Michael Murray knew there was a problem when he attended his 10th high school reunion. At the time he was successful at work. He and his wife, Mary, owned their own home; they had two kids, two cars, and a dog. Yet that night he realized, “Mary and I had already reached everything we had set out to attain.”
Mike felt restless, unsettled, empty. But he didn’t say anything to Mary.
With a 2-year-old daughter, Brittany, and a 6-month old son, Eric, the Murrays didn’t take time for heart-to-heart conversations anymore. They couldn’t just pick up and go places whenever they wanted to. Mike didn’t like that; he felt trapped. He never had time to do what he wanted to do.
He often spent 60 hours a week at the office, and that’s where he struck up a friendship with a female colleague. “We went out to lunch, talked,” Mike says, “… she was separated, going through hard times.” With no young children vying for his attention, he was able to listen. And she listened to Mike. And it wasn’t long before their relationship escalated into a sexual affair.
Like any unfaithful husband, Mike created a web of lies to cover his infidelity. All the while, Mary was unsuspecting. She never questioned why her husband was gone so much. She was busy with the kids and trusted him. They had been best friends since high school and the thought of Mike being unfaithful had never crossed her mind.
Mike never expected his months of lies to catch up with him. “You do things when you lie and you have to keep lying,” he says, “and cover up one lie after the other.”
The first confrontation
Mike became more and more emotionally distant. He and Mary were spinning in opposite directions, and they seldom talked. Mary began wondering if there was another woman.
It all changed on the day they attended a friend’s wedding. In a setting of white lace and lasting promises, the Murrays got into an argument. That’s when Mary raised the question she had been afraid to ask, the one that changed the course of Mike’s life: “Are you seeing someone else?”
“Yes,” he said, and then saw the look of deep hurt on his wife’s face. So he hid the whole truth. “It’s just an emotional thing,” he said. “We haven’t had any physical relationship.”
What was Mike doing to his family? Where could he and Mary go for help? And how bad would things get?
Steps toward faith
Although the Murrays had never attended church as a couple, Mike had been raised in church. He felt they needed spiritual help, so they sought counsel from Pastor Jeff Green at Sutton Baptist Church in Sutton, Vermont.
After hearing their story, Pastor Green asked the Murrays about their relationship with God. Mike explained that he had said a prayer of faith as a child. Then the pastor asked him if he would totally commit his life to the Lord.
Mike said he would, but again he was lying. At this point, he wasn’t actually sure if he wanted to give up the other woman.
Next the pastor asked Mary about her faith. She wondered why he was asking her this question. Wasn’t Mike the one who had messed up?
After the Murrays returned home, the pastor’s words echoed in Mary’s mind. Then, a few days after meeting with Pastor Green, she recognized the sin in her own life and made a decision to become a follower of Jesus Christ. That’s when things started to really change for her.
The lowest point
Several weeks after meeting with Pastor Green, Mike came to an unexpected crossroads. His girlfriend told him she was pregnant. He realized he had made a real mess of his life.
Depressed and driving around with a shotgun in his trunk, Mike considered whether he should just end it all. Then he sensed God telling him, “If you are willing to die, die to yourself and let Me live through you.”
As a child, Mike could quote John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” But now he felt like God was drawing him to accept the truth of the following verse, John 3:17: “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”
Mike Murray had finally come to the end of himself. He confessed his years of lying and deceit to God and gave the mess he had made to Jesus Christ. “God spoke to me, and instead of receiving Christ I gave my life to Him,” Mike says.
But now he had to face Mary.
The lies finally end
At the same time, God was working in Mary’s heart about forgiveness. And one day she unexpectedly told Mike that she had forgiven him for his inappropriate friendship with his co-worker.
But Mike could not lie to her any longer. Now a follower of Christ, he began to weep. He confessed that the affair had been not only emotional, but also sexual.
Mary screamed. It was as though a knife had pierced her heart. “It hurt so much,” she says. “I asked myself questions like, Where do I go from here? and Is this what being a Christian is like?”
Despite her doubts, God continued to work in her life. She hung onto His faithfulness (1 Corinthians 10:13b) and asked God to give her the strength to forgive her husband.
For Mike the pain of admitting his lies began a journey of truth he has never regretted. First, he started to rebuild trust with his wife by being right with God. Mary needed to see Mike following hard after God instead of being the person he used to be.
He started bringing his Bible to work, reading it during lunch, and doing his best to follow its teachings. And for the first time in their married life, the Murray family became part of a church.
About the same time the Murrays’ pastor saw an ad in the newspaper inviting people to attend a HomeBuilders Couples Series® study, FamilyLife’s small-group study for couples (now called Art of Marriage Connect). He encouraged them to join the study. Having nothing to lose at that point, they agreed to give it a try.
As they went through their first small-group study, Building Your Marriage, they discovered God’s way of doing marriage. And answering the homework questions gave them a real opportunity for their own marriage to grow. “If we could apply these things, our marriage would work,” Mike says.
After going through Building Your Marriage, the Murrays began leading couples through it. They eventually led more than 20 Art of Marriage Connect groups in New England and helped start groups at other churches in the Northeast.
They also attended many of FamilyLife’s Weekend to Remember® marriage getaways. Every time they went to a getaway they were in a different season of life or in a different place in their marriage. So every time they went they got something new out of it.
Then in 2007 Mike became pastor of the Catalyst Church in Jericho, Vermont, where he serves today with his wife. They have led two of The Art of Marriage® video events there and continue to tell others what God has done in their marriage.
A changed legacy
Although it’s been more than 25 years since Mike had the sexual affair, he still feels some pain when he remembers it. “She told me that she got an abortion,” he says. “It is something that I have had to deal with. The Scripture teaches us that we are forgiven but the consequences sometimes remain.” But today he’s grateful for the decision he made at that crossroads: that he would surrender his life to Jesus Christ rather than ending it to get out of his misery.
Mary is deeply grateful as she looks at her now grown children and grandchildren. She shudders to think of her life today if Mike had made a different choice. “Who knows where we would be at this point?” she says. For one thing, she says, their third child, Michaela, “would not even be here.”
And Mary is not the only one who is thankful. Their daughter Brittany didn’t think much about her parents’ reconciliation until she married seven years ago. Her husband came from a broken home. “I see what life could have been like if my own parents had gotten a divorce,” she says.
Like most young couples, Brittany and her husband have had some marriage struggles. And sometimes they have sought counsel from Mike and Mary. Why? Because they have witnessed the difference God has made in their marriage.
“They are still very much in love,” Brittany says, “… Their marriage is what I want in my marriage and what I want my own children … to look for when they start to think about settling down with the one that they love.”
Brittany’s younger brother, Eric, agrees. “When most of my friends were losing their family structure, mine held together,” he says. “Even now, our family gets together most Sundays after church and spends time together. Co-workers and friends mostly don’t understand this, or how it happens. But it shows the importance of a strong family in a crumbling world.
And Michaela, the youngest of the Murrays’ three children, is especially thankful that her mom and dad did not split up. “Growing up, all my friends came from broken homes and had divorced parents, which was so alien to me. I always had a very concrete and supportive family life and I thank God every day for blessing me with the family that I have.”
It’s ironic, but when Mike gave God the rights to his life, he found what he had been searching for. When he surrendered his life and marriage to Jesus Christ, he discovered the source of true joy and contentment.
Recently Mike was talking to a man whose wife had just found out that he had been having an affair. Mike’s counsel: “Run to Christ. No matter what happens you need Christ. Run to Him. Do everything that you can do be right with Him.”
After all, running to Christ is exactly what Mike and Mary did so long ago. And that’s why they confidently say to husbands and wives, “God is able to save a marriage.”
No one has been more surprised than Mike about what happened after his lies caught up with him. God transformed his life and propelled him into ministry. “And if I could just get that into other people’s hearts,” he says. “There’s nothing that you’ve done that God can’t turn around and use.”
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