From The Eyes of The Deceived, (Our Story, Part 2)
(*The following post was written by my husband.)
I’m not sure if words exist that can adequately describe how it feels to suddenly discover that everything you believed about your marriage is a lie. If they do, I certainly do not possess them. The conflicting swirl of emotions that bombarded me as Michelle sat on the floor of my office, shattering my life with her confessions, didn’t relent for months. It was almost impossible to discern the difference between anger, pain, humiliation, sadness, and then – for some reason – moments of compassion for her. I felt angry at her for making me love her. I felt an unbearable humiliation at the knowledge that friends had known, and had kept the secret from me. I felt resentment that consumed my thoughts. There was no way, in my mind, that I could continue in a life with this woman.
Looking back at the events of that month, I can see the first seeds of a pretty incredible story, though they were impossible to see at the time. A couple of months before, I had run into an old acquaintance, a fellow worship leader named Charlie Hall, whom I hadn’t seen for years. He had asked me to start playing in his band at church. I had always respected Charlie greatly, so I happily agreed. The first date that we scheduled to play together turned out to be just three days after Michelle’s confession.
The message I heard that week at church, quite literally, changed the course of my life.
That morning, our lead pastor, Josh Kouri, delivered one of the most powerful, inspired, messages on the gospel that I’ve ever heard (you can listen to it here). He spoke of the demon-possessed man in Mark 5 – a naked, deranged outcast who spent his time roaming a cemetery, and whom no one would dare approach. No one except Jesus. From this story, he painted a striking picture of the depravity of us all, and the beauty in the grace of the one who sees through our ugliness, and who loves us anyway. As I listened, I became painfully aware of my own failures in all of life, and especially as husband.
I had been distant, and there is no doubt that I neglected my wife. I worked late all the time, and when I wasn’t working late I did something else. Truthfully, I didn’t want to be living the “married life.” I had my own selfish ambitions, and I saw marriage and parenthood as a hindrance. I wanted big things, and thought that they were more important than coming home at night. I was wrong. I had no idea how much a marriage needed to be cared for, and cultivated. I didn’t know how fragile it was. So, my wife sat alone at night. I don’t know how many times she cried in her loneliness, or how many times she cursed me for leaving her by herself. None of these things would excuse her decisions, but they reminded me that she wasn’t the only one who needed to be forgiven.
“If you, Lord, kept a record of sins, Lord, who could stand?” Ps 130:3
So, I decided not to leave, yet – if for no other reason than as a response to God’s mercy toward me. On the third day following the death of our marriage, God had breathed a spark of life back into it.
Unfortunately, though, that decision didn’t put an end to the pain I felt. For six full months, I wrestled with the betrayal. We worked hard, through counseling and prayer, to fix what we had ruined, but it was barely enough. Michelle was more broken and repentant than anyone I’d ever seen, but I was still plagued with difficult memories. Our surroundings – our house, our friends, our city – were full of reminders, and the smallest things would trigger outrage. Over time, I began to lose the battle, and the bitterness consumed me. I started to question my decision to stay; and, eventually, what I believed about God. I tried to push through, but after a long, downward spiral I finally reached the end of my strength.
From a moment that I will never forget, I cried out to God in the most honest, heart-wrenching prayer I’ve ever prayed. It was full of anger and doubt, but it was real. I had gone as far as I could in my own power, and I needed Him to step in. I needed to know that He was really there. I pleaded with Him, asking for something extraordinary – something that would give me the strength to keep going, and keep believing. I could no longer muster up the faith I needed on my own.
“I called on your name, Lord, from the depths of the pit. You heard my plea…” Lam 3:55
I was finally, completely broken – absolutely aware of my inability to continue on my own; and I now believe that it was exactly what I needed. For the first time, I truly understood what it meant to be in a place of one-hundred percent, total dependence on God, which is where He wants us all. I’m convinced that He was waiting for me to experience that revelation, so that I would be ready to receive and fully appreciate what He had in store.
What happened in the months that followed was nothing short of a miraculous answer to that prayer. Through a series of uncanny “coincidences,” revelations, and direct answers to prayer (we’ll share a few of these in the next post), He has shown himself to Michelle and me in ways that we’ll never fully be able to describe, but will never be able to doubt. He has supernaturally restored us, both individually and as a couple, and has proven that He still has plans for the marriage that we almost destroyed. Our only plausible response is one of the utmost gratitude, and it’s what has led us to the unexpected path we’re on today: a path of total surrender.
Exactly one year ago, I heard the sermon that changed the course of my life. As we listen to the same message again today, a different piece of Josh’s message jumps out – one that I missed the first time. After Jesus freed the man in the cemetery from the evil spirit, He gave the man a mission: Go and tell how much the Lord has done for you. I’m immediately impacted by how perfectly that describes where we are today, and I can’t help but get a chill down my spine when Josh puts it this way: “You have a story! You have a story because you’ve encountered me, and you’re not to wait…”
God has done so much for our family that we simply cannot resist the desire to go and tell our story.
(Don't miss the final post in this series. Part 3: "Our Story", Unlikely Missionaries will publish tomorrow!)