I have spent a decade recovering from my husband’s betrayal. I often refer to that event as the beginning of great change in my entire family’s lives. Betrayals in marriage make others uncomfortable. Some of our closest family members have created distance between us and them since becoming aware of this part of our story. Immediately after discovering his betrayal, one of my oldest and dearest friends promised to fly out to Texas to help me through the time when I was struggling with wanting to commit suicide. She was the only person I had shared my shame with at that time. The promise of her visit gave me something to hang on to. We made plans for over a week. She told me she’d call with specifics about her ticket. I picked up the next phone call, hoping she was coming soon, when she told me that her husband said they couldn’t afford the trip and that he needed her home during that time. I was devastated, but told her I understood and wouldn’t want them to struggle financially because of me. Two days later I was betrayed all over again as I saw her fb pics of the tropical and pricey girl’s trip that she had chosen (and lied to me about) over supporting me. After ignoring my texts, calls and letters for about two years, she was in Texas for business and asked to stay with us, so during the day I spent with her, I asked why she did that to me and her response was, “I’m just a sh*##@ friend. There’s not really anything to talk about. I suck.”
Closure wasn’t to be in that relationship, apparently.
When I talk about my spiritual and emotional health journey, I often refer to and differentiate the years before the betrayal (The Stepford Years) and the years since to mark the beginning of this incredible journey. My husband, our three youngest children and I have been very intentional about working through our junk with as much transparency as we can muster. We believe that this is the best way to help others and to remember how far Our Pappa has brought us since we submitted to His leading. So, I’ve been surprised by the number of Christian friends and family members who have attempted to shut down that part of our story. Even in my recovery walk I was asked if I realized how often I refer to that time when I worked through my steps… (btw, this is kinda the point of working the steps, right?). Fortunately, because I had another christian friend say something similar previously and had prayed about it, I was prepared with my shameless response this time. I’m not living in that brokenness or dwelling in victimhood. I’m testifying that My Pappa can effect a kind of change in people that can’t happen by our own effort, alone. So, when a friend comes to me and describes a situation that resembles my B.B. marriage (Before Betrayal), I want her/him to know that I can relate and I can share the “brokenness to the point of not wanting to live” chapter of my story that He miraculously loved into the “wanting to live for Him” chapter of my story. I can also empathize with mourning that the trauma of that betrayal changed who I was and I will live with that forever. Always trying to remember that I best serve Him by sharing and thus shedding the layers of pain, sin and fear that stand in the way of walking in my FULL identity that He has always held for me.
I often wonder why our church videos typically share the “end” of the story without an occasional “messy in the midst story.” We like to wrap it all up in a pretty bow after sharing a quick, not too graphic, picture of what the struggle is really like. I think the people that are still planted in the mud, stuck in the desert, struggling to feel like their story will have a portion of joy in the morning (“For His anger is but for a moment, His favor is for life; weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.” – Psalm 30:5) would love to hear how truly freakin’ hard the days leading up to His miraculous healing were for a real live person with skin. Instead, we have stories that skim over the ugliness and then spend 70% or more of the video on how amazing things have been since the ugly ended. I understand the motive is to give hope to struggling people, but I think we can do better. We can be more authentic about how hard and lonely and messy our dark chapters are so that when we get to the pretty bow part of the story, we really give Him all of the glory He deserves because we see that it was only by His grace that we can be redeemed. This is what will give hope to the hopeless, truly seeing His unrelenting, unconditional love fighting for our hearts in spite of the muck and mire.
I could tell you numerous stories of church peeps who attempted to shame us when we shared our betrayal story
– the leaders of our marriage class that stopped talking to us and then “unfriended” us on fb,
– the first Texas friend I shared the truth with after 2 years, who said she understood and would like to talk after she absorbed it all and then told me she wasn’t sure she could forgive me and cut all ties with my family,
– the family member who used to call me weekly and has called me less than five times in the past ten years because it makes her uncomfortable how open we are about it.
Their discomfort is not my shame. We need to be uncomfortable in order to grow. We are called to comfort our sisters and brothers.
“Therefore comfort each other and edify one another, just as you also are doing.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:11
There is nothing in the Good Book that tells us that we should shame others if their story makes us uncomfortable or fearful. There is nothing that tells us we should tone down how messy things are so that the people sitting in the pews or across the table feel more at ease. The peeps who prioritize their need to feel at ease aren’t leaning into the real story of God’s redemption and the peeps that are leaning in, need us to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth, again and again, without shame.
If you are one of those courageous people who is speaking your truth in order to heal and/or to help others heal, just know that He sees you and your heart. He loves that you are choosing to do the hard and often humiliating work of crawling your way back to health. The people that try to shame or shun you because you are speaking your painful truth are afraid or lack compassion, but it isn’t a reflection on you or your journey with Jesus. Keep your eyes on Him and seek His will, even when it’s lonely and doubt rears it’s ugly head because the enemy doesn’t want you to walk in the identity Your Father has for you. Hold your head up and walk through, knowing He is with you.
“I am your anchor in the wind and the waves. I am your steadfast, so don’t be afraid. Though your heart and flesh may fail you, I’m your faithful strength and I am with you wherever you go.”
We need to do better. We need to love better. We need to open our hearts to His stories of redemption and the beautiful, uncomfortable messiness that comes with it.
“Comfort, yes, comfort My people!’ says your God.” – Isaiah 40:1