We sat at the dusty, worn picnic table while our two daughters, who were six and eight at the time, swam at the crowded wave pool nearby. It was our annual summer family vacation, and while we were supposed to be having fun in the sun as a family, no one knew about the baggage that I had smuggled in because for the last three months I had been fully engaged in an extramarital affair.
Humidity mingled with unwelcome tension was in the air, and I knew what
my husband was about to ask me. In fact, I’d been waiting for him to ask the question for several weeks.
This was it. The moment I would tell my husband of almost 15 years that I didn’t love him any more and I had found my soulmate in another man.
Sweat was sliding down the bridge of his nose as he struggled to get the words out. “Are you having an affair?”
“Yes,” I answered.
There was much more I wanted to say, but I couldn’t seem to find the words. His face turned ghostly white, his eyes moist and shiny. Looking down at his fingernails, he pulled at one of his cuticles.
It was done. The baggage unpacked. I was free, or so I thought.
What happened next still grieves my soul to this day, now ten years later.
With brash resolve, I swung my bag over my shoulders, tucked my frazzled hair behind my ear, and walked away, not even taking a minute to say goodbye to my beautiful, spirited, unsuspecting daughters.
Sin had crept its way into my heart, twisting and turning me into someone unrecognizable, even to myself.
The year had been a busy, stressful season of change. It was exciting but tough. John received a promotion that prompted a move to a different state. Our new home was older and in need of repair. While he settled into his new assignment, I played the part of home contractor.
Little did we realize that the bricks were slowly starting to crumble and threatened to suffocate us to the point of death.
The day I walked away from my husband and girls at the water park, I called for a taxi and just a couple hours later was flying home, where I would get my car and drive to meet the other man. However, he told me it wasn’t a good time, and so I stayed home. I’m forever grateful for that timing.
I had no idea that while I was flying home, John had scooped up our girls and started driving home as well (we had driven to our destination for vacation, which is why I flew home). He called his parents and asked if they could meet him and take the girls for a couple of days while we sorted things out.
The sleep deprived days after we sat motionless, dazed and confused as to what to do next.
My head was in his lap, and I was looking up at the ceiling, wondering how in the world we had gotten here. All of my little girl hopes and dreams flashed before my eyes as the wreckage surrounding us threatened to obliterate them.
Just days before, I had dreamt a different dream. A grown-up dream of leaving my family to live happily ever after with the other man. Sin had me believe this dream was better, sweeter, truer.
How completely deceived I was.
“Shannon, do you really feel like it’s God’s will for you to be with him? Do you really think God will bless it?” John has always been the voice of wisdom, and his statement impacted me significantly.
A lightbulb that had slowly been flickering off and on for days suddenly shined
“No…no, it can’t be.”
My mind felt like a battle zone as opposing thoughts waged war within, and light struggled to overcome darkness. I began to see all the hurt I would cause, all the pain. No, this couldn’t come from God.
This couldn’t be God.
In the light of this revelation, I turned to John, “I don’t understand why you are letting me stay here. I don’t understand why you are treating me this way.”
It just seemed so illogical. I had just broken my husband’s heart into a million, tiny pieces, yet he was tender and reasonable. It wasn’t his personality. I expected him to kick me out, in fact, it’s what I hoped for because I was too much of a coward to leave on my own. He did have divorce papers drawn up, but thankfully they were never executed.
He fell silent, and after a couple of minutes he got up and slowly walked around the sofa where I remained. He stopped and suddenly and doubled over as if in pain. Tears started streaming down his face and between silent sobs he spoke the words that are forever engraved on my heart, “because I love you, Shannon.”
In those five simple yet costly words, I found grace, and my life radically changed.
My husband, who I betrayed, lived the grace of God right in front of me. I shamed him. I smeared his name in the dirt. Yet, he loved me.
Just like Jesus.
I finally understood the love behind the cross and the price that He paid.
“I love you too, John.”
And I meant it. At that moment I determined to restore not only our home but our marriage. There was much work to be done, and honestly, agreeing to do that work proved to be the wisest, but the hardest decision we’ve ever made.
This work was excruciating. I had to offer every single part of my heart up to my Savior (and John), and it required deep vulnerability. I had to face the pain and truth of what I had done, while simultaneously accepting the forgiveness and grace of both John and Jesus. I also had to learn how to accept God’s grace.
Sometimes, a heart has to break completely in two before it can become whole again.
Today, ten years later, we are a restored miracle. God did not waste one ounce of our pain. We are whole, happy and free because of Jesus Christ.
*This post was originally published on the author’s blog.