My friend, Tracy, and I sat in the bleachers and watched my brand-spankin’-new husband play intramural basketball. He was in his last year of school. I had just started teaching sixth-grade. Tracy had transferred into our college just months before, but we had struck up a quick friendship because of mutual friends.
She was younger than me, recently divorced, trying to separate herself from the wake of it all. As we sat there, oblivious to the embarrassing tomfoolery happening beneath us on the court that so starkly contrasted to the conversation we were having, she started telling me the story of his verbal abuse and the failure of her first marriage. How he would make her step on the scale every week and call her names in front of his children, the children who now called her “Mom.” How he controlled everything she did and everywhere she went. How it started on their honeymoon and got worse as the weeks went by.
How he’d been raised by precious, Christian parents and had swept her off her feet with his charm and devotion to her. She talked about how she never saw it coming, how he was Prince Charming. Until he wasn’t.
I asked her if there were any red flags. She said no. But I didn’t believe her.
There was no way. Because I was married. And my husband was amazing. And I KNEW, I knew knew knew, he would never do something like that to me.
A couple of months later, I sat in the coach’s office where I worked. One of the other coaches had just remarried and was talking about her first marriage, how she had walked in on him with another woman. As though God was trying to soften my prideful heart, she reiterated what Tracy had said: “I never saw it coming. We were so in love. We would have been the last couple anyone would have thought that would happen to.”
I nodded my head but again, I didn’t believe her. There’s no way you don’t see that coming. They just didn’t know their husbands as well as I knew mine. That would never happen to me. He would never do that to me. I am just. so. blessed.
Then, lo and behold, my neat and tidy world crumbled. The proverbial rug was pulled out from under me, knocking the wind out of my lungs like I’d been t-boned sitting motionless at an intersection. And I just curled up there in the fetal position, inches from our five-month-old baby, waiting for the breath to return and give life to the sobs building pressure in my chest. Not only had my husband been unfaithful, many, many times, but he had been struggling with a sex addiction, one he’d been trying to beat on his own, in the dark, without help, for years.
To say I never saw it coming would be an understatement.
I thought back to him crying to me about his passion for the Lord, about the Godly man he desperately wanted to be, about how he wanted to sell all his possessions and do mission work overseas. I thought back to his picturesque childhood, complete with a loving mother and a present father. I thought back to the friendships he’d pored into with homeless men in the area. I thought back to him proposing, only two years before, spelling out “Will You Marry Me” in Christmas lights across his hometown football field and the way he’d looked at me, hundreds of times, like he would literally die without me.
There were so many signs that this would never happen. And almost none that it would.
I don’t say this to scare you or plant doubts. I say this because I’m not sure we realize, until we are thrust into its muck, how broken this world really is. I didn’t. I thought bad things like this happened to other people, ignorant people, not the people who pursued good and did the work and were kind. But sin is everywhere, and the moment we think we are immune to it, the moment we rest easy in our always-right answers, is the moment Satan proves us wrong.
There is hope, though.
My husband found healing, supernatural, miraculous, soul-cleansing healing. I can look back now at all the ways God had sprinkled breadcrumbs for me throughout our journey, reminders of his goodness and his faithfulness, so I could find my way back to both him and my husband. We have found that we are more than conquerers through Christ Jesus and that faith is much more than praying at the dinner table and going to church on Sundays.
And we know now we are not able, not good enough, to do this well on our own. That no matter how nice we are or how hard we work, our human-ness will always prove its vulnerability.
I realize, now, how prideful I was to think it could never happen to me.
I’m thankful for so much about our story, but if there’s one thing I can pinpoint, it’s that. That it forced me to recognize my own ego. Because now I know the truth: that life requires a lot more than going through the motions. Marriage is a fight that requires work and time and humility and intentionality and prayer and so much Jesus.
And most of all, it requires us to realize it can happen to ANYONE. Even you. Especially, if you think it can’t.
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