It would make good sense for me to begin a book on navigating life post-divorce with the story of my ex-husband’s infidelity. That’s where divorce began for me.
But how could I possibly write such a book without first telling you that I, myself have been the “other woman” – twice? I must begin this way because you need to know something:
- I am, by nature, absolutely sinful.
- I am, by God’s amazing grace, absolutely forgiven.
- No matter where you are on either side of sin (wrong-doer or the one wronged), forgiveness is absolutely possible.
So let me back up and set the scene.
In July 2011, I had just broken off a long-distance relationship with a man who I found out was married. That was the first time I had been the “other woman.” I honestly had no clue on that one. None. It broke my heart, but this is not the story I am writing about today.
In Fall 2011, I started my second year in graduate school. I was raising 3 kids, ages 4, 11, and 15 as a single parent. I was teaching two undergraduate courses at the university and taking 3 graduate courses at the same university. I was also taking an intensive course outside the university on prayer ministry. That’s a full load all the way across the board.
It was at the prayer ministry course where I began talking to a guy in the class. We became friends. He said he was separated from his wife. This is where I should have exited. Quickly. But I did not.
I’m going to call something out here for those who are trying to justify a relationship (as I was back then):
Separated is still married.
We began talking outside of class via text. A lot. Then it came out in the class that he was actually not separated, he was married and having marital problems.
This, my friends, is where I definitely should have exited. Once again – I did not.
We met outside of class once. Still just talking, but it was definitely inappropriate. When my phone began blowing up with him sending me vulgar content that I will not share here, I needed to stop it. Immediately.
So I stopped it. I called the leader of the group and talked to him about it. I was sure that everything would stop and I could ask God for forgiveness and just move on with my life.
Not so much. The leader of the group called this guy and then he told his wife because he was afraid she would find out. That night I unexpectedly found myself on the wrong end of a tagged social media comment that the wife posted calling out my sin for all the world.
And folks…hear me… That’s one of the best things that has ever happened to me.
I was mortified. Humiliated. What are some other words synonymous with publicly shamed? Whatever they are – they described me right then.
I remember I had pneumonia that day. My major paper was not accepted by the chair of the department. I was kicked out of the ministry class. My life became a heap of smoldering rubbish all around me.
Later that week I was wrongfully accused of making passes at two more men in my circle of friends. Though those were totally untrue, I can see where other people would look at me based on my actions in one situation and think the worst of me.
Over the course of the two-week emotional affair, I had lied to some of the people I loved dearly in the process of trying to hide my sin, and I had to try to fix those relationships. I still wonder as I’m writing this 7 years later if those relationships will ever be the same. My heart is afraid they won’t. I had completely ruined my reputation in those circles. But worst of all was – I had broken a wife’s heart. And I knew how that felt because it had happened to me. I just couldn’t believe that I was on the other side of this looking in.
Faithful in Prayer
I spent the next year in counseling and prayer with a dear friend. Friend, you know who you are – God used you to completely turn my life around. I am forever grateful.
I began praying for the woman I had hurt. My heart became tormented because I knew just what she was going through. I knew what I had done to her heart and I started asking those who knew the situation: How is she? How can I pray? Is there anything I can do? I just kept hearing how her heart was broken. How hurt she was. How she’s now raising kids alone. And I just couldn’t take it. I couldn’t forgive myself. There was no way.
I began praying Psalm 51. If you’re where I was, may I suggest you begin there?
So my prayer also became, “Lord, please let me be useful in her healing. Somehow. Please?”
That’s when I began to learn about something called restitution. It’s a term I’d read in the Old Testament in my Bible long ago. You know – in the rules section about cattle and horses and property. Hidden in there are some great lessons on forgiveness. I picked out an example that seems relevant enough since I was effectively grazing in someone else’s field.
If anyone grazes their livestock in a field or vineyard and lets them stray and they graze in someone else’s field, the offender must make restitution from the best of their own field or vineyard. ~Exodus 22:5
Restitution means restoring what is lost or stolen to its owner.
Lord, how do I restore her heart?
Then one day over a year later, I got an email saying this woman wanted to exchange contact info with me. When we got on the phone we talked for four hours straight. We cried and laughed and prayed.
I told her that she was amazing and lovable and that she did not deserve to be treated the way she had been treated. I told her everything that I wished someone would have told me back when I was on her side of things.
And something amazing happened: when she chose to forgive me, both of our hearts began to heal.
As for restitution, I had some information that was useful in her divorce proceedings, so I gave a testimony during her divorce deposition. It was one of the hardest, scariest moments to literally sit in front of lawyers and recording devices and talk about all of the wrongs I’d done and be called all kinds of nasty things.
It did not heal her marriage or her heart, but it began the process of restoring her life back to her so that she could move on.
To this day – seven years later – we are friends. In fact, I messaged her just before writing and asked if I had her permission to write our story. She said, “Of course you have my permission.”
Here are 3 quick points I want to make about forgiveness:
- This is my story, meant to let you know that forgiveness can be accomplished.
- Forgiveness does NOT always mean you become friends in the end or that a relationship has to continue. I’ve had to forgive and let go of people lately, but that’s for a different blog.
- If it is in your power to make restitution and it won’t cause further damage to someone, you should do it even if it’s scary – it will absolutely change your life – and theirs.
If you struggle with forgiveness, please message me privately and we can discuss, but I’m going to recommend that you also find a good pastor or counselor to talk to. And I’m going to point you to the author and perfector of forgiveness – my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. He decided that he loved me so much that he died for the sins I’ve written about here. I don’t have a clue why someone would love me this much, but he died a horrifying death to prove his love for me – of all people.
So – yes, I’ll point you to him. Because no one else ever died for me.
And I am forever changed.
Romans 5:8 But God proves his own love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us!