He’s been asking me for weeks if I’m ok. “Yes”, I’d say. “I’m fine.” And I’d think to myself, everything is great. I am fine. I. Am. Fine.
And for the most part I was.
As I’ve been telling y’all, things are good for us. Really, really good. We are in such a good place in our relationship and in our lives.
Yet it was there. That little knawing feeling. That undercurrent of sadness. That heaviness in my chest. Creeping back yet again. It had been gone for so long this time. But they were back. Those tiny little thought bubbles, trying so hard to make their way to the surface, releasing their rancid contents of painful memories when they make it to the top. They were stupid random things.
Like making dinner. Just standing there making dinner, and my mind wandered back to the first time they were together.
I had made a nice dinner that night. I don’t cook big meals a lot, so I thought “he’s going to be excited to come home to this.”
I was excited to see him. I remember missing him that day. When you’ve been together as long as we have, you don’t necessarily miss them as often during the work day the way you do in the beginning. You take each other for granted a little I guess. But that day, I remember missing him, and wanting him to be home.
I had timed dinner to be done at just the right time so it would still be fresh and hot, knowing how long it would take him to get home from Forsyth. That time came and went. And I waited. The girls were hungry, so I told them to go ahead and eat. I texted him. No response. I remember a feeling of anxiety coming over me. I fixed him a plate, thinking he was probably going to pull up any minute.
He’s really late now.
I’m sitting alone. The nice dinner on the plates in front of me is getting cold. I text again.
This time I get a reply. He’s so sorry, but his replacement showed up late and he had to wait on her, so he could give report. But he should be leaving soon.
His replacement wasn’t late. He wasn’t completely lying. He WAS still at the hospital. But not in the building. Not working. Not waiting on anyone.
And I was sitting. Waiting on him. With a beautiful plate of food on the table.
And it was cold.
It’s amazing how a vision of something as simple as a cold plate of food can tear your heart apart.
Then there was the car. Her car.
A black SUV.
It’s where it happened, so black SUV’s have always been a bit of a trigger for me. The only details I knew were that it had dark tinted windows, which provided privacy for them, oh and her initials on the back. When I would notice one, I couldn’t help but do a double take. Is that her? Is that one her? Wait, was it a Ford? A Chevrolet? A Toyota?
I didn’t know. And so since I didn’t know, I saw them in EVERY one.
And over the past few weeks, for whatever reason I don’t know, it was as if they were always in my line of vision. They. Were. EVERYWHERE. And every one I saw brought me visions of him getting into the car with her. Being in the car with her. Every. Single. One.
Do y’all know how many black suv’s you see on a daily basis?
I haven’t asked him for any details in a long time. But this weekend I asked him for just this one. The actual make and model of her black SUV. So I could maybe at least stop picturing them in every single one I see. It sounds nuts, I realize that. The pain of betrayal does crazy things to a person. This was one of my triggers and believe it or not, knowing the specific make of her car helped to weaken that trigger so I can move beyond it. One specific model of car is easier to avoid than a million black SUV’s.
I don’t like to think about her. And most of the time , I really don’t anymore. But sometimes it feels as if she’s a ghost, popping in to haunt me. To torment me. And sometimes it’s harder than others to make her disappear.
Honestly, I think my brain has just been on a bit of affair overload. It seemed like every other day for almost a month, someone else was having an affair, or finding out that their spouse was. Some people I knew as acquaintances, some I knew as friends, and some I didn’t even know on a personal basis. But regardless, each time, my heart just sank. Knowing the pain each one was feeling. And I wanted to help. To give support. To give advice. But mostly to try and give them a little comfort. A little hope.
Maybe all of that played into this undercurrent of sadness I mentioned earlier. I just felt, for lack of a better word, heavy. And heavier. And heavier, until Jeff finally looks at me and says, “you’re not fine. You’re pretending you’re fine. But I know when you’re struggling.”
I’ve learned to hide it. To control it and push it back enough that if you were to see me on one of these days, you couldn’t see it. It’s just an undercurrent. Not enough of a nuisance to keep me from being able to function fully on the surface. I can mostly ignore it until the still and quiet of night sets in, and the busy-ness of the day wears off. But Jeff sees it. He always sees it.
“What can I do? I don’t like it when you get sad. It means I’m missing something. I’m afraid it means I’m not giving you what you need to feel happy or secure. It means I’m not doing my job.”
That sweet man.
I look at that sweet, sweet man of mine, and I say, “it’s not you. At least not really. Not this you. You are doing everything right. It’s what that other guy, the old you. It’s what he did. And it’s stupid. It’s stupid because he doesn’t even exist anymore. And I don’t know why I let someone that doesn’t exist anymore still hurt me so much.”
And I don’t know why the smallest details that bubble up from that undercurrent , like the thought of that cold plate of food, or a black SUV, hold the most stinging venoms. And to some degree, I had been fighting that slow spreading venom for weeks.
But it was time to deal with it.
So I told him. I told him about the cold food. About the black SUV’s. About how it felt sometimes like she was a ghost that wouldn’t leave.
“Have you tried forgiving her?”, he asked.
[Insert large, heavy sigh here.]
I’ve tried. Oh goodness, I’ve tried.
A million different times in a million different ways. I’ve tried thinking it. I’ve tried telling myself that I forgive her. I’ve tried praying. I’ve tried analyzing. I’ve tried to see her in a different light. I’ve tried to make myself say it out loud. I literally couldn’t get the words out. I’ve tried. I haven’t figured it out yet. And I know that I need to. I know that I won’t see God’s full potential in our story until I figure this out.
People look to me. They look to me as a pillar of hope. And maybe I am that. I hope that I am that. But they also believe that I’m this pillar of strength and forgiveness.
But in that moment when I’m baring my soul to Jeff that night, I tell him that I don’t feel like I am actually those things. That it’s just not true.
I forgive Jeff. I really, really do. It’s not even hard. He’s amazing. As a matter of fact, he’s so amazing and wonderful that people actually forget that he ever did it. My own sister, when talking about someone else that had a history of cheating, made the comment about that person in a conversation last week. She said, “once a cheater, always a cheater.”
It’s a phrase that for those of us that have chosen to stay in a relationship after infidelity , makes us cringe a little. Because honestly, for some people, that statement can prove to be true. And it’s probably our innermost fear.
And I feel certain she saw the look in my eyes when she said it.
“Oh! I mean, not everyone! Not Jeff. It’s not true of Jeff. He’s different. Oh gosh, I’m sorry. Honestly, he’s redeemed himself so much , I forget he ever actually did that.”
And it’s true. He’s gone above and beyond.
But the other woman, I don’t know. I don’t know the effort she’s made to redeem herself. With God. With her family. Her husband. Or her friends. But I do know she never made the effort to redeem herself with me.
Forgiving someone that isn’t sorry. It’s hard to figure out.
And that, I think is a whole other blog for a whole other day.
“It sounds to me like you are listening to a lot of negative things about yourself that just aren’t true”, Jeff said. “You ARE a pillar of forgiveness. You forgave me for the unforgivable. For things that most people could never forgive, much less choose to love again. And you ARE a pillar of strength.”
(He says as my face is streaming rivers of tears and I’m sniffling away.)
I responded, “Am I? Does this look like the face of a person that is a pillar of strength?”
He says, “That face is the face of the strongest person I’ve ever known.”
Pastor Buren said something recently in a sermon a few weeks ago, in the Easter service. He was speaking about Jesus when He prayed before his crucifixion. “Lord, if there be any way, please take this cup from me.”
And for these past few weeks… maybe this past year and a half, I think I’ve been praying the same thing. In that moment of despair, He wished there was another way. That human side of him wanted a different cup.
But it was his cup. It was the cup he was given.
I too wanted a different cup.
I told Jeff, “I just want so desperately to change something that can’t be changed. I want it to never have happened. I want more than anything something that I can never have. I want to go back to that night and I want you to say no. I want you to have seen in that moment the pain and destruction it would cause and I want you to have seen in your minds eye the way that it would torture me and I want you to have walked away and gotten in your own car and drove home to me and sat with me and that the food that I put on your plate that night had never gotten cold. I’m not ungrateful for what we have now. But right now. In this moment, I’d rather have you there, eating that warm food. I don’t care if that means that I wouldn’t be this person now, I don’t care if I’d never started writing. I don’t care if I never wrote a single word. I don’t care if it means that we couldn’t have helped any of the people that have come to us. I don’t want to be the example. ”
Yep. I said all of that.
But basically, what I was really saying , was
“I. Don’t. Want. This. Cup. ”
And I’d say that wasn’t just me not wanting the cup. I’m pretty sure that was me not just refusing to accept it, but hurling it as hard as I could at the wall in an attempt to shatter it.
[insert large heavy sigh, here…again]
Back to what Pastor Buren said. He said “sometimes, you just have to drink the cup you’re given.”
It didn’t really click with me when he said it. Matter of fact, I thought, “well, that’s not real encouraging or positive.” I mean, aren’t we supposed to think positively and expect better for our lives, and doesn’t God want the very best for us?” And I wasn’t sure how this statement he had made fit in with that theology.
And it took me a few weeks.
But now I get it.
I had a weak moment. Ok, maybe I’ve had a LOT of moments.
I didn’t want the cup I was given. That’s ok.
Neither did Jesus.
And maybe I took that a step further when I figured out I couldn’t do anything to change the past. It’s unchangeable. Nothing and no one can ever make it cease to exist, or change the fact that it happened.
My blog may be named “Not My Story”, but this IS my story.
This IS my cup.
And I’ve held it. Although for the most part reluctantly. I’ve looked for the good. I’ve been thankful for the blessings. I’ve allowed it to be used for the good of others.
But such a big part of me, has really just been like Jesus in that garden. Knowing what was required of Him. Knowing what needed to be done. Wanting the goodness that He knew would come from it, but also so overwhelmed with the sorrow of it that he desperately wanted that cup to be taken from Him.
He didn’t choose his cup any more than I did. His cup was the result of the sins of man. Not his own, but all of ours. It was our bad choices that filled his cup. My cup was also the result of sin. And also not my own. The bad choices of the man I loved and the woman I’ve despised filled my cup.
But in the end there was no other way.
He had to drink the cup that was given him.
If he had chosen not to, there would be no redemption.
There would be no goodness.
There would be no hope.
My cup has been poured. I can’t give the cup back. There’s a strict no returns policy.
I can throw it against the wall as much as I want. But it will still be mine.
I can’t just keep glaring at it, willing it to disappear. Not only does that not work, it’s exhausting.
Sure, I’ve taken a few sips here and there. I’ve allowed God to turn some of the sour wine into something sweeter.
But it’s time I drink the cup.
Jesus had a moment, but he worked through the pain and then he drank the cup. And because of that, the world was forever changed. Men’s hearts were changed. The course of eternity was changed.
Not thy will but thine.
It was only when Jesus accepted the cup he was given and gave up his own will that God was able to use Him to redeem everything that needed to be redeemed. And so it also is with us. It is only when we accept our cup that He can use it to redeem everything that He wants to redeem with it.
It’s there, in the acceptance, that the power of change is found.
It’s there, when we finally drink the cup that’s given us, that we can find true redemption. It’s there that He works all things for our good. It’s there that we find God’s best for us. The beauty for the ashes. The joy instead of mourning.
And it’s not just for us. The redemption that pours from that cup spreads to others.
If you want to see how big God really is, if you want to see how good He really is, if you want to see the fullness of His plan for your life….
you have to drink the cup.
I didn’t mean what I said that night about giving it all back. Do I wish it didn’t happen? Of course I do.
But it happened. And I love the life I have now. I love my husband and the amazing person he has become. I love the friendships that have been born out of the aftermath. I love the blessings that God has so abundantly poured out on us. I love that Jeff found deliverance from his addiction. I love that we are both becoming our true selves. I love writing. I love the freedom that our transparency and authenticity has brought us. I love sharing the goodness of God and I love that we can give people hope.
I don’t love the steep price it all came at. I don’t love the scars it left behind. A part of me may always wish that I could have had all of this without the price we had to pay for it. But it is what it is.
Life is not perfect.
But God’s plan for us is.
So we can choose to keep trying to give the cup back. Or maybe even keep smashing it against the wall.
Or we can choose to just accept it, and watch how God uses it to redeem us. Watch how He turns it from sour to sweet. Maybe, just maybe, even watch how He uses it to change the world, to change the hearts of men, to change eternity.
Thank you Pastor Buren, for speaking to my heart, even if I didn’t know at first that it was for me. I have a feeling it was actually for a lot of people. Thank you Jeff, for not growing weary of waiting on my heart to heal and for being a man that wants nothing more than to piece it back together.
And thanks to all of you, who keep coming back here and reading my words. Thank you for not judging us in our failures, for being our cheerleaders, for praying for us. For being faithful, faithful friends.
And as I finally try to fully accept this cup that’s been given me, I pray that the goodness and the sweetness and the redemption that pours from it touches every single one of you.
Amy Thurston Gordy