From "Adulterer" to "Missionary" (Our Story: Part One)
The chime on my phone beeped from across the room and I raced to grab it. Adrenaline rushing, I looked down at the words in the text message. “I wish you were here with me right now.” My cheeks grew flushed and butterflies danced around my stomach. He always seemed to know the right thing to say. I sat for a moment and remembered the first time that we’d met. Everything was so new and exciting. We were both one big jumble of emotions, and every time I received a little text, all those addictive feelings came rushing back. I leaned over to type him back, smiling from ear to ear. “Me too.” Immediately, I felt a little twinge of guilt steal the excitement away. I tried as I might to brush away the conviction and focus on basking in his love for me and how much I adored being “adored.” How could I not enjoy the constant attention and constant messages of affection and encouragement? I’d gone so much of my life without those things. I hated the little pulls of guilt that crept up every so often to steal this new found happiness away from me. As hard as I tried, I just couldn’t shake it. The moments of happiness and momentary bliss were always immediately followed by shame. Shame from emotions that I wasn’t meant to have and wasn’t meant to share. Another message vibrated in my hands, and my heart sank as I read the words. “I love you.” The words that would normally make a woman dance around her living room to cheesy love ballads and dream of wedding bells and white picket fences, left me feeling “buried”. Deep in a pit I had dug on my own and could not climb out of by myself. I adored this man. I truly did. Yet I hated the fact that my feelings for him were this strong. I couldn’t wait to talk to him again. I wanted to tell him every little thing about myself. Yet I knew that as soon as I did, I would leave with a regret so deep that it would change me forever. I was stuck living a double life. Newness and excitement on one side, pain and regret on the other. For this man, the one who made my heart race and put butterflies in my stomach. . . who loved me with all of his heart had no idea that I loved another. This man. . . was not my husband.
The one thing that I would never want to do is glamorize infidelity or give anything glory, besides what is due to God for saving me from myself just one year ago. The above excerpt is merely a way for others, possibly in a similar situation at this very minute, to have a point of reference. A place to relate to feelings and emotions that can plague someone engulfed in the horrible, heartbreaking lifestyle that is Adultery. This is a place that I never thought I would be, and a place I am CONVINCED (by the blood of Jesus) to never visit again.
Someone once told me that you can never know a person, really know them, unless you know where they’ve been. Their past. As we embark upon this amazing new adventure as a family, one that will seek to glorify God using our past, present, and future, we felt compelled to lay everything down before our friends and family and allow the worst of our failures to bring about new purpose and ministry. God can and will use even this to change hearts.
I can honestly say that I never thought that this would happen to US. I never set out in my marriage to lie and cheat and deceive. I never meant to hurt so many by my actions. One never realizes the gravity of their decisions as they make them. Some decisions seem so small and insignificant. One look. One email. One text. One conversation. One frivolous thought of selfishness and entitlement can change the course of one’s very future. That’s all it took for me. As I lay awake texting a new friend online from across the ocean, I thought to myself countless times, How is this wrong? It’s just conversation. And maybe it was in the beginning. But how we devalue the weight of communication. We need it; we crave it. It’s the very thing that God put inside us to bring us closer to each other and closer to him. Yet when it’s abused, neglected, or used in excess, it can bring about horrible consequences. It was neglected in my marriage relationship for such a long time. Couples can get to a point where they are merely “roommates.” That’s exactly what we were. Bryan is an introvert, and valued his solitude. I am an extrovert and crave communication more than most people. We suffered from a severe disconnect for years which left me feeling abandoned and lonely, and him feeling suffocated and resentful of my need for attention. In turn, I found a place of bitterness and took up residency. I was upset at his lack of concern for our disconnection. Our problems became less about resolution and more about my getting a sense of fulfillment from others. It was then that I learned some lessons in abusing communication.
I found a new way to curb my need for Bryan’s dissolving affections for me. Months would pass with little to no intimacy and I would find solace in “going out.” I had new friends to share new experiences with, and in the meantime, Bryan got his solitude. I thought for awhile that this was a win/win. How easy it is to justify our behavior when we feel entitled to happiness. So easy, that when the opportunities presented themselves to cross the line even farther, from conversation to physical affection, I continued to make excuses for myself. I thought over and over, I deserve to be happy. I deserve someone who WANTS to talk to me and enjoy my company. It’s not wrong for me to want those things. And to a certain degree, for those of you who share the same perspective, you are correct. It is, however, never okay to gain that happiness at the expense of your vows to God. I was never justified in spending way too much time in conversation, baring my soul to others, sharing emotional bonds with another, and relying on someone else other that God to fulfill my need for relationship. So many of us fall into this trap. Every few weeks, I would try to reach out to Bryan again. Maybe he’s had enough of working and busying himself in solitary hobbies. Maybe, with enough distance, he would crave the marriage relationship that we once had. Though we had moments of joy and momentary closeness, we let go of the one thing that held us together as a couple. We let go of the resolution that God had brought us together for a reason. We simply stopped seeking that reason as a couple.
Years went by and, two kids later, we had learned how to better mask our feelings of unhappiness. The kiddos became our only sense of joint entertainment. We’d grown apart in every other way. I had continued to fill my time “chatting” online with other people, all fairly platonic relationships, with underlying bouts of “harmless flirting”. (NO flirting is harmless, by the way.) He became obsessed with his career and I felt stuck raising two kids seemingly by myself, while he put in long hours at the office and then even longer hours with his band. I desperately wanted him to wake up one day and “miss us.” This was a very dark and lonely time for me. When I should have hit my knees and pleaded with God to bring my husband’s heart back to me, I focused on myself again. I’m lonely. I’m hurt. I deserve someone who loves me, or even NOTICES me once in awhile.
I’ll never forget the very beginning of that “harmless” conversation that changed everything. It was one online photo swap, one comment, one response, one compliment, one question, one lie, one more word of encouragement, one realization that someone truly saw me. . . and I was hooked. Once I extinguished the conviction a time or two, my feelings of guilt were replaced with complete entitlement. I only pray that those that are in a place of walking this very thin line between friendship and adultery can hear me. This was NOT something that I went looking for. This was simply a decision made in the wrong frame of mind; one that was not craving the life God had for me and one that was looking at things from a victim’s perspective. Emotions run high, excitement sets in with the fulfillment of significance, and someone else takes God’s rightful place in your life as the giver of joy and happiness. I got completely sucked in. I was in such a place of desperation for relationship that I became addicted very easily. I looked forward to my talks with this man. Conversations turned to emotions and those emotions led to even bigger mistakes. I had the flattery that I so craved, someone genuinely interested in me, and not just as a “mom.” I had someone to share my daily life with, and that’s exactly what I did for over a year. He flew to see me and I habitually lied to those closest to me in order to make time to see him in person. What was once only communication changed almost effortlessly to a more personal and physical relationship. I had a husband, but I also had a boyfriend. The conviction and twinges of guilt would subside for a time and return every once in awhile. I became so used to living this double life that I was numb inside. I was obsessed with the attention and the affection of someone who traveled halfway around the world to see me, but in the same breath, I still would have rather it been the efforts of the one with whom I shared a silent living room every night. Bryan was oblivious. Until one night, when almost by providence, I left an open conversation with this man up on my phone and Bryan stumbled upon the entire relationship.
What followed was HELL. There is no other way to describe what my actions put my family through. After fits of panic and sobbing and pleading with Bryan that it was all a mistake, that it wasn’t what he thought, I finally relented. I had spent the last days denying, praying, trying to manipulate, and all out lying about a stolen identity. As Bryan stood across the room from me one evening with a dead look in his eye saying “I’m done,” I knew that I had hit rock bottom. I knew I needed help, but I didn’t know what to do.
We spoke to a pastor at church that next night, who “coincidentally” had walked this exact same road of infidelity. He and his wife were far along the journey to restoration. Every word that came out of his mouth in that 30-minute session was my lifeline. I will never forget him looking me in the eye and telling me, “Without full disclosure, you will never move past this. You must be honest with yourself, with God, and then with Bryan. There can no longer be any secrets.”
I wrestled with God that night more than I ever had in my life. I knew what He was asking me to do, and I did not want to do it. He was demanding full surrender to the truth and I knew it might kill me. It would definitely kill the marriage that I had tried unsuccessfully to sustain for 7 years. This was about my coming clean before God, and learning to sacrifice everything to get my relationship with Him right once and for all. This impossible situation, the heartbreak and lies that had shattered my dreams of a “family” would never be mended unless I valued my relationship with the Lord MORE than my marriage. So when I woke up that morning, I resolved to dying. I knew I had to come clean about everything. Not just to God, but to everyone. Bryan especially. I owed him the truth even though it would ruin my life.
I never thought I would make it through that conversation on January 12th, 2012. It was quite literally the worst day of my life. It was the day I broke my husband’s heart in two and it was the day I finally gave up control of my life. I lay there on my knees in Bryan’s office, baring my soul and being completely transparent for the first time in years. The heartbreak that my honesty brought with it was the deepest sorrow I have ever felt. And I wept because I knew it was the end of our marriage. I was doing what God asked of me for the the first time in years and sacrificing to the point of dying. And that’s just what it felt like. I purged the lies until I could purge no more, and sat in the floor in a wet heap in Bryan’s office while I shattered his heart.
And he held me.
Bryan held me. But not in his own strength. I know that for a fact. There is no way that a person can be as crushed as he was, and still be able to hold the person that ruined his life.
The only explanation that I can give is that God showed up in that little room in our house. This single moment was the beginning of the biggest real-life miracle that either one of us has ever experienced. This was the moment when God showed up in the flesh to me. As we clung to each other out of sheer emotional pain, I truly felt the tangible love that God had for me. Loving in spite of my mistakes. Comforting in the midst of my sin. I don’t think I will ever feel God as real to me as the day that I felt him through the arms of my broken husband. A husband undeserving of such betrayal, but yet still willing to love me with what he had left.
I hope and pray no one has to make the mistakes that I made. But I pray each and every one of you experience the love of a God who waits, sometimes with a broken heart, to save us from ourselves. He lives to be our knight in shining armor and bring us to places we NEVER thought possible through redemption. He delights in allowing his “difficult children” to be the bearers of good news to those who are just like themselves. When I realize that He’s brought me from “adulterer” to “missionary” in one year, I’m overwhelmed with feelings of freedom and incomparable joy! That is the kind of God I serve!
(Please return tomorrow for Part 2 of "Our Story" written by my husband! You won't want to miss just how big of a miracle God worked in our marriage in just one year!)