beauty for ashes

To grant [consolation and joy] to those who mourn in Zion–to give them an ornament (a garland or diadem) of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, the garment [expressive] of praise instead of a heavy, burdened, and failing spirit–that they may be called oaks of righteousness [lofty, strong, and magnificent, distinguished for uprightness, justice, and right standing with God], the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified. – Isaiah 61:3 (AMP)

I have to admit – I’ve been sitting on this post.  This is one of the hardest posts I’ve written (ever) and although I considered not writing it at all, my desire to be transparent and let God do with our struggles what He will to heal us, others, and bring Himself glory won out.

So why open with the verse from Isaiah 61?  Why try to make it sound “all religious” and “holy-sounding”?  Not for the intent of making it seem that way, but on the other side of the devastating pain I’ve been dealing with, I can honestly tell you that it’s true.

The day after Christmas, my husband’s infidelity was revealed to me.

That sentence is hard to write and sucks my big toe.  I would so much prefer to deal with sexual addiction in the “solo”-aspect or in the “emotional/mental infidelity”-aspect.  But that choice was taken from me and there is no putting the lid back on Pandora’s Box.

So how did we escalate in our relationship?  As painful as it is to admit, I trusted two people who love God and have good hearts, but I trusted their wounded hearts. And when push came to shove, their woundedness won out over their desire to remain uncompromised.

Yes, I know the person with whom my husband acted out – and consider it a betrayal of the highest kind.  There is no true betrayal without depth of relationship, and we had it with this person and my husband and I were building it with each other.  The incident was a one-time-only and the mitigating circumstances were everywhere, but it doesn’t absolve either one of them of their responsibility – to God, to themselves, or to me.

What was my response?  As bizarre as it might sound to you, I’ve been able to forgive this betrayal.  The day I found out (commonly called “D-Day” in the world of infidelity-survivors), I was able to verbalize the words “I forgive you” to my husband.  And yet, I had no ability to do that exact thing – it was too much, too soon.  I said those words in faith, knowing that God would give me the ability to do it after I said it.  And He did.  It was hours later, but I was able to honestly release it and forgive my husband.  Forgiving the other person came later, but it did come.  It was harder because this person was the pursuer in the situation and (to my mind) was more responsible for the incident than my husband.

There was also a part of me that was entirely vindicated and right – but there was no joy in ‘being right’ this time.  My intuition had been flashing at me for a few months – something was “off,” but I couldn’t figure out what it was.  Something was awry, but infidelity never entered in to my head.  And as we built relationship with this person and our families grew closer, I warned my husband:  be careful.  The enemy will take you down, the other family down, destroy both ministries, and everything that we’ve been so painstaking to build.  Be careful and be on the alert.

When I found out, I was necessarily devastated.  But as my mind and intution were putting pieces to the puzzle together, I realized that I had the opportunity here to be wounded, bitter, and hurtful (yes, I’m ashamed to admit that I briefly considered having an affair just to “get even” – the idea lasted less than five minutes, but in my grief, I entertained it), or I could heed God’s call to come out of that and allow Him to work.

I chose the latter.  I knew what my ‘deal-breaker’ was before finding out about this situation.  It wasn’t infidelity.  It would have been infidelity if it was coupled with unrepentance, but my husband has been nothing *but* repentant in the process.  He ached to tell me of his failure but couldn’t find the internal courage to do it.  When it was time to tell me, though, he did.  God had the intervening time to prepare my heart and mind for all of this and what He would do with it – but He asked me to stay.

So I have stayed.

We are necessarily re-building our trust foundation – it had been growing, but obviously was shattered with this behaviour and revelation.  We’ve been working through this as a couple and with our therapist, and we’ve come up with boundaries that will not be optional, should we see this person again.  My husband apologized for his role in the situation to me and to this other person – asking forgiveness for not being strong enough to stop it.  Sadly, we’ve not heard back from this person.  While our desire is for a restored relationship and to relay the forgiveness that has already been granted, we recognize that our primary responsibility right now is to each other.  If God restores this other relationship, it will be at the right time and under His direction.  It may not happen – and although that’s not my desire, I’m okay with whatever happens.

I never wanted this.  I would have much preferred to deal with the assertion that mental infidelity through porn and sex addiction is the same as physical infidelity.  To the extent that the covenant is broken, it is.  The depth of pain is qualitatively different.  My heart aches no less now than it did before, but because the relational-aspect of betrayal is present, I’ve processed it differently.  I’ve put comments that seemed out of place in to place – I’ve put oddities that I didn’t know how to catalog in the appropriate context.  And I’ve dwelt on it much more than I have dwelt on his porn addiction and its betrayal.

More than anything, though, this incident and its aftermath have led us to a deeper place of appreciation and love for each other.  To be able to extend forgiveness that comes straight from the heart of God to my husband and to be able to actually mean it has been an incredible experience.  To understand why adultery destroys so many marriages and why Jesus said (in Matthew 19:9) that it was the one reason for divorce has been … eye-opening.  But to see what it means to us as soul-mates and ones that God has allowed to endure this type of pain and come out on the other side?  It’s been amazing.  Amazingly hard, but still in its own way, amazing.  He truly is giving us (and me specifically) “beauty for ashes.”

Crystal Lewis and Ron Kenoly did this duet “Beauty for Ashes” in 2001.  At the time, I had little appreciation for it, beyond the beauty of the Scripture it contained.  Eight years later, it has become a bit of a theme for me.  I’m here to tell you that no matter what the challenge, if I can survive this and God can make something beautiful out of this mess, He can do it in your life too.

His and his,

This entry was posted on 171721H Feb 2009 and is filed under Forgiveness, Path to Healing, Sexual Brokenness, SSA. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

  • Chosen

    Cori, my heart has broken to know the pain you plunged into…and yet, I’m encouraged to read that you’ve chosen to follow Christ’s leading into forgiveness and commitment and on into joy! He is faithful and He will be glorified in both of your lives!

  • Neko-chan

    I want so badly to say something that will help ease your pain, or refresh your heart, but I’m not that insightful. :( All I can do is grieve with you and send you all my love and prayers. I can’t pretend to know what you’re going through (the betrayal I’ve felt is nothing compared to the breaking of a covenant blessed by God) but I am so glad that you have your faith in this… I pray that God continually strengthens you and guides you, giving you double measures of wisdom, grace and joy for the sorrow you’ve suffered.
    You are always an inspiration to me, and this time is no different. Please, please know that while you may at times feel alone, you have a vast network of friends and sisters who love you and are pulling for your marriage.

  • Who Am I

    So sorry for your pain. So encouraged and inspired and admiring of the way you have handled it.

    Thanks for sharing.