Beauty From Ashes: An affair doesn’t have to be the end of the story.

I woke up one morning with Gods voice in my head. Not so much audible, as a pressing into my spirit.

Go now Keely.

Get in the car and drive four hours to Flagstaff.

This morning. Now. 

This was an idea that obviously came from outside of myself. I hate driving. I am loathe to drive, and the thought of packing up a two and a half year old, and a four month old baby in my Prius and making the four hour climb from Tucson to Flagstaff, up thousands of feet of mountains, in the snow, in January was not my idea of a good time, let alone even something I thought possible.

This was the sort of thought that usually terrified me. It was something that I assured myself, and God, that Keely did, could not do.

God, I can’t.

But God was moving me into new and deeper waters.

Leave your husband.

Pack your things, enough for a week, pack each child a bag and go. Stop in Phoenix for a night and go to your Sister in Flagstaff tomorrow.

Go.

And my spirit did this thing. This weird, quiet in the middle of the storm, peace from with-out thing.

Because God had just told me to leave my husband, and that caught my attention.

Not forever, not divorce, but leave. I had to leave him.

We had been arguing a lot and our arguments were growing. I was living in constant animosity with a man who treated me at best apathetically and worst with disdain. He would lock himself in the bathroom for an hour, maybe more at a time, several times a day. Who would escape us at the gym at 4 am, and not come home until after work.

A man who had completely checked out of this whole parenting deal.

A woman holds her newborn baby and toddler in her lap in the hospital The kids and I when Wee was born. “Did I have at home they asked.” As my husband slept.

He never woke with our baby, he hardly spoke to me the week we had our Wee, those first precious days in the hospital.

The nurses asked me if I would be okay at home, if I had help, as they glanced at my snoring husband on the horrible overnight couches he somehow managed to sleep on. Mortified I squeaked, “Yes.”

“Does he know that a c-section is a major surgery?” they pressed.

“He is a nurse too,” I assured them, as tears dropped.

I didn’t know where my love, and kind, and funny husband had gone, but he had seemingly disappeared. And I missed him.

He now had a silent, stoic, but bubbling in anger beneath the surface stance, permanently adopted.

Walled off from me.

His warmth was missing and his heart was stony.

He would make jokes at my expense, pick on me and tease. The terrible sort of joke where when you say you’ve been hurt, the its just a joke boulder is hurled down the wall and crushes you. Insidious cruelty from the man I loved so deeply.

Cruelty from a man, who I knew in his core was not cruel.

But shame came make us do and say terrible things.

And so we fought, about the normal things in life, because I didn’t know the real reasons he was angry. I couldn’t see beneath the surface. Pots and pans in the sink, his laundry, the kids laundry, him needing his time and his space away from me and the kids. His nursing school graduation. Me needing him. The more I pressed into him, the more he pushed back.

Our biggest fight was over oatmeal on the floor.

Because shame and guilt often look like anger and hate.

We had never raised our voices at one another, not in 7 years.

But now we did. We woke our oldest, two years old at the time, with our fighting one night. She cried and I held her. He left. I didn’t know where he went.  A mortifying moment, a blow to who I thought I was as a mother. I did not want to raise my children in a home where yelling was okay. But here we were. Yellowing over the kitchen sink.

I told myself it was the pregnancy hormones, and things would get better

But they didn’t. Things only escalated and grew, like a festering infection beneath the surface of the skin, or a cancer.

He would leave in the mornings at 4 or 5, before the sun came out, and I wouldn’t know where he went.

He carpooled and texted women at work.

Our early boundaries we had agreed upon with our Pastor, about other men and women were no where to be seen.

It’s nursing he said, my coworkers are all women. It’s fine.

And I believed him.

I didn’t know why he hated me. But I knew he did. My own husband.

But it wasn’t his hatred of me I was feeling. He hated himself.

And now, God woke me up, at 8am, and told me to leave.

And I wont ever forget that peace I felt. It wasn’t just towards me, it was towards my husband. I didn’t feel anger, or distance or animosity. I didn’t feel the Wall for the first time in a long time. I only felt our love, our history, the children we had made together.

A woman holds her baby on her lap on a slide in a park My youngest and after we left. A reminder of what we were fighting for.

God gave me a glimpse of what I would be fighting for.

Before he let the heat of the furnace in.

Before the flames overtook our marriage.

But we would not be consumed.

I packed my things, and filled the car with all of the trappings of young babies; diapers, a bouncy seat, more toys than we could ever need and a million burp clothes and blankets. Working nightshift meant my husband was sleeping after a long night at work. I quietly loaded my youngest in his little infant carseat in the living room, and sat my oldest on the couch with an episode of dinosaur train. And I woke him up to tell him.

Peace.

Peace.

I love you. I love you so much. But I’m leaving. I’m not leaving you, but I have to go away for awhile. Im going to my Mom’s and my Sister’s. I need some space to think and pray. I love you I really do, and so do the kids, but we need to leave for now. I don’t know when we will be back.

I don’t remember his words but I remember the look on his face. His massive wall crumbled and he along with it. There were tears. He helped me load our oldest and made sure we were situated and alright. He was quiet, but tears stained his cheeks. His eyes were bright red from a night of no sleep and wife who was leaving. If he didn’t understand he didn’t say.

But still peace.

And I pulled out of the Driveway,

and I never came back to that house.

What did happen was proof that God can take our messes, even the ugliest and most shameful, the blackest and darkest, the unsurvivable, relationally decrepit, pit of muck destruction, and redeem it and refine it into something wholly new and beautiful.

He can keep the flames from so much as singing your hair.

As I began my drive and got on the road, and had some distance, I heard God speak again, a check in my Spirit.

It’s pornography. He is chained by it. It’s holding him hostage. He is stuck in a cycle of shame.

This fires of the furnace burned a little hotter.

Divine revelation. I had no idea, maybe somehow I suspected, but now God was confirming it. I was sure as I drove, that was the wedge between us. He would need help, and so would I. We were both hurting but God softened my heart

There were worse things, I thought.

And there were.

The furnace grew hotter.

I began the final leg of my little journey up into the mountains.  I remember going through my CDs. Checking and double checking what I had brought, as if have all of the right things might assert me with some control.

I would pray the whole way I thought, and sing.  The temperature outside was dropping but it was gorgeous and sunny out. The kids had been happy, and, joyful, and mercifully undemanding. They were excited for their mommy only adventure, at least my oldest was, and as long as Wee could nurse he was happy too. I made sure to stop at the two Mcdonald’s on the way so they could get out and stretch and nurse. Alone. God has brought me out of my comfort zone.

But up in those mountains, in the wilderness… God beckoned again. Deep in my soul he stirred.

Keely, my child there is more.

And the fires grew hotter

And I knew. Instantly. In my bones, in my marrow, in my core.

An affair. 

And the furnace heated seven times hotter than usual

But I didn’t feel sick to my stomach like I thought I would. I didn’t need to pull over. I didn’t scream and cry. I didn’t want to go at him with golf club. I didn’t need to take revenge against his car like a country song. He was my best friend.

He used to be my best friend.

And I didn’t want to.

It wasn’t the time.

No. God was revealing to me within some sort of divine protection from this super heated furnace, that my Husband had had an affair…

…and I would be okay.

You will be okay. I have you, I have your kids… I have him… in my hands.

And I drove. I drove towards a promise now, Faster, more steady than afraid, believing that God had a plan so much bigger than the giants surrounding me and the flames licking our feet.

***

I arrived in Flagstaff safely, in the snow and cold just after dark. I had been terrified driving beside the semi trucks on the icy interstate, but God made me brave.The oldest went to bed quickly at Auntie’s while the Wee one snuggled and nursed.

I told my sister everything and she nodded. She told me there was someone I needed to talk to at her church.

And the next day I did.

And what God did in the next days was surround me with people who had walked through pornography and affairs. Miraculously. Stranger were now mentors. Everyone I seemed to meet held me in their arms and said, me too and there is life after this. And I am convinced that surrounding this group of people were God’s angels. Warriors of light.

Jesus.

Saying, “No. Not this family.”

Singing over us even as we wept.

Now my hedge of protection was divinely appointed people, standing around me, holding me.

And willing to hold my Husband too.

And it was now, now that there was safety to feel, and people to hold me, Gods hands on earth, it was now that my stomach hurt, and I choked back the bile. Now the tears came. And now I felt the full force of betrayal.

How could my best friend hurt me. How could he choose porn over our family, over and over. How could he choose it over dinners together, and mornings together.

How could he find the support he needed from the words of another woman.

And not from me.

I felt the sting of betrayal. The death of a relationship. The death of a marriage, the death of what I had thought we had.

A husband and wife kiss at their wedding in front of a stained glass window
Our wedding photo, 2006.

I missed my best friend.

And I cried out to Jesus.

I called my husband, and I told him. I knew. I knew about the porn. I knew he had an affair. I didn’t know any details but I knew and I needed him to tell me. It was his turn.

He agreed to drive up that weekend. To go to church and to talk.

And confess.

He arrived on a Saturday night. I insisted he stay with a friend and he obliged. He was thankful I agreed to see him. He told me he was here to fight for us. That he would make this right. That he would do anything.

He pleaded, and more tears fell.

A grief overtook me so deep, so cutting, so raw, it paled in comparison even to the death of my father. My most important relationship had die. My reality was crumbling around me. I was holding only ashes now. Only ashes.

On Sunday we attended church. We came separately but sat together. My sister helped me check the kids in, I could no longer think straight and would often find myself zoning off, a million miles away. I don’t know what I thought about. My mind would just disappear. Maybe it was protecting itself from thinking too much.

I cried through worship, and so did he. My sister was kind. “I’m glad you’re here,” she told him. We planned to speak with the Pastor afterwards and ask for the help we desperately needed. Help us find a way back, out of these flames.

But God had already prepared a sermon for the Pastor about David and Bethsheba, about pornography and adultery, about the 51 psalm. About the shame we choose to live in when there is forgiveness at the feet of Christ.

Have mercy on me, O God,
    according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
    blot out my transgressions.
Wash away all my iniquity
    and cleanse me from my sin.

For I know my transgressions,
    and my sin is always before me.

“I don’t know who this sermon is for.” He said. “God woke me up at 3 am and told me to write this. To throw out the other thing I had planned to teach on.”

God said to me, I am bringing someone to you who needs this. 

And my husband broke. Not in the way he had been broken before, not broken by sin and shame and porn and other women and self loathing, but broken before the Lord.

Beautifully and boldy broken.

He lifted his hand. “It’s me.”

“Come to the altar.”

He did.

I watched as my husband, before the entire body of Christ, came to his knees and admitted to adultery and pornography. He asked for forgiveness before everyone. Friends and strangers and family. He bowed and asked for Jesus to be the Lord of his life again, to lift him up out of this pit.

And we all prayed.

And it was powerful.

And it was painful.

Because his sin brought me shame too, and now everyone knew. What if it was my fault? What if they think I drove him to it, what if it’s because I wasn’t good enough.

But there was only love surrounding us, because God had brought us to this place to heal. He had prepared it in advance for us.

A way out of the furnace.

God reached down into my husband, took out his stony heart, and made him flesh again.

***

I wish I could say the rest came easy. That instant healing happened. We do so love instant things in our culture.

But no. There was no insta-fix, there was only choosing to walk through the fire together. Everyday. Choosing to hold onto the thread of our marriage as the storm battered it and raged.

There is nuclear fallout when affairs happen, in the midst of deep addiction. And there are consequences to devastating choices.

And every moment was a struggle. For both of us.

Even if it was a one time thing. Even if it was just emotional with the 2 other women.

Even if its just porn.

Even if.

As if we could somehow minimized the impact of their whole sale destruction.

And in those days I remember waking up crying out to Jesus. I would awake with his name on my lips.

My heart was shattered and the pieces all cut me when I tried to put myself back together.

I didn’t know how I fit together, I was so wholly shattered. Not anymore.

But Jesus did. The fierce lover of my soul.

And thats the devastation of an affair. The not fitting. The betraying and removing of something so deep. If we are made into one flesh, and half of that flesh betrays the other, how can we survive the tearing and ripping and piercing and rending apart? How can one half a body go on?

And I thought about Jesus. When he was betrayed with a kiss. For my sin.

My sin too.

And I thought about how deep the pain must have cut when he saw Judas approach him. When he saw him lean in.

Knowing.

Oh how the knowing hurt. It’s the knowing that hurts the most.

Judas kissed Jesus and betrayed him.

And all of those times my husband kissed me, holding his secret.

And I cried.

I mourned the loss of loyalty.

We forget Jesus was a man. That he had emotion. That he felt. And I was so sorry. So sorry my sin made room for the betrayal.
And so relieved, that Jesus, despite the knowing went to the cross anyway because his love was so fierce. It never failed. His love was jealous for me.

And I needed fierce love because right then, because then love felt feeble.

A bracelet on a wrist that says love never fails A reminder from my Husband. Our love may falter, but Jesus’ love never does.

And in those days, I lived in that promise, the promise of Jesus’ fierce and jealous love. I was his, even if I wasn’t my husbands any longer.

I belonged to Jesus.

God I can’t forgive him

I already have, hold on to me, and I can help you. My forgiveness will extend through you.

God, I can’t trust him.

But you can trust me. I am trustworthy and true. My love never fails. 

God, this hurts!

Does the clay say to the potter, ‘What are you making? Trust in me even when it hurts,

God I am in pieces.

I know, let me hold them, and one day they will make the mosaic of your testimony.

God how can I love him?

Love me, and I will fill in the gapsI have enough love for you both. 

God I am so angry

You can be angry, but do not sin in your anger. Justice is mine alone, and I will right the wrongs done against you and bring healing from it.  

Because to fully heal, a wound must be fully cleaned. The dead a necrotic tissue must be carefully carved away so that it can grow back together in a healthy way, free from infection. My marriage had to dissolve and die away, so that a new one could form. New vows, new hope and a future.

And there were gaps. But Jesus stood in them and fought with us.

A cord holding us together.

So I never went back to that house I left.

I think sometimes God protects us from the knowing. Knowing I was leaving for good, that those were my last days living in that house together would have been too much, and God is kind.

And I wonder how often do we get angry about not knowing what God is doing, instead of trusting in His plans. His ways, that are pure and good. What destruction would we heap upon ourselves if we knew everything?

He knew it would take time. In his infinite wisdom, God prepared a permanent home for us in Flagstaff with a promise.

Take this chance on him, move into this place, and I will make you a family again, and I will make this a home.

So I believed. God had led us to this city for healing, for a clean break from adulterous relationships, freedom from addiction, a fresh place to restart, and restore. We gave up our smart phones and tablets and computers and lived so simply.

And the home came, and a job came.

And when my husband would leave for work, and I would be home alone at night with two crying kids, I would hold to that promise.

And when the feelings of anger and unforgiveness would rush in, I would hold tight. I would batten myself down in his love.

God had claimed this place for us. And I was fighting for our family, in his strength.

And our house was small, and the carpet was brown and I had given up so much.

But God said this is the place where you will heal.

I would have rather had brown carpets and my husband, than a castle anyway.

And for a year we lived and wrestled and counseled, and learned how to love again. For a year we fought our Goliath, our Smaug, our Empire, our insurmountable odds.

For a year we lived in a furnace heated seven times hotter than usual.

But we were not burnt.

Because the yelling, it was done. And the animosity, it was crumbling in the light of day.

A woman smiles in candlelight at an anniversary dinner
Our 7th anniversary; our 1st post affair/addiction. One month after finding out. Proof that the Joy we have in the Lord can shine through in the darkest places.

And in it’s place was growing a new love. A committed love, a more holy love. A love without a shame, a love that says: I am naked and I am not ashamed.

We had become spiritually naked in each others eyes. And we were left with only the core of who we were, and what God said about us; that we were precious, and his children, and grafted into his family. We were masterpieces and more precious than pearls.

Even in the pit of our own sin.

It is true when God says a cord of three stranded is not quickly broken. My husband and I both broke, our cords snapped and frayed and unwound in the most terrible way.

But God.

God’s strand will never break.

A claddagh heart necklace
My Claddagh necklace, Love, Loyalty, and Friendship. Given to me as a promise of loyalty on our first anniversary after.

That was five years ago now. God has woven us a new cord, stronger than before.  He broke down the earth around us and built up a more solid foundation from it’s ashes.

We went on to have another child, a baby girl, whose name means Bittersweet. Because out of the bitterness and fallout of an affair and an ugly addiction, we recommitted ourselves to God and to each other, and experienced an intimacy we had not known before.

And a little girl, who I wasn’t supposed to be able to have, was given to us.

A father washes his newborn daughter for her first bathAnd my husband didn’t miss those days. He gave her her first bath. He washed her head in the water so gently she cooed at him. He changed every diaper. He stayed up with her in the night and in the morning so that I could sleep, he meticulously kept track of feedings and wet diapers and handed them to the nurses. He cried when he held her.

A family smiles after delivery in a hospital
A second chance.

God gave my husband back to me.

And we were given another chance.

When the shame is gone, you are free to show your true self.

And when the shame was gone, when Jesus put it to death on the cross, he freed my Husband. Not just from porn and affairs, but from the cruelty and the anger, and the self hate. The shackles of shame were gone.

And the man who was underneath, God’s handiwork emerged. Kind, courageous, empathetic and giving. Gentle.

Fruits of the spirit growing in him again.

God gave us great counselors and therapists and professionals.

He gave us hope.

And he gives me small glimpses, even now, a quiet moment at the park, reading bedtimes stories, happy mundane moments, that I know would not be possible without the miraculous hand of God, reaching down to save us.

So that now we live in an unbroken marriage, new, and unmarred by a past that sought to destroy us. Unsinged by fire

And we are proof.

A mother and father smile and kiss their baby girl together
little glimpses, of what we chose, when we chose God and each other.

Proof that God will always keep his promises, and that new life can come out of even the ugliest places.

This is not the testimony I would have chosen, these aren’t the trials I would have picked. but this is the cross I bare, and I bare it gladly, because in the weakness of our marriage, then it was made strong.

In our weakness God’s strength was perfected. In our furnace, God was ultimately glorified. So I will sing his praises for ever, I will boast so gladly;

for my redeemer has delivered us out of the fire, and given us new life together.

So Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego came out of the fire, 27 and the satraps, prefects, governors and royal advisers crowded around them. They saw that the fire had not harmed their bodies, nor was a hair of their heads singed; their robes were not scorched, and there was no smell of fire on them.

28 Then Nebuchadnezzar said, “Praise be to the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who has sent his angel and rescued his servants! They trusted in him and defied the king’s command and were willing to give up their lives rather than serve or worship any god except their own God. Daniel 3:26-28

A husband and wife kiss in a restaurant wearing sombreros and a porn kills love shirt
Five years later almost exactly, we celebrate the masterful work of our God.

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3 comments

  1. Wow Keely! What a brave thing to speak out in truth about yours and Will’s journey! This is going to bring hope to so many out there, people who have gone through this but have not completely healed and people who are currently going through this! I’m so blessed to know the both of you! Thank you for sharing your story.

  2. Wow, what a powerful story of redemption & how brave of you to share! Thank you for being courageous in your pursuit of sharing the hope that God has brought into your lives.

    • Thank you. My husband and I firmly believe our mess can be our message. As trite a saying as it is. ❤️

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