The mystery of forgiveness

The mystery of forgiveness.

I’m not talking about the easy kind, the kind where someone accidentally bumps into you, or spills something on your new shirt. Not the kind for when you’re uninvited, or when something someone said hurt your feelings a bit. Not even the kind where someone utterly breaks your heart into a million shattered pieces, but shows such remorse and such a changed heart that it almost makes it impossible not to forgive them. No, those are not the instances of forgiveness I’m talking about today.

It’s the digging deep, soul searching, impossible feeling, someone took something precious from you or destroyed your life as you know it kind of forgiveness. It’s the kind when they never once offered up an apology to you, maybe not even so much as an acknowledgement of the pain they caused you.

It’s the kind where maybe they aren’t sorry at all, or they truly are but never find the humility or the courage to actually tell YOU so.

Between those two options, I try to believe it’s the latter. That pride, or more likely, simply fear, keeps them from owning up to what they’ve done, at least when it comes to giving you that apology.

It’s forgiveness for someone that darkened your heart with a hatred that you never even thought yourself capable of, forgiveness for a torment that you carry the memories of forever, forgiveness of someone that never found either the kindness in their hearts, or the strength in their spirit to offer a heartfelt and sincere apology. The kind of forgiveness that no matter how hard I tried, I struggled to find a way to do it and actually mean it. The kind that the thought of actually forgiving her tormented my mind, because some deep dark part of me wanted to hold on to the hatred; she deserved that after all, right? And some part of me held on to that hatred just for the sake of it being one of the few things about the whole situation that I had some sort of control over. So much of the story is theirs, all of the secrets, theirs, all of the choices, theirs, but this, this hatred belonged to me and me alone.

I thought: I can’t get back the life you took from me, and I can’t change any of it, but I CAN hate you for it. That, I can do.

And on the one hand, while I found myself despising this newfound ability I had acquired to truly hate someone, on the other hand, that other part of me seemed to guard it as one of the few prized possessions that she couldn’t take from me.

But in that other part of me, the part where the true me lived, the thought of never being able to forgive her, the thought of that hatred that I was holding onto darkening my heart, those were the thoughts that tormented my soul.

One half of me warring with the other. One side fighting to hold on to that hatred, that rage, telling me that it is righteous anger, that she doesn’t deserve my forgiveness, that she doesn’t deserve anything good. The other half, hating myself for this newfound capacity to hate someone so much. Hating the darkness it brought me. Wanting to find some way, some real way to truly forgive her. To rid myself of the rage.

To find some peace.

And just when I would resolve to do just that, the dark side would come right back around to tell me to hate her even more because of the way she’s caused me to be so easily capable of hate.

It was a seemingly never ending cycle.

This post is about my search for a way to truly forgive “the other woman”.

Not necessarily for her sake, but mostly for my own.

Because I knew that my hatred for her, my inability to forgive, kept me bound up. Kept me stuck. Kept me from fully healing, and held us back from the fullness of the redemption God wanted for us. And it allowed a darkness to grow inside of me that I didn’t want.

It wasn’t who I was, and it didn’t belong.

I’ve had to do a lot of forgiving over the past few years. Forgiveness for Jeff.

There was a time I hated him too.

For the things he did. For the thoughts he had, for all the mistakes he made. For forgetting to see me. For not knowing who he was. For not being the man he was supposed to be. For taking everything good in his life for granted. For breaking the sacred vows he made to me and to God. For falling in love with someone else, or at least, the idea of who she was in this illusion of a fantasy world they had created. For the pain he caused me, our children, our family, our friends, and for the pain he caused her family. For the memories of all of it that would be permanently etched into my mind forever, for a story that I didn’t ask for or deserve, and for a lifetime of knowing that I can never change the fact that it happened.

It. Was. A. Lot.

And it was no easy task. But as difficult as it was, I forgave him. Because of his remorse. Because of his newness of heart and spirit. Because of his persistent and earnest love for me and this family.

I forgave him and I took him back, and I continue to forgive him daily. And because of that, because of his dedication to being the man God meant him to be and because of my willingness to forgive, we have a good, good life.

Then there were the others. People who suspected it. But said nothing. And the ones who knew. Knew it as fact and still kept his secret. Some of them I know about, and I still believe there are likely more people that knew about their affair that I don’t know about. But none of them, not a single one, thought enough of me to tell me the truth, to allow me the dignity of not having to live my life as an unknowing fool. These people, in essence, stole my choices from me every bit as much as Jeff and the other woman did. Maybe they didn’t want to lose his friendship. Or maybe they just told themselves they weren’t getting in the middle of that mess. Or they would get involved, but only to the point of telling him he shouldn’t be doing it, but not to go so far as giving me the chance to put a stop to it, or  telling him that if he didn’t stop that they would tell me.

No one held him accountable.

Not a single one. There was no friend that cared enough to take a stand and hold him accountable or to speak to him so directly as to make him make any hard choices. But instead, in keeping his secret, they were enabling him to continue on his destructive path, and forcing me to continue to live in this lie, to look like a fool, and putting my heart, my family, my way of life, not to mention,possibly my health, at risk.

I deserved to know the truth.

I deserved the chance to choose the life I lived. I deserved to know the truth about the man I loved and had shared nearly my entire life with. But no one cared enough to give me that.

I carried that grudge for a long, long time.

But I’ve forgiven them too. The ones that only had a notion of it, but didn’t know for sure, I get it. It’s not an accusation you can make lightly and without some proof. But the ones that knew, knew it as fact…that forgiveness was a little more difficult. Forgiveness doesn’t mean you have to be close friends. Forgiveness doesn’t mean trusting someone. Nor does it require it. And I will probably never have any real trust in them, or consider them close friends, but I can find it in my heart to forgive them, and not hold on to the anger. I can let go of the grudge, and move on.

And now we’ve come to the part where I talk about the hardest one of all. The one that took something that didn’t belong to her. Not just something, but so many things. She took my husband. His last first kiss. His last first…. everything. She took his time, and his attention from me and from our family. She played a part in destroying our marriage, and in devastating the hearts of my children. And I hated her for it.

And when I saw what a kind, good man her husband was, I hated her for the pain she caused him too. He was a good man that should have been appreciated, and he deserved so much better than all of this.

Thoughts of her with my husband tormented me, in every excruciating second of every single day. With her selfishness, and total disregard for right and wrong, she destroyed the life I once knew. She stole my wholeness, she stole my security.

She stole my peace of mind.

She caused me to become capable of a hate so strong and so deep, that I could clearly imagine my heart turning black with it.

She caused me to doubt myself, in so many ways. And maybe, most significantly, she caused me to doubt the goodness of God Himself.

She took nearly everything I held dear.

And for what, I still don’t know.

I know, to some degree at least, why Jeff did the things he did, and what brought him to the point of being capable of it. But I don’t know her reasons for pursuing my husband. I don’t know what the driving force was behind her sending him those pictures, and inviting him to spend the day with her, or meet her in her car after work or in their special meeting places on their days off. I don’t know her reasons for continuing it for nearly a year.

I don’t know because she won’t tell me.

And I don’t really know if she’s sorry for it. Because she has never apologized. Unless you count the time when I first confronted her about all the phone calls and texts in our phone records, and told her I would tell her husband about it, and in her denial that they were having an affair she said “All I can say is I am sorry but it was only just friends.”

Shortly after that, once I found the messages between them that confirmed my suspicions, after I had confronted Jeff with it, I texted her once again. To tell her that Jeff had confessed to everything. That I knew the truth, and that soon her husband would know too. I got no apology. Just more denials. As if Jeff had anything at all to gain by admitting to have an affair with her and blow his life up if he hadn’t. Which is exactly what I said to her, along with the fact that I had proof in the messages that I found between them. After that, silence.

And so, I hated her.

And with every passing day I hated her more. I could push it back, hide it away, even convince myself that it had gotten better. But then something would trigger it and the freshness and ferocity of the anger that would rise to the surface in my heart and mind when it did, well let’s just say…it wasn’t pretty.

Two years later, I found myself still really struggling with the matter of forgiveness. Feeling such a prompting in my spirit, such a conviction that it was something I had to find a way to do.

I remember watching the movie “The Shack”, and seeing myself throughout that story of the struggle to forgive the unforgivable. The tears streaming down my face as I watched scene after scene of God leading the character through the process of it. Leaving me with an even stronger sense of the necessity of it, and of the clear fact that God was asking this seemingly impossible thing of me. Although I had some true desire to find a way to do it, I was also still a little mad at God about it. It still felt a little unfair of Him to ask this of me. And besides that, I still couldn’t imagine a way to make a reality of it. I knew I hated the way this hatred I held for her had darkened my heart nearly as much as I hated her. But how did I rid myself of it? How did I find a way to let it go?

To not hate her.

Simply wanting to wasn’t enough. Simply saying the words didn’t work, because the words came out empty…if I could have even gotten them out at all, which I couldn’t, and every time I considered trying to say them, the hatred was still always there.

So how do I find the type of forgiveness that would allow for not feeling the rage bubble up inside of me at the very thought of her? How would I find a way to not just have the desire to forgive, but to actually be capable of doing it, and truly mean it? What is that even supposed to feel like? I couldn’t fathom feeling anything but anger and rage at the thought of her. I knew you could forgive someone and not have to like them. But to truly forgive, meant to be able to wish her well. And I simply couldn’t find it in my heart to actually do that.

It was a question that would continue to plague me. Some people said that I simply didn’t have to forgive her. That they didn’t think they ever could or would if they were in my position. That I shouldn’t put so much pressure on myself, that I was only human, and my feelings were valid and that anyone would have a hard time forgiving in the way that I was talking about. They said that God would understand that. And they weren’t wrong about that. But still, for me, it felt like a chain weighing me down.

It felt as though my hatred and unforgiveness was a heavy shackle, forever binding me to her, to the past, to a dark place that I didn’t belong in.

And so I sought after it. The answer to how to find true forgiveness. What it really even meant. What it looked like. Not just on the surface. Not just the words. I wanted to know how to feel it, deep down in the depths of the darkest parts of my heart. And it was exhausting. A seemingly never ending circle, in which I found myself wanting to do the right thing, but also, some part of me, fighting against it.

Because it didn’t make sense.

Forgiving someone who never asked for it. Yet, that was exactly what God was prompting me to do.

“Is it really even necessary?”, I would ask Him. “Do I really even NEED to forgive her? Life’s pretty good. We’re doing great, actually. Can’t we just accept the fact that I hate her, and can’t imagine how I could ever find a way not to, and just tuck that all away, like maybe, ohhh, I don’t know, forever???”

And His answer, “Well, I don’t know Amy. How’s that working out for you so far? (Sometimes God sounds a little like Dr. Phil) 😉 That  corner you have reserved in your heart for that hate, is that bringing anything good to your life? Or is it maybe keeping you chained to the past? Does that hatred hurt her? Or could it be that it’s only really hurting YOU?

Keep it if you want. Or get rid of it so I can fill it with something better. Your choice.”

Valid points He had there, right? But I still wasn’t fully on board. I mean, doesn’t He even ask people to repent of their sins to be forgiven? Do we not have to ask for his forgiveness?

But the answer to that, when it really comes down to it, is no.

The forgiveness was already given, and given freely for all and for everything, when Jesus died on the cross. It’s something we simply are required to accept. Now, don’t misunderstand me here. Does He tell us to repent? Yes. He absolutely does. And it IS absolutely necessary in order for us to be able to walk in a closeness and have relationship with Him. That definitely isn’t possible without our repentance and the changing of our ways.

But the forgiveness itself, the forgiveness He offered, asked nothing in return. In some of  His dying breaths, Jesus said “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.” The people there that day, that put Him up on that cross, that did unspeakably terrible things to Him, and cheered as He suffered, did not beg for His forgiveness or offer their apologies for what they put Him through, yet He still offered forgiveness for them, and asked the Father for the same.

And then there was this, Luke 6:35.

But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.”

We are to give without asking anything in return.

Maybe that applies to apologies and forgiveness too.

The Bible says that we are to forgive others as Christ forgave us. It also says that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. He offered His sacrifice for us, and his forgiveness, while we were still sinners.

It doesn’t say “after we begged his forgiveness.”

It says WHILE we were still sinners. His forgiveness was freely given, apology or not. It was ours for the taking if we wanted it. So, there’s that.

Then there was this blog. A place where I write as a means to work through my own healing while also encouraging others that find themselves where we were. And there were all the people that came to us for help. For advice. For guidance. It was a couple of months ago that it finally hit me. With these couples , whether it be the wife or the husband that cheated, I didn’t hate them. I didn’t hold them in contempt. I offered them grace. I offered them encouragement. I offered them the hope of a better marriage, of a better life. And one day I heard God speak to me. “Why are they any different than her? Each one of those people, each woman that cheated is some other wife’s “other woman”, and each husband that cheated is someone else’s Jeff. They are all someone else’s “the other woman” or “the other man”. So if you hate her, should you not hate them too? Yet here you are, offering them help, hope, grace…forgiveness.”

My response to that: “But they’re NOT the same, God. None of those people did this to ME. Only her. It’s different because SHE did this TO ME.”

But I knew deep down that I was wrong. How could I write in my blog that I would be a champion for broken marriages, the biggest cheerleader for the broken, the supporter of the one that wants to be a better person, how can I say all of that, and still feel that those things apply to everyone EXCEPT her? God didn’t extend his forgiveness to everyone except the ones that did him the most harm or caused him the most pain. No, I couldn’t tell the world that I’ll be your biggest cheerleader, I couldn’t tell all those other couples, all those people that there was hope,that they could become the people God intended them to be, and that God had good things in store for them, and not want the same for her. It was easier to offer grace to all these “other women” and “other men”, because they weren’t OUR “other woman”. But they WERE someone’s. And so when it came down to it, they were the same. And looking at it like this, helped me to change my perspective a bit. Helped me to separate my personal feelings and how I see her, to how God views her.

I had been able to see Jeff, and all of these others through His lens, to see the broken people that they were with some level of compassion, but I held so much hatred for her and the pain she caused, that I had refused to see her through that same lens.

Because that would require letting that hatred go.

And I simply had just not been ready to release it. But the more I allowed myself to compare her to all the others, the more I thought about the way that I had been able to look past their mistakes and see the potential of the person they could become, the less hatred I began to feel when I thought of her.

I used to wonder what it would be like to run into her. What my reaction would be. What her reaction would be. I used to imagine punching her in the face, and the satisfying feeling that might bring me.

In another scenario, I would imagine her simply just having to stand there, face to face, unable to run away, unable to avoid having to look me in the eyes. No violence, maybe not even words. Just her being forced to finally face me. The thought of that was almost more satisfying than the whole punching her in the face scenario…almost.

Then there was also the scenario where I see her, and I’m triggered by the sight of her, and the memories come rushing over me like they did so many times with the other triggers. I would feel as if I couldn’t breathe, a pain in the pit of my stomach and a heavy weight on my chest, and the tears would stream down my face as I stood there, paralyzed, heart pounding, frozen, lost in a memory of the past I couldn’t escape. Somehow, I felt this last scenario, should I ever actually run into her, might actually be the most likely of them all.

We’ve been visiting a new church for months. It’s somewhere that we’ve both felt drawn to for much longer than that, but had not actually attended. We have lots of friends there, even some family, and had been invited many times to come and try it out. But we hadn’t, for basically one single reason….She and her husband had been seen there on occasion.

When we left our other church earlier last year, we visited several other churches, but both always still felt drawn to this particular one. But because of the possibility that she could be there too, we just weren’t quite sure how that might play out. So for a long while,we hesitated. But every time we discussed where we might want to visit, where we felt might be the best fit, it always came back to this church. But could we? Was it really even a viable possibility? And most importantly, should we? Were we nuts to even consider it, and if so, why did we keep feeling so drawn back to it?

After talking to a couple of our friends that attended there about it, I was assured by them that while they had seen them there, it was not on a regular basis. Maybe once every few months, but that they didn’t seem to attend regularly, at least not that they had noticed. And, it was a large church with several service times and two different buildings, thousands of people coming through, so even if they did show up, there was a really big chance you’d never run into each other.

So one day, I decided that it had been 3 years. We had done a lot of healing. We were in a really good place, we were happy, and from what little I did know about their current situation, they seemed to be too. And although I hadn’t completely figured it out yet, I’d come a LONG way in my thoughts on forgiving her.

I felt like if it happened, if we did ever see them there, I felt that I had healed enough, that I was strong enough, that I had forgiven her at least enough that I could likely handle the sight of her. We would just cross that bridge if and when we come to it. And I wasn’t really worried about Jeff seeing her, or if that would stir up any deeply buried lingering feelings for her. Jeff’s feelings for her were long gone. Replaced by regret and remorse for ever having had them.

So after a long talk on the subject, on how seeing her might affect Jeff, and how seeing her might affect me, and what their reaction to us might be, we made the decision to go. This was church after all, and I knew I certainly wouldn’t be going with the whole punch her in the face scenario, even if the rage did rise up in me at the sight of her. And I felt fairly certain her husband would resist that same urge if he had it. We decided that the slight possibility of one day running into her should not keep us from following where we felt like our hearts were leading us. So we went. And for months we continued to go. Maybe they were there at times, maybe they weren’t. I didn’t know for sure, but if they had been, we never saw them.

Not once.

And then the first Sunday of the year came, and I woke up somehow knowing that that day would be the day. The day that I would see her. I don’t know how I knew, I can’t explain it, but somehow, I just knew. I didn’t bring it up to Jeff, but for a second, just in case my feeling was right, I considered maybe just staying in bed. But I didn’t. I had that moment of hesitancy, but also just had an overall sense of calm. I’d known all along that it was a possibility. In the back of my mind I always somewhat worried and wondered how that might play out, and what effect it might have on me. In a way, I guess I thought it wasn’t such a bad thing to just get it over with. At least then I would know. Know if it was something I could handle. So I got up.

It was crowded, more crowded than I’d ever seen it. There were a ton of baby dedications that were happening that morning, bringing in a lot of visitors, and with it also being the first Sunday of the year, I imagined that a lot of those extra people had maybe made a New Years resolution that they’d go to church more.

We had to park at the far, far end of the parking lot, and had a long walk to the building. As we were walking, I look up, and catch the eyes of a man driving by. I see his face, the face of the other woman’s husband, I catch his eyes, and I see the recognition reflecting in them as they met mine, and then, he was gone.

It was so quick.

I told myself it wasn’t him, because that was not a car I recognized as being theirs. Which was a silly thought to have because it’s been over three years and people buy new cars. Not to mention that I had suggested to him once myself that if I were him I would probably want to light a match and burn her car to the ground, rather than have to look at it ever again. It made sense that he wouldn’t keep that car. I know I couldn’t have. But still, I told myself in that split second that I was probably mistaken, and that I had imagined that look of recognition in his eyes, and that it probably wasn’t him. Until I saw Jeff’s head turn, and look back. He had seen him too. The look on his face confirming what I already knew. What I had known since the moment I woke up.

She was there.

She wasn’t in the car with him which undoubtedly meant he had dropped her at the door. I should have been nervous I guess? But strangely, somehow, I wasn’t. We walked in, and I saw her, only for a second. Standing, waiting on her husband. I felt sure she saw us too. We kept walking, making our way through the crowd to the other far end of the building. I stopped, and turned to look Jeff in the eye. I squeezed his hand and said, “Are you good? Are you ok?” He said “Yes, I’m ok. Are you?”

I replied , “actually….yes. I’m perfectly fine.”

And that was that.

No trigger. No sense of panic or rush of pain. No heart racing or crushing pressure in my chest. No bubbling rage. No feelings of the need to confront her. No uncontrollable urge to punch her in the face. Not even the notion to maybe give her a bit of the stink eye. Ok, well maybe turning around and giving her the stink eye did cross my mind for just a second. But only for a second.

She was there. And I was there. Right there. And I was somehow calm as a cucumber. I’m not gonna lie y’all, it was weird, the calm I felt, and I was struck by it.

Jeff…well, maybe not quite as unshaken as me. He’ll tell ya that somewhere in the back of his mind he wondered if he might be the one getting punched that day, by her husband. Not that he could or would begrudge him of it. And I’m sure she was probably having those same thoughts about the possibility of being confronted by me.

But as for me, I felt… calm. Peaceful even. Maybe that is what they speak of when they say that God will give us the peace that passes all understanding. Because this peace I had in that moment, it didn’t necessarily make sense. But yet that’s all I felt. I would say that if I felt anything else at all that day, it was surprised. Not surprised at seeing her, but at the lack of effect seeing her had actually had on me.

The only thing that I didn’t have full peace about was her husband. It occurred to me that while I had somehow found enough healing for myself and forgiveness for her that I was able to be at peace in her presence, it didn’t mean that he necessarily felt the same about Jeff. And the very last thing I ever, ever want to do is cause him pain.

We’ve caught glimpses of them a couple of times since that day, and as far as I can tell, he seems ok. But I can’t pretend to know what he is thinking or feeling. It isn’t fair for me to assume that he has the same thoughts on the matter that I do, so I guess I just hope that if it’s hard for him, seeing us, that he would let me know. I hope that he would know that I have a great respect for him, and that we would make concessions in this situation if that’s what he needed to feel comfortable.

The last thing, in my search for the answer to this mystery of how to truly forgive her, not just in words, or even in intent, but truly, in my heart of hearts, forgive her, was this verse.

Romans 12:18

“If it is possible, as much as it is up to you, be at peace with all people.”

I’m not sure where I heard it recently, whether it was in a sermon, or on the radio, or maybe it was a verse of the day on my Bible app, but it’s been replaying in my head for weeks.

Especially this part:

“As much as it is up to you.”

And I guess, when it comes down to it, it has always really been up to me.

I’ve spent the last few years searching, grasping, trying to find any thing that would help me find a form of forgiveness that I could make sense of. I spent years waiting, requiring, and even nothing short of begging for an apology…for her to give me a reason, any reason not to hate her. My quest for the answer has been a heartbreaking, soul searching, frustrating, sometimes exhausting, yet redeeming process, nearly 3 and a half years in the making.

But I believe I’ve finally found it. Finding the answer had required two very different things, first proactively seeking it out, and second, allowing myself the time to retreat from it when it was too overwhelming, and just giving the truths I found, and the ones God simply whispered in my ear, time to settle in my heart.

It took so long to get here, but I’m finally ready now.

So,

To “the other woman”:

I don’t know if you read these. I’ve always had a feeling that maybe you have. And if you haven’t, well, I guess this is the only one you really need to. So I hope it finds it way to you.

These past few years, I’ve hated you. For everything you’ve done, I hated you with a hatred that ran so deep I barely recognized myself sometimes.

But honestly, I’m tired. I’m just so very tired. Hating you is exhausting. Holding onto it takes SO much energy. Energy that would be better spent on gratefulness for the present moment and the life I have now, and on spreading goodness instead of letting the darkness of that hatred consume me from the inside out.

I had every right to hate you for what you’ve done, and the person that you were when you had the affair. But, I’ve been stubbornly and fiercely holding on to that anger for much too long, and now, I am finally able to sacrifice the pride that made me want to hang on to it.

There’s no excuse for what you did, and I will forever hate the fact that it happened at all. I’ll never be able to forget it, but I no longer hold you in contempt for the things you did and for the pain you caused. You made some really, really bad decisions. Decisions that hurt me,your husband, and many others more than you’ll probably ever comprehend. But you’re no different than Jeff. No different than the other husbands and wives I’ve offered grace and forgiveness to. And I don’t know if you’re sorry, or if you’ve truly changed. But I want to believe that you are. The fact that your husband is still by your side, tells me that you must be. I don’t believe he would accept anything less than true change in you, and that if you weren’t truly remorseful, if you weren’t a better person now, he wouldn’t be there by your side.

When I looked over and saw you and your family together this past week, I didn’t think of all the hurtful, awful things you’ve done or who you are to me. When I saw the faces of your husband and children, all I could think is that God intends goodness and redemption for your family every bit as much as He does for mine. And maybe, that is one of the reasons God was drawing us there. Maybe seeing you there, as a family, just like ours, worshiping together, was what I needed to push out what hatred still lingered in me towards you. It’s pretty hard to hate someone when you’re standing in the same church, singing worship songs, all there for the same purpose, and loved by the same God.

For so long I’ve wanted to hear your explanation, and wanted an apology, or at the least an acknowledgement from you that you caused pain, and that you had regret for it. For so long I thought it’s what I needed, to be able to see you in a different light. But I don’t need that from you anymore. That’s not to say that I wouldn’t still graciously accept your apology, should you ever feel led to offer it. But I no longer require it. I have to believe that you made the choices you did , not because you are innately evil or set out to destroy lives, but rather because there was something so very broken inside of you.

So I don’t have to know if you’re sorry.

I forgive you , apology or not. There was a time I couldn’t even utter those words. You caused me so much heartache. But, in a lot of ways, without you, I wouldn’t have the life I have now, with the man that Jeff is now. Despite the pain I’ve had to live with, and the things I’ve lost… the things I’ve gained in this new life, the relationship that Jeff and I have and the life we live now are proving to be so much better, and much more valuable than the life I had before. God took every bit of that pain and brokenness and turned it into blessings, and the life we have now….it’s a really, really good life.

So while I’ll certainly not go as far as to thank you for it, I am thankful to God for making something better of the whole mess. For taking something so terrible and making something beautiful, and for not wasting one bit of the pain we went through.

And I hope y’all have found that too. I hope you all are better for it.

I truly wish you and your family a rich, full, and happy life, and pray that none of us ever, ever take for granted the miracle of the redemption that God has given both of our marriages and families. Because for both of us, it is nothing short of a true miracle.

So, in as much as it is up to me, I forgive you, I make my peace with you, and finally, truly and sincerely, I wish you well.

-Amy

 

And to the rest of you out there, maybe there’s someone you need to forgive. And maybe it feels impossible. And maybe, you’re just not ready yet. That’s ok. But I hope in some way my story can help you find your own way to forgiveness, and most importantly, to freedom.

And if any one of you out there reading this ever doubted the existence of God, or doubted His goodness, let this be proof. Because I can promise you, I’m a good person, but there’s not anywhere near enough good in me to be capable of doing this, of forgiving her, on my own. He’s real. His strength shines through in our weakness, His love covers everything, and his mercy is new every day. Get to know Him. Seek Him out. Let Him heal the broken places in you. You’ll never, ever be the same.

 

❤️

Amy Thurston Gordy

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Make the space

I woke up early this morning, itching to write something. Anything really. It seems that it has become increasingly more difficult to find the time for it. Writing requires focus, and quiet, and time to reflect and sort your thoughts, and it seems that my days off either become so full with daily responsibilities or time made for family or friends….all really good things, but when I go too long, I start to feel like something is missing. I start to feel a little incomplete, maybe unfulfilled?

I’m not really sure what the word I’m looking for is. I think it’s just become so inherently a part of who I am, and what my purpose is, that when I set it aside for too long, maybe I just start to feel like I’m losing a part of myself.

Maybe sometimes I don’t write for good reasons, such as the ones mentioned above, and sometimes, if I’m being completely honest, I don’t write just because I get lazy, and choose to watch the last 2 episodes of This is Us instead of writing a new blog. I can’t say that isn’t a good reason either though, because that show is SO, SO good. There are some really good life lessons hidden away in some of these shows. I mean, if the Pearson’s don’t move your soul, I don’t know if we can be friends or not. 😂

But, at some point, if I don’t purposely chase down the time to write, the writing chases me, and I find myself unable to lie in bed for another minute, or turn that tv on, or do that laundry.

I guess that’s how you know the difference between a hobby and a calling. When something is just a hobby, you can live without it. But a calling, a calling chases you down. You can run from it, you can try to ignore it. You can fill up your time with all kinds of things so that there’s no room for it. But you can’t escape it. It will not stop coming for you. And you will find that you never feel as whole, as fulfilled, as when you choose to stop, and make the space for it. To step into that calling, your purpose, His purpose.

So today, I write.

Today I write about making space.

I was talking recently with one of the young ladies that I am helping navigate the early days of surviving infidelity. We were discussing how infidelity happens and what is going through the mind of the cheater that makes them able to justify going through with it, especially when the marriage seemed to be a fairly happy one. I explained to her that the choices people make, all go back to what they are making space for.

With Jeff, it happened like this:

Honestly, I would have to say Jeff and I were probably always a little disconnected. He had a porn issue and always had a flirty nature and tended to get close to people he worked with and such. I always kind of felt like I was a bit of an outsider. Like he had his life at home with me, and then his work life that I wasn’t really privy to. Not that he necessarily intentionally kept things from me, just that he kept things compartmentalized, and because of that I felt like sometimes, all I ever got was pieces of him. I was definitely an important piece of his life, but then, when the other woman came along, their friendship crossed the boundaries bit by bit. He slowly started having more conversations with her and less conversations with me. He began to share more of his thoughts and feelings with her and became less and less open with me. This went on until the pieces of him I did get became less and less, and the space I took up in his heart and mind got more and more crowded out by the fantasy world he created with her and so to him, in his mind, it felt like he had lost his connection with me. So he told himself that we weren’t really happy, that maybe we weren’t really compatible, that we didn’t have that spark anymore. When in reality, none of those things were really true. We had not lost our connection or our love for each other. He had just stopped making space for it by filling his head with the illusion of his life with her.

Little by little, he allowed the thoughts and the flirtations and the conversations to take up more and more space in his heart and mind until he couldn’t see me anymore through the cloud of it.

Thankfully, when he was no longer able to hide in that fantasy world he created, and everything was brought to light, he was able to break through that fog so he could see the truth of that. And the truth of the destruction that was caused because of his choice to make space for all the wrong things.

Now, he and I both make an effort to include each other in every part of our lives. We are definitely more connected now than we ever were before any of this happened and it’s because we’ve learned how to love each other and HOLD THAT SPACE for each other well.

Be careful of what you’re making space for. Don’t be fooled by that thing that maybe boosts your ego, or makes you feel good in the moment. Don’t be fooled by that thing that looks all shiny and sparkly and fun on the surface. Because before you know it, it will grab hold and grow like an unforgiving cancer and you will lose sight of everything that ever really mattered to you. It will fill you up until it eats away every piece of who God intended you to be. And you’ll be so blinded by the illusion of it, you won’t even realize it, until it may be too late.

So be careful, so very careful, with what you make space for.

But mostly, be intentional in what you make space for. Make the space for your spouse. You may feel like that spark is gone, or that you just don’t have the same connection that you used to have. But I am here to tell you, if it was ever truly there to begin with,

you did not lose your love for each other. You did not lose your connection to each other.

One or maybe both of you simply stopped making the space for it.

You have to choose what and who to make space for.

And if you need help with figuring out how to do that, come talk to me. Come talk to Jeff. We will do our best to help you find your way down this path. We may not be that far ahead of you, but we are far enough ahead to be able to tell you what it looks like. We know the traps, the detours, the potholes that can sometimes make it feel impossible to travel. But we are here, we made it through them all so far, and so can you. It’s a steep and narrow road, but you do not walk it alone. We will make the space for you.

Make the space for the things that really matter. Make the space for your family. Make the space for your spouse. Make the space for your health. Make the space for your spiritual life. Make the space for your healing. Make the space for your calling. Make the space for your purpose.

Make the space for every bit of goodness you can find. Just make the space for it, and God will fill you up with more goodness than you can hold.

Decide today what you need to clear out. Decide today what you need to make the space for.

Just make the space.

❤️

Amy Thurston Gordy

Feels like freedom

Oh September. I try to ignore you. I really, really do.

And I was doing a pretty good job of it.

I mean, it’s usually around mid August, when the heaviness starts setting in. When I remember the date looming ahead, September 10th. The day life as I knew it irrevocably changed forever.

But this year, August was nearly over and I realized that I really hadn’t thought about it. That’s when it suddenly struck me how well we are doing. How far we’ve come. How far I’VE come.

How quiet the hum just underneath the surface has gotten. That hum used to be such a roar, I could barely focus on anything else. The thoughts and the pain, they not only ran through a never ending loop in my mind, but they seemed to course through my veins, seeping into every part of my existence. I learned to push it back, to try and drown it out so that I could function in a halfway normal manner for all outward appearances. But it was still SO loud for what seemed like so long.

I’m not sure exactly when it got so much quieter. I can’t really pin point it. I think it was so slow, so gradual, I just didn’t notice it. I mean, I did notice. I knew there had been healing. I knew it got easier. But I hadn’t really noticed the stark distance between where we were and where we are. I hadn’t really noticed the gradual lessening of the hum.

Most of the time, it’s nothing more than a faint whisper now. Echoes of the past. I don’t suppose it ever completely leaves you.

But to know it won’t always be so loud, so painfully loud, well, it feels…kind of like freedom.

Maybe not freedom in the sense that it has no bearing on you anymore. It certainly still affects the present sometimes. But sometimes maybe freedom isn’t necessarily a release from something, as much as it is learning to live your best life in spite of something. Learning to make the most of the changes it brought. Learning to live through it, and launch from it.

Maybe freedom is actually acceptance. Maybe, freedom is merely growth.

Maybe, freedom is simply gained not by trying to forget, or pretend as though that bad thing never happened, but maybe it’s in the ability….no, the insistence of moving forward in search of the good.

It definitely shaped the person I am today. In good ways and bad. It tore me down. Stripped me of almost everything I believed to be real. Shattered my heart.

It broke me.

EVERY SINGLE part of me.

But I survived it.

WE survived it.

I put myself back together. Although the pieces didn’t fit quite the same anymore. There were cracks. So many cracks. But if you allow it, God can fill those cracks with goodness. The cracks are still there, and you can still see the seams of every single one.

I’ll never be the same.

But eventually you won’t see the emptiness through the cracks anymore. Just the goodness shining through.

And sometimes, there’s goodness that was already hidden underneath the cracks. Gifts and talents and wisdom that’s always been there, but has been locked away, waiting for the outer layers to be torn away so it can rise to the surface.

I had to choose that. I had to choose to either dwell in those empty broken places, or let Him both draw out what was hidden away beneath them or fill them in with something I was missing. And if today, you are the one that is broken, at some point you will have to choose too.

Not all at once. But little by little, after you’ve spent some time exploring those broken pieces of yourself, and taking the time to grieve the parts you lost, you will have to decide if you want to dwell there, in that dark broken place, or if you want to look for the goodness to come. You have to choose to allow God to fill that space in, even when you’re not sure how it could possibly be filled. No, it won’t happen quickly, or all of a sudden. But your time will come. Your deafening hum will get quieter. You’ll suddenly realize that it isn’t so hard anymore.

That life can be good again.

Broken is hard. Shattered is painful. Being torn down is nothing less than completely devastating.

But being torn down is sometimes the only way to be built into your full potential. Being shattered is sometimes the only way to release the things hidden away inside of you.

And sometimes, broken is beautiful.

Because sometimes, broken is the only true way to wholeness.

Sometimes the broken you is the only way to the best you.

I woke up a few days ago, finally feeling the heavy pull of September. Feeling the pull of darker days; echoes of that awful September day three years ago, and the excruciating days that followed it, calling out to me. Drawing me back like some giant magnet into a dark hole. That hum that I had just recently realized was so quiet, threatening to get loud again. The images, the memories, trying to force their way in.

There’s no peace for you, they say.

You don’t get to be a normal couple, they say.

You’ll always be broken, they say.

And the worst one….

I can ruin you again, they say.

But I fight not to listen. Not to let the lies settle in to my spirit. I fight back with the truths that I’ve hidden away there.

It’s not easy. Because those whispers feel like loud, unavoidable truth sometimes.

Sometimes it feels like those dreams you have where you try to scream but you can’t get the sound out, or you try to fight but you’re frozen and can’t move.

So you have to dig deep, and let God’s truths you’ve hidden away in your heart speak for you until you find your strength and your voice again.

Because God says that He heals the broken-hearted, and He binds up our wounds.

Because God says no weapon formed against us shall prosper.

Because God says He gives us a new heart.

Because God says He makes a way for us in the wilderness.

Because God says He will make all our paths straight.

Because God says He is for us.

Because God says He knows the plans He has for us, and they are always, always good.

Because God says what He has joined together, let no one tear apart.

Because God says we are more than conquerors.

Because He says He makes all things new.

Because He says He will give us 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.

Because God says let the redeemed of the Lord say so.

And I SAY so.

I am redeemed.

WE ARE REDEEMED.

So take that, September. Take your darkness. Take your sadness. Take your bad memories. Take your anxiety. Take your deafening hum.

You had your day. And that day has passed.

You tore us down, but He built us up.

You took away everything we had and everything we were, but He replaced it with something far better.

You won the battle on that dark September day, but Jesus, grace, and love,

Love won the war.

Matthew 7:25

The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.

❤️

Amy Thurston Gordy

Dear 2017

It’s been two years since the Facebook post of a video of a little tree inspired my very first blog post. That little tree did so much more than just survive a storm. It became an inspiration. It became a launching pad for a new life. It was the catalyst that uncovered a gift that had long been hidden, and it helped me and so many others to discover that you can give your pain a purpose, and that there is goodness and beauty to be found in everything, even in the midst of your biggest storms. I keep a photo of this little tree at the top of my blog. It represents strength in adversity, hope within heartache, and the importance of what anchors you. It’s become a representation of who I am, and of what I want the purpose of this blog, and of my story, to be. The message is, and always will be, “Be the tree.”

That first blog was a letter to 2015 posted on New Years Eve. Last year, I posted a letter to 2016. So, in keeping with tradition, I give you my letter to this year. 

Dear 2017, 
In a lot of ways, it seems as though you rushed right in and are rushing right out. For some reason, it feels as though it has just flown by. I think maybe it’s because this year has been a little easier for us, a little less heart heavy. With the hardest days of healing and rebuilding behind us, we were able to breathe a little, and enjoy the goodness of where we are now. 

Although you did seem to fly by, we did actually have several big milestones this year, and I had a few smaller, yet significant moments, that revealed to me where my heart is at in this healing process and what still needs to be dealt with to get to where I want to be. 

Milestone #1:
I started a new job. That can be a stressful thing to do. But the transition was so easy, and although I may have had the occasional doubt, I know I’m where I’m supposed to be. I’ve gained a new work family, kept up relationships with my old work family, and enjoyed every minute of getting to work with my actual family, my two sisters. It’s been SO much fun.  

Milestone #2:
My oldest daughter moved out of the house and into an apartment with her cousins a couple of hours drive away from home. That was a HUGE adjustment. I miss her like crazy when she’s not at home but I am also so proud of her and the life she is building for herself. 

 Milestone #3:

We reached the 2 year mark of surviving the devastation of our marriage. Most of the books I’ve read say that’s the magic number. The turning point, if you will. I’m not sure I’d go so far as to say it’s somehow magic. It’s definitely not as if it never happened, and I think to say it could ever come to that point is just unrealistic. But it definitely is easier. I still think about aspects of it probably at some point of every day. But I don’t live in the pain of it. There are still twinges every now and then. But the triggers are so much less present in our everyday life. I would say that we are in a place now where things are really good, we’ve dealt with most of the outer layers of damage and pain, and a lot of the innermost injuries, and what is left is mostly just goodness and gratitude. 

There are still a few things that I have to work on. I’m still working on that whole forgiveness thing. Letting go of the negative thoughts I have towards his affair partner. So there’s that. I suppose I’ve made some progress. She creeps into my thoughts less these days, so I guess in actuality, I just have less opportunity to have the feelings of anger and loathing that the thought of her incites. I don’t know if that’s really progress in true forgiveness, but I’ll take it. 
I would also say that I still have some pretty big issues with trust. I’m much better than I once was. With Jeff anyway. But it is still something that doesn’t come easily for me. Not just with Jeff, but also I tend to be wary of people’s intentions in general. I suppose that’s a normal side effect of having been deceived. I’m trying to be better about it, but still have such a reflex of needing to protect myself, so I question everything. I guess it really all just comes down to the fact that I have some pretty deeply rooted residual fears. 

And speaking of fear, that leads me to the next milestone of this year. 
Milestone #4:
My youngest daughter got her learners permit. Now this, this has been a real challenge for me. All you mom’s out there that have sat in the passenger seat while your baby gets behind the wheel of a thousand pounds of moving metal, and all of you who have watched your children drive off for the first time, you feel me. You totally get it. 

I’ve done this once before, so it shouldn’t give me quite this much anxiety. And y’all, she’s really not a bad driver. She’s not great with the parking, but she does pretty good with the driving. We had a few near misses where she pulled out in front of another car because she was confused about when it was ok for her to go, and there were a few times when she took a turn a little too fast. She also may have pulled into the driveway a little too quickly and nearly hit a parked car. But hey, we’ve all done those things. And she didn’t hit anything and they were learning moments and all is well. 

But my goodness, it is SO scary. 

Truthfully though, the problem is not her or her driving skills. Yes, she still has some things to learn before we let her drive off on her own, but the real issue is ME and my anxiety level. 
And it’s not just with her. Some of the biggest fights between Jeff and I this year stemmed from arguments over how Jeff was driving. Maybe I felt he was following too close, waiting til the last minute to brake, turning when I thought he should have waited for the car to pass, or maybe I worried that he wasn’t paying close enough attention and maybe I pointed out EVERY single possible danger to him. Because if I didn’t, we could possibly be in a horrific crash. Or maybe just an inconvenient fender bender. I’m just being helpful. Ok, ok. And possibly my constant “helpfulness” might be a little annoying. 
There.

I owned it. 

And his reaction to my “helpfulness” could sometimes be a little hurtful. 
We recently had a talk about it and he suggested that maybe I might benefit from taking some sort of anxiety medication before getting in the car. Ha. I’m pretty sure we all might benefit from that. 

But what I asked myself later is “why?”

Why am I having these near panic attacks every time I’m riding in the car with one of them? It doesn’t happen when I’m the one driving. And that’s when it hit me. It’s not about their driving skills. I mean, it wouldn’t hurt for them to maybe be a little more careful. 

But the real issue underneath my anxiety and panic is control. When they are driving, I’m not in control. I can’t control their decisions. I can’t control what may or may not happen. 
This is not a driving issue. This is not an anxiety issue. 

It’s a heart issue. 

It’s a mind condition issue. 

And it’s not really about riding in a car. That is just where it happened to become more tangibly seen. What it’s really about is me trying to control every situation, every possibility, every outcome, in an attempt to protect myself. To protect the people I love. It’s about being hyper vigilant, because I’m terrified I might miss some danger that is lurking, waiting to jump out and destroy us. Because I still maybe haven’t forgiven myself for missing so many of the danger signs before and during Jeff’s affair. And because deep down there’s a part of me that thinks if I can somehow control everything that happens around me, I can ensure that nothing bad happens to me or the people I care about.

This is what Oprah likes to call an “aha moment”. 
And so, I know that I still have big things to work through. I trust that God will take care of me. I’ve seen it firsthand. I have no reason to doubt it. But still, the thought of going through anything hard again, anything painful, it terrifies me. It’s a deep seated fear that at any given moment my world could fall apart again. And so there’s this part of me that thinks that if I just pay really close attention and do my best to control every single aspect of my life, I can ensure that nothing bad happens to me or the people I love.
And to some degree it’s true. It is true that we should all pay closer attention. There were so many signs that I missed when my world fell apart. Some of them glaring, flashing signs that I most certainly should not have missed. And I guess I still tend to beat myself up for that. So yes, we should pay attention. But when it comes down to it, signs or no signs, we can’t control the decisions of others. And unfortunately, when the people we love make bad ones, and they eventually crash and burn, we are there, sitting in the passenger seat, with no say, with no control. And many times we are the ones that take the brunt of the impact and suffer the most serious injuries. 

So, this is my struggle. To find the balance. To be alert and aware, but not to the point of paranoia. To be helpful, and hold people accountable when it’s actually warranted without pointing out every single possible danger and becoming annoying. 
But mostly, to learn to let go of the insatiable need to be in control. To trust that everything is going to be ok. To remind myself daily of the ways God carried me through every bad day after life as I knew it went up in flames. How He has used what was meant for my harm to bring the goodness of the life I have now. 

Because to control every aspect of my life is exhausting. And in all reality, a waste of energy. And quite frankly, I’m tired. 
So I’m working on it. I’m trying to remind myself to just relax. To let go. To trust that the God of the universe, the God that walked with me through my best days, and carried me through my worst, has my best interests at heart. And that no matter what comes my way, no matter if I make a bad decision, or someone else makes a bad decision, He will carry me through that too and work all things for my good. 

I have to remind myself that I’m still that tree that I wrote about in my very first post, the one that stands strong no matter what comes my way, because of what anchors me.  

I can’t allow my anchor to be the fear of heartache. And I have to remind myself that I am not my own anchor. I can’t serve as my own anchor deep below the swirling waters of life and still keep my head above the waves. I have to learn to really trust the true anchor. 
The true anchor is the joy of God’s goodness, it is the hope and the certainty that no matter what, the best is yet to come. 

So, 2017, thanks for going fairly easy on me. Thanks for making me face some hard truths about myself and the work I still have to do to move forward, to find some peace, and to become the best version of me. 
 As for you 2018, I don’t know what you have planned for me. And I’m working on learning to be ok with that. Because I know whatever it is, it will always turn to goodness. I’m expecting it to be a year of breakthroughs and blessings. 

And I pray the same for all of you. 
Happy New Year, and thank you all again for another year of walking along side us and cheering us on as we build this new life. Your support is felt, your prayers are felt, and I am forever grateful for every one of you. 

❤️

Amy Thurston Gordy

* tree video credit goes to Back Road Travels on Facebook

The Falling away

It’s the first official day of Fall. It’s still pretty hot here in Georgia, but you can feel it coming. You can feel it in the crispness of the cooler air early in the morning, and in the dusk that sets in just a little earlier at the end of every day. It used to be my favorite time of the year. It brought a cool breeze. It brought beautiful warm colors. It brought the ability to throw on cozy sweaters and jeans. It brought warm comfort foods and everything pumpkin. It brought bonfires and roasted marshmallows and Saturday night football viewing parties. Don’t get confused, I know y’all know I really don’t care about the football games. I’m just there for the snacks and the company, yeah, mostly the snacks. Ha. 

But I CAN tell you which team will win the game with at least 95% accuracy, based on my personally developed “super scientific uniform theory”. I kid you not. This is a real thing. Basically, I pick the winning team based on the uniform they are wearing. The colors, the fit, the presentation, I take it all into account, all the way from the helmet down to the shoes. Laugh if you want, Jeff certainly doubted my “super scientific theory” too. Until he saw how many times I was right! I guess that’s a little off subject. So I’ll get back to what I was saying. Y’all just let me know if you want me to choose a winner for ya. 😂

Fall still brings all of those things. But two years ago, Fall brought me something else. Something that would change life as I knew it forever. Well, in reality, that one Fall day didn’t alter the course of my life. The day Jeff first entertained the thought of becoming involved with her is the day that my life changed forever. My world was dismantled bit by bit with every thought, every text, every conversation, every meeting between the two of them over the course of that year. So that particular September day was not the one day my world was destroyed, it was just the day that I came to the full realization of it. 

Last year, I struggled a lot with it. The triggers were everywhere. The thoughts and memories sometimes overwhelming. Because that same crispness in the air that I used to love so much was the same crisp air that I ran out into to try and catch my breath on that awful day. Because those football games reminded me of the one he was getting ready to go watch when I saw those messages on his phone that were proof of his betrayal. 

This year, it doesn’t have as strong of an effect. I can’t say the anniversary of that day hasn’t affected me at all. I still had some level of anxiety about it. But it was more of an annoying quiet hum than the load roar that it used to be. 

Last year, I had wanted to plan something to mark the day. Something to try and give it new meaning, and new memories. This year, I didn’t feel as strongly about it. Earlier in the year I bought tickets to go to a Kari Jobe concert. When I saw the announcement for the concert, and saw that it was local and just happened to be on September 10th, I figured what better way to spend that evening than filling it with worship music? I figured that would be a good way to drown out any negative feelings that crept in that day. 

As it turned out, D-day came and went without leaving much of a footprint this year. September 10th fell on a Sunday. We got up and went to church as usual. We went to lunch together , just the two of us. Jeff was actually the one to bring it up. “So, today’s our happy anniversary I guess? Well, more of an unhappy anniversary? But happy because we survived. And because our lives are so much better now than they were.”

And that was the extent of our acknowledgment of the day. As it turned out, the concert, which I had actually forgotten about until that afternoon, was cancelled last minute because of Hurricane Irma’s impending arrival. So we stayed home, cozy on our sofa with bowls of chili and watched some tv. 

I guess my feelings kind of go back and forth on what this day should be. A part of me wants to fill it up with new things and new memories to give it new meaning. But another part wants to let it pass with no acknowledgment at all. To take its power away by making it just another day on the calendar. 

I think the reality will fall somewhere between the two. Because in reality, I’ll most likely never forget the date, so it will always be acknowledged in some way. But I never want it to be in a way that glorifies the ugliness of that day, or gives those memories the power to ruin my present day. Because September 10th, 2017, is not September 10th, 2015. And September 10th, 2018 and every September 10th after that won’t be either. That day is gone. It happened, and we can’t change it. And every year, though the date may be the same, our lives are not the same. So we will acknowledge it, but only with a sense of gratitude of the goodness that we live in now, and that we have put one more year in between us and that terrible time in our lives. 

When I think about it, it’s kind of fitting that this day happened in the Fall. 

We don’t necessarily think about it, because it can be so deceivingly beautiful, but in essence, Fall is a process of death. The vibrant green trees slowly fade to warm shades of yellow, orange, and red. They look so lovely on the outside, that we don’t often think about what might be happening on the inside. 

Slowly, the colorful leaves begin to loosen, and one by one, fall to the ground. There’s only a few at first, so we just walk through them, hearing them crunch under our feet but not really giving them much thought. But as the wind gets stronger, the dying leaves become weaker, and suddenly they are everywhere, covering the ground. Smothering the grass beneath them. 

Hiding the walkways and covering the paths that we could once see clearly. 

It is messy, this falling away. And once the leaves have all fallen, the trees look painfully bare. The falling away is followed by a season of emptiness. Or at least that’s the way it seems. But it is the Fall, the shedding of the old, that makes way for the new. It’s a painful process. There’s no getting around that. But it’s the only way to shed what no longer belongs. To get rid of the diseased leaves. To reset. So that when the Spring comes, and it always comes, there’s nothing hindering its growth. And what grows from those empty branches is fuller, and more beautiful than what it was before. So much stronger than it was before the falling away. 

The seasons of life can be painful. But there is beauty in all of it. Even in the falling away. Even in the dead of the barren winter. Because it’s making way for the beauty of Spring, and the fullness of Summer. Some years it brings varying levels of death and life. Sometimes the changes are small, and we come through it mostly unscathed, barely even noticing that the seasons changed, and other times, the changing of the seasons of our lives is so sudden and so devastating that we wonder if the winter will ever end. 

Don’t lose hope. Spring is coming. It always comes. And in the meantime, look for the beauty in the season you’re in. It’s there. It’s always there. 

When the spring comes, you’ll be stronger. You’ll be fuller. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Yes, there may be losses to mourn. You’ll certainly never be the same. You may bear the scars of the storms you weathered through the winter. But that will be what sets you apart. It will be your mark of the goodness of God. A symbol of how we can survive bad things. How the storms can wound us, but that those wounds can heal. A symbol of how all that we know can fall away, lost forever, but that something beautiful can grow in its place. 

❤️

Amy Thurston Gordy

The fullness of now

Summer in Georgia is hot. Like sweltering, sticky, oppressively hot. The kind of hot that makes you imagine you’re a stick of butter melting into a puddle on the pavement. Which is why I find myself sitting in my room, lights off, curtains drawn, air conditioner blaring and fan blowing. 

There’s nothing quite like a Sunday afternoon nap in Georgia. A super cold dark room and some fluffy covers is like heaven when it’s 100 degrees outside. It’s much too hot to go out and do anything, so might as well enjoy just being still for a bit. 

It also gives me an excuse to sit and write, which is not something I’ve done much of this month, and I’ve missed it.
It’s been about a month since I last posted, and things have been going really well. We’ve spent some time at the lake, laid out by the pool, seen a few movies, and done some shopping for my oldest daughter’s apartment. I’m still pretending that she’s not moving out on her own in a couple of weeks. Mama’s. Not. Ready. Oh my heart. 

Overall we’ve had a great month. I did, however, have a couple of days where I struggled a little. Nothing really noticeable to anyone, (except Jeff, as usual). No particular reason, just had a hard time keeping my thoughts focused on the good ones and pushing out the bad ones. It happens occasionally. No major incident, just thoughts of insecurity, doubt, fear… you know, the usual suspects. 

They’re liars and thieves , those three. Really convincing ones. They are especially efficient in their attack. They bombard you with reminders of the past, and then they use that to fill you with fear of what could happen in the future. Because if they can keep you busy flip flopping back and forth from the pain of your yesterdays to the fear of what could happen in your tomorrows, they can very effectively steal today. And that’s all they want. Because your today, your now, is everything. Now is all we ever really have. 

So when you find yourself falling prey to doubt, insecurity, and fear, it’s important to get control of that as quickly as possible. 

To reclaim your now.

I clawed my way out of that fog and was feeling much better. But it seems those thieves wanted one more go at me that night.

We sat on the sofa that evening and decided we would find a new tv series to watch on Netflix. We weren’t sure what to choose. It can be difficult sometimes to find things that we can watch. A lot of the popular series are extremely explicit, and we try to avoid that due to the former porn issue. Some may think that’s silly, but it’s no different than the fact that you wouldn’t set up a fully stocked bar in front of an alcoholic or offer a recovering drug addict a sample of cocaine. They may be able to control it, but why take the risk?

Then there’s all the shows that have affairs as part of the main story line. Sometimes it bothers me and sometimes it doesn’t. It mostly just depends on how similar the details are to mine. 

Anyway, I had heard my sister and some coworkers talking about this series that they loved. They talked about it all the time, and so I suggested maybe we should try that one. 

I really had no idea what it was about, just that it was about this influential family that had all these secrets and that there were all these twists and turns to keep things interesting.

So we get cozy on the couch, start the show, and the scene, the very first scene, was a couple having sex in the back seat of a car. 

Of all the things. 

OF ALL THE THINGS. 

It had to be that. 

It could have started with any other sex scene and I wouldn’t have thought anything about it. I don’t think it was super explicit or even involved much nudity, if any. Actually I’m really not sure if it did or not because I completely checked out. 

I saw 3, maybe 5 seconds of it. 

That’s when my brain did that thing it does and takes me somewhere else. Somewhere that I never actually saw with my own eyes but have seen in my minds eye a million different torturous times. 

I didn’t see the actors on the screen anymore. 

I saw Jeff. With her. 

That’s all I can see. His face, her hair, his hands. And I look away. I can’t look. Make it go away. Make it go away. Please make it go away.

But it doesn’t help because the image isn’t only on the screen. It’s in my head. And I just want it to stop. I don’t want to see it. I don’t want to hear it. It was only a few seconds. But it was long enough. Long enough for the panic to set in. For the painful tightening in my chest. For the knot to form in my stomach. For my lungs to forget how to breathe again.  

“Is that what it was like?” I hear myself ask him, realizing that I actually said it out loud and not just in my head.

Another one of those questions that I need to know and yet also do not need to know. 

His face is pained, his hands searching feverishly for the remote. 

I leave the room, busy myself with loading some laundry to try and clear my head and learn to breathe correctly again. 

It happens. 

It kind of stinks that something as simple as watching tv can be so complicated. It kind of stinks that there are a lot of simple things that bring the past to the surface. 

But it is what it is. We deal with it, and we move on. 

A few days ago, I made the executive decision to watch the show anyway. 

It was just an unfortunate coincidence that it started with that particular scene. 

We just skipped to the next scene and started there. 

We have to live our lives, regardless of the triggers. I do my best to avoid them. The ones that I can’t avoid, I deal with the best that I can. Thankfully, there have been very few this year that affected me that way. 

I’ve gotten pretty good at controlling the thoughts. 

I can’t say that I’ve gone a whole day yet that I haven’t had some kind of thoughts about the affair. I guess I’m not sure that will ever happen. 

But it rarely affects my now. There’s more of a separation. The thoughts are there. But the pain attached to them is not as overpowering as it once was on a daily basis anyway. 

The goodness of my now has gotten bigger than the pain of my past. 

And I like to imagine that it will continue to get bigger, so much so that the panic stops even with the bigger triggers at some point.

Those few minutes were tough. They took me back to a very painful time. And it can be overwhelming. 

But it was only a few minutes. I’ve had a million other great minutes.  

And all I have to do is remember that the panic, the pain, those things are not my now. 

My now is full of goodness.                                    My now is full of joy.                                               My now is simply….full. 
❤️                                                                             Amy Thurston Gordy

Forgiveness. It’s no Lifetime Christmas movie.

A few weeks ago I decided to face my struggle with forgiveness head on. I struggle with it a lot. There’s the rational side of me that says my anger and contempt for her is justified. Not to mention I just can’t figure out how I’m supposed to think of the woman that had an affair with my husband and have any kind of good feelings about her or not feel the anger or see her as anything but pure evil. I just can’t fathom how it’s possible. The other side says that I should be Christ like. Extending mercy and grace and forgiveness and seeing her as a child of God that simply made a bad decision. This side says that I should care about her soul just as much as anyone else’s. 
So it sounds simple enough. Choose to be the good side. In my mind I can choose it. I can say yes, I want to be that. But then I think of her, and feel nothing but anger. So I can say it. I can say it over and over, but it seems insincere. Because I don’t really feel any differently about her. 

Yep. Forgiveness is hard. 
Jeff and I are doing great. There’s been a lot of healing, a lot of moving forward, and a whole lot of happy. We have found an unimaginable amount of redemption in this past year and a half. So this unforgiveness I held for the other woman seemed to be the one major thing still holding me back. Keeping me shackled to the past. And the thing I hated most about it, was the fact that it gave her power over my feelings, my emotions, and ultimately my healing. And she doesn’t deserve to have that. 
So what does she deserve? That’s a loaded question. 

And probably not the best one to ask me. 

I should definitely not be the one to pull the trigger on that one. 

Because my first instinct is that she deserves a punch in the nose. 

Shame. 

Heartache.

Distress.

Unhappiness.

Bad luck. 

For her skin to shrivel up.

Her hair to fall out. 

Her tires to go flat.

For birds to poop on her head…

..Every. Single. Day.

To gain 50 pounds and undo every bit of that liposuction she had. 

Bed bugs. 

For her husband to leave her. 

For her friends to turn their back on her.

To be alone. 

Miserable and alone.

(And here y’all were all thinking that I was all sweet and precious. I am. Like 99.5% sweet and precious. But that other .5%…maybe not so much. You probably really don’t want to be on the receiving end of that .5% 😜)

But then…that voice of reason: 

“Well then, does Jeff deserve all of that too?”

Ugh. 

I don’t want any of those things for him. 

Did he deserve them? At one time, I’d have to say yes. Yes he did. All that and more. 

But he was sorry. He is sorry. And he isn’t just sorry, he’s changed. 

Reformed. Renewed. Rebuilt, reborn, transformed , whatever name you want to give it. He is that. He embodies it. He lives it out every single day. 

He’s not the same person that made those bad choices. I forgive him. I forgive him for being that person. And I am thankful for the person he is now. 

Sounds easy right? In some ways, I guess it is. Now. But in truth it’s been nearly two years of continual hard work, effort, and intentional persistence on both of our parts. It did not happen overnight.

I forgave him then, but every day when the reminders come I have to choose to remember who he is now instead of letting the memories be the filter of how I see him, and I have to choose to forgive him over and over and over again. 

In a conversation about infidelity recently, a friend made the comment that when incidents happen in which trust is broken or brought into question, “those things never really go away.” And a truer statement has never been spoken. They can’t be undone. They can’t be erased. 

Ever. 

If only people were reminded of the levity of that before making such a mistake, many hearts, lives, and marriages would still be intact.

But Jeff’s renewed sense of self, commitment to God, and dedication to our marriage makes it pretty easy to choose to forgive him. To love him more than ever before. Even when the reminders come. 

And they come less frequently. I mean, there’s probably not a day that goes by that I don’t have some thought about it. But not necessarily in the painful ways. It’s just a matter of fact. It’s my story. It’s our story. And it is what it is. I have to accept that. But occasionally I’ll still have a trigger. A few weeks ago it was a song I heard while driving home. I had never heard it before and I have yet to hear it since. So I couldn’t tell you what it was or who sings it. It was a duet, where the girl is singing something along the lines of “what if you’re not the one, what if you break my heart, what if you leave me… and the guy sings something like, “but what if I am the one, what if we grow old together, what if you’re my last first kiss”. I don’t know why any reference to that destroys me the way it does. But it just tears me apart. 

His last first kiss was supposed to be me. His last first everything was supposed to be me. It was mine. Mine. And she took it. And I can never be his last first kiss again. 

It will forever be her. 

And that’s a crack in my heart that can’t be easily repaired. You can’t restore that. Jeff can’t give me that back. That’s one of the cracks that only Jesus can fill in. And boy, does He ever have His work cut out for Him. Because the only thing I could think about in that moment listening to the words to that song about being his last first kiss was how much I hate her for that. 

I hate her for that. 
Wait…. I still hate her? I thought I’d moved beyond the level of hate. But that feeling I had when I thought of her taking that last first kiss, as much as I’d like to be able to deny it, is undeniable hatred.
The dictionary defines hatred as this: Extreme dislike, disgust, resentment. 

Yep, that pretty much covers it. 

I hate her for everything she stole from me. I hate her for never taking responsibility for her part in it and I hate her for never saying she was sorry and I hate her most of all for making me hate. I hate her for not wanting to do the right thing and for not having the decency or the conviction to reach out with a simple heartfelt apology for the pain she inflicted. 

Whew. That’s a lot. And here I had been thinking that I had made some progress in this area. I’d been praying about it. I’d been reading about it. And I don’t hate her at a level where I sit around constantly and think about how much I hate her. I’ve got way too much good stuff in my life to just sit and let thoughts of her consume my days. But in that moment, the hatred that I thought I had downgraded to a slightly less extreme dislike came back to the surface just as easily as a fizz bubble in a freshly poured Coca Cola. And I have to say, acknowledging this fact burns a little in the same way those fizzy bubbles sometimes do. 

And that’s when I realized that I’ve got a long way to go in this forgiveness stuff. 

And after hearing that song that day, I kind of put the whole subject on the back burner for a couple of weeks. 

Because it was….

Just. Too. Much. 

So I sat it aside and stopped thinking about forgiveness and stopped reading about forgiveness and basically just said “hey, I tried. Who needs it anyway? We’re doing really, really good.” 

And honestly I just enjoyed the heck out of these last couple of weeks. I had a week off of work and we did all kinds of things and I just gave myself a nice little break. 

Sometimes we need to do that. When a task is just a little too overwhelming, we just need to step back, lay it down, and let things settle. Sometimes we just need to give ourselves the time and space and grace to recharge.  

I guess I thought that if I just willed myself to make the decision to forgive her that it would be easy. That I’d somehow find the magic key to unlock the door and just let it all go.

And maybe one day I will. Or maybe it will just take time. And maybe part of the problem is that I’m just not ready yet to let her off the hook. Maybe, probably, if I’m being completely honest, there’s a part of me that doesn’t want to not hate her. A part of me that can’t really fathom not hating her. 

I mean come on. I think most of you could admit you’d most likely feel the same. She SLEPT WITH MY HUSBAND after all. Not only that, but she had a relationship with him. For 9 months. 9 MONTHS. And she helped set the stage for it to happen for months before that. Years really, in all actuality. She set out to take what was mine. She took something holy, and sacred. She had no regard for the pain and heartache she would cause not just me and my children, but her own husband and children. She lit the fire that destroyed the world as I knew it. 

Jeff took the bait, yes. He broke our vows. He utterly and completely broke my heart. 

The only difference between the two of them is that he owned it. Every bit of it. And he was sorry. He apologized to me. To God. To our children. To my family. To our friends. And to basically anyone and everyone that he came into contact with. He apologized to her husband. And he has spent every single day of his life since attempting to make amends to me and every one else for it and build a new life.

And yet, she is silent. 
Despite the fact that she knows how to contact me.

Still silent.
Despite the fact that I feel pretty certain that she got the message that I sent through one of her friends that accidentally sent me a friend request when checking out my Facebook page. (Yes, that happened. And yes it was awkward. Thankfully, her friend was kind and forgave me for my initial reaction to her accidental friend request.😳)
Still silent.
Despite the fact that I reached out last year and wrote her a letter.
No response. Still silent. 
Despite the fact that I feel sure she has read my posts on this blog. 
Still silent.
Despite the fact that I’ve given her opportunity after opportunity to show me she’s capable of being a decent human being. One that I could possibly learn not to hate.
Still, all there is, is silence. 
So, what then? At this point, am I to assume she truly has no remorse? Or at the very least, if she does, she has no intention of sharing that with me? Which again, makes me think that she isn’t truly remorseful. Because wouldn’t that a make a person want to do everything in their power to set things right, as much as possible anyway? I can’t imagine if I were in that position of having caused such damage to a person, and to life as they knew it, if I were truly sorry I don’t think I could live with myself if I didn’t tell them so. Is that just me? Am I wrong to think that when someone is truly sorry, they would be compelled to apologize? Or is it that she doesn’t have the nerve to reach out? Or does she indeed carry so much shame that she can’t bear the thought of facing me? (Texting or writing would do. It requires much less personal fortitude. I’m just sayin’ )
I’m pretty sure her marriage is still intact. So she’s apparently convinced her husband of her remorse. For his sake, I hope and pray it’s real. I really, really do. Honestly he’s the only person that makes me not truly wish all those horrible things I mentioned above on her, because he deserves a happy marriage. A happy life. I truly want her to be as remorseful as Jeff is, and to be able to build something new and real with her husband. He deserves absolutely nothing less. 

So many questions. Questions that she apparently has no intention to answer. 

Does it really even matter?

Would I be able to not hate her if I knew how sorry she was? Would it be easier to forgive her if I knew how sorry she was? I think so, but I guess I may never really know. Looks like she’s gonna make me have to do it the hard way. I’m just going to have to find a way to purge myself of the hatred that bubbles to the surface. 

I still believe one day I’m going to wake up and find that she is nothing more than a fact, an incident, a character in the story of our lives that is no longer capable of producing any real effect on my emotions, except for the gratefulness for the story that comes AFTER her brief but destructive presence in my life. 
One day the hatred WILL be overcome by grace. And the grace WILL allow for forgiveness. And forgiveness WILL allow for FULL redemption. 
As is evident by everything you’ve read in this post, I’m obviously not completely there yet. And I have kind of wanted to beat myself up about it. But I’m not going to. I’m just going to keep moving forward. And maybe not put so much pressure on myself to be able to do this overnight. Deep wounds require deep healing. You can’t just slap a bandaid on it or put some makeup on it to make it look pretty. Underneath the band aid or the makeup it’s still ugly, right up until the moment that it’s not. 
So I’ve still got a little ugly that I need to clean out of my wound. 

I think the real problem I’m having with forgiveness is that I’ve been trying too hard to figure out how “I” can do it. I’ve been looking to solve my own problem, to find my own answer, my own solution. I’ve been trying to find a logical equation that adds up to an answer that makes sense to me. But the truth is, forgiveness doesn’t make logical sense. 

Wikipedia says that forgiveness means letting go of negative emotions such as vengefulness, with an increased ability to wish the offender well. (I can’t even believe I just quoted the wikipedia🤦🏻‍♀️but hey, they had a good definition) 

The hardest part for me has been that no matter how hard I try, I can’t figure out a way that it makes sense to me to not feel negatively towards her. Not of my own capacity anyway. I can read all the books in the world. I can comb over every logical written fact about the subject, and possibly even be able to make sense of it in my head, but all the while still be unable to reconcile that with the feelings in my heart. And I can beat myself up about it until I’m black and blue.

The fact of that matter is, I. Can’t. Do. It. 

If true forgiveness comes, it will not be because I’m a woman of such strength, or of such virtue. It will be because God himself stepped in and made it happen. It will be a true miracle of miracles. It’s going to take God working on my heart in a way I can’t even imagine. And I mean it when I say I literally. can’t. even. 

So I guess it’s a good thing we serve the God of miracles. 

I guess I’ve just painted a pretty ugly picture of myself here. Reading back through it, I can’t help but feel a little vulnerable. I can’t help but think that I probably should paint myself a little prettier. A little more like the “Chicken Soup for the Soul” or “Reader’s Digest” or “Lifetime Christmas movie” version of forgiveness and a quick tidy little story all wrapped up with a bow and life lesson. I could have come here and only written the things my head knows, without revealing the darkest corners of my heart. My head knows I need to forgive. And I could have just said that I did it. I’ve forgiven her. Easy peasey. Tied it all up in a pretty little package for you with a pretty little bow on top. I could have gone with that whole “Forgiving is the right thing to do so I’m just gonna say that I do forgive her” scenario. I could paint you a nice little tidy picture of perfect little me, easily offering forgiveness with not so much as a drop of sweat off my brow. I could have made myself look like the pillar of strength, Godly woman I’d surely like you all to perceive me as. 
But it wouldn’t be the truth. 
It would probably get me more blog followers. 
Probably a lot more Facebook shares. 

But it wouldn’t be real. 
Real isn’t always neat. Real isn’t always pretty. So even though I wish I had a pretty little easy package of forgiveness to present to you, I don’t. All I have is the reality of how truly hard it is. 

Those stories are out there. Those “forgiveness is easy” stories. Maybe they make some of you feel better, but I think the more likely truth is that if you find yourself on the forgiving end of heartache, those stories will just make you feel like you’re somehow not Godly enough or inadequate because it hasn’t come quite that easily to you. So I’m not going to hide my ugly. I’m going to share my truth. The truth is forgiveness is hard. And something tells me that I’m not the only one that needs to hear that it’s ok that it’s hard. It’s ok that it doesn’t come easy. It’s ok. We will get there when we get there. We just have to keep walking. 

As I was trying to finish this up tonight, I had to leave and go pick up my daughter. On the way home, the radio deejay said something about how sometimes there were scriptures that were just really hard to hear. He went on to quote several verses from Luke 6:27-36:
27 “But to you who are willing to listen, I say, love your enemies! Do good to those who hate you.

28 Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who hurt you. 
31 Do to others as you would like them to do to you.
35 “Love your enemies! Do good to them. Lend to them without expecting to be repaid. Then your reward from heaven will be very great, and you will truly be acting as children of the Most High, for he is kind to those who are unthankful and wicked. 

36 You must be compassionate, just as your Father is compassionate.”

🤔 Well, that was no coincidence. He was speaking directly to me. 

I got the message God. I did. But love? Love’s a strong word. How about just: slightly dislike but not completely hate? 
Or could we go with: not quite love but not wishing for birds to poop on her head daily either?
No? 
No. The message is clear. I have to find a way to not hate her. I don’t have to “love” her. Not like I love my husband or my kids or my very best friends. I don’t think that is what this verse is saying when it refers to love. I think it means that I have to not hold her in contempt, I have to find a way to see her through the eyes of God, and I have to find a way to truly wish her well. 
I don’t think God was calling me out on the way home. I don’t think he was saying “Hey. You’re gonna do this or else!” I think it was more of a “Hey kid. I feel ya. It’s hard. But it’s possible. Come with me. We’ll do this thing together.”
I know it’s possible. I’ve seen real live examples of it. Of people who truly no longer feel the feelings of hate for the affair partner. I’ve seen the example of a woman who has come to actually care for the well being of the one night stand that had her husband’s baby. And truly want good things for her. You know why? It’s not because she’s a martyr. It’s not because she has some super human strength and the biggest heart on the face of the planet. I mean, don’t get me wrong, she’s pretty amazing. An awesome, awesome person. But the fact that she can do the one thing that I haven’t figured out how to do sincerely yet, is because of what I said before. It’s because God is a God of miracles. 
I’m not completely sure how to get there, to the point where I don’t feel the contempt and I sincerely wish her nothing but goodness, other than submitting this wounded heart of mine to the Father and asking Him to work His miracle in me. 
That, and simply, time. 
I just have to trust that the things I know about forgiveness in my head, will eventually soak into my heart, and fill in the space where that hatred hides. My head knows the truth. My head knows the answer. I’m just waiting for my heart to catch up. 

❤️

Amy Thurston Gordy