Twenty-eight years ago, on December 21, 1993, my perception of marriage, love, commitment, and faith were shattered. As a young Christian, my life was suddenly sent headlong into a future of uncertainty and change. I did not see it, nor could I say it at the time, but God was just beginning my story. To bring beauty out of ashes.
I have been hesitant to tell this story. I was worried about judgment, condemnation, and “lifting someone else’s covers”. I don’t tell this story to shame anyone or to put my ex out of front street. I’m telling my story, the good, the bad, and the ugly because God states in His Word:
2 Corinthians 1:3-4
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our afflictions, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”
The Holy Spirit in the past few weeks has shown me that this is my story to tell. There is no shame. There is no blame. Just a beautiful story about how God began His journey to claim my heart for Him. The journey wasn’t pretty or easy or anything I would ever wish upon another soul. But now, in retrospect, I can see His hand everywhere in my life since. From a young, naïve new believer, who placed her faith in “works”, to the woman I am becoming today. It is my story to tell. And it is beautiful.
I was a young 20 year old girl, longing to be loved and cherished. I was also eager to get out of my parents house. I wanted to grow up. I spent most of my teenage years wrought with devastating insecurities about my body, my looks, and my value as a human being. I assumed being married would be the answer to all my sorrows. Someone would finally love me unconditionally.
I had been in a long-term relationship in high school with a boy I thought I would marry. But then, a miracle happened….Jesus saved me when I was 19. Yes, I, who was not looking to be saved, was pursued by the Savior of the world. The time had finally arrived when He decided it was indeed my time to grow up. I knew very little about Christianity or the Bible, but I was voracious about learning. I started attending a small community church called Rolling Hills on Chandler Street in Vacaville. I also started attending a midweek Bible study in the home of Scotty Sanderson. This is where I learned that I should not be unequally yoked with an unbeliever. What does that mean, you might ask? Well, it means a follower of Jesus Christ should not become entwined in a relationship with someone who is not a follower of Christ. The term unequally yoked provides a word picture of a plow unequally yoked. How well would a plow work with a beastly ox and a donkey yoked together? What fellowship does light have with darkness? So, what was I to do? Weren’t me and my boyfriend supposed to get married and live happily ever after? I didn’t know what to do except to pray. So pray I did. And I believe, the Holy Spirit told me to break up with my boyfriend. So I did. It was my first act of faith. And I kept attending Bible Study. To my surprise, my boyfriend, unable to accept the breakup, started coming to the Bible Study weekly with his arms crossed glowering at me. I kept praying….please Lord, bring the person I am meant to be with into my life (yeah, still looking for love in people instead of God). Not long after, I met my first husband in that same Bible Study. Surely God was “rewarding” my obedience with the perfect man who would love me completely. Needless to say, we had a whirlwind courtship (remember I told you I was anxious to get out of my parents house) and we were married 10 months after our first date.
We were married about 6 months when I got pregnant with Brittany. Man was I terrified. I had so many insecurities about being able to care for this baby in my womb because I was a terribly picky eater. Would I be a good mother? But I trusted God. It was a great experience. I loved being pregnant. It was the first time in my life I didn’t shame myself over my body. I loved feeling her inside of me and would wonder about what she would be like. As far as I was concerned, I was living a lovely life with my new family.
We wanted our kids to be close in age, so we started trying again when Brittany was about a year old. I got pregnant with Rebecca when Brittany was about a year and a half. We were so excited to be welcoming a new life into our family. They would be 24 months apart. This pregnancy was more difficult as I experienced pre-term contractions starting in the 6th month. I was put on bedrest until 38 weeks. I had her 1 week early.
We were still very much involved in a new church by this time. Both of us were enrolled in a Navigators Discipleship Course that met weekly for a couple of years. I was drawing near to God, memorizing scripture, serving in the body. All the things I had been taught to do as a good Christian. Our marriage seemed solid. We got along. We rarely fought. He was kind and helpful. He was a good provider. I was a stay-at-home mom. The only hard thing we experienced was his frequent absence from home due to his job. He was a loadmaster in the Air Force which meant when he was working, he was gone. He would come home with tales of men in his squadron committing all sorts of sins overseas. But I never worried. I trusted him.
We had couples we were friends with in church. Through one of these friends, I met a woman named Diana. She was new to California, from Virginia. Her husband was also in the Air Force. Diana and I hit it off right away. The conversation between us flowed easily and there was a measure of comfort in her presence. We became fast friends and she quickly became my BFF. Soon we introduced our husbands into the mix and we were soon the fearsome four. They had 2 children as well so we all had a lot in common.
Looking back, it all happened too fast. Our families soon became enmeshed and were sharing meals together several times a week. Drinking was casually introduced into our get togethers. I started to get uncomfortable with how often Tim wanted to spend with them. Then I started noticing the stolen glances between the two. They way they sheepishly flirted and giggled. All this right in front of me. When I questioned him about it or suggested that we needed to spend less time with our new friends, I was told I was crazy and that it was all in my head. I wanted so much to trust the two of them, so I dismissed my fears and carried on.
One night while Tim was gone on a flight, I was over at Diana’s house. We were quizzing one another on Scripture were we memorizing. Suddenly her phone rang. She answered and handed the phone to me. It was Tim and I was so happy, I exclaimed “How did you know I was here?” I moved into the front room to seek a measure of privacy. The way she lingered, watching me, trying to hear what I was saying, the way her eyes furtively glanced about, I knew something was not right. That night, as I lay in bed I prayed a simple prayer, “God please let me find out the truth”.
A few days later Diana asked me if I could watch her kids while she went to a doctor appointment. Afterwards I made her lunch and we had a nice visit. She told me that she planned to go Christmas shopping that night and I thought it was odd that she did not ask me to go with her, but I dismissed the thought. We hugged goodbye and I went about my day. That night Tim was due home from a trip and I anxiously awaited his return.
Eight o’clock rolled around and then nine o’clock with still no word of Tim’s arrival. He should have been home by now I kept thinking. Something in the pit of my stomach told me something wasn’t right. We only had one car and I would need to pick him up, so I called the squadron to inquire about his arrival time. I was informed that it had arrived at least an hour prior. My heart began to frantically beat, as my fears once again began to run wild. I called Diana to see if she was home. Her husband told me she was out shopping at Toys R Us for Christmas. I knew that they were open until midnight, which provided the perfect alibi. What should I do? My children were already in bed. Should I wake the kids up to go to the squadron in search of Tim? What would I tell him if I just showed up without him calling to tell me he was home? Would I look foolish in my suspicions? I offered up another meager prayer, “Please Lord, show me the truth!”. I quickly packed my children into our car and began the agonizing short drive to the squadron. As I drew near, I headed to the back parking lot, where the airmen parked when they were away. What I thought I would find, I had no idea, after all we only had one car, what was I looking for? As I rounded the building and approached the dark, crowded parking lot, I saw only one empty space. I steered into it and at once recognized the car directly in front of me. Through the fogged up windshield I saw a pair of startled eyes staring in wide-eyed dismay. I knew those eyes. I barely threw the car into park before my door was open. My car had those automatic seatbelts that slip up and out of the way when you open the door and I was out of my seat so fast my neck got tangled in it. I quickly escaped, ran for her car, and flung open the passenger door to see the wide-eyed faces of my two best friends terrifyingly gaping at me as I flung as many expletives as I could at them. Tim jumped out of her car as I pounded on his breathless chest screaming, “How could you? How could you do this to me!” as Diana quickly sped away.
I ran to my car and jumped in as he followed to the passenger side. I kept screaming, “get out, get out” as he exclaimed “I’m so sorry, I never meant to hurt you….nothing happened….I’m so sorry…” as the kids wailed from the back seat. “Get out!”. “Just drive me home.” “NOOOO, get out!”. He did and I sped away in tears. I went directly to my Bible study leaders house as my whole world fell apart. My leaders revealed to me their own difficulties with infidelity and how the Lord restored their marriage. This gave me hope that He would do the same for me.
This all happened four days before Christmas. Christmas has never been the same for me since. I heard it said that our bodies store trauma. I don’t know how this happens but I believe it to be true. Every Christmas season, without fail, I become solemn, I retreat into my shell, I feel depressed, I have to search for the joy that should be there at the celebration of the birth of my Savior. I go through the motions, not even reflecting on this period of time anymore, yet year after year my body somehow remembers the pain, the trauma, the death of my life as I knew it.
The ensuing months were a blur. As I tried to reconcile this broken marriage the deceit and the affair continued. Too many painful stories after the one I just told to be able to continue telling them now. Perhaps another time, perhaps not. The beauty isn’t found in the details. All that matters is that I survived. It is the part of my story where God began tearing down the lies and began me on the journey of truth. And yes, even after twenty-eight years and a new life in between, He’s still leading me in truth. Now more than ever I can see how the ashes of my life have been used by Him to create something more beautiful than I could have imagined. Today I am a realist. There is no happily ever after in this world. My happily ever after begins at my last breath, when I see my healer face-to-face, my Jehovah Rapha.
I tell this story as a way to release the trauma. I tell my story so that others who read it and have experienced something similar can find hope. I tell my story so that I can say with all honesty that you can move on. The pain will lessen with each passing year. Your body may continue to betray you, to suck you back down into the pit of disappointment, anger, depression, or bitterness. But you don’t have to let it take over you. The God who holds every one of my tears (and yours) in a bottle is waiting for me (and you) to surrender it to Him yet again. He is ready to remove those sinful thoughts that the enemy uses to drag us down, if we just lay these hurts at His feet once again. He is the great Physician, our great Healer and He is waiting right where He always waits for you….by your side. Ready to send someone your way who can comfort you with the comfort that they have received. He did it for me and He can do it for you. Someone did it for me and I will do it for you. That’s beauty out of ashes.