ONE WIFE'S JOURNEY:
When church leaders informed me that they discovered that their pastor, my husband, had been unfaithful to me it was as if their words whipped into me, knocking the very air out of my lungs. I sat in a daze. One of the leaders handed me a sheet filled with several helpful ministries we could turn to in this crisis. I read the first one – Exodus International.
Previously, I had begged my husband to get in touch with Exodus when I had first discovered his struggle with SSA. I told him that I would stand by him and support him in any way I could, but if he ever acted out on it by committing adultery, I would divorce him.
Now, I was staring divorce full in the face.
I begged God for a sign that if he didn’t want me to divorce Brent to please show me why. I felt lead to read I Corinthians 6:12 . “Everything is permissible for me — but not everything is beneficial. Everything is permissible for me — but I will not be mastered by anything.” (NIV)
After reading that, I heard God’s still small voice in my heart say, “Holly, you have my permission to divorce Brent and I will walk with you. But I am telling you right now, it won’t be beneficial for you, or Brent, or your children. If you’re willing to walk with Me in this, I will be there for you. For I know what it’s like to be betrayed too.”
I pictured Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, betrayed by a kiss from Judas, and later, betrayed by Peter who outright rejected that he ever knew Him. How many times have I betrayed my Lord, through my thoughts and my actions? How many times have I grieved Him? Yet, He continues to forgive me. Could I not do the same?
Still, it felt as if God handed me a cup of sorrow, asking me to drink it down to the dregs. But thinking of Jesus prayer in the garden, I desperately made it my own. I lifted it back up to the Lord and prayed, “Not my will, but Thine.”
I prayed that prayer over six years ago. God has used this journey to give Brent and I a truer freedom in Him and a deeper love for each other. At first, I wanted to forgive quickly and to try and build trust even more quickly, so that life could go back to normal. But the truth was our normal was always broken. We thought we just had thorns in the flesh that had to be tolerated. We had no idea that we could be set free from them.
God had to bring into focus our individual brokenness, teach us how to forgive and how to receive forgiveness without guilt or shame. We had to learn how to set up healthy boundaries, seek accountability and take responsibility for our own “stuff” that we bring to the table. We had to discern what makes us susceptible and vulnerable to temptation, and how to let the Lord lead instead of trying to be each other’s savior.
We’re just a couple of messy people that God has lavishly poured into. We mean well, yet sometimes still fall, get up and try again the next day. We used to strive for perfection, but we discovered that it’s falling into the Grace of Jesus that makes us work. Leaning into this grace and deeply desiring His holiness is what has transformed our marriage into the open and honest relationship is has always needed to be.
Brent and I will be celebrating our 24th anniversary next month. Not only has God restored our marriage, but He even restored Brent back into ministry! He celebrated his second anniversary of his new pastorate last fall. God is so good and we are so blessed.
When a wife or husband learns of their spouse's SSA, the devastation that follows, the deep pain of betrayal, guilt, self-doubt and myriad of confusing emotions are nearly unbearable. It may be the end of your marriage and it may not. God has a plan for you and your spouse. Read One Wife's Journey below by Holly Baxley, then visit Exodus for more Real Stories. If you have just found that your spouse has SSA, begin with prayer. Pray for strength and pray for your spouse. Both of you need healing. Then read and educate yourself about his or her SSA, read about others who have been in your shoes, finally look for a support group or prayer group. The SSA journey for you may be beginning, the journey for your spouse has been a lifetime in the making. You need to understand it to understand them. Don't give up on yourself or your spouse. Hope is alive and help is near.