Before bed one night, toothbrush in hand, Monica Nelson sparked up a conversation with her husband, Jay. She expressed her surprise at what the documentary they’d seen that night had shown her. The Heart of Man shared true testimonials of sexual brokenness and of God’s restoration, revealing the unique circumstances—like online chatrooms—that led people astray. This particular danger of the internet had never occurred to her.
But Jay’s thoughts wandered from the movie as conviction settled upon him. He had to tell her, for the road from casual online acquaintance to sexual infidelity was his story too.
He motioned her to join him on the bed. “We’ve got to talk,” he said. “I have to tell you.”
The devastating news vomited from his mouth. Bluntly, he answered every question Monica asked. It occurred four years prior. They met over an online card game.
He appeared remorseful, but having carried the sin for so long, he lacked the emotion she ached for. His script-like delivery caused her to fear he didn’t grasp the magnitude of the situation.
“It was what I had to do to get it out,” Jay said. Over the last four years he had repented of his sin to God, or at least he told himself he had. “I turned away from the online card game and tried to get back in the game of being Monica’s husband, a father, and a Christian man … But I knew I needed to confess to my wife.”
Devastation kicked in that night and Monica sought solace in a nearby park. Through bleary eyes she spotted a white pelican resting on the water adjacent to where she sat. In the midst of hurt and pain, she knew she wasn’t alone. God was with her.
“Whatever is true …”
Witnessing Monica’s raw emotions fully opened Jay’s eyes to what he’d done. He recalls terrible moments when he feared Monica would reach her threshold. Would she ask him to move out? What would happen if he did?
Meanwhile, he heard radio divorce advocates discourage men from succumbing to their wife’s demand to move out. “It’s your house too. You have rights,” they said. But Jay had a choice to make: Would he listen to the world’s advice on how to move forward or to God’s instruction? Jay was hopeful their marriage would make it. But he understood he was at the mercy of his wife.
The weekend after the disclosure, Monica escaped to a friend’s makeshift guest “shed” to meditate on Scripture. It proved to be the respite she needed. She was already chewing on a piece of truth a friend had offered her: Divorce was given for the hardness of their hearts (Matthew 19:8). She encouraged Monica, as a woman of God, to grapple with what Scripture has to say before adopting the biblical out.
“So I did,” Monica said, “I took my Bible and the book It’s Not Supposed to Be This Way by Lysa TerKeurst. That book took me right where I needed to be in Scripture on every next turn.”
Yet her desire to transcribe each uncovered detail about the “other woman” consumed her. As she wrote them out on a piece of paper, God triggered in her heart what her mentor and friend, Jamie, had trained in her as a new Christian: “Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely … think about these things” (Philippians 4:8).
So she deliberately folded the paper in half and wrote down all the ways she could see God’s hand, from the movie conversation to Jay’s admission. From Jamie’s constant availability to the shed to stay in … His work was clear.
“By Sunday I knew that my heart wasn’t hard, and God wasn’t calling us to divorce,” Monica recalls. “I didn’t know what it meant to fight for my marriage, but I knew He’d direct every step of the process.”
They weren’t the only ones
The Nelsons’ marriage moved toward reconciliation slowly but surely.
Incidentally, their mentors, Bryan and Jamie King, who are FamilyLife staff, hosted The Art of Marriage® video event shortly after Jay’s disclosure, drawing them into the practicalities of a God-honoring marriage.
“We should have put them on a payroll,” they laughed as they spoke of the Kings. “We leaned on them and called them so often.”
Having a couple to cry with, ask questions of, and pray with was a priceless ingredient to Monica and Jay’s healing.
It was by Bryan and Jamie’s urging that the Nelsons eventually attended one of FamilyLife’s Weekend to Remember® marriage getaways. Having enjoyed The Art of Marriage, the idea of another weekend together appealed to them.
As the event speakers, Tony and Lymari Navarro, revealed what the Lord had done in their marriage 20 years earlier, Jay and Monica could hardly believe it. The speakers might as well have been sharing the Nelsons’ story, they were so identical. God used the speakers’ story to breathe life back into the Nelsons’ marriage.
“We were fighting, not each other, but fighting the enemy for our marriage and trying to rebuild,” Monica said. “In the Lord’s strength, we did everything we needed to do, and seeing a couple who had done it spoke volumes to my heart. God helped them through it, and we are going to get through it. I can’t believe God orchestrated this so beautifully in a time when I felt we really needed it. It was so encouraging.”
Moving in the right direction
In addition to encouragement, the Nelsons gleaned tangible help from the Weekend to Remember experience. Specifically, Jay is thankful for the tools he received for building up resistance against the enemy, the devil.
“[It’s about] setting apart time to be intentional with communication and connecting with each other,” he said. “And not just about the schedule or bills or kids. It’s so easy to get fatigued after a long day of work or with kids that the last thing you want to do is engage with someone in conversation. But we’ve become more intentional to make it happen.”
“We started putting the kids to bed early on Tuesdays and Thursdays so we could have more time together,” Monica said. “You’re either moving toward oneness or away, there’s no in between. We were in the rut of feeling ‘we’re okay,’ but okay is not good enough. We need to be working toward good with each other and not grow complacent.”
Even now, Jay and Monica regularly reference their “tool box” of resources and their conference handbook as guides.
Don’t miss the comeback
As The Heart of Man documentary depicted, redemption stories always commence with the shock of revealed sin. Monica struggled with that shock when Jay first confessed his affair. Because she had seen God transform Jay early in their marriage, she wrestled with this passage: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation,” (2 Corinthians 5:17).
“I didn’t understand how he could lie to me and trick me if he was a new creation,” Monica confessed.
So she searched God’s Word. Within it, she clung to the story of Peter. Even as an intimate friend of Christ, he denied Him (John 18:25). But by God’s grace, Peter made a comeback that shaped church history (see Acts 2). Galatians 5:17 reminded Monica the desires of the flesh and the Spirit engage in constant war, so even when Christians like Jay stumble, it doesn’t change who they are in Christ.
Jay and Monica’s marriage may have fallen prey to an affair, but God used people like Bryan and Jamie, FamilyLife’s Weekend to Remember, and ultimately God’s Word to resurrect their marriage.
“Hang in there,” Monica encourages other couples. “Because if you give up now, you’re going to miss the comeback.”
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