Hope didn’t exist in a vacuum over those months. As well as holding on to hope there was a lot of very hard work. It wasn’t a case of sitting back waiting for God to mend everything (or not). I knew that I could do certain things which would allow the possibility of restoration. I didn’t really believe that restoration would take place but I was prepared, for the sake of many years together and our children, to do all that I could to give our marriage the best chance of recovery. All of that work was an act of will, as my feelings would have taken me in the opposite direction. I wanted to do what God wanted me to do, and I knew that being in the marriage and being open to change was what was being asked of me at that time. In saying that, I also want to address a particular difficulty that I had with myself and that you might have when reading this or talking to someone in a similar situation.
I had done wrong. Morally, biblically. I had been unfaithful to the person I’d committed myself to for life. I have never pretended otherwise or that what I did was a justifiable or a right thing to do. Maybe in other people’s heads that behaviour was incompatible with saying that I really loved Jesus and wanted to listen for God’s leading in the aftermath. In December in the middle of the trip during which I’d told my husband I didn’t love him and I did love someone else, a friend asked me how my spiritual life was. He looked a bit surprised when I said that actually I was engaged in a very close relationship with God. But that’s the thing. God does not abandon us when we stuff up. He is still there and He is still the same. It is we who pull away from Him, and not the other way around. It’s taken me to experience this for myself to really believe that we cannot make judgements about individual’s relationships with God because of their behaviours. If a parent has a son or daughter who behaves badly or breaks convention or makes different choices the parent doesn’t automatically stop having a good relationship with them. In most cases if the wayward child still wants to relate to the parents the parents are thrilled to accept the relationship in all its mess and individuality. I think that’s how God feels about me. Anyway, back to the story.
As well as marriage counselling together I also saw a counsellor by myself. After a session with her on 3rd March, I listed in my journal some of the things we’d discussed .
A kind of ‘statements of truth for me to hold on to’.
1) I’m doing the right thing in honestly addressing problems.
2) Couple’s counselling is the place to explore the most difficult emotions – the anger, hurt and anxiety. They need a safe space to be examined. Do it.
3) All other emotions are so strong they will mask love it it’s still there, so don’t feel despair about the fact that it seems absent .
4) I will not do the right thing for myself if I don’t stick with this very painful process.
5) Don’t keep wrestling with whether what happened with the other was ‘real’. It was. End of.
6) Be kind to myself – don’t make judgements about my emotional responses. They are what they are.
7) Imagine the process as a walk along a corridor. Keep walking and don’t be tempted to escape through the fire exits.
From that day onwards, the ‘don’t take the fire exit’ line was my mantra. I didn’t know what was at the end of the corridor but I knew that I had to keep walking until I reached the place I was supposed to be.
And the verse printed at the bottom of the page where I wrote this list?
“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has concevied what God has prepared for those who love him.” 1 Corinthians 2 v 9
Lights in the darkness