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Below is an actual interview that took place six years ago. However, I changed the woman’s name not to hide her or her husband’s identity but to protect the innocent in their lives. I hope through her testimony you find strength for your own journey.
If you happened to pass Mary on the street, you wouldn’t bother taking a second glance. She isn’t a movie star or a pop diva. Her name has never been in lights. But Mary, like so many others, is an extraordinary woman living an ordinary life full of wisdom learned only by brutal experience and sheer faith. What she has to offer enriches all those who will listen.
Married forty-seven years to one man, she is the mother of five, grandmother of nine, and great-grandmother to eight. Along with her husband, she has worked in the ministry for over twenty years. Sixty-three-years-old, she has now set her eyes on the mission field.
I recently visited Mary in her newly remodeled home to ask the formula for a long and happy marriage. She ushered me into her cozy office where we were surrounded by pictures of her children and grandchildren. I sensed a strong familial pride from the woman who now sat across from me. Settling on the overstuffed couch, I began our interview by thanking Mary for her openness.
“Thank you, Mary, for sharing your secrets to a successful marriage. Also, I would like to extend thanks to your husband for being willing and allowing you to share a little of his past. Not in pride or shame, but as a victorious testimony of God’s faithfulness. Both of your lives reveal God’s ability to do all things if we’re willing to allow Him access to the problems. So, my first question is, has it always been easy.”
Mary smiled. “No.”
“What made you want to stay with someone who had been unfaithful?”
“I believe the Lord put it in me to look at the pros and cons of walking away from my marriage. Although it was hard, I chose to stay. But, I found it even harder to forgive. In not forgiving, I kept repeating the same mistake over and over again.”
After a brief pause, as if wondering what to say next, Mary continued.
“When we choose not to forgive, we have a tendency to bring unfaithfulness into every argument. And it keeps eating away at us. When I chose not to forgive, I didn’t walk away physically, but I walked away spiritually, causing a division in my marriage.”
“And yet, no evidence of that division is seen today. Can you now say that someone can truly forgive infidelity?”
“I can’t speak for those who don’t know the Lord as their personal Savior. But, I can honestly say forgiveness was only possible with the Lord’s help. How can I not forgive when He’s forgiven me?”
“What a profound statement. Isn’t it amazing that we often forget that? How did you get beyond the pain of betrayal?”
“By walking hand in hand with Jesus, casting down the thoughts of the past, and bringing everything under the blood. I cannot tell you that I am free from the thoughts of the unfaithfulness, but I can say by looking to the Lord that I am able to walk in victory each new day.”
“Do the thoughts of the past include physical reminders?”
“Yes. There’s a child.”
“Would you say it’s harder to forget the past when there is a child involved?”
“I don’t think so. I have accepted her. Through the years, we have developed a relationship. I know that she loves me and I love her. I am thankful for her marriage. She too had a rough beginning and her husband has been there for her. I am thankful for that.”
“I am so glad to hear that. Can one love their mate as they did before infidelity?”
“First, let me say, both of us were young and I can say I didn’t know how to love. Add not knowing how to love to two people who don’t talk their problems out and they will eventually drift apart. When they do, someone will be there to make a spouse think it’s okay to break the marriage vows. But it doesn’t have to end there. I love my husband more today than I did the first twenty-two years of our marriage. When we gave our lives to the Lord twenty-six years ago, God drew us closer together because we chose to forgive each other.”
“What would you say to someone who is going through this situation as we speak?”
“I’d ask them if they loved their spouse. If they said yes, then I would ask is that love strong enough to forgive and not bring up the past? If they couldn’t answer, I would tell them how the Lord was my lifeline to forgiveness. How He taught me that what He has cleansed isn’t unclean, but forgiven. I believe forgiveness through God’s love can bury the past and cover it over so deeply that it can’t be revived.”
“What would be your advice to young people contemplating marriage?”
“Your love for each other is going to be tried. When it looks like you don’t know where the next penny is coming from do all you can to hold to each other. Hold through sickness and health, the loss of a baby, and infertility. Look to the Lord and He will make a way when it seems there is no way. Trust in the Lord always. He will never lead you wrong.”
It has been six years since talking with Mary. I am happy to report she and her husband are still happily married and working for the Lord. To God be the glory!
Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled; Hebrews 12:15 KJV
Kudzu is an invasive vine that grows sixty to a hundred feet in each growing season. Introduced as an ornamental vine, it was planted by farmers and conservationist for forage and soil conservation on about a half a million acres. However, it soon became known as the “vine that ate the South” because of the ability to cover everything in its path. Finally, people began to curse its existence after they began losing farm and timber to its prolific tendrils. No longer an “acceptable cover crop” Kudzu was demoted to “weed status” by the Department of Agriculture. (New Georgia Encyclopedia)
While writing last week’s post, Delays-Disappointments-Detours, the thought occurred to me that if anyone had a reason to become bitter in their journey, it was Joshua and Caleb. I thought about the years spent as slaves in Egypt, the deliverance, the espionage assignment, and the faith-filled report. They never wavered in God’s ability to keep His promise. But for all their belief, and their obedience they were sentenced to forty years in the wilderness with the rest of the disobedient and unbelieving. Forty years!
Can you imagine? To be so close to the promise, only to have it snatched from your hands must have twisted their insides, if only for a moment. Bitterness could have taken root and flourished.
What’s the harm in a little bitterness when falsely accused, mistreated, abused, or misunderstood? When others succeed, it seems, without years of rejection. When we are overlooked for a promotion or raise in salary. Surely, we are justified in our disappointments. So what is wrong with a little bitterness?
Like Kudzu, bitterness doesn’t stay in one place. It creeps around, shading out the sunshine, attaching itself to everything it touches, eventually killing all in its path. The problem, is we don’t see its destructiveness until it’s too late. What starts out as a justified seed of hurt, sprinkled with unforgiveness, soon becomes a raging nuisance. We soon feel its effect as every fruit of the Spirit begins to wither, replaced by darkness and decay. We may hide it in our actions, but not in our tone. Our words become caustic, seeds of destruction spread abroad wherever we trod.
So, how can we keep bitterness from taking root? My experience is thankfulness. Being thankful for the present experience is a sure-fire herbicide of bitter roots!
Not looking forward or backward. But in the here and now. Last week I stated, “Dig a well and claim the ground.” To me that statement means to be thankful, and happy, for where God has planted me for the current season.
I could look backward and say, “Well if only…” Or I could look forward and say, “When I get…”
With no other choice but the circuitous route, Joshua and Caleb were in the position to train the young for the Promised Land. Chosen to serve and to teach. What else matters, but to do the will of the Lord?
Lord, help me to stay thankful in all things. Help me to remember You alone know what is best. My life is in Your hands whether I place it there or not. Help me to surrender all to You. Help me to savor the present, thankful for the journey You have chosen for me. And help me to accomplish the purpose for which I am here for. With thanksgiving, I pray, in the name of Your precious Son, Jesus. Amen.
To read more about Kudzu visit:
Wikipedia Kudzu in the South
New Georgia Encyclopedia Kudzu