Sylvia: I was at work when Ray told me over the phone that he needed to talk to me. I sensed from his voice that there was something wrong.
Ray had been drinking when he finally arrived home about midnight. He said he was having an affair with a woman he supervised and had also lost his job because of the affair. I felt like it was a dream … that he was not telling me the truth. I could not understand it.
Ray: I was confused and proud. God was not in the picture and everything was about me.
I have 15 brothers and sisters and grew up in poverty. Determined not to have that kind of life, I worked very hard for a building supply company. After beginning as a manual laborer, I was considered its top manager before my affair was discovered.
It was company policy for a manager to be automatically terminated if he/she had a sexual relationship with an employee. When I crossed that line, I knew that eventually I would get fired. But I had it in my mind that I just could not control my relationship with the other woman.
After I lost my job in January 2004, I continued seeing the other woman. On Valentine’s Day 2004, Sylvia asked me to leave the house.
Sylvia: I had been a stay-at-home mom and only substituted once in a while at school. I didn’t have a degree, so I enrolled in college. After being married to Ray for almost 18 years, all I could think of was the kids. How was I going to support them?
Ray had acquired real estate and people around me said, “He’s going to take you for everything. You need to take your part and file for divorce first.” So I went ahead and filed.
Ray: At first I was saddened, but I continued drinking and became angry. “If this is what you want,” I told Sylvia, “I will do it.”
I remember meeting Sylvia at a grocery store, “Okay, you take your half and I’ll take my half,” I said. It was the first time I told her, “This is real,” and she said “Yeah.” At that time I was ready to let go of everything I had in my past. Let go of Sylvia. Let go of the girls.
Sylvia didn’t really want the divorce. I was living in an apartment and she would try to visit me but I would push her away. She realized that I wasn’t afraid of divorcing.
I was hired by another lumber yard and during that time I remember telling the other woman that I had to go back home. “My wife wants us to get back together. I’ve got a good offer. I’m going to be a manager again.”
I tried to move back home with Sylvia, but it didn’t work. We got divorced on December 15, 2004.
Not long afterwards, I moved in with the other lady. I started to see the same issues that I had with Sylvia—wanting control, being jealous, relationship issues. The woman’s ex-husband also started coming around and asking her to come back.
I was so confused and returned to my own apartment. I knew that something wasn’t right. I bought a Bible because I wanted to know what was happening. On Easter Sunday in 2005 I accepted Christ as my Lord and Savior, and I started listening to Christian radio.
Sylvia: I also listened to Christian programs on the radio and got involved in church. My life started to change in December 2006 when I went on a retreat with some ladies from church and started having a relationship with Christ.
Ray: I heard an ad for the Weekend getaway on the radio. Before I could ask Sylvia if she wanted to go, she mentioned it to me. We knew this conference was our last resort and would determine if we were going to stay together or not
Sylvia: Although Ray lived in his apartment and I was living at the house, we went together to the Weekend to Remember.
Ray: We started listening to the speakers. Wow! Is this marriage? I thought. It was totally opposite of how I was brought up. It was something new and I liked it.
They asked us to get into groups for one of the sessions. Sylvia and I started sharing our story and told the group that we were divorced. A young man said, “If you guys get interested in getting married here’s this card of a Christian counselor.” I kept the card in my wallet.
A man who works with FamilyLife approached Sylvia and me. He said hello and asked us a few questions. I started breaking down in front of him, telling him about my adultery. I remember crying and he just hugged me and said, “You are going to be okay. I did the same thing, Ray.” I guess he made me realize I wasn’t the only one.
Sylvia: I learned at the conference that Ray and I had never had a God-centered marriage, even though we were married in the church. Our marriage had not been anything like what it was supposed to be—how God comes first and then Ray and me and then the children. We never had it right.
Ray: A few months after the conference Sylvia and I decided that we wanted to see a Christian counselor and I pulled out the card that I had gotten at the Weekend to Remember. We began seeing the counselor because I didn’t feel that Sylvia could understand me. He was not going to judge me, and Sylvia and I were able to talk about what went wrong. After several sessions I thought that it was time to get married again.
Sylvia: I never really wanted a divorce and was always there waiting for Ray. I had no other relationships.
One day Ray and I were sitting in our parked minivan when he started to choke. “Are you okay,” I asked. “What’s wrong with you?”
Ray stuttered a couple of times and finally the words came out: “Would you want to marry me again?”
I started crying. “Yes, I do.”
We remarried on July 6, 2008, and had a garden wedding in the backyard of our home. Our counselor married us.
Ray: Being married to Sylvia now is like night and day. I see a reason why I should be here and I’m more involved with Sylvia and the kids. I teach them God’s Word; it is very challenging. There will be times when the old sinful nature of comparing or being judgmental comes back. When that happens, I get back to the Word and recall truths like “If Christ forgave me, who am I not to forgive?”
Sylvia: It is so different and wonderful to have God at the center of your life. It is hard because we are not used to putting God first … going to Him with our troubles, with our kids. Everything is about Him now. We come second.
Ray: After we remarried, we went to our second Weekend to Remember conference. I learned more about my responsibilities as a father; I have four girls from 22 to 13. I learned how to play the role of a father and balance that with my roles of husband and provider.
Sylvia: At the second marriage conference I learned how to be a better mother to my children.
Ray: I am so thankful to be where I am with Christ personally. Walking with Him. Being in a marriage again with Sylvia. I can see where God is teaching me what is true love. It’s about giving and not about what I get in return.
Sylvia: God’s love is changing Ray not to be judgmental and not to be the kind of man he used to be. I am very thankful to God that He has given us back our marriage. It’s not the old marriage but a new marriage with Him.
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