There we stood.
At the end of that long aisle.
Dad turned to me, “Honey, do you have any reservations? If so, we stop right here. I’ll support you. Just tell me the truth.”
Immediately, tears flooded my eyes. This was so my Dad—his tender heart and concern for me outweighed what everyone might think if I called the wedding off right now.
“Thank you, Daddy,” I choked out. “But I have no reservations!”
“Then, let’s go!” he grinned.
Standing before my groom, I dreamed of our picture-perfect marriage, even an honest marriage.
How could it be otherwise? We both had strong, stable marriage examples in our parents. Plus, we loved Jesus and believed He would get us through anything.
We pledged our lives to each other in front of a packed room reciting chosen vows that stood the test of time.
Years later, those vows haunted me.
Isn’t it interesting how words come back to us when we least expect it? I made those vows wholeheartedly. At the time, and in my naivete, I meant every word.
At least I thought I did.
But when we faced addiction, depression, and betrayal of those vows, my husband and I came face-to-face with the meaning behind those words.
We had hit the “worse” in “for better, for worse” because we hadn’t been honest in our marriage.
During my struggle to make sense of the pain, God asked me a couple of point-blank questions:
- Are you a liar?
- Am I big enough to get you through this and heal your marriage?
Big enough? I don’t know! God, my Christian husband just confessed an addiction to pornography!
While I tried to justify my reasons why I was the wounded party and had a right to leave my marriage, God’s questions wouldn’t disappear. My sense of justice reared its ugly head and demanded that my husband feel the pain I felt. I believed I deserved payment from him for this pain. Although, what amount would have been sufficient?
As I continued to throw my tantrum, God quietly spoke to my heart, urging me to stop long enough to listen.
Reluctantly, I did. And that’s when He reminded me of those vows spoken many years before wrapped up in hopes and dreams.
From this day forward
There was a starting point, but no caveat. As much as I hurt, I didn’t promise to stay married as long as I was happy or felt in love. I’d promised to stick it out from this day until forever.
For better, for worse
Quietly and gently, the Father brought memories of all the good, the “better” we’d lived. Beautiful, sweet memories I couldn’t, no, didn’t want to forget. All of the kind, tender, funny, kindhearted things my husband did for our kids and me.
I’d always felt incredibly blessed by my husband—up until this point. Once again, God asked me if I meant what I said.
For richer, for poorer
My husband was a good provider. He’d always been one who worked hard to take care of our family and me.
In sickness and in health
Well, on this one, I had to admit that my husband got the raw end of the deal. For our entire marriage, I’d struggled with various illnesses. Throughout it all, my husband gently, lovingly cared for me despite the strain this put on our budget and relationship.
Of course, he’d been sick as well. We all like to chuckle about men being babies when they are sick, but he’d been tested by this vow much more than I. As I looked back and reflected on my husband’s tenderness and patience, I cringed from God’s piercing gaze. I desperately wanted to hide, but His surgically-precise knife operated on my pride and arrogance.
“Ah, gotcha!” I thought.
And I heard a quiet, “Really?”
My pride and arrogance wilted slightly.
My mind recalled the romance books I read that had just enough sexual language to stimulate me. “That response is supposed to be toward your husband only,” He quietly reminded me. “What about your dreams of another, who isn’t your husband, finding you attractive?”
Had I kept my mind pure toward my husband? No, I hadn’t. God very clearly says that if I entertain lustful thoughts, I’ve committed adultery. I shrank back as another portion of my pride and arrogance crumbled.
Until death do us part
Though I felt enough pain I wanted to die, I was alive. As I continued my argument with God, He gently reminded me that if I had grounds to leave this marriage, so did my husband. I hadn’t been pure in my thoughts or actions either.
In the presence of God, I make this vow
The questions continued as the Father reminded me, “You didn’t just say it to your husband. You said it to Me. Let me rephrase it this way:
Am I big enough to overcome this hurt, this betrayal, this obstacle?
Am I strong enough to restore your marriage?
Or are you going to quit?”
excerpted from Choosing a Way Out: When the Bottom Isn’t the Bottom
Surprisingly, my vow had nothing to do with my husband.
It was my vow.
Was I going to keep my word or walk away?
I had other friends in the same situation who had walked away. They were the “wounded party.” I get it. They had been wronged. So had I, right? Yet, the question remained, waiting for my answer.
For the first time since my husband revealed his pornography addiction, I had to confront more than my hurt and anger. Was I honest in my marriage?
As I wrestled with God over my vow, I acknowledged that He forgave me completely of all rebellion and sin. In God’s eyes, sin is sin. There isn’t a hierarchy. Therefore, could I stand before Him one day and tell Him this was too much to forgive? Was I that arrogant?
My marriage was broken and hurting because both my husband and I sinned. We both broke our vows. We didn’t protect our marriage.
Either God is who He says He is, or He isn’t.
Rocked by the pain, I dug into the Bible. I read the Psalms, the Gospel of John, Romans, Acts, and Ephesians. In the process, I discovered the immense love God has for me. For you. I saw Jesus forgive all manner of sin. He boldly called every person to follow Him and learn from Him.
As I journaled my struggles, crying out to God to heal my wounded heart, He answered me.
I learned to hear His voice. Eventually, my journaling became more than a daily accounting of events. Slowly, I peeled away the pretense and wrote what I felt without filtering my thoughts or words. The more authentic I became, the more peace I felt. I began to hear the Holy Spirit speak to me, to reassure me of His love, His delight in me (a miracle!), and His desire for deep relationship with me. I realized that God had been waiting for me to run to Him all along.
God was at the end of that long aisle with Dad and me, also saying, “Are you 100% in? If not, turn back now before you make a lifelong commitment.”
The closer I draw to Jesus, the healthier I become.
Then, the more I mature, my relationship with my husband deepens. As our relationship grows, our marriage strengthens.
That statement isn’t theory or some puny excuse to cover up an unwillingness to confront pain.
Through the fire of healing, I’ve learned a few things about who I am and what is necessary to recover from my husband’s pornography addiction. (Yes, we are both in recovery from this addiction and learning to be honest in our marriage.)
Because God created me, I have intrinsic value. It doesn’t matter what anyone thinks about me. God delights in me because He loved me before the foundation of the world.
Jesus died on the cross to pay the penalty for my sin before I even knew to ask. Everything I’ve ever done in the past, ever do in the present, or will do in the future is forgiven. There is no sin not covered by Jesus’ death and shed blood. He paid the ultimate price to give me the opportunity to accept His free gift of salvation.
The ultimate freedom is found in Jesus alone. Searching after money, sex, love, power, health, beauty, fame, possessions, abilities, or anything else will not free me. Seeking those things instead of Jesus will shackle me. They will weigh me down. Only Jesus sets me free to be who I am as he invites me to pursue Him daily.
When I surrendered my pride and arrogance to Jesus, He met me there. It wasn’t pretty or even authentic. At first, I grudgingly submitted to His way instead of seeking revenge. But, with each decision to forgive my husband for the hurt, I overcame pain, which set me free.
This lesson is the most important one. We cannot plumb the depth of God’s unconditional love. As my pastor, Brady Boyd, says, “Because of God’s love and forgiveness, we swim in oceans of grace.” If God allows me this much grace, who am I to deny love and forgiveness from anyone, let alone the man I promised to share life with? How can I, the recipient of God’s unconditional, limitless love, hold a grudge? To be authentic, I can’t.
Though the pain is real, the freedom that comes through forgiveness sets me free.
Honestly, early in my marriage, I was a liar. But, through God’s miraculous grace, love, and forgiveness, I’ve learned a better way. Now I desire truth in all areas of my life, and I’m willing to do the inner self-work to achieve authenticity.
The answer to God’s questions is a resounding YES!
God is big enough because He is who He says He is. I’m eternally grateful.
How honest are you in your marriage? Where are you on your healing journey?
Do you need someone to walk the path with you? Someone to listen and not judge? An outstretched hand to steady you on this bumpy journey. I’ve been where you are. You can find the ultimate freedom. I’d love to show you how.