right in front of my face. It was Jesus. Jesus was betrayed by His bride. He knew how I felt. He understood my pain. I could no longer refuse to forgive my husband, because I understood that I was an adulterer too. I was the betrayer of Jesus. He died on the Cross to forgive my sin. How could I accept Jesus’ love and forgiveness of me, the betrayer, if I was unwilling to extend that to my equally broken husband. And so finally, I told him that I could forgive him. I told him that we could work towards redeeming our marriage, as Jesus had redeemed our lives. I clung to Isaiah 42:9, “Behold, the former things have come to pass, and new things now I declare.” I prayed for new things and the Lord was shaping new things for my husband. New things for my marriage. New things for me. The former things had come to pass. New mercies.
So, we began to date for the second time. We were still separated for several months, but it was a sweet season of getting to know each other again, of starting from scratch. It was the most difficult time of my life, but I wouldn’t trade it. I never want to walk through it again, but I wouldn’t ever wish it away. And that is because of Jesus. I was able to truly understand the Gospel in such a real way.
A few months later, my husband planned a sweet surprise to propose to me again. He added new stones to my original wedding ring, telling me that it represented a new marriage. He proposed for the second time and asked me if I would be willing to renew our promise to each other to be married. I, with a joyful heart, said yes. In a sweet, small gathering, with friends and family who had walked the last several hard months alongside us, we recommitted our marriage to each other. These are the words I shared with my husband at our re-commitment ceremony:
“Husband, though I’ve never looked at this particular passage of scripture as having anything to do with marriage, I was struck by how when I read it recently it so perfectly seemed to pertain to our marriage.
John 11:3-4, 38-44– So the sisters went to him, saying, “Lord, he who you loved is ill.” But when Jesus heard it he said, “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it. Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man said to him, “Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days.” Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me, but I say this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.” When he said these things he cried out in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.” The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”
When you came to me and told me you’d had an affair, it was clear there was an illness in our marriage. An illness that as far as the world is concerned was fatal. But one of the many tender mercies that the Lord gave to me in the very beginning was, “This illness does not lead to death.” And as with Lazarus, I believe that God knew our marriage would have to die, but only for a little while, and only for the sake of His glory to be revealed. And I’m certain that Jesus wept over us too. But God came to the mouth of our tomb, and He rolled away the stone. Even though there was a risk of an odor…what would people think of us and our marriage stinking with death and destruction? But still, God commanded the stone to be rolled away saying to us, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” So the stone was removed and in the mouth of the cave laid our marriage, waiting the Lord’s command. And the Lord cried out to us, “Come out!” And our marriage which had died, came out of that dark cave, bound with linen strips of idols and covered in a cloth of adultery. But I believe that God has spoken for our marriage to be unbound and let go from those things, that we might walk full of life as a testimony of how God truly can raise up the dead. It is for the glory of God that I have walked this weary road with you.”
It’s been many years since my husband sat with me in our car and confessed that he had been seeing another woman. Over these years there have been so many ups and downs. There have been heart wrenching moments when I wondered if it was all worth it, because let’s face it, marriage is still hard sometimes and the wounds of adultery can still sneak up on me. But I can say with confidence that our marriage is better now than it ever was before. And, I can say with confidence that I would not trade the pain of this severe mercy, I would not trade my trek out of the dirty war of adultery that my marriage faced, and I would not trade a moment of sobbing, snot running out of my face, lungs failing me. I would not trade it because it taught me so much and has drawn me closer to the Lord. Marriage is a combination of two, needy, selfish, sinful people who desperately need Jesus. And those verses from James that made me so angry when my husband first confessed? There was a plan and a purpose to my memorizing them. There was a reason that they were the first words to come to mind after my marriage had been broken. The Lord showed me through those long and hard months and even the years to follow that though hardship and trials come, I can count it all joy, because the testing of my faith produces steadfastness and the full effect of that steadfastness is being perfectly complete, lacking in nothing, in the care of Jesus.