God answers prayer

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There were a few things that became tools in fighting for our marriage. Apart from the obvious ones like: full transparency, honesty and long conversations there was fasting, prayer and communion (sharing bread and wine at home as symbols of the body and blood of Jesus and applying it over our marriage). We also used the symbolism of objects and places to help with healing, for example: praying in certain places or destroying objects that had a meaning.

We put off any physical intimacy for an indefinite period of time. Our marriage, vows and my heart were broken. We had no idea how long the healing was going to take: weeks, months, maybe longer. At some stage we wanted to renew our vows but until then all we could do was wait.

First Sunday morning was hard. The ‘waves’ were crashing against what once was a safe harbour of our home. I couldn’t believe that this man who has hurt me so badly was the same one I used to trust blindly. Was it possible that I made a mistake and married someone who existed only in my mind? That his real nature was not at all what I believed it was? Maybe it was better if we separated?

I was sitting on my bed, my eyes and face swollen from crying, considering the possibility of a split up when it came to my mind – someone in my family had already been in this situation – my grandma.

When my dad was 7 she discovered my grandfather had been having an affair. He apologised but she couldn’t forgive. He had to go and she cut off all contact between them, he wasn’t even allowed to visit my father. A few years back, my sister found a letter in which he apparently begged her to have him back but she never changed her mind. Maybe she knew better, she herself was his second wife. I do not judge her for her decision but the fact was that it had a profound impact on my dad’s emotional development. That in turn had an impact on my parent’s marriage, our family life, their divorce, my sister’s life choices and so on. Of course there are many other factors at play, life is very complex, but this one decision was life changing for many people.

Suddenly I saw myself in her situation, I was back in time about to make the same decision. Our son was almost 7 at that stage, same as my dad then. I couldn’t do it to him, he adored Charlie. Every day he was waiting for him to come home, play games or soccer or go shopping and just hang out together. What would I say if he asked me were daddy was? And our girls? They needed their dad too, just as much.

We went to church with heavy hearts. Worshipping that day was a cry for God’s presence. There was a guest speaker and when he called people out for a prayer Charlie was the first one up. He went to the front of the room to pray with the elders and I stayed back on my chair. Tears were streaming down and I couldn’t care less what people might think. I was looking at Charlie from a distance and prayed “God please change his heart. Unless you do that I can’t stay with him. I would have to let him go and I really don’t want to.” I was crying so much I could feel the tears dripping down. I opened my eyes for a moment only to see blood on my hands – my nose was bleeding. I grabbed some tissues and tried to stop it. Somewhere in the middle of that I noticed my son sitting beside me on the floor. He was looking at me visibly concerned. He said: “Mummy look what I drew for you at the Sunday school”. In his hands he was holding a drawing, which said: “God answers prayer”. I couldn’t believe it, it was the best thing he could have done for me in that moment. It made me cry even more but this time the tears were not so bitter. I had God’s promise.

Right after the meeting we went to our office. We needed to get my desk ready for the next day and pray in a few places. I wasn’t sure where I wanted to sit, the obvious place was replacing Ana at her desk but was it were I wanted to be? When I was wondering about it our daughter said: “You should sit here, you’ll be closer to daddy”. It seemed like a good reason so it was settled. I tided and cleaned it, put up a few children’s pictures and made it my own. It was also the first desk I was sitting at when I started working there years earlier – I just reclaimed it. A few weeks later I framed the “God answers prayer” picture and put it up beside it.

While there, Charlie told me an interesting story that shed some light for me on Ana’s character. A couple of weeks earlier Charlie employed a new girl. She was a nice, positive person, married with 2 small children. Somehow Ana must have seen her as a threat, a potential new lover maybe, and in a moment of unfounded jealousy she said “I feel like making a poo on her desk”. It made Charlie look at her in a different light. It made me wonder too about who she really was and how insecure she must have felt. I don’t even try to imagine what she wanted to do to me or my things.

We went home feeling positive, like we have won a few battles. Then we all walked to the local shop to get the briquettes for a fire and while in the shop I promised myself I would never again get a lottery ticket. I have been struggling with a compulsive need to buy it regularly, never spent more then a fiver on it but it was bothering me nevertheless. I would sometimes try to break it but always went back to the habit. I said to myself: if Charlie can break a few bad habits in his life so can I. It was time for changes. Time to put all my trust in God.

At home we put a fire on and sat in front of it together after the kids went to bed. I wanted to look at our wedding pictures but just before we opened the album a thought came to me. I pointed to our pictures on the mantelpiece and I asked: “How were you able to bring her here with all those pictures around?” Did you not feel like they were looking at you?” “I didn’t, I took them off and put them away”. It was one of the saddest images of him in my mind from that time – putting our pictures away, as if you could hide reality and not look in it’s face.

I lost all desire to look at the wedding album. Instead Charlie suggested that maybe we could burn something in the fire, to symbolise the end of what happened. I knew immediately what to bring. A few weeks earlier I noticed a bookmark in a book he was reading. It was a picture of “The lover’s kiss” by Gustav Klimt. I asked him at the time where he got it and he just replied he had bought it in a bookstore. It seemed odd to me but I didn’t question it further. So I brought it down and handed it to him now.
“How did you know it was from her?” he asked. I really didn’t need to answer that.
We put it in the fire and watched it burn slowly.

The wedding album had to wait another few weeks before we both had enough courage to look at it.

The waves

The ‘waves’ were the hardest part of the aftermath of the affair. They reminded me of the labour contractions, some stronger, some weaker, each bringing an amount of pain, fear and discomfort with it. I learned to cope with them in the same way I learned to cope with contractions at birth: rather then trying to run away from them I would face and embrace them knowing they were going to pass and push me along the process. I just wasn’t sure what the end result would be in this case.

The shock of the truth had overwhelmed me, I couldn’t comprehend it’s enormity at once. I wasn’t dealing with one or two lies but with the whole mountain of it that had accumulated over the previous 15 months, more than that, years of other stuff as well, that for the moment I was putting aside as it didn’t present as much danger to me in the way the affair did. It slowly started to sink in, day by day, the various implications of what had led to what, the dates and places took on a new meaning in the light of his confessions.

In situations like these, forgiveness is not a one off thing. You have to learn to forgive each time you find out you’ve been lied to, each time a new ‘wave’ comes.

When they first started coming I feared they would never end. It would have been easier in those moments to give up and stop forgiving then face that giant each time. At times anger took over and I wanted to give in, leave and maybe start anew with someone else but there were two things I couldn’t face losing: our children and faith. Separation would most likely rock both my relationship with the kids and with God. Plus I believed deep in my heart that despite everything that had happened our marriage was worth fighting for.

The ‘waves’ were not only about what, where and when but about the little things like: did you take selfies together, did you write love notes for her like you do for me, how often did you tell her you loved her and did you mean it? Was she sitting on my chair when you brought her to our house and did you drink from the wine glasses we got for our wedding? Sometimes those small things, almost meaningless when you look at the bigger picture, were hardest to deal with. They broke my heart each time I realised they had happened and I needed wisdom in how much I wanted to know.

The first one came on Saturday night, 3 days after our D-day. It brought anger, rage and deep grief. I slapped him on the cheek for the first time in my life. It brought some relief but didn’t feel good. His was the face I loved and wanted to cherish, not hit. I did it a few more times the next morning when some of the confessions literally horrified me. I called him names too and he took it all on, didn’t even try to defend himself. I could see his deep regret and pain. He expressed it perfectly when he said “If I was to commit a suicide now I would drown myself in a slurry pit.” Seeing his pain helped me deal with mine – we were in it together.

We devised a strategy to face the ‘waves’. Each time one came our way it felt as if it was going to drown us but we stood together. I asked him a question, he answered it truthfully, then we would put that sin on the cross in prayer, together with my pain and leave it there. It worked wonders for me. I literally felt no need to go back to those hurtful thoughts. It was dealt with, maybe not forgotten but forgiven and it didn’t hurt anymore. God’s power was at work and I couldn’t deny it.

In those early days we spent hours talking, particularly in the evenings and mornings. I couldn’t sleep anyway, if I fell asleep at all I would wake up early, exhausted but unable to find sleep again. Sometimes we woke up together, before the dawn and talked, cried and prayed. Words of comfort seemed to flow from heaven, conversations changed into prayers and God’s presence was almost tangible in the room. We invited Him into everything we were doing and He was just who He had promised He would be: King of Peace, Comforter, Wonderful Counsellor. He was there where no other, human counsellor could be – 24/7, He was teaching us how to walk on those ‘waves’ and what decisions we should take. I knew that as long as our eyes were fixed on Jesus, we were going to keep walking.

In the middle of the time of the ‘waves’, when they were at their highest, He promised it would one day be a scar but not a wound and the difference is a wound hurts but a scar doesn’t.

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

I heard this song for the first time in church, about two weeks after WW. It was like someone had written it for me. I couldn’t believe how much the words spoke to me, every line described the place I found myself in then. I cried every time I heard it for many months after that and it brought a lot of healing.

Oceans

You call me out upon the waters
The great unknown where feet may fail
And there I find You in the mystery
In oceans deep
My faith will stand


And I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise
My soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine


Your grace abounds in deepest waters
Your sovereign hand
Will be my guide
Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me
You’ve never failed and You won’t start now


So I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise
My soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine


Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Savior
Oh, Jesus, you’re my God!
I will call upon Your name
Keep my eyes above the waves
My soul will rest in Your embrace
I am Yours and You are mine

The aftermath

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“If there were a Richter scale for emotional earthquakes, the discovery of an affair would register at the outermost end of the dial.” 

Shirley P. Glass “Not Just Friends”

Morning came at last, as it always does, and surprisingly the world was still turning.

Charlie sent Ana a message saying he told me everything and she should not come to work anymore. He asked me to read the message before he sent it and from then on we would always send them together. It was one of his ways of showing me he was fully committed to change.

I was making lunches automatically, glad it was another school day and someone else would be looking after the children. Before Charlie left he asked if I would like to go with him to a site of one of our projects, about 2 hours away. I said I would think about it. I could hardly look at him, I wasn’t sure if being in the car, one on one, for such a long time was a good idea. I would have jumped at an opportunity like this in the past but now it was different.

What I really needed quickly was to get some pills, anything that would help me cope with the emotional pain and exhaustion. I went straight to our friends J&D. We had known them for many years, they had been to our wedding and they were Christians too, plus D was a doctor and could prescribe something for me.

“I need help” were my first words to them that morning. I explained briefly what had happened and D burst into tears. They surrounded me with their arms and prayed for help, wisdom, peace and protection from the lies that the enemy would try to make me believe in this time. I understand now how important this last thing was – when you learn of your partner’s betrayal you tend to blame yourself, your self-worth and self-esteem go down to zero. It’s easy to make the wrong choices then and put a negative spin on an already difficult situation. They advised me to go with Charlie and I got a mild tranquilliser that helped me to survive the coming days.

The journey was tough, we were both on an emotional roller coaster veering between crying, shouting and sometimes cursing on my part. It was good nevertheless, nothing distracted us and we had a lot of time to talk. He repeated again and again how sorry he was, how much he regretted what had happened. I tried to gauge if it was genuine or if he was just sorry to be caught.

When we got to the place I couldn’t believe how quickly Charlie changed his behaviour – from being distraught to smiling and joking with other people. I saw then how he was able to put masks on, each one to suit an occasion. It pointed me to an answer of one of the questions that bothered me most: how was he able to lie for so long? How was it possible that I hadn’t noticed? He compared it to wearing different ‘hats’, having parallel lives and switching back and forth between them. It required master skills in lying and I couldn’t comprehend how I had not realised what he was doing.

My view of him, which was always high, had been destroyed, as if he died. I was presented with this new version of my husband and I didn’t know what to do with it – it wasn’t the man I married. That brought me to the next question – if we decide to stay together, will I be able to love him like I used to? It was far too early to answer it at that stage and there were many other questions that needed answers first.

On Friday evening I arranged with our pastors F&C that we would visit them to talk and pray. They were wonderful, I could feel walking into their house they had prayed to get ready, there was a lovely meal waiting for us and although I could hardly eat anything the smell of it was enough. It was an amazing evening in many ways.

I left it up to Charlie to explain our situation. He had envisioned how he was going to break down and cry while telling the story but instead he was overcome by something that he called “a spirit of defiance”. As he told the story he didn’t seem to feel any remorse. It was so strange and he seemed bewildered by it too: he looked around and said “I don’t know what is happening to me”. It’s hard to say what it really was, possibly just an emotional reaction but it showed an ugly side to him that he didn’t know existed and he was confronted by it. I believe he was under the influence of it for the duration of the affair and before.

At one stage he said he didn’t know how he really felt about Ana. It made me so mad I took my rings off and handed them to him.
“When you figure it out and you know what you want you can give them back to me, this is not a divorce. And there is something else I need to say – you said I was weak but I’m not, I’m strong in the Lord and I DO NOT want to hear it ever again.”
Saying it I felt as if it wasn’t only to Charlie but to something that was stealing my energy and strength for many years. Since then I am free from it and although I still need to break bad, old habits, the voice in my head telling me I can’t do it, is gone.
We prayed together, read some bible verses and F&C offered that if we decided we needed space from each other, Charlie could stay with them for a few nights. It was great having that support.

We were taking every day easy, no plans, just being together and talking as much as we could. Even work had to be put aside for a while. Our children were not happy about the times when we would close the door to our bedroom, talk and cry but we had no choice. We only told them we were going through a difficult time and we needed this time alone. They were very patient but sensed something was wrong and our eldest daughter often cried with us. What broke Charlie’s heart was our younger daughter’s question when he was tucking her in at bed time: how would we decide who is taking who if we split up…

Those first few days were like walking in a haze. As if something hit me hard on the head and I knew what it was but couldn’t look straight at it. I knew it happened but going into any details was too painful so I didn’t ask too many questions. Then we talked on Saturday evening and he confessed he had bought her a ring. He did it that day when I was singing ‘my song’ all day. I needed about 2 seconds to be covered in tears. Did he not know the symbolism that a ring carries? Did he really want to tie himself to this girl for all his life? How ignorant do you have to be to do it when you are married to someone else? I felt this person became part of our life, our marriage and no one had asked me for my consent! I told him he had to get it back and we would think and pray what to do with it next. Without it we couldn’t move on.

I slowly started to realise there was such a depth of those affronts to our marriage that needed to be uncovered if we ever wanted to heal. That evening ‘the waves’ started coming.

I will trust in You

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Psalm 55 (Good News Translation)

I am gripped by fear and trembling,
I am overcome with horror.
I wish I had wings, like a dove.
I would fly away and find rest.
I would fly away and make my home in the desert.
I would quickly find myself a shelter from the raging wind and the storm. (…)
If it were an enemy that mocked me,
I could endure it;
If it were an opponent boasting over me,
I could hide myself from him.
But it is you, my companion, my colleague and close friend.
We had intimate talks with each other and worshipped together in the temple. (…)
But I can call to the Lord God for help and he will save me.
Morning, noon and night my complaints and groans go up to him and he will hear my voice.
He will bring me safely back from the battles that I fight (…)
As for me I will trust in you.

Wicked Wednesday

 

I stayed home all that week. We were temporarily short of workstations and I had to wait until Ana finished her work and returned home. I was using this time to do housework and pray for our situation. I managed at last to tune my home stereo to catch Spirit Radio and it was a blessing, I could tidy and listen.

On Wednesday morning there was a talk about a vaccination for HPV virus and how it’s not 100% effective and the only way to be sure to not get it is premarital abstinence and fidelity afterwards. I was so excited they were talking about it out loud! I started to thank God for his ways which are always best for us, on so many levels and I suddenly saw a vision. I saw an arm with a big wound or a boil on it. It was full of puss and it couldn’t heal. I knew that to heal, it had to be open and the puss had to come out and only then God could start washing it off and cleansing it. I didn’t know what it meant but I prayed: “Lord, let it all come out.”

I came up with a few questions that I had to ask Charlie. He came home not too late and we went upstairs to our bedroom to talk.

The evening was quiet and peaceful, there was a lovely light outside and my favourite, autumnal colours on the trees.
We were holding each other and I said:
“Charlie, I need to ask you a few questions. The first one is: was there ever, anything inappropriate between you and another woman since we met?”
He looked at me with a pained expression on his face for a few moments and then suddenly leapt off the bed.
“Yes, yes, yes! Ana! All this time, since the first summer. I’m so sorry, what have I done?! I can’t hold it in anymore, I was so afraid recently that I was bringing something bad on our family, that something bad would happen to one of our children! Oh God, I deserve to be punished for all I have done!”
He was standing beside the window which was open. There was so much desperation in his voice and tension in all his body I was afraid he was going to do something silly, like jumping out of the window. My first words were:
“Don’t do anything stupid.”
He thanked me for saying that and knelt down on the bed before me, sobbing. He was in bits, repenting wholeheartedly, saying how he had betrayed everything that was dear to him. I heard the words but their meaning was not yet getting through to me.

Initially it was all about him. I held his hands in mine and realised that this was his moment of finally seeing himself for what he really was, seeing his actions without excuses and knowing there were consequences for what he had done and I couldn’t let this opportunity pass. For a moment he wasn’t my husband, he was just another human being whom I wanted to know Jesus. I said:
“Charlie, there is someone who took this punishment on himself and had paid it all for you. You need to bring it all to the cross, repent and accept what He has done for you. Now you know you are a sinner like everyone else and you know why you need Him”.

The gospel suddenly made sense to him. He saw he could not cope with his weak, human nature anymore, there was no way he could ever pay for what he had done. It was his rock bottom. He came to the cross, crucified his sin desperately asking for salvation and help. He did it a few more times in the days that followed but this was a defining moment.

For me, the news didn’t really sink in for a while. I was there, sitting on my bed, feeling like that cat on the road: waiting to be hit. I expected it would happen at any moment but in fact it came in stages. It was by the grace of God that He had prepared me for it during the previous two weeks.

After a while of crying he came round and said: “Do you mind if I ring my parents? We need their support now.” I knew he was right. He didn’t say on the phone what it was about, instead asking them to come over.

They came an hour later, enough for us to get the children into pyjamas. I felt terribly cold from the emotions and had a blanket wrapped around me. They must have sensed something bad had happened so I reassured them saying: “Don’t worry, nobody is sick, and no one has died.”

We sat at the table and Charlie told them what happened. He said he had been having an affair for 15 months and also struggling with pornography addiction. We talked for some time, they assured me how sorry they were for what happened, it was decided Ana would not work in the office one more day and that all his contact with her would be supervised. We prayed together at the end. I think they went home in a similar state of shock to mine.

After they left I had to decide what to do about sleeping arrangements. Did I want to sleep beside this man whom I did not recognise anymore? Did I even want him in my house? But what would I tell our children in the morning? And where would he go? He wanted to stay and sleep in our bed, he was broken, in bits. I let him stay but told him to not even try to touch me. I got out an old pyjama and put away my nice nightdresses thinking: I believed I was the only one, how silly and naive was I?

We talked and prayed in bed, swallowing tears but then he fell asleep quickly. It seemed he had shed a heavy load off his heart and now he could sleep peacefully. I knew I wouldn’t sleep at all, again.

I was just lying there in the darkness and prayed: “Holy Spirit, I need you so much now. I want to see you, please come now.” Nothing happened in that moment but I knew he heard me and his presence was very tangible over the next days, weeks and months.

After a few hours of tossing and turning I decided to go downstairs and try to sleep on the couch but it didn’t work. My heart was pounding so loud I could hear it, if I fell asleep it was only for a few minutes and then I woke up again with a feeling of panic. It was the longest night of my life. I felt scared, lonely and lost. Like a little boat on a raging see.

I will forever be grateful to our cat who came to me, snuggled in and kept me company until the morning, purring as if everything was right in the world.