Friday, May 9th, 2003. Most things about that day and the events of the months leading up to it are a blur. I (Chris) don't remember what the weather was like on the golf course, or who was on my team, or what exactly was said in the argument that I got into. But there are two things that I do remember vividly: the look on my wife's face when she found out that I'd been having an affair and the words that she said to me at the end of that night. As I think about it, these two things are so defining that they are possibly the only things worth remembering.
It was that night that I was forced to admit my secret. For the better part of the previous year, I had been having an affair with a co-worker. An argument led the other woman to force the issue and create a situation where the truth had to come out. I was frantic and dazed. All of the lies that I had been weaving for nearly a year were coming unraveled in a matter of minutes. My worst fears were coming true. I was determined that I was going to take my secret to the grave with me. But now, all of a sudden, I had to say it. I had to say the words that I had hardly even said to myself. I had been living in such a delusional state that even a part of me was surprised to hear the words. But the look on my wife's face defined the seriousness of what I had done. It's hard to remember everything that happened after that. I know that I tried to hang on to information as best I could. I tried to spin and downplay everything. I don't know what I was trying to hide at that point, but I was still trying. Over the days and weeks that followed, the truth all came out. It was horrible. It was ugly. And for months we lived under a cloud that we could never envision lifting.
The second thing I remember was something that Suzanne said. At some point during that night (which never really ended), Suzanne stopped and expressed that "we can make it through this." There was no explanation for those words at the time. I knew she wanted to kill me. Frankly, I wanted to kill me. But in the midst of anger, confusion, fear, and a host of other emotions, she expressed grace. It was like someone giving a taste of water to a man dying of thirst. In that moment, I couldn't see getting to the end of that horrible night, much less any thought of restoration. But that one sentence gave me hope. It reminded me of what was real. It reminded me of the woman of God that I was dealing with. It was a small part of goodness of what was otherwise a horrible experience. Looking back, it defined so much of what was to come; It was a glimpse of the grace and forgiveness that Suzanne would show me and continue to show to this day. God was there with us that night, and He gave us a quick glimpse of what He was going to do.
In the days that followed, we had incredibly difficult conversations with family members and friends. I quit my job and had to tell my employers why (not before having another job - story to come later). I had to distance myself from people and habits that I had grown accustomed to. Life as I knew it would literally never be the same. But God immediately began making a path for us through people and circumstances. For the better part of the next year, we went through an amazing process of restoration and growth that we never thought possible.
There's obviously so much more to the story, but I'm reminded often of those two things. When I think of myself more highly than I should, or when I judge others too harshly - I'm reminded of that look on Suzanne's face. A look that reminds me of my guilt and the depth of my sin. And when I fall into the mode of questioning God's love for me, I'm reminded of the face of a wife who stuck with me - an experience where God showed up for me when I was the least deserving of it. I swore my whole life that I'd never do this, but when it came down to it, I couldn't will myself to stop. I'd do anything for this to not be my story, but I wouldn't trade what He has taught me. It was during that season that everything changed. I suddenly understood grace because I finally saw how much I needed it. It no longer looked mystical or academic. It looked like a wife who was rooted in the gospel. There are countless other reminders of God's mercy, love and provision during that season of our life. But these two memories are my own sort of Ebenezers that point me to the Cross -- where Christ's death was more than sufficient to pay for even the worst of my sins and where His grace was poured out even for those of us who are the least deserving of it.
As I write this I'm reminded that confession of my sin produces anger and disappointment in others. It did eight years ago and I'm sure it will today. To be honest, I struggle with wanting to be defensive, to point to how much time has passed and how much I have changed. But I'm quickly reminded of the truth. What I did was horrible, and it should produce anger and disappointment. I can't cover over it. My sin has consequences. Some are long over with, and some may never disappear. But this isn't about me. It's about the One who stands at my defense. The only One who could resurrect what I tried so hard to kill. The only One who could redirect a life gone so terribly astray. The only One who could pour out blessings in the midst of tragedy. The only One who can restore and redeem.Over the next days and weeks, Suzanne and I will explain more of our story, answering questions that deal with sin, forgiveness and why we have felt compelled to share our story so many times over the past eight years.