I’ve had a couple of gals email me recently asking about a particular part of the process that they are really struggling with. It’s something that I know many of you can relate to. It’s summed up in these questions – how will I ever move past the pain? How can I look at him, touch him – without thinking of her or without thinking of what he has done? Will I ever be able to look at him and not think about the pain and the hurt?
After Jason shared his ugly truth with me – my new reality set in slowly. There was the usual shock and denial that helped me absorb the weight of his actions. Anger was soon to follow with bouts of further shock and denial; as well as hopelessness and depression. It wasn’t long before I realized – I was in the thick of grieving.
As I continued to grieve – the pain never quite seemed to leave me. It was always just one trigger or one thought away.
I was able to busy myself with my career or with socializing with friends. But it was always there. Like a heavy bag around my shoulder with contents I couldn’t seem to unload.
And it would meet me at the most unexpected of times. I might be talking with a friend and boom – something would remind me of Jason’s infidelity. Or I might be minding my own business driving down the street and bam – out of nowhere, it would hit me like a ton of bricks.
These crude reminders that yes – this is my life. My husband was unfaithful and now I am broken – possibly beyond repair. As one woman this week said – she is haunted by what he has done.
I wondered during those times – would the weight – the heavy bag I was carrying – ever go away? Could I ever live a normal life again? Free from the constant reminders, the constant pain, the weight of it all?
Below are three things that helped me move forward through the weight, through the constant reminders, through the thoughts that held me down –
Three things I needed in order to move forward
The first thing that I needed was validation. Keeping the thoughts and the feelings bottled up inside did me little to no good. It wasn’t long before I couldn’t handle it anymore and I needed to get it out. Sharing with Jason was potentially most helpful. Receiving validation from the one that has wronged us can really do wonders but Jason wasn’t always in a place to do this. If Jason was in a place of humility and was willing to listen to my pain – then sharing my pain with him was fruitful. But there were times when I had to rely on a group of women that God had placed in my life.
When it came to my go-to girls – early on, I didn’t need someone to fix me. I didn’t need someone to tell me what to change. I just needed someone to sit in the pain with me. To be empathetic and to hear the depths of the pain that I was experiencing.
Born out of the validation and empathy I received from others – I was able to validate myself. And this, my friends, was huge. To not minimize or shame myself but rather to say – yes, this pain is unbearable. This weight is too much to carry. The hurt is real and these women I trust say it’s brutal, too.
Girls – I had to get really really good at stopping my brain from being on the hamster wheel. This. Well… it was a process.
I had to work HARD to set down the bag of hurt and pain and walk into an exercise class and just tell myself – I’m leaving this at the door and it will be here when I come back out. I can pick it up then.
I’d be driving around in my car in those early years (I worked out of my car) and I’d have to say out loud – “BRAIN STOP. Just stop. I’m going to take a break. I’m not going to think about this right now.”
I’d focus my mind on memorizing Bible verses in my car (my mom would be so proud if she knew this!) or immersing myself into a good book – just to get a break from the constant that was in my head and heart.
If I were to stay married to Jason – he had to allow God to transform him. God transforming my husband = the weight in the bag became lighter. Jason not doing the hard work God needed him to do = I’m carrying the bag. And while Jason couldn’t fully ever take away my pain – he could work toward cultivating character traits that would help me drop the bag and run back to him.
And when I say change – I’m not just talking about living with integrity. I’m talking about the deeper heart change that had to take place. Trading the pride for humility, switching out hopelessness and resignation for determination and leading the way, exchanging a posture of unforgiveableness to one of being forgiveable.
In effect – what Jason was able to do was to pick up my bag of pain and give me the respite I needed to keep going. When he was humble and I came to him with my hurt – he was in effect saying – I see you, I hear you and what you are going through isn’t okay. I should have never put you here in the first place. And I’ll sit with you in this for as long as it takes and help your heart heal.
This transformation didn’t happen overnight. There was a lot of waiting and watching on my part, not knowing what the future might hold – would the marriage be restored? Or would I heal on my own?
I’ve heard it said – “What God does in us while we wait is as important as what we are waiting for.” (John Ortberg)
It was through the wait that I learned to lean on God and trust Him before anything else. It was through the wait that I learned what it looks like to surrender my life to Him. It was through the wait that God started a good work in me, cultivating character and strength, hope and love; and born out of the suffering – immense joy.
xo – Shelley