It was about three or four weeks after catching her in the act. I had been through the typical gaslighting phase for a couple months, but there was no way she could talk herself out of this one, no matter how much my mind wanted to explain it away. I couldn’t sleep in the bed we once shared anymore- even seeing the door to the master bedroom made me see it again in my mind’s eye. My kids were home- asleep in the other room as she betrayed us in our own bedroom.
In the coming weeks and months, lots of stuff in the house made me see it again in my mind’s eye. The argument we had through most of the house as she hit and kicked me, trying to get the camera. The couch we sat on where I held her- only an hour after witnessing her betrayal and said “I can forgive you, but you have to stop. We can get through this, but both of us have to do the work to fix this. I can’t float this family alone anymore if you keep jumping overboard. I can’t keep the boys afloat if I’m saving you.”
But she didn’t. And I couldn’t.
I discovered later in the hospital that the first night she actually crossed the line physically, I was on a camping trip/retreat with my two young boys with guys from my bible study. The boys and I talked about life around the fire with other men and their kids. I loved that it was honest and never got preachy. This was the kind of church I had been looking for. I remember staying up late one night to talk to Brent, the local Radio talent who was also in the churchrock scene I grew up in. I was telling him that night about how it seemed there was a wall between us.
But now I couldn’t think about God. I couldn’t think about church. There was nothing but betrayal. Not only by her, but by Him. Not the other guy. God had betrayed me.
I was laying in the bed in the spare room on the other side of the house. Hearing my kids talking as they fell asleep made me feel comforted. But when they fell asleep, all I heard was her- lying to our family. Lying to our friends and church. Her accusations I was literally going insane for being able to imagine she’d do anything so “disgusting.” Her denial of what was really going on.
I wanted to pray. I had been so deeply committed to my faith for my whole life. I was deeply committed to my family, doing everything that was asked of me the best I could. I was exhausted from working 60-70 hour weeks because my wife was convinced we needed the extra money. I had approached her about 6 months earlier in tears saying I couldn’t do it anymore, that I needed to spend more time at home and less time working, but she was convinced we needed the money. “Just till the end of the year” she had asked, and I had committed to another 6 months of this exhaustion- for her and for our family.
But she didn’t need the money as much as the time. When I was at work she was building a wall in our marriage and in his. Between spouses, but encircling paramours.
I laid there, eyes wet with tears like they were every night. I loved her. I loved my family. I loved my commitment. I loved that I had waited my whole life and gave my wife all of me- parts of my life nobody else had ever shared. My body, my children, my home, my soul.
I wanted to pray that God would restore it. Make it new. That’s supposed to be his business. But so is goodness and faithfulness. I never slipped in my marriage, either before or after the ceremony. I was a virgin on my wedding night, and refused the advances of women at conferences, at work, and at church over the years. I did my part, He owed me protection for my faithfulness, didn’t He? I “kept the marriage bed pure” like I was supposed to, didn’t He have an obligation to protect that one thing I had been most faithful about in my whole life? Wasn’t there a reward for this? I had been led to believe there was. I had led others to believe there would be.
No. There was only betrayal. By her, and now by Him. The two people who were supposed to always be faithful and always be on my side had both betrayed me. I had talked to Him for a while about it. I begged and bargained. I pleaded and offered trades. I’d die if I could die with the two most important loves of my life faithful to me. Just let me know that I wasn’t a worthless piece of shit that wasn’t worth being faithful to. The two I was most faithful to had both betrayed me, and I was sick of the begging, bartering, and dashed hopes.
It was almost like I had split. There was a part of me that wanted to still be faithful at least to God- I had given Him nearly all of my life. I was committed. I was serving, sacrificially. I had helped hundreds of kids get closer to Him. I had been serving in college and youth ministry since I was a kid myself at 15. That part still wanted to pray. But the last few weeks it had shifted.
Now the other me was growing stronger. The one that doubted. The one that was hurt. The one that was confused and angry. The one that had been betrayed by his God and his wife. This other me had just shifted to gain the majority position.
I couldn’t hear the angry one until he spoke out loud. In my mind I remember thinking, “Just say ‘Dear God…’ and start the conversation- it will continue if you can just start it.” I thought that’s what would come out of my mouth. I wanted to pray for weeks but couldn’t make the words come out or even finish the sentences in my mind. Prayers just got caught on the ragged edges of a broken heart.
But I finally did it. I heard the words come out of my mouth. I heard my own voice, in the dark, hoarse from tears. I heard my voice pray what my heart had been feeling since that night I saw her betrayal in our marriage bed…
I waited for the proverbial thunderclap. I waited for the reverberating voice of rebuke shouting “HOW DARE YOU” from the heavens. I waited for the searing pain- the feeling of my soul on fire.
“I said FUCK YOU! How fucking dare you turn your back on me like this. I could deal with any loss, but I can’t deal with this fucking betrayal first from her- and now from You. FUCK YOU!”
The tears were flowing hot down my face. I felt my face burning with anger. It was pitch black in that room but I could tell my face was red with anger, frustration, and a sprouting hatred for both of them. Both of them who I’d give anything for, but who couldn’t even give me the benefit of not stabbing me in the back.
There was no thunder. There was no fire. There was just nothing. I never felt so alone. I had given my life for a lie. I had dedicated myself to an illusion.
But then… I heard it. It’s not an audible thing when God speaks- it’s the same voice that encourages you to take chances and be bold in pursuing your dreams. It’s the same voice that points out beauty in the darker times. That voice that says “you can pull this off” just when you’re about to give up on yourself. The voice that points out the beauty in your family member in the middle of a fight and extinguishes the anger that you’re fanning to flame.
That was all. In those two simple words I understood the entirety of it. He knew I was hurt- He was, too. Both of them hadn’t betrayed me, she had betrayed both of us. He was standing with me, not against me. He wasn’t on my side because I was faithful, he was on my side because I was hurting. His faithfulness isn’t a reward, it’s just who he is. He can’t help but be faithful to the hurting and the scared.
He couldn’t stop her from doing what she was doing. But He stood in solidarity with me and the wife her lover betrayed. He stood with my two sons, and their two daughters. He understood I was angry. He knew I felt betrayed by Him- even though He was with me all along. He understood that I couldn’t see that He had also been begging her to stop destroying two families. He was as hurt as I was. And though He could do something about it, that just wasn’t His way. I don’t understand exactly why, but I know it’s the same reason He never stopped me from doing things I knew I shouldn’t- things He knew would hurt myself or others. It’s like when a kid bullies my kid at the playground- I don’t punch a smaller, weaker bully to protect my child even though it’s in my power. Even without the fear of consequences, I still just wouldn’t overpower a weaker person with vengeance on my mind or to protect my children. He works the same way with all of us.
I understood that He wouldn’t change her actions or even her mind- but He could stand with me through it. He would whether I wanted Him to or not. He wouldn’t impose Himself on me, but He was immediately available anytime I wanted someone there. Faithful even when I was ignoring Him. Present even when I didn’t notice. Forgiving even when I was telling Him to fuck off.
He always had been there for me. He was, and is, and is to come.
Note: I don’t like to capitolize Him/His/He when speaking about God, but I wanted to be clear about when I was talking about Him (God) as opposed to him (the affair partner). I also use the masculine gender when referring to God out of habit, but doubt that God even has gender as we understand it. And if He does have gender, I suspect She has both.