Paul and Brenda's Testimony (Part II)
Outwardly, I said that I forgave him, but inwardly I broke into a million pieces. This revelation of unfaithfulness was more than I could cope with. As Paul was being true to his word and getting help, it really never crossed my mind that I should get some help too. Because I had forgiven him, I felt like I just needed to get on with life. I wasn't consciously aware that the pain was pushed deep down within me and would work from the inside out to destroy all that we had.
As time went by, I suffered depression to a worse degree than ever before; I hated myself and I felt incredibly worthless and hopeless. Generally, I was so full of self-hatred that I couldn't cope with daily life. I told myself that it was because I wasn't cut out to be a mother; the responsibility was just too much for me. I prayed and prayed for God to help me be a good wife and mother but the self-hatred was something I couldn't overcome and it seemed to me at the time that God was not interested in helping me.
Paul and I stumbled along like this for several years; from one crisis to another. Most of the time, it was hard for Paul to work because I wasn't coping at home. We had several goes at counseling, but we never really got close to the real problem.
First, I didn't want to even think about it, let alone discuss it, and second, I believed he should bring it up and he never did. I tried to leave Paul a number of times; each time God spoke to me so clearly about running away from my problems that I turned around and went straight home again. The cry of my heart was still for God to help me be a good wife and mother, but I failed so miserably and so consistently that I began to believe we would be better off if I weren't around.
Around this time I asked Paul to leave, but he refused. So instead, I planned my death down to the last detail but in the end, couldn't go through with it—God was working, just not the way I wanted him to! Because of all of this opposition, I felt I was left with only one option....and that was to leave Paul. I was determined to really leave this time and not come back.
At this time, we received some money that we weren't expecting, so I took it all and bought a plane ticket to Auckland to start my new life. In order to do this, I had to shut myself off from God; I told Him that, as He hadn't answered my prayers for help for so long, I was going to handle it myself. I knew that God would always tell me to go back, so I had to turn away from Him too.
It was the hardest thing I ever did, but I braced myself with a conviction that the children would be better off without me—I was such a mess: always depressed, angry, and sometimes even mildly-violent. It was not pretty, and I knew I was damaging my children.
Initially, I was convinced that all this had nothing to do with Paul, it was all my fault. I simply wasn't cut out to be a mother, and this is what I told him in my letters and in our phone calls. Soon, however, I began to experience such a deep hatred for him that it frightened me. Finally, after several months separation from my family, I told a friend what had happened all those years ago (about the unfaithfulness). This was the first time I had told anyone this secret for four years.
This was the start of the next phase in our separation: the "blame" phase. I shifted from blaming myself to blaming Paul and things got very messy. Not long after this, I got involved with someone who had previously been a friend of ours, and that complicated matters even more. I justified this relationship as not being adultery because "Paul had done it first." Thankfully this relationship fell apart before too long.
I had one or two Christian friends who really stuck by me during this process. Thank God for godly friends! One friend would periodically ask me how my relationship with God was going. One day, as I articulated to her how I could never trust Him again after He had abandoned me so badly. Then, as only He can, God suddenly touched my heart and my mind and showed me, in an instant, all the opportunities He had provided where He was right there ready and waiting to help me. I had given up on God, not the reverse.
He, then, exposed the lie I believed that it "had to be Paul" who raised the subject of unfaithfulness in our marriage. After that, He exposed the lie that "to face the issue would destroy me." He told me that several things I had asked for were not in agreement with His Word; that what I was asking, was for Him to help me cover over the problem. His plan for our healing, was to uncover the problem, not to cover it up. His plan was to help us to deal with it so we could truly forgive and grow together as a couple.
This was a turning point in my healing. Paul and I believe, very strongly, that this coincided with God very clearly telling Paul that he had to give up control and give me back to the Lord. Prior to this revelation, Paul had tried to influence me with reams and reams of information about the negative effects of divorce. Now, Paul stepped back and completely left me in God's hands. We believe that in some way, this paved the way for God to get through to me in His way.....the best way.
It took another two years for us to get to the stage of reconciliation and it wasn't easy. During these four years, Paul went to Christian counseling, faithfully every week. This is a big reason why we were able to reconcile. He discovered that he had major issues in his life left over from his own parents' divorce when he was a child. Because Paul was humble and open to let the Lord do a work in his heart, he learned a lot about himself and put an incredible amount of effort and prayer into changing his ways to reflect what God has planned for him. We also, occasionally, had counseling together, which was invaluable; showing Paul how his actions had affected me very negatively. Paul's humbleness and honesty opened the door for me to forgive him for real, this time. Before that, it was just words that I said. Now, seeing the real change in Paul and feeling like he was truly turning from his ways, allowed me to begin to trust him again.
One of the most powerful things Paul did during this time was to say, "My wife left me, but I gave her good reason." To me, this was like removing the handcuffs or shackles off of my wrists or ankles. Prior to that, Paul saw me as "the bad one" because I had left and nobody could understand why.
Through all of this, God revealed that forgiveness is not something we say, it is a process that He does in us. Sometimes that process happens in an instant and sometimes it takes awhile to happen. God showed me so clearly, that in everything we went through, there was so much I could have done differently; better, in fact.
It wasn't, and never will be, solely his or my "fault." It is so easy to become deceived when we have been hurt and don't take that pain straight to God. The deception blinds us so effectively that it can take years to break down!
In the midst of all the pain, I would often ask God "Why me?" Again and again, I would ask this, probably not really expecting an answer. One day, God answered me very gently, "Why not you?"
Thank you, Covenant Keepers, for being the light, because that is what you are. Faithfulness and commitment in the sight of adversity is essentially a dying commodity in our society. You all are a symbol of God to those around you, whether they acknowledge it or not. Staying faithful in the face of the most painful rejection, choosing not to retaliate, not to strike back as most do, choosing to forgive as God forgives us—that is light to a dark world. May God bless you and your marriage. May He restore what is broken and show you just how beautiful you really are.
Also, consider meeting others like you in 2020. We are a FAMILY. Join us for our Covenant Keepers Conference July 23-26, 2020 here in BEAUTIFUL Charlotte, NC. I promise, you will leave changed, blessed and encouraged in your marriage journey!!!! Can't wait to see you then!!!
Paul and Brenda, I really appreciate you two sharing your stories which bring thanksgivings and praise to our wonderful Lord and which also encourage all of us to continue the walk of faith. You are letting your light shine in areas of darkness to help light the way for many!!! Shalom!!!