We all have a story to tell. I would like to think that mine is not much different than yours, but I know that it probably is. As I think about celebrating 41 years of marriage, I know there was a time that the word “celebration” would not have been a part of my vocabulary in speaking about my life with my sweet, precious, ever patient husband. God knew when I married this man that my relationship with him would be filled with so many ups and downs, so many trials, but also so many joys….and He knew that this man would love and cherish me through them all.
As I have shared with so many, my greatest desire is to make it very clear that although this “story” is about a portion of my life, it is so important for you to understand that it is much more about what God has done IN my life… where I once was…and where God has brought me. I truly do not want the “spotlight” to be on me, or my story, but instead I want the “spotlight” to be on God and His grace. I always want to give Him the glory.
When I was all of 19, I met this handsome young man that most assuredly swept me off my feet. Our courtship was very short and shortly after we met, we were married to live happily ever after (isn’t that what we learn in the fairy tale stories we hear as children?). I was madly in love with my husband and I was a very contented wife. But, my contentment did not last. You see, I was trying to place my happiness and contentment with this man I now called husband, not realizing that there was only One who could totally satisfy my soul!
Psalm 107: 9 “For He has satisfied the thirsty soul, and the hungry soul He has filled with what is good.”
About five years into our marriage, things changed for us. For several years, we had been trying desperately to have a child, which put tremendous strain on both of us and made things in our marriage very difficult. Just the struggle of not being able to get pregnant…waiting month after month….hoping that this month would be different. But this month wasn’t….and the next month wasn’t….and neither was the next. Going through infertility treatments and having the “doctor” in our bedroom every night (because the doctor was the one who decided the best time to be intimate), was not what I had dreamt of. So instead of the process of trying to have a child bringing us closer together, it put an incredible strain on us. The days of frustration led to weeks of frustration and the weeks led to months and the months led to several years of frustration.
What should have been so simple – having children – became tedious, very agonizing, and filled with grief, longing and despair. Rather than this huge trial pushing us closer together and closer to the Lord, we were torn apart. Was it his fault, was it my fault….JUST WHO’s FAULT WAS IT?!?! And unfortunately for us, even though we were both believers we were not walking with the Lord.
Instead of turning the disappointment, hurt and anger of my infertility and childlessness over to the Lord, I allowed Satan instead to put another option in front of me…and that option, though so very enticing at the time, became the most hurtful, harmful, painful and most destructive thing that could ever happen to me and to my marriage. The option that Satan gave me was something that could make my life more satisfied; something that will fill the void of being “barren.” Isn’t that an ugly word?
Genesis 11: 30 “Sarah was barren. She had no child.”
One definition of barren is “Producing little or no crop; unfruitful; unproductive; not fertile.” Barren – not able to produce. Just the very speaking of those words, produces an emotion within my soul that I cannot describe. This grief that I speak of is a gut-wrenching ache that only time and God have healed.
I would love to tell that I quickly dismissed the option Satan gave me, but I didn’t. Rather than taking something (my infertility) that God placed in my life as an opportunity to bring Him glory, I brought shame to His name. Instead of fleeing from temptation, I gave into the enemy’s ploys and I became an unfaithful wife. To be very blunt – I committed adultery. I would love to white-wash it, but I can’t. I would love to tell you that it “just happened” but sin never just happens. I willingly, deliberately allowed it to happen. Something that I thought would NEVER happen to me, happened and the deeper I became involved with another man, the deeper into sin I fell. My relationship with my sweet, patient, loving husband became pretty non-existent and my relationship with the Lord, needless to say, was completely non-existent.
I took what God had given me, the love of a great man, and I misused it and abused it. I took trust and turned it into mistrust. I was so deep into sin that I was completely devoid of caring about what was right or what was wrong. All I cared about was my sin. All I cared about was filling that void of my barrenness – but it was a void that only Jesus could fill! No husband, no child, no anybody…..only Jesus. And even though His Spirit filled my soul, I had not allowed Him to fill my heart. So, at one point, I packed my bags and told my husband I didn’t know when or if I would ever be back. I left and I stayed gone, staying with a man who was not my husband.
And yet…he still loved me. Through the disappointment and the hurt and the pain of knowing that I wanted to be with someone else, my husband still loved me. And through the disappointment of knowing that I thought I wanted to be with someone else, GOD still loved me. You see, as great as my unfaithfulness to my husband was, my unfaithfulness to the Lord was even greater. But you also see, God’s love for me was not conditional. His love for me did not depend on what I did, but His love for me was already determined before He ever laid the foundation of the earth. The responsibility for His love rested completely upon His shoulders, never on mine. Beth Moore tells us in her “Children of the Day” study, that “…the God who beckons you to love more and more cannot love you more.”
I eventually did come home, though reluctantly, and half-heartedly promised my forgiving husband that we would do whatever it took to make it work. He could have turned me away… Scripturally, he had every right to. He could have divorced me and been free to marry again. He could have shamed me…he could have thrown me away. But he didn’t. He completely forgave me and took me back with loving, open arms and although he was hurt, pledged his undying and faithful love to me… again.
The vows that we took on our wedding day still meant so much to him, that he was willing to forgive my unfaithfulness. Through all the hurt that he endured, he showed me complete and total Christ-like, unconditional love. He never threw in my face that I was unfaithful to him…he never reminded me of my sin…and in the 30+ years since it all happened, he never has. It was never an option for him to do that. He loved me too much to hurt me in that way. Christ-like love. Isn’t that the way Jesus loves us? Has he once ever thrown your sin in your face? No, and He never will.
Psalm 103: 12 “As far as the east if from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.”
Even though my husband had forgiven me, even though the Lord had already forgiven me at the cross, I knew that every day I was just going through the motions. My marriage was still broken and my relationship with the Lord was still broken. We came to a point in our marriage where we realized that if we were ever going to make it work, we were going to have to get our walk with Him right. We knew that in order to begin that journey being in church and being accountable to other believers was what we needed to do. You see, at this point, although I had gone home, I still had not confessed my sinfulness to the Lord and I still was not repentant. I was still in love with my sin!
So we found a church to attend and I remember vividly, even today, that first service we went to and the pent up emotion of guilt and shame that was deep within me. As the Holy Spirit pounded on the walls of my heart, I became completely and totally broken before the Lord. While I was trying to put the pieces of my life back to together by myself, the Lord clearly spoke to me and told me, “Patricia, you are not the potter…I am…and only I can put the pieces of your broken life back together again. But He also reminded me that He could not put me back together again until I was willing to “…humble myself, confess my sin, seek His face and turn from my wicked ways…” You see, there’s a difference from being “sorry” for sin and being “repentant” for sin.
But God also reminded me that even in my wickedness, even in my unfaithfulness to Him, even in the shame of my sin, I was still His. No matter what, His love for me had not changed. When I sought His forgiveness, it was then that I began this journey of where the Lord has brought me today. The Lord graciously, mercifully, wonderfully forgave me and began to renew my relationship with Him.
Psalm 51: 1-2 “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion, blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.”
As He began to renew my relationship with Him, he also began to renew my relationship with my husband. I am not going to tell you that our marriage was completely and fully restored that day. It wasn’t. It took many years to rebuild and peel away the layers of hurt and to be able to trust again. But God, through His mercy, restored our marriage.
My story is definitely one of failure – a time in my life when my sin was more appealing to me than anything else, but my story is more about victory than it is about failure. My story is not so much about what happened in my life, but about what God did in my life to restore me and bring me back to His loving care. It’s about where God has brought me and where He continues to bring me! My story is about His redemptive love for me that NEVER changes! HE is the star of this story, not me. HE is the One who deserves to have the spotlight shining brightly on Him, not me. We never were blessed with those sweet little feet running down the hallways of our home, but God has allowed me to use even that part of my story to bring Him glory!
Yes, this story is about my life, but it is more about the faithfulness of God in my life. It’s a story of loss, but it is a story of restoration. It is not a story of where I was, but a story of where I am today. I’m redeemed by the Blood of the Lamb. I am forgiven. I am made whole. I am a daughter of the Most High King…and He will never not love me.
And yes, on June 22nd, I celebrate 41 years of marriage to the love of my life. This man that I call husband, this man whose unconditional love for me is as close to being like Jesus than anyone else I know. This man….oh I love him so! Thank you Jesus, for this man.
A Repost from My Journey of Faith Magazine. Patricia serves the Lord in a mighty way today as she teaches and mentors young women she calls her children.