Sunday, August 15, 2010


(And Why I Still Love It) --- A Treatise on Grace and Forgiveness

So how have you done it?

Earlier this year, when I shared my story with a close friend of mine who lives in another state, his first question to me was, So how much time did you spend in jail?”  I dearly love this dude and we had a good laugh about it. But when I share this latest saga of my life – my experience of adultery – with people I often get asked, “How have you done it?” How have you been able to move on with your husband in light of what has happened? How have you forgiven and moved on?

I have spoken of the grief I experienced when my son died four years ago. And now I am fervently speaking about the grief I experienced from the betrayal of my husband last year with two “sisters,” two women who were members of my faith family in the small church where Travis and I were members for more than a decade. When my son died I became extremely sad. When my marriage died last year (from premeditated murder), I became extremely mad!

C'mon now, really, how does a person commit adultery with someone they met in church!? I mean that just feels like a whole other realm of wrong. (Can I get a witness?)

I have said that I love people. All people. Even those who seem to hate me. I want to share my story to speak to believers (of the gospel of Jesus Christ), non-believers, and probably most especially to the make-believers – those people who are either pretending or are self-deceived about their faith relationship with God.

In my last post I discussed how I believe adultery amounts to the rape of a betrayed spouse. How the Scripture says, "Let each man have his own wife and each woman have her own husband. The husband should give his wife what she is entitled to in a marriage relationship, and the wife should do the same for her husband. The wife is not in charge of her own body, but her husband is; likewise, the husband is not in charge of his own body, but the wife is.” 1 Cor 7: 3-4. In a marriage the husband and wife have given their bodies to one another. So when one spouse “gives” their body (physically and/or emotionally) to someone else, they and their adultery accomplice are essentially raping the unsuspecting spouse. How many of you in a marriage would consent to your spouse being emotionally or sexually involved with someone else? (If you raised your hand, stop reading now. And know that I have said a special prayer for you.) ;-)

Besides the trauma of the infidelity, when my husband’s adultery was exposed in the church last year I experienced further wounding from many in the church. Travis was so deeply deceived (in spiritual darkness) and he was not initially repentant. In hindsight I understand now that this kind of sin brings great shame upon the perpetrator(s). If h/she was caught, just as the first man and woman did in the Garden, s/he will automatically (naturally) look for someone (else) to blame. Travis blamed me. I had forced him to cheat. After months of cataloging my shortcomings (both real and fabricated), first with one friend,  then with another, the list of my faults was long and terrible. When I spoke briefly with his first accomplice, the sister who brought the initial break in my covenant with my husband, she concurred. Their adultery was all my fault because I had neglected my husband. He was so “lonely” she had to help him out. (Ok, I am not generally given to profanity but some choice words came to mind in response to the absolute ridiculousness of that rationale.) They made the choices they made -- to sin -- because THEY WANTED TO!!

Church folks began to shun me. Some seemed to agree that it was my fault. (Remember, “Take care of your man or someone else will”? If I had just been on my job, none of this would have happened, right?) I’ve also said that when something terrible happens to “good people” those who witness it sometimes become afraid that it might be “contagious.” About six months after it all came out, I sent a mass email to the church body outlining everything that had happened. It was as tastefully written as a letter about three “Christ followers” in sexual sin could be. [I admonished the church that this thing was just completely UNACCEPTABLE. It should not have happened in a church as “loving” and spiritually intelligent as ours should have been. My former pastor is one of the MOST GODLY men I have ever known.] But after I sent the email the church was, for all intents and purposes, finished with me. (My letter also informed the church that our family would be leaving. As I’ve said adultery ALWAYS produces some kind of death. How was I to continue fellowshipping with these women? Our relationship there was destroyed ---by all their choices.) I was further rebuked. Few wanted to deal with it. (Truth is, some might have been privately dealing with this same thing themselves.) I believe it just hit too close to home. It forced everyone to take a good look at their own lives for any personal “darkness” there might have been, that is, hidden things being done in secret. It was just too much. Not everyone blackballed me. But many did.

If you know anything of the Christian church, you know that church people can be really wacky. Ghandi said, “I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians.” Alas, much wrong has been done in the name of Christianity. Can we just say slavery? People who claim Christianity are too often some of the most misled, uninformed, greedy, mean spirited people I have ever known. I heard the story of a woman last week whose family was stalked and harassed so badly until her father, the pastor of the church, was eventually killed. All this happened at the hand of a deacon in their church. (Her book "Devil in Pew Number 7" is now on my reading list.) On our TVs are men and women preachers who attempt to sell people the gospel blessings for a “gift” of XX amount of dollars. And I wanted to scream when Sarah Palin was introduced several years ago at the Republican National Convention. She was pretty, reasonably well spoken, a break-out political star touted as a devout “Christian.” But her Christian label left me wanting (and wondering) as I heard her sling mud all over her opponent, the now sitting president, Barack Obama. (We can put Sarah Palin down as another topic that is a book unto itself in my head.)

We (Christians) get angry at the jihad (the holy war waged on behalf of Islam as a religious duty), that remnant of Islamic religious fanatics who have taken “world peace” into their own hands. But some of us (Christians) are in many ways just like them, full of hate; dogmatic and self-righteous.

Make no mistake. I have already said, this adultery thing has made me plenty mad. I feel hate. But I don’t hate people. I hate sin. (Starting with my own.) I hate what the people who betrayed me did. And I hate the Evil One who encouraged them to do it. That’s why I write. To expose him. I don’t write to make anybody look bad. I write to make sin (and the devil) look bad. To show it (and him) for what it really is.  Evil comes enticingly dressed. It draws you in (and then takes you out) like the proverbial frog in a pot of cool water. The temperature is turned up slowly. The frog is unaware that soon he will be boiled to his destruction. Devoured in his own complacency and unknowing. How many people do you know who planned to become a drug, porn or gambling addict? How many times have you ever heard a child say, “When I grow up I’m gonna be a prostitute”? or “I want to one day be an alcoholic or maybe a murderer?” The origin of this stuff is sin, either our own or someone else’s that was forced upon us. There was a time unfortunately when church folks seemed to think EVERYTHING was wrong. But these days we will accept just about anything. Nothing is wrong anymore. “Everybody just live and let live.” When it comes to sin, people either want to glamourize it, make excuses for it or turn a blind eye and deaf ear to it—ignore it and hope it goes away… That is until it comes to your house and victimizes you or you find yourself having done something unthinkable. We gotta deal with this stuff. I’m calling it out!

I want to stop a minute and address something here. I'm calling this a "Treatise on Grace and Forgiveness." I feel the need to clarify something that I believe is widely misunderstood. Forgiveness is not equivalent to forgetting. It is not pretending that a wrong did not occur or that you no longer feel pain from the offense and it is not never speaking of it again. If I had a dollar for every minute Travis and I have spent talking about his infidelity, we could move next door to Oprah or Bill G. I've heard people say that God "remembers our sin no more" and "casts it into the sea of forgetfulness" and this is most certainly true. The Bible also says that love "keeps no record of wrongs" (or taketh no account of evil). Again this just speaks of a person not continuing to hold the debt or the charge against the offender. When we ask for forgiveness God DOES NOT HOLD our wrongs against us any longer. Our debt has been paid.  He does this for us and all of mankind just as He did for a whole slew of folks in the Bible. And yet from the very beginning the Bible is full of stories of people's disobedience, pride, murder, grumbling, sexual immorality, lying, backbiting, (I could go on and on). Their FAILURES have been recorded for all mankind to read, study AND LEARN FROM. When we truly forgive, we release our offenders from their indebtedness to us. But rarely are we able to forget. If I get drunk and drive and take someone's life in a car accident, God will certainly forgive me. But the family of the victim will NEVER forget. And neither will I. Rarely is there no consequence to our sin and offense against one another. The two issues of forgiveness and forgetting are separate and distinct. We cannot hold offenses against our offenders. But I will continue to talk about this (the redemption of it)  until God tells me to shut up!

Me thinks I have greatly digressed. =) I wanted to share with you how I have forgiven. How I can simultaneously feel the pain of betrayal and an inexpressible joy. Why I continue to love my husband, more than I ever thought possible-- and how I have released the two women who were deceived into trying-- for a brief minute-- to be me.

When Bryant died, the Lord God, the RUACH (His Spirit) was literally my life support. It was the worst of times (up ‘til then) but it was also the best of times. If you don’t know God in that way, I pray you can understand this. I felt God’s presence -- HIS COMFORT-- in such a magnificent way. Some months later though, as life begin to move on and I was no longer able to nurse my sadness, I started to feel angry. I was angry at Bryant for being so foolish. I was angry at myself, for all the ways I failed him. I was angry at Travis too for the ways he’d failed our son. Anger can a very dangerous thing. Pair it with accusation and you have a time bomb waiting to ignite. The Evil one is called “The accuser of our brethren.” (Revelation 12:10) That is in fact who he is --our Accuser.

What do we do when we have been wronged and mistreated? We rehearse the offense. We say, “I can’t believe you could _______ ( name the offense).” “How could you treat me this way?”

I believe that anger is often an emotional response to the grief and hurt of ill-treatment in our lives. As I worked thru my anger (grief) over Bryant’s suicide, I had to deal with each person individually. For me, I forgave myself saying, “I did the best I knew to do for my son. I loved and cared for him as best I could. He had a good life.” I said the same of Travis, “He was the best father he knew to be. He loved Bryant more than his own life.” There is no guilt or shame in doing the best you can for your child. But for Bryant, forgiveness came differently. It came directly from a Biblical passage. I was able to forgive Bryant as Jesus did when He hung on the cross and said, “Father forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.” I was able to say, “Lord, I forgive Bryant, because he did not know what he was doing.”

When my husband packed his stuff and left our home early that July morning last summer, I was devastated. Later that day I would learn that for the past several months he’d been secretly living as if he were a single man. He did not leave for another woman. After the “covers were pulled back” on his illicit activity, as BB King would say, the “thrill (was) gone.” His midlife reality escape had shown itself for what it really was-- a smelly mirage of smoke and mist. The gig was over but as I said, he was not initially repentant. He (with the help of the Accuser) had convinced himself that I would never forgive him. The adultery had given him a sort of “spiritual suicide.” He had totally lost himself and he believed everything else was lost. Anais Nin said, “We do not see things as they are. We see them as we are.” I’m convinced of this truth. We see the things of life as we are. When we are broken inside, our view of life is broken, our thoughts and corresponding actions are broken. (That’s why personal wellness, wholeness and freedom are so vitally important.) Eight days later, when I learned there had been an earlier violation with someone else, (a few “hook ups” with our close friend) I was completely destroyed. There had been a triple betrayal. GANG RAPE. Wicked depravity all up in the church.

I wasn’t sure I could survive it. Forget divorce, I’m talking feeling the life go out of you.

Then the Lord spoke something specific to me from His Word in the Bible. It was from 1 Samuel 8. If you are not familiar with the story, you should read it. Basically the Lord said to me, “Do not be distraught Sharmayn, ‘for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me, that I should not reign over them.’ ”  (verse 7)

When my husband ran out that Monday morning, he wasn’t running from me. He was running from God, from the truth (and from himself). When my friends decided they wanted to have sex with my husband, they weren’t betraying me, they were betraying their God. They believed the lie that God’s comfort, love and provision for their lives was not enough to satisfy them. They all acted in ignorance. And in deception. Like the first man and woman in the Garden, they were tempted “to eat death disguised as a slice of life.” They all bit. And they would all suffer the self-inflicted consequences.

And so, armed with this truth I was able to leave the question of “How could you do this to me?” and just ask “How could you do this?” (And God had already given me the answer.) As much as I was hurt, I had to de-personalize all this. It really wasn’t about me.

God gave me such a special agape (unconditional love) for my husband. The compassion God gave me for him surprised even me. Travis had been thru alot.  He was (is) still struggling with our son’s death. Despite a mountain of challenges, my husband had cared for me, both of my parents and our children like the champion that he is for more than 18 years. It was easy to keep my vow to him (even tho he had broken his to me) because he had proven himself faithful in so many ways. [His kind heartedness (mis-directed) was in some ways what got him into all this mess.] He was my rock, a broken one, but mine nonetheless.

It was not, however, that easy to forgive these women. I had been nothing but a kind sister to both of them. These women had no right to my husband and they should have known better, done better, been better. Should have. Over the course of the months, I went back and forth between feeling pity and forgiveness for them and fighting bitter hatred towards them. I’m just calling it like it was. (At times I felt a struggle with “feeling forgiving” towards Travis as well. I love that man. But the thought of the offense angered me terribly.) I remember when Travis had come to himself and decided to return home. A dear friend whose marriage had survived infidelity told me, “Be prepared Sharmayn. The devil will not be happy that his plan to destroy you two did not succeed.” Nowhere have I seen that be truer than in my attempts to forgive my husband’s adultery accomplices.

But forgiveness is an essential ingredient of a free life. Unforgiveness is a virtual prison. I have a friend whose mother-in-law was hospitalized in intensive care for several months before she died. The doctors performed all kinds of tests but were never able to find out what was wrong with her. After the woman passed, my friend said her husband commented of his mother’s state, “There is no test for bitterness.” First it paralyzed her. Then it killed her.

As with my son’s death, I knew I had to settle the forgiveness issue. Otherwise I would be held hostage by grief, anger, bitterness… my own pain. It has only happened recently but I can say with truth and certainty that I have forgiven these women for what they did. First of all their offense was against God. They will have to deal with Him. If they have earnestly repented (to feel such regret for past conduct as to change one's mind regarding it; to make a change for the better as a result of remorse or contrition for one's sins ) then God has forgiven them. A few weeks ago as I was praying and writing, I was near tears. It hurt so much. I told the Lord that I did not think I had it within me to truly forgive-- to fully release them from their debt for the severe pain I was feeling because of what they chose to do to me and my family. I just didn’t think I could do it.

Then I sensed the Lord saying, “Well, are you willing to let Me forgive them? Will you let Me do it in you,... for you?” My answer to Him was of course, “Yes, Lord.” A short time later I felt a release inside me and once again the words came to me, “Father, forgive them, for they did not know what they were doing.” Glory!

Freedom came. I can honestly say that I have fully forgiven them. Does the thought of their actions still hurt? Yes. I look forward to the day when the wound becomes a scar. Healed over and no longer painful. But the God I know is a Redeemer. A Healer. Just like with Lazarus in the tomb (John 11), GOD called my marriage back from death. And He has given me double for my trouble ( Job 42:10) in the wonderful way He has brought me back together with my beloved husband (Song of Solomon 2:16 & 5:16). I love the Lord God, His One and Only Son Jesus, and His Wonderful Spirit, the RUACH that keeps me flying high above the pain and circumstances of this life.

And I love the church. Messed up as we are. We need to know there is no such thing as perfection in this life. Our families, our workplaces, our social organizations, even our churches, they all have their idiot-syncrasies. (I'm actually thinking IDIOT –sin- CRAZIES – play on word intended). Some of us are even the ones in question! {As my former pastor used to say, "Everybody's got a little something wrong with them." That includes you and me.} Earlier this year we joined another church, a big one. I was shocked to learn just last week that there is all kinds of foolishness-- not about issues of sin, but as best I can tell, personality issues-- going on behind the scenes there. Instead of complaining or running, I've just ramped up my prayers for our new pastor, who seems to be a dynamic man of God, and for the church people. We’re trying (to get it together). And we’re gonna get there. There are wonderful folks out there who are not caught up in religion, those who understand that faith is not about rules and regulations...that faith, true and authentic faith, is about RELATIONSHIP with our Creator God. He is real. He is love. (That’s not all He is, but that’s another post.) He loves us, idiot-syncrasies and all. His grace is amazing. I do love Him so.

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as Christ God forgave you. Be imitators of God therefore. As dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God." ( Ephesians 4:32-5:2)

"By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another." John 13:35 NIV

"Jesus replied, 'All who love me will do what I say. My Father will love them, and We will come and make Our home with each of them.' "   John 14:23 (NLT)


  1. Some may not understand what it is to forgive, unless they really feel the ultimate forgiveness, which is found in His blood. When I first read the title, I was a bit afraid of what was to come. About midway I realize that all that was being said was the truth. There is no shame or condemnation in the truth. I feel the love of Christ in your words, and witness it daily through your actions. Continue to speak the truth in love, you might as well be free!!!!

  2. Just thought I would let anyone that is not aware that (dad24) is the husband of the author and he aprroved this blog!:) Travis

  3. I have been reading your blog tonight, after following you here from a comment on my blog. I am so proud of you guys for coming through victorious! I want this for my marriage as well. We are almost to the one year mark of "The Truth".....I look forward to the day when I can think about the past and not feel the stabbing pain in my heart.
    Tonya from the 4 little Fergusons