June 22, 1996, will forever be known as D-day to the Wilson family. It was the day my husband discovered I was having an affair.
We had been married five years, enjoyed our children, owned our home, and attended church occasionally. To all appearances, we lived a satisfying life. To me, nothing seemed further from the truth.
Frustrated with the lack of intimacy in my marriage, I had attempted to re-create the eagerness my husband and I once felt for each other. I asked him to commit to talk with me 20 minutes daily and begged for physical affection over and above intercourse. I wanted to see him make an effort in the maintenance of our love.
After routinely being told to accept the fact that romantic love could not survive marriage, I gave up trying to change my husband.
I toyed with the idea of having an affair and began to correspond with a local man through the Internet. Though devoted to his wife, he was equally starved for affection. After establishing that neither of us wanted to leave our spouses, we made plans to meet.
The feelings of guilt brought on by the affair quickly began to outweigh my giddiness. Knowing the relationship was threatening my marriage, I tried to end it. But, like a drug addict going through withdrawal, I repeatedly returned until the stress of deception became too much to bear.
I raced home in the darkness of that summer night. I had just severed my relationship with the other man, with full intentions of never speaking to him again. I pleaded with God. "You know I just broke up with him. Please give me a break. Please, don't let Rob find out. I swear it's over." My body ached with the knowledge that it didn't matter how much I begged. The sickness in the pit of my stomach told me my husband already knew the truth.
The following day was the worst of my life. In the course of my husband's rage, our wedding album was torn to shreds, an 18" x 24" framed drawing of our first dance was thrown out the front door, shards of glass blasted across the driveway, our neighbors were informed by the angry shouts of my husband that his wife was a whore, and he phoned my mother to suggest she pick me up before he killed me.
My husband was kicking me out of the house. I was allowed one suitcase. I was told to pack what was most important. He wasn't sure he could keep himself from destroying anything I left behind. He yanked a suitcase from the crawlspace, unzipped it, and laid it open on the bed.
I timidly walked toward the closet and stared inside. What do you take when you don't know if you will ever be returning? It was like realizing my house was on fire and trying to make a decision about what was irreplaceable.
My gaze turned from my clothing to the bookshelf. There lay my Bible. It was a copy I had owned since I was 13. Though I had always professed to live by its words, I hadn't even opened it in over six months. Instead, I had spent those six months distancing myself from God.
I reached across the closet and removed the book from the middle shelf. Accompanied by my husband's condescending laugh of irony, I placed my Bible into the empty suitcase.
As my husband observed over my shoulder, I quickly packed as much clothing as I could fit into the bag. I took a final look around and spied a picture of my family. I tossed it inside the suitcase and pulled the zipper before my husband had a chance to object.
My husband's temper was volatile. He refused to let me stay in the house to wait for my mother. Even the porch was too good for this adulteress. I was directed to sit on the curb.
I sat on the edge of the street in front of my house. Neighbors pretended not to notice me as they passed on their way to church. Embarrassed, ashamed, and drowning in my guilt, I wished there were some way for me to erase everything I had done. Even then, in the midst of my pain, I realized the emotions I felt were naught compared to the shock, suffering, and disappointment I had inflicted on those I loved.
Silently my mother opened the car's trunk to load my luggage. Once in the car, she drove me to the airport. I was sent to stay with my grandparents who lived nearly 1,500 miles away. With no idea how long I would be gone, my greatest pain came when I realized I was being forced to leave without saying good-bye to my children.
The two weeks that followed seemed to last forever. Without my children, without a husband, without a job, I felt no motivation to get out of bed in the morning. With nothing to focus on except my soul, I felt drawn to the Bible that lay at the bottom of my suitcase.
Day after day I read for hours. I clung to words of encouragement. I searched for threads of hope. I cried through the Ten Commandments as I reflected on those I had broken. The realization of what I had become made me sick.
On the fourth day of my expulsion, I stumbled upon a passage I will always remember. Hebrews 12:5-11 reads:
"And you have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons:
My son, do not make light of the Lord's discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son."
"Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live! Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it."
Two things stood out to me. First, this torturous experience was discipline. It had been brought upon me as a result of breaking the rules. Second, if God didn't care about me, he wouldn't bother trying to make his point. But he loved me enough to bring me back into his favor, to rid me of my selfishness, to teach me how to live within his guidelines, and to show me the extent to which I had taken for granted my husband and children.
I was completely amazed that God could still love me despite my wickedness. And, for the first time in my life, I understood the meaning of the term "unconditional love." I sobbed. This was a love I did not deserve.
Because my husband chose to forgive me and asked me to come home, I was provided with an opportunity to learn something so vital to my concept of marriage. You see, God didn't just leave me alone with this awesome revelation, though that would have been enough. He went one step further. He also began to show his love for me through my husband. Though my husband had not fully recovered from the shock of my adultery, he was willing to forgive and struggle with me while I proved my repentance. Though I had broken my vows, he was committed to sticking to his promise. For better or worse.