The dress and veil, tuxedo and flowers, family and friends, all speak of happily ever after. But what happens when our dreams are shattered by the very one who promised to love and honor?
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!