“It was a Wednesday. Wednesday was the day he said ‘No’ to our family and ‘Yes’ to his ‘freedom.’ Just the night prior I was prostrate on the floor, crying out to God, ‘How could he love … him?!’ (So many questions) …him…?
That ‘love,’ I thought, was mine; and how dare he. I could forgive everything, but those precious words were mine and no one else’s. In the two hours that I lay broken in my living room, God in Heaven washed wisdom over me that released me from bitterness.
‘What is love?’ I asked God…”
I penned these words in July of 2012.
We’d been married 16 years, established a home, were raising two magnificent kids, had a strong ministry partnership, and it all came to a screaming halt in two sentences.
“I’m leaving you,” he said.
In that order, which, to this day, still irritates my spirit.
Why couldn’t he confess his gayness first? Then the abandonment would be the result of the first issue. But, as has been my reality in the valleys of life, I never get the luxury.
More than a decade has passed since “I’m leaving you; I’m gay,” and the scars run deep.
I think we often ask ourselves, “How would I act if ‘such and such’ happened to me? Would I run? Hide? Curse God? Fight?”
When the shards of this broken world come for you, and so much of yourself is stripped away, there is no façade strong enough to withstand its razor-sharp edges, and it exposes the truest truths of our identity. At least, that’s how it played out for me.
In the days when nothing else in the world could capture my attention, and all that consumed me was this moment in space and time, there was nothing I could do but let my natural reaction pour forth through the gaping flesh-wounds of my personhood. In those hours, days, and weeks that followed, I learned a few things about myself that I would never have recognized if not for this uniquely painful moment.
I had been living in the sin of idolatry.
It’s right there—plain as day in the Ten Commandments. “You shall have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:3). It was subtle. By all appearances I was the picture of holiness. I worked at church, for goodness’ sake! My life’s calling had been to full-time vocational service to the Gospel and the local church. I lived in such a way as to exhibit full devotion to God. I didn’t use bad language; we tithed faithfully; I took my kids to all of the happenings at church and forsook sports and gymnastics to ensure we wouldn’t be pulled away. I wasn’t perfect, but people could see I was trying. And yet….
…And yet my entire existence (past, present, and future) was wrapped up in that human man; the one who promised to love me forever. He and I were building our own little kingdom, striving for a perfect life of blissful coexistence.
He was my security, my idol. The portrayal of our secure marriage was an extension of that idol; and that idol faltered. My seemingly firm foundation was now liquified. My identity? Shattered. My future? A barren wasteland with nothing but heartache and hardship for as far as the mind’s eye could see…or so I thought.
“I’m sorry, Lord. Forgive me.”
“He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure” (Psalm 40:2).
My capacity for forgiveness was surprisingly deep-rooted.
With the proclamation of his newly declared identity came a tsunami of information. Confessions. A lifetime of sins committed against me (and God) for the entire run of our marriage, with the worst and most painful instances of adultery happening just hours prior…in my own house… Far too many revelations for one person to endure in one sitting. But once he said those two words that he’d been holding on to for a lifetime, the dam burst, and I stood there taking the full force of his wave…alone.
Forgiveness was almost too easy.
If years before, someone were to ask me how I would react in the face of infidelity, I’d have joked about all the creative ways in which I would lash out on all parties involved. I am a Latin woman, after all. It would have been dramatic, for effect, and I would’ve guessed it to be only partly true.
Turns out, none of it would end up being true. When the rubber met the road, I forgave.
It’s difficult to articulate how a heart of forgiveness “is” in action. How does someone put into words the lack of bitterness? The willingness to keep going? The desire to help in the face of such heinous offenses? I think the word for “forgiveness in action” is “love.”
Don’t get me wrong, I still reacted poorly to him at several turns. Sinfully. Shamefully. I was far from “holy and perfect” in the weeks that followed, but deep down, I knew I had forgiven him.
Ultimately, the reality or result of my forgiveness wasn’t for his benefit. By forgiving him, I saw my own desperate need for forgiveness.
“For this reason, I say to you, her sins, which are many, have been forgiven, for she loved much; but the one who is forgiven little, loves little” (Luke 7:47 – Author’s emphasis on “which are many”).
I was called to live this in the light.
I was a very high-profile staff person at a relatively large church at the time that this all went down. There was no chance we could live this out in private. A letter had to be written and read (and reread) to our church family in all the different services that following Sunday. The disgrace and fraud spilled out for every person to witness and digest. These people had known me since I was six years old. They were in the crowd at my wedding; a wedding that took place in the same building where the letter was being read. These were my kids’ AWANA leaders, my former Sunday School teachers, closest family, and more. Immediately, an entire congregation was readying themselves to deploy in support, without yet knowing what support would look like.
There would be no escaping their love.
Why would I hide anything from this point forward? The ugliest, most humiliating parts of my life were tossed out into the daylight. I chose to live this journey in the light, and 2 important results came of it:
1. I learned that far too many were secretly living with a similar life experience. Because I lived it openly, people shared how they were able to step away from the shame for the first time and move toward healing in freedom with me.
“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9).
2. I thrived under the accountability of my people. If you were to ask my kids, they would tell you that they would have preferred to handle things a little more discreetly, but that was never going to be our lot. I went the other way and blogged through it all. The good, the bad, and the ugly were out there. I don’t recommend this unless you have the mettle for it.
For me, I needed the constant prayers of as many people as possible to endure the sometimes minute-by-minute torture, and I needed to have the accountability of those who knew me and loved me the most. If I was going to honestly live this in the light, then I was going to benefit from holy guidance at every turn.
“But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, His Son, cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7).
Repenting from idolatry, moving forward with forgiveness, and living my story out for all the world to see, was driving toward a two-pronged end—my good and God’s glory.
Isaiah 61 says, “The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion— to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.”
My good and God’s glory is a much more palatable notion now that I can see things with a 10-year, rear-view lens. In the throes, I was just grasping for whatever was closest to survive.
One of the many questions I am often asked is, “If you could go back, would you do it again?” The answer, of course, is yes. I would obviously walk that road ten thousand times over just so I can have my kids. Period. Fortunately, God in Heaven is way better at the whole redemption thing than I am. If I could go back and not have a gay husband, I don’t think I would have ever gotten to the place where I care more deeply for God’s glory than my personal pursuit of happiness. And I don’t want to go back to being that idolater ever again.
To God be the Glory.