In 2012, (shortly after moving back to Georgia from Alabama) it appeared as if our marriage was strong. More than that, it appeared as if we were happy. We would even occasionally talk openly about some of our struggles with our friends.
We were often the couple that others came to for martial advice. We were even leading a church-based community-group (think of it as Sunday school in someone’s home).
It was during that time that our marriage hit a wall. And hit it hard.
It was then that I engaged in an emotional affair with a married woman. Her family was part of our community group and her children were friends with mine. The affair lasted about three months.
I wish I could tell you that it ended because of my convictions or because I came to my senses.
The truth is, it ended because I got caught.
Because my affections had turned towards another woman, my attitude at home had changed dramatically. I was distant, angry and quiet.
Through her concern and intuition, Erin eventually starting reviewing our cell phone bill looking for answers and noticed the number of text messages between the other woman and me. She confronted me and I lied. She dug deeper and found more compelling evidence and the lie was over.
Jason, the community group leader, the “nice” guy, the Christian man who as a kid said, “I’ll never cheat on my wife” was caught in the middle of an affair. I went from being a seemingly stand-up guy to being an adulterer.
Before you try to distinguish between an emotional and a physical affair, let me assure you, they are the same thing. Both are a result of a man or a woman going to someone other than their spouse to satisfy needs that only their spouse should satisfy. Please do not minimize or justify any type of affair.
Cheating is cheating.
The affair devastated everyone in my life. In fact, I may never know how many people were impacted by my choices. I was trusted by my community group, my church, my extended family, my friends, my wife and my children. I had lied to and betrayed them all. A few months before I was caught, my daughter asked me if the other woman and I were really “just friends”. I lied to her and assured her that we were. It was the first and only time I had ever lied to her.
You may expect that my reaction to all of the hurt, betrayal, deceit and sadness I had caused was immediate sorrow, anguish and repentance. It wasn’t. I was angry and I was embarrassed but I was unapologetic and even remorseless.
I even became emotionally abusive to Erin. In fact, I didn’t apologize to anyone, including God for several more months (we will address that in a future post). Regardless, I was immediately dethroned. My reputation was trashed and my status as “nice guy” was only a memory.
Everything about our lives had changed and would never be the same again.
The days to follow are impossible to describe. Although there were two or three people who jumped in to minister to me and mitigate the damage, I felt like was on a cold, cement island with only my thoughts to keep me company. My emotions were all over the place but even then, my thoughts were focused on myself. I had little concern for how much Erin and the kids were hurting.
It’s not that I wanted them to hurt, their pain just wasn’t my highest priority.
Little did I know, the next three years would be some of the best and worst times in our marriage. God was just getting started with me and my relationship with Erin. He was about to introduce me to myself. He was about to use the end of my rope to reveal his goodness and grace.
He was going to use this incredible disaster to change my life, my marriage and my perspective on everything.
God is in the business of redemption and redemption is exactly what He had planned for my marriage. But it wouldn’t come without a lot of hurt, sadness, therapy and hard work.
Our lives have not been the same since the affair and we could not be more thankful.
However unique, I believe that every follower of Jesus will eventually have to face their own wall, perhaps several. I will talk more about that in a future post but it in those moments that God reveals his glory and sovereignty. It is a necessary part of our journey.