Still More

A year ago, I wrote a post about how I began to understand the path to healing. Infidelity – serial cheating – rocked my world with four Ddays that started April 12, 2014 and finally ended two months later. Each revelation took me deeper and deeper into the abyss of pain and I had no tools, no belief, no comprehension that I could or would ever be able to become whole again.

But I have.

The funny thing is the whole I am now is MORE than I was before, when life was full of delusions that I could not see.

The path to my healing has been treacherous and raggedy and scary and I didn’t want to do it, didn’t want to go. My being screamed to run and hide and patch myself up with coverings and salve and platitudes and self-help books…to protect myself at all cost and be angry and build a fortress of protection.

Yet somehow, it didn’t work for me like that.

I ended up following the path forged by my Savior more than 2,000 years ago. The way was filled with stripping rather than covering. It required pouring out rather than patching up. It meant bleeding out rather than bandages. Nothing that made sense, and yet, it is in this dichotomy that I have found more…hope…more…freedom…more…love. I never would have chosen this way on my own. It was all because He went first, He did it first. All I had to do was follow.

CrazyLove

The Language of Betrayal

We have all done it. We have all gotten to new places in life that bring a whole new language. Some are kind of mundane – like when I took my first accounting class in college. There was a whole host of new words like gross revenue and accounts receivable and cost of goods sold. Words like credit and debit took on new meaning.

Sometimes we learn a new vernacular at special times, like becoming a parent – a mom. Phrases and words like swaddling and breast feeding. Or bumper pads and touchpoints and pacifiers. We have to decide things that include a new language like cord-clamping and cord-banking…co-sleeping or crib sleeping…public or private or home…

And there are times of sadness or challenge that expand our vocabulary to words that may have lurked somewhere in our minds, but become routine. Times like medical challenges and death that make words like treatment or hospice or casket routine. Words that lived out there but not in here yet now they are uttered regularly right from our own lips.

Affairs, though, are different. I didn’t know the language of affairs, or the vernacular. I’d never perused Huffington Post for articles on affairs, or searched for the Other Woman. The words weren’t lurking somewhere in my mind. They just weren’t there in my conscious thinking. But the language is universal, and within literal days of discovery, the words were tumbling into my knowledge base almost like a download of a computer program.

Affair Partner.

Discovery.

Trickle Truth.

Hysterical Bonding.

Wayward Spouse.

Gaslighting.

Blameshifting.

Affair Fog.

The 180.

The acronyms: M. A. EA. PA. EMA. LTA. BS. OW. MOW. FWB. AP. WH. STBXH. MM. xMM. NPD. IC. CC. MIL. FIL. FOO. DDay. FWH. NC. SA.

Literally overnight these words became the language of my life. Any betrayed reading this right now gets it…they know these words…or if they are in the devastating newness of discovery, they are learning them. All of my being hated that I needed to know these words, yet some came absolutely instinctually, without even needing the betrayed-spouse-dictionary. No Contact. Please, please have no contact with HUSBAND anymore…and HUSBAND…have no contact with her. The Other Woman. The Other Woman that I discovered on that day – that Discovery Day. And now…I am betrayed. I didn’t need a dictionary.

language

There were options as this new language became my life language. I could have, and deeply considered, DIVORCE which would have launched me into another whole new vernacular. I danced at those words and that option, seeking advice on the process and laws in Florida and division of property. And then I did research on the impact of divorce on older children, on young adult children. I was astounded to see that these beautiful older children often take the divorce of their parents hard. So hard that 3 and 5 and even ten years later, they are posting on their blogs about the hurt they still carry. The questions they now harbor…was anything real in their childhood? Was there ever the family they thought they remembered, and if that family broke up and broke apart, what chance did they, or could they, possibly have at love themselves?

I hated these words. I hated these thoughts that were hidden away from public view, only found with intentional research and eyes. I hated that as much as HUSBAND’s unfaithfulness was ripping me apart, and casting pieces of my heart all over every part of what I thought my life was, now I had to make decisions. I hated him and force him to leave me and get all my just due in every feasible way. I wanted to think of just me and wanted that to be the best for me and for everyone I loved.

I did not – let me repeat that – DID NOT decide that I would stay married. No, I absolutely was not that altruistic, or able to consider the twenty-year-from-now impact on my kids over my own right-this-minute impact. But I did decided that I would not decide. That I would wait. That I would worry about me and what it would take for me to be able to breathe. And then think. And then maybe feel. And if, along the way, I wanted to look at my marriage, then I gave myself permission, but not a mandate.

forever

And then…slowly…there was another language that began to creep into the vestiges of my brain and soul. The language of healing. I pushed it away for awhile, wanting and needing to embrace the pain. But it was quietly persistent. This language is more complex, requiring me to grieve and learn transparency and become oddly more vulnerable in the face of fear and pain. I can’t say that I know the whole language yet. And that’s okay. One word at a time…

 

They Didn’t Ever Fight

Never. Not one time did I see my parents have a fight. I was born into a home with a dad and a mom and a big sister and I never saw my parents fight. My parents were married 59 1/2 years when my dad passed away, in my home, and I honestly never saw them have a fight.

When I was growing up, they made sure that we knew they didn’t fight. It was like a gold star they proudly wore, the “We Aren’t Like All The Other Couples Out There. We. Don’t. Fight” prize.

I was well aware they did not fight because I heard it regularly, and then observed it daily. Dad would get up and go to work. Mom would get up and take care of us. I would get up and go to school. The reverse happened as the day wore on. By the time dad got home in the evening, I was expected to defer everything to his will…didn’t matter what television show was on that I had watched 2/3 of, or what conversation I was in with my mom – if dad wanted a different show or to take my mom away for a conversation, not only did it happen, but I was considered ungrateful and inconsiderate if I expressed frustration.

As the years of my youth rolled on, we lived in detached peace in our home. No one ever really asked me anything about how I felt, or what I loved, or if I had fears. No one connected with my soul, and I got kudos for the good stuff and punished for the bad. I got adept at covering the bad, at just not talking about it. I learned to shield the responses of my spirit, my deep down, to protect it from injury. I learned to tell what would please my lovely, we-don’t-ever-fight parents and hide any of my questionable thoughts. Or actions. Or decisions. Or fears. Or hurts. I could wordsmith with the best of them, rewriting a situation or an incident so that I looked good, or at least, not as bad.

But inside, I was crushed and crumbling.

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I did not know it, because it was all I knew. But I gained great skill at shaping a message not only to those on the outside, but to myself. Since there never were fights between my parents, I knew any tension in the house or in our family life was because of me, right? And since no one ever talked about being scared or fearful, if I had those feelings, it must be me, right? But I just kept all that to myself, and figured out how to pretend I didn’t hear those voices.

As HUSBAND and I have worked so hard on ourselves, and on our marriage, these scary, tightly wrapped layers have begun to peel off my being. I don’t blame my sweet parents, oh no. They were trying so hard to be great together and great to us and their way of being great was to not have anything in our lives or in their lives that was un-great. So they were doing the same thing they were so effectively teaching me: pushing down any feelings and hurts and fears and pains as best they could. My therapist likens it to floating on a ball in a pool…you have to constantly try to keep that ball carefully centered and balanced precisely under you and it works and it works and you adjust and it works and you change pressure and then POP! Out shoots the ball from under you when you least expect it. If that happened, my parents would quickly grab the ball and put it back under themselves, balancing carefully…adjusting…and never acknowledging the ball had escaped…

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And so did I, for my youth and for 27 years of marriage.

I don’t balance the ball anymore. I have learned to allow myself to really feel, to grieve the sad things and rejoice in the amazing. I’ve learned to be realistic about my fears, and to find solace first, and then hope with the overwhelming promises of God lived out in Christ and evidenced by the beauty from ashes that is my life. I’ve ventured into the amazing place of freedom through vulnerability, and sharing my shattered soul, finding that it can really meet the other tattered soul in the oneness that marriage is meant to be.

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But it is luring, and a regular fight for me not to retreat back into my deep down. To make myself stay exposed and risking. I have to make sure I never, ever forget that the safe place really wasn’t safe at all but actually a place I was dying a slow death, and that out here in the risky places are where I found I could love. And be loved.

love heals

 

Father’s Day – Then. Now.

Father’s Day, 2014. Oh it was an excruciating time. The pain of discovering a lifetime of infidelity was still fresh, and we were only a couple weeks from having told our children (January, 2016:  Part 1 and Part 2 and Part 3.)

Daughter was gracious. Daughter was hurt. Daughter was conflicted. Daughter wrote this on her blog:

LesterdaysGone-Father’sDay2014

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Father’s Day, 2016. But today, TODAY daughter knows a father transformed. Or a father, as she puts it, who is free because he is living in the design of the Creator. Here is what our daughter wrote on our facebook today:

Two years ago, celebrating Father’s Day was hard. I had just found out that there was another side to the goofy, laid-back, gentle, and sweet father of mine. I had just learned that he made some terrible decisions that deeply altered our entire family. And I was learning what it meant to love (read: forgive) THAT dad, instead of the dad I thought I knew.

Well, two years later, I get to love the best father that I never knew I didn’t have. He’s the best dad by loving Jesus first–living in awe of His sacrifice and grace every day. He’s the best dad by loving my mom second–putting her needs above his own and always making sure she knows she is adored. He’s the best dad by loving his kids third–always there to make us laugh, be a calming force, and tell a good (bad) joke.

I am so proud of my dad. He is 100% a completely different man than the one I grew up with. All his wonderful personality traits are in tact (the reasons my mom fell in love with him!) but the way he loves his God, his wife, and his family are entirely new. My husband grew up without a father, and I am very glad that we both now have a powerful example of what a father should be. The thing is, my dad is far from perfect. He’s not even close. But what he did and what he does are two entirely different things. And what he does now is pour himself into his faith and his marriage. The result is a dad who both experiences grace and gives it out.

When he walked me down the aisle at my wedding, I was beaming with pride, because I knew that this was a man who understands the depth, weight, significance, sacrifice, and beauty of marriage. When he and my mom “gave me away” to Tim, they did so with endless prayer for our marriage, but also an intense knowledge of the covenant we were entering into.

When you’ve had to forgive your dad, you learn to love him in a new way. In a strange way, I am grateful for the mistakes that he made because they’ve allowed me to see my dad be totally enraptured by the mercy of God. And getting to love THAT dad is an indescribable gift.

I love you, Dad. Happy dad’s day.

 

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He Did It First

One day in our couple support group, our leader showed a video. The video is the work of The Skit Guys and is called Baggage. In the video we see a poignant visualization of how we get baggage…different people who throw it on us…friends…parents…lovers…and before you know it, we are weighed down trying to move forward in life, yet carrying bags on our backs and arms and hands. And then the actor talks about Jesus promising life, life abundantly – but life weighed down doesn’t feel like life. Then the actor remembers that Jesus told us to bring our burdens to Him – and that He would give us rest – so he goes to God and cries out…please, please take these bags…the bags slide of his body…and the actor lets us know that He – God – took the bags.

Baggage

Yet, over the years of my faith-walk, I cried out numerous times. I asked for Him to help me be better, or think clearer, or speak kinder. I begged Him to take my marriage to a deeper place, to help me be a better mom and to show me the right path for my family. Life was good, we plugged along and were “happy” yet there was always something – MORE – that I wanted but could not define. Baggage…that I held deep inside and didn’t even admit I was carrying. I told myself that was because we would never have satisfaction in this life…we are made to yearn for the Kingdom that will be ours in heaven…

Then I found out about HUSBAND’s double life.

Betrayed

In that short period of time, everything changed. It was as if all the prayers and what-seemed-to-be-answers-to-prayers through the years were now just a mockery. The God that I’d cried out to either wasn’t real, or He couldn’t/wouldn’t do the things I’d been told He could/would, or He didn’t love me. I was angry at my belief whichever of those things was true. After those initial weeks of shock and denial and anger began to move into what am I supposed to do next to survive, I began to have some images.

Images of this Jesus I rejected in a garden, knowing He was to die, on His knees crying out to God, His Father, to please, please take this cup…let there be another way.

There was no other way. Not for Jesus. Not for me.

Images of Jesus being abandoned. Being mocked. Being beaten and abused. Being betrayed. Like me.

Images of Jesus on a cross, pierced physically, emotionally, mentally and hanging, exposing his brokenness and pain and bloody insides. Like me.

And then, three days later, an empty tomb. The evidence of His death laying there, bloody and tattered, but He was gone having transcended the pain and filth to become whole again. Images of Him reappearing to His people, scars evident on His hands and feet, but whole and beautiful and full of mercy and love.

I began to understand that He had never left me or forsaken me. That I had tried to take a path around or under or over the very path that would lead me to freedom. It was the path directly through the pain that would take me so beyond “happy” – that would get me MORE – the MORE I’d always really wanted. He had forged the path, He showed me He didn’t want it either, that it is fraught with all things overwhelming, but that He’d gone first and would be there with me through the journey.

And that…THAT is when I began to step into my healing, into freedom, into MORE.

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Betrayal Decided.

 

Wednesday (or the third day) of Holy Week. Not much happens on this particular day, or at least I never realized it in the same way I did today. Wednesday was the day that somewhere around two-thousand years ago, a man named Judas decided he would betray the One whom he had loved, and followed, and dedicated his life to over the prior years. The One to whom he had listened intently, shaped his understanding of his past, and the direction of his future.

JudasBetrayal

I find it astounding that God chose to let us see a window into the heart and mind of Judas…not just the action of his betrayal the next day, but that he chose betrayal before he acted. That on the day before he moved into the action of pointing out Jesus to his captors, he considered it, saw the “reward” of thirty pieces of silver, and decided to betray his Lord.

HUSBAND and I have talked incessantly about how the betrayals happened within our marriage. The last affair began immediately following his HS reunion. As we were standing toward the exit, talking with another couple and preparing to leave, HUSBAND’s body jolted a bit and I glanced over, only to notice someone had bumped into him. It was a non-moment, a non-event with a non-descript person that I hardly noticed. But as HUSBAND turned to say “I’m sorry,” he now tells me that there was a fleeting moment of eyes meeting eyes that went beyond two old friends. I didn’t see it, or sense it, or have any idea it had happened. The next morning, HUSBAND sent a brief text…are you heading back to Atlanta…and SW answered…why…what do you have in mind…

The affair began.

BUT…what HUSBAND now sees is that isn’t really true. The affair began with his own inner pain and personal disdain, with small thoughts and little justifications and tiny moments for the months prior. It began with HUSBAND rejecting the good that was us and making us bad so that he could seek the bad and make it good. It wasn’t thirty pieces of silver that his whore offered him, but it was a quick path to momentary pleasure of the body and mind that led straight to a deep plunge into destruction. And he had sold out to the lies along the way long before he accepted the trade, long before he did away with the journey of the real for the mimicry of the false.

Circumstances reveal

How wise is the God who reveals the path of betrayal so clearly, both for the betrayed to be able to see they played no role, and for the betrayer to be able to learn his foolishness was his alone. Jesus…so pure and kind…betrayed and laid out for his betrayer…

I am humbled to read this story with new eyes. And to grieve with Jesus with a broken heart. And to thank Him for showing me that betrayal, and death…in a way that only God can make happen…can be a path to freedom, and life.

Freedom