“How did I get here? This can’t be happening,” these words raced across my mind as I sat in a room with our pastor and the seeming stranger I was married to. But there I was, a church-raised, young woman in the throes of a nasty adulterous mess … but I was the one who got us there. Never in my wildest dreams did I think that I could slip so far or that divorce would seem like an obvious lifeline amidst the chaos. I so badly wanted to flee this moment of accountability, wanted to flee this marriage, and by doing so, escape the mess I had made.
That summer, almost 7 years ago now, things had come to a head. But the trouble had begun long before my mess was made public. I was raised in the most incredible, traditional Christian home, had gone to a wonderful Baptist college, and married a man who shared my faith. This would have had all the appearances of a successful marriage and fulfilling life.
Unfortunately, the struggling desire to have a male’s attention had deep roots within this Christian girl. I cannot point to a specific reason why this was “my struggle,” which in and of itself causes a lot of guilt and shame. “You have no excuse for what you did or how you are,” are the words that used to cross my mind often and honestly still creep in from time to time.
As a girl, the struggle was just normal boy-crazy behavior, but flirting turned much darker when the years went by and boys turned into men. So at 23 years old, having been married for already two years, the stakes of my sin were raised. I had believed a lie. I had assumed that my husband was to be the source of all of my happiness.
So when I wasn’t so “happy” it was easy to blame him, to look elsewhere for what I thought I was missing. There were also other storms brewing inside of me, simply adding layers to my already discontent soul … not feeling happy, then not feeling loved, regretting the decision to marry so young. Well, it doesn’t take a rocket-scientist to figure out that when you look for trouble you can find it. And boy did I find it.
After six months of casually spending time with men from work and pushing boundaries with some of them, I found myself in a full-blown affair. The affair was short-lived but the damage was not, it was unimaginable. I went to my husband and told him a cliff notes version, mostly wanting to free myself of guilt and hoping to expedite a separation then divorce.
He didn’t meet my request. While I wanted anything except reconciliation, his statement that evening was, “Just because you broke a vow, doesn’t mean I intend to.”
Punch. In. The. Gut.
You know that love I had been longing for from a man? Well that was it, in its purest form. Grace; underserved, un-asked for, grace in place of justified punishment. I wish I could explain how much freedom was found in those months after it all came out … or had the time to sit with you all personally and tell you how much God loves you and doesn’t want you to live in bondage to any sin.
Our battle to reclaim our marriage was tough … really tough … and I can’t even begin to thank the people who prayed for us and mentored us, and taught me how to live a life of transparency. And although our story has a happy ending, thanks only to God, I wouldn’t want anyone to go through it.
Well, it doesn’t take a rocket-scientist to figure out that when you look for trouble you can find it.
When I was asked to share this I had a few concerns, mostly “Will women judge me?” and “Will my story help anyone?” Here is the thing: I always felt alone in my struggles, like my issues for attention and sexual immorality were only a man’s battle. But honestly, like the old saying goes, it takes two to tango. Do I think it’s common? No, or perhaps just well hidden. I can say that before I crossed the line in my actions, I allowed what I believe many have done: I crossed the line in my heart. Looking elsewhere for love and companionship when our sights should be set at home.
So, we would be wise as women to guard our hearts against it, just as we pray for our husbands to do the same. Satan’s tricks haven’t changed, but they are effective. “You deserve the best.” “Your husband doesn’t care about you anymore.” “You deserve to be happy.” Those whispers from the enemy … we have all heard them. So hear me, women, when I say this: Christ is perfect, your husband is not. Christ alone will bring joy, peace, and contentment, man will not.
Those sweet, 50-year-old marriages we hear about? I’m guessing they have had a few bumps in the road, but they stuck it out and pressed on when the going got tough. We fail each other, that’s what we do; but there is such sweet, sweet reward for grace and forgiveness when failure shows up. I know my husband showed me the greatest love during the unimaginably tough time I put us through … and I’m forever grateful for it.
Photo courtesy of Hernan Sanchez.