He was finally coming clean. After 3 years of dating and 2 ½ years of marriage, "A" was admitting all the lies he had told me throughout our entire relationship. The dishonesty seemed to touch every part of our life together. Confessions poured out of his mouth. He went on for hours, but there was one lie which he still kept hidden. It was the one confession I had actually expected to hear – for months I had suspected that he was having an affair - but about this, he said nothing. I would have to wait another week before "A" finally confirmed my suspicions. Instead, that night, he revealed all the many other ways he had misled me and the many times I had believed him.
The 6 months before this night had been incredibly difficult in our marriage. "A's" behavior had become erratic and volatile, while my emotions became unhinged. Things had gone terribly wrong between us, and I could not figure out how to put our relationship back on track. Then, finally, in those early morning hours before dawn, for some unknown reason, he started revealing to me the stark truth of our whole relationship from beginning to end: nothing had ever been what I thought it was.
"Silently, God was inviting me to a whole new way of life."
I had to get away to clear my head. I went for a drive, and as I drove, this new reality began to set in: I realized that my whole world was changing. So many things that I had thought were true turned out to be nothing but lies. What other long-held beliefs could be completely false? As I looked into my soul, I felt like I was falling inside. I grasped around internally for anything solid that could help me regain my stability – to break my fall – but everything I reached for seemed to dissolve in my grip. I didn't know who or what I could trust anymore, least of all myself. My life was quite literally falling apart, and I felt totally helpless, lost and disoriented.
After an awful amount of time, I suddenly felt myself land with a thud on some solid surface deep within me. It was jarring to stop so abruptly, but it was also a relief to no longer be plummeting. I began to wonder what I had landed on. I felt around inside myself, and the surface seemed sturdy and sure, vast and wide. This was completely different from what I had felt before, and I had not generated this new sensation. In a flash, I knew this was not me; this was God. He was this solid ground: firm, true, unshakable. My whole reality as I knew it had crumbled in my hands, but underneath it all, God was still there in the deepest part of me. I had not put Him there or made Him up. He had taken up residence in my soul long ago and not even the disintegration of every other part of my life could change that. I had landed on the Truth. I had finally reached Reality.
As I sat in my brokenness, hurting, I was also grateful and humbled. I sensed that I had a decision to make, right there and then. If I was to go on, my whole life would have to be rebuilt on this ground, but not in the way that it had been before. I knew what my efforts had gotten me. God was going to have to take the lead now. He would have to show me what to do, and I'd need to trust him like I never had before. I had made such a mess of my life in my own power. I had so much to learn and to unlearn. Silently, God was inviting me to a whole new way of life. I spoke my answer out loud to Him, in a moment of both resignation and trust: "Okay."
Even in that moment, I knew God would be faithful to lead me. I had been raised in a Christian home and grew up in a solid, Bible-believing evangelical church. I had accepted Jesus publicly when I was twelve. I was being bullied in junior high, and through that whole season, God had been my Father, my confidante and my only true faithful friend. Growing up, I went through times when I was more and less faithful to Him, but He was always faithful to me.
"Sin is not just an action, but an issue of the heart."
I wasn't sure how I'd screwed up my life so badly. I'd been a "good girl." I'd done well in school and in my career. I read my Bible and prayed every night. I followed all the rules. I saved myself to marry a Christian man passionate about Jesus, and I thought I'd found that special guy. "A" was on fire for the Lord and he adored me. We had a group of Christian friends who approved and blessed our marriage. How could things have gone so wrong?
That moment of truth was the beginning of my deeper journey with Christ. While my evangelical upbringing had taught me the truths of the faith and how to communicate them to others, it had not encouraged me to face honestly the entrenched places of sin, unhealthiness and unbelief in my heart and soul. I thought that since I had accepted Christ, if I just followed all the rules, God would bless me and save me from experiencing any failure. I thought sin was simply behavior to be avoided, and if you couldn't avoid it, quick confession and stronger will was the way to put you back on track.
Even though I was well-versed in Scripture, I did not understand that sin is not just an action, but an issue of the heart; even if your behavior is "clean," your heart may still be dark and deluded, like the Pharisees. I was afraid of failure and did everything in my power to avoid it. I felt that I could depend on God to give me strength to be "good," but I needed to avoid weakness at all costs. I did not understand experientially that nothing can separate me from the love of God in Christ, and that failure can be simply another opportunity to recognize my need for Christ and receive His healing love .
I had been living a life filled with fantasy. I had an ideal of the kind of person I should be, and I strove to match that ideal in every arena of my life. While it is not bad to have a goal in mind and to work hard towards it, I did this by ignoring the parts of my life that did not match up to the ideal. For me, that meant I needed everyone's approval – or at least for them to like me. To do this, I had to ignore all my "negative" feelings – like sadness, guilt, anger, disappointment – and all the other ugly parts of myself. My idealized self could never fail, and I worked very hard to achieve success.
"God began to lovingly expose all the lies...that I had been telling myself."
I applied these same principles in my relationship with my ex-husband "A." I saw only his good qualities and tried to ignore anything negative in his personality. Likewise, he tried hard to show me only his "good" side. He strove to match the ideal I had for him in my eyes. The trouble with this strategy was that it could only be sustained for so long. He lived in fear that I would never accept or love the darker parts of his personality. Why would I? He saw that I didn't accept those parts of myself either. When his secrets could no longer be hidden and threatened to overwhelm him, "A" tried to sabotage our marriage so that he would not have to face my rejection of the true him. Even after he confessed to being unfaithful and I was willing to try to work out our marriage, it seems that the fear was just too great for him, and "A" filed for divorce.
The day that "A" finally revealed the truth about himself was also the day that I began to discover the truth of who I really was. It was a painful gift from God, but one I would never trade. God began to lovingly expose all the lies in my life for what they were – not just the lies my ex-husband had told me, but also the lies that I had been telling myself. I was finally ready to hear, know and accept the whole truth. I have found that no matter how painful it is the truth is always real and sturdy. The truth is where God abides, and with Him, it is a place where one can actually live an abundant life, rich in God's mercy and grace.
The journey into the truth of myself was not an easy one. Sometimes it was exhausting. Sometimes it was harrowing. But, the remarkable thing about it was that in learning the truth about myself, I began to truly know – to experience firsthand – the truth of God and His character. When I was able to be honest with myself, I could see God more clearly, His Word made more sense, and His love began to penetrate my broken heart. Before, I had felt like I had to work to be someone different than me in order to earn love. But when I did not have the strength to hold up the façade anymore, God's love and the love of His people poured into my life in ways I had never before experienced. I finally knew firsthand that God does not despise a broken and contrite heart. I could be vulnerable, messy and hurting and still be loved.
As God invited me further into the truth of myself, I saw more and more of my dark sinful self that I had long tried to ignore. At times, I was afraid that I could not continue. It was then that I began to understand how much I needed the Body of Christ to minister to me. I had long thought that to be a member of the church was to minister to others. I now understand that it is just as important to allow yourself to be ministered to. We are truly called to be Christ's hands and feet, and it is in this way that others will know that we are Christians by our love for one another.
"I want to walk with Him every day, and that means being open to the truth of myself."
The amazing thing about following God into the dark was that, over time, it turned into a journey into the light. Not only did God heal my broken heart and rebuild my life, but He also brought me into such places of true goodness and life. He led me into communities of Christians who also seek to live together in the truth. He brought me into a ministry that is perfectly suited to who I really am inside and continues to teach me what it means to depend on Him in every aspect of my life. He eventually gave me an honest mature man to be a husband to me – someone who tells the truth to me and to himself, even if it's painful, and who also is willing to say "yes" to God even when it's hard. Most importantly, God guided me into a relationship with Him that is based in honesty, not in being "good." I can come to Him in my weakness, and He accepts me and loves me. It is there in His embrace that when I am weak, I am strong.
While my life before seemed wonderful and fantastic, it wasn't real. It was a fairy tale constructed in my own head and in my own strength. My life with God now is not perfect, but it's solid and real. I truly know my God and I want to know Him even more. I want to walk with Him every day, and that means being open to the truth of myself – in all its beauty and ugliness – because only then am I open to experience the truth of God – in all His glory, graciousness and love – and how much I need Him each day.