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Confession: A Hard Step to Freedom

with | April 4, 2013
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After forgiving her husband for his sexual addiction, Meg's husband later confessed to having an affair.
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  • After forgiving her husband for his sexual addiction and working hard to keep her marriage together, Meg's husband later confessed to having an affair. Author Meg Wilson talks about the hurt and anger she felt after her husband's betrayal and tells where she found encouragement and strength to walk through this trial.

After forgiving her husband for his sexual addiction, Meg’s husband later confessed to having an affair.

Confession: A Hard Step to Freedom

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April 04, 2013
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Bob: And it was back, a decade ago, when Dave came to you the first time and said, “I’ve got some things I need to confess.” At that point, confessed to a number of sexual sin behaviors but didn’t tell you the whole story; did he?

Meg: That’s right, Bob.

Bob: It was two years later when he called and said, “I need to talk,” and really came clean—and now, confessed—not only to looking at pornography—but also being with another woman. The second confession—was this an unprompted confession or was there—had he been caught in something?  What forced this second confession?

Meg: I wish my husband was here, Bob, to tell that story. It’s powerful. I want to encourage women because, for me, it’s evidence of the power of a praying wife. He had gone away on a business trip—and he fell again—when he was traveling. The moment he was finished, he had this incredible weight. He felt—not just conviction—but he said, in that moment, he felt God turn His back on him.  He said, “You know, you think you know what it is to be alone; but can I just show you what ‘alone’ really is?” 

And then, later, we found the Scripture, in Isaiah, about God turning away, for a time, out of wrath—because here He is watching my husband betray his wife—who’s home, believing that he’s getting healthy, and who is praying for him in that regard. So, I call those “in your faces” with God. He had an “in your face.” He knew, in that moment, that he was going to die if he did not tell me. So, he just went to his boss and said he thinks his marriage is over. He came home early from that business trip. He said he didn’t know that our marriage would stay together, but he knew that God was going to walk him through it.

Bob: Do you think he expected that you might say, “That’s it,”?

Meg: Oh, absolutely.  He’ll tell you he expected me to run, screaming into the night.

 

Dennis: Why? 

Meg: Because he thought what he had done was so horrible. He’s had an enemy telling him, all his life, that he’s the lowest of the low and that he’s outside of God’s help.

Bob: Did you think about going screaming into the night when he was telling you these things?

Meg: I didn’t want to run screaming into the night, but I was very angry. After I got through the shock, and after those first few days of just tears—I really didn’t know I had that many tears, and I’m a crier—

Dennis: You were just mad?

 

Meg: Well, that came later. In the beginning, I was just hurt; but then, I was like: “Okay, I now have biblical grounds to divorce this guy. I think I’m done. I think I’ve done the faithful-wife thing.” I remember just praying out to God and saying, “Do I have your okay?” I felt God saying: “You know what, Meg? I hear your heart, and I’m not asking you to stay in this relationship and be hurt over and over again; but I am asking you to wait.”

So, I actually was turned, and poised, and ready to run—waiting for the next shoe to drop—and then, I was out of there—knowing that I would have the full peace of God on my behalf.  And I waited. And in that waiting, God was at work—at work in my husband and at work in me.

Bob: You’ve talked with hundreds of women since this has happened—women who have prayed that same prayer and said, “I want out.” When a woman prays that prayer, do you think God sometimes says, “Yes”? 

Meg:  Yes. I’ve seen it go both ways because God hates divorce; but He doesn’t hate sinners, and He doesn’t hate divorced people. He’s got a heart for all of His children. If He knows that a wife, staying in a relationship could put her very life and health at risk, He doesn’t call a woman to do that. 

So, I tell the women—when they come to a Healing Hearts group—I tell them: “I cannot promise you that your marriage will be saved. It takes two people—100 percent committed to Christ—to make that happen; but I can tell you that you can become whole and healthy in Christ, with or without your husband, regardless of what he does.” So that was our job—in that moment—is that, “Okay, I need to make sure I’m getting healthy.”

Dennis: Meg, in the midst of your own personal time of weighing your options, did you go to a friend—a godly counselor—to explain what had happened?—and not just to vent your hurt, and anger, and disappointment, and to tell the story—but someone you could really listen to, that you could count on, who would give you what this Book, the Bible, says about how you ought to react and respond to your husband. Did you go to a person like that? 

Meg: Well, it’s interesting because I was about to start this group. So I had ten women, who were in a similar situation, and my co-leader. I went that night and shared what happened—

Dennis: The very night this happened—

Meg: Yes.  In fact, I called my co-leader. I told her what happened. I said, “I can’t go before the women.” I was going to share this testimony of hope.  She says, “No, you need to come.” We went back and forth. Finally, she said, “Okay. I’m picking you up, and I’m not going to answer my phone.” So, I had to go. I went and I just—I laid it on the line for the women. I think the best I could say is, “It stinks.” 

They cried with me, and they wept with me. Unfortunately, they’re watching their leader live out their worst nightmare; but what happened next is my co-leader was able to step up. We continued the group, and I became a member. I had those women for support. You have to remember, too, that God had built a lot of supports underneath me in anticipation of what was coming, which was just an amazing gift. So I had some resources, right there, at my disposal because I was already in the process because of the first confession. 

Dennis: Psalm 1 talks about “Blessed is the man [or the woman] who walks, not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers.” It would be real easy, in a situation like that, for those other nine women in the group to become scoffers and downright wicked in wanting to punish your husband. But evidently, they didn’t call you to that kind of behavior. 

The rest of this passage in Psalm 1 talks about delighting in the law of the Lord and on His law—the Scriptures—he meditates day and night.  It really talks about walking in the way of the righteous—surrounding yourself with godly counselors. I think that’s really, really important and points out the need for your support groups when a woman faces something this tragic.

Meg: Yes. I’d really like to emphasize a couple of points with regard to that point.  It’s so important. First of all is, just because you go to a Christian counselor or even a pastor, sadly, does not mean that you will get godly advice. So, overarching that—always, always go back to God’s Word. I think, as I’ve said—the decisions along the way—there were godly counselors—but ultimately, I needed the Spirit of God—the Word of God—had to line up with what the people of God were saying.

Dennis: And I’m glad you clarified that because I do think there are people, even within the Church, that give bad counsel. 

Meg:  Unfortunately.

Dennis:  And the godly counsel is going to line up with the Scripture. 

Bob:  With that in mind, I want to just talk for a minute, if I can, about the issue of sexual sin, and the marriage covenant, and how all of that comes together because I think it’s important for folks. You know, this is somewhat controversial, among Christians, about—“Where is there permission or not permission to divorce in these situations?”

Jesus talks, in Matthew 19, about sexual sin being a cause for divorce. In First Corinthians 7, he talks about abandonment being a cause for divorce. In both cases, the implication is if a woman, primarily—it can be a man—but in that culture, it was a woman who needed protection from a man—who was abandoning her and leaving her, without means of support—or a man, who was involved in ongoing sexual sin and exposing her to shame and harm, as a result of that—if that woman needed legal protection, Jesus says, because of the hardness of heart and the reality of sin in the culture, protection is available.

But it was not so, from the beginning, Jesus went on to say. God’s intent for marriage was one man/ one woman, in a covenant relationship for a lifetime. 

Dennis: Right.

Bob: And if there is any hope that God is doing a work—in fact, I’ve talked to women who say, “Well, I feel like I need divorce for protection.” I’ve said, “If you feel like you need divorce for protection—and the covenant community of believers says, “We agree, with that situation,”—then, get the protection—but continue to pursue reconciliation, and continue to pursue the repentance and brokenness in your ex-husband, and see if the relationship can be restored—even when a divorce has been granted—because the heart of God is for reconciliation, for restoration, for relationships, for forgiveness to occur.  Again, if you’ve got somebody who isn’t repentant, that may be a different deal.

Dennis: That’s what I wanted to take you to, Meg. Your husband, Dave, had to convince you that he was repentant, as Bob was talking about; and he did want to be reconciled. How did he prove that to you?

Meg: Well, that’s a good question. It’s important for women to understand that it’s a process. There isn’t one magical proof. 

You stay in faith. We had what I call an “invisible separation” because the girls were in high school; and I didn’t want to traumatize them more than once if the marriage didn’t work by separating and then divorcing. So, we were separated in our own home. We had boundaries; and we lived as roommates while I was in the process of discovering, “Is this true repentance?”

Dennis: How long did that last?

 

Meg: A couple—two, three months.

Dennis: Okay.

Meg: So, during that process, obviously, we were reaching out for all the tools possible.

Dennis:  Was someone else helping you?

Meg: Yes. Actually, we were each seeing our own counselor because he had a different healing process, in that moment, in that time, than I did. So, there’s work to be done that’s different. I had different work to do, from a healing standpoint. He had different work, from the addiction standpoint. 

We, now, see a counselor together. So, that’s an important piece—is to come back later.  But in the beginning—I put it this way—this is the picture I use. I was just speaking to some women Monday night; and the question came up about “the two becoming one.”  She was trying to understand—this whole boundaries—because I talk about the need for women to have an independence—a sort of a spiritual, emotional independence. She was trying to wrestle that with the Scripture about two becoming one. 

I said: “I look at it this way. If you take two broken pieces that happen to fit together, that’s not very miraculous; but when you take a completely whole person in Christ and another completely whole person in Christ, and the two become one, that’s miraculous.  That’s something that only God can do.” So, because we’re broken individuals—and that’s usually how we got together—there’s a reason why we married sexual addicts. God kind of pulls us apart for a short time so that he can become whole in Christ, and be free from his addiction, and I can be whole in Christ, and be free of my codependency and the issues that brought me there. 

Bob: So, when you were seeing your counselor, your counselor was helping you see sin patterns in your own life?

Meg: Yes.

Bob: Now, let’s be clear because you’ve already said, this week, that the woman, whose husband is involved in sexual addiction, she’s not responsible for his sexual addiction.  But there were issues in your own life that were fueling the unhealthiness of the whole situation?

Meg:  That’s correct; that’s correct—because there are a lot of women who want to just focus on what their husband did. I was in that camp. I remember, early on, saying to a group, “I wish I had married a sinner like me.” We all laughed—“Ha, ha, ha.” It wasn’t long after that—just, in my quiet time with God—I felt a conviction for that comment. 

I felt God saying, “You know, Meg, we need to talk about that. I would like you to step up here, from My perspective. I want you to look down, and I want you to know that your ‘pretty little sins’ that you laugh at—I want you to know that those took the same precious blood of My Son to cover as your husband’s. So, be careful.”

And it was, in that moment, I thought, “Oh. You’re right,”—not that I caused my husband’s addiction—but it was an opportunity—an opportunity for me to take a look at my own relationship, my own walk. I discovered that: “You know what? Everybody’s broken.” It’s that level playing field—that you talked about—at the foot of the cross. Everyone’s broken. You know, I discovered something else. I’m a full-time job. I’m a full-time job and I have no business trying to fix other people when I’m a full-time job because I’m not going to get it right.

Dennis: You know, listening to you tell your story about the harsh reality of this even makes my question, again, all that more important. I want to take you back to the question, “How did Dave prove to you he was repentant?” because, now, he was having to prove repentance—to not only you—but to his own daughters, as well.

Bob: Well, and let me just say—you’d seen him weep about his sin before, only to continue in it. 

Meg: Yes. And I had more information now—having walked with other women, and having gone through the other class, having more resources. He was—he had to confess to his accountability group—that he was already in—that he had lied to them. He had to tell his counselor that. We immediately set up a spiritual care team.  There were two couples that sat down with us. I’ll never forget the first meeting. In their marriages, they had gone through similar situations; and God restored them. So, they were great resources. 

We sat at the table. I remember sitting there, thinking: “Wow! I have this team, now, to support me.” My husband got really, really angry—I don’t remember the specific point; but they’re like, “Okay, we’re done.” I thought, “Oh, great! He’s angry, and we’re done,” because they were trying to show him something; and he didn’t want to see it. We walked away, and he thought about it. He came back later; and he said, “You know what? When five people are sitting across the table and telling you something is so, at some point, you have to believe it’s so.”

So, that was a first. There were just these little breakthroughs, along the way. And then, he began reading his Bible more often. He always went through the motions, but there’s a difference when a person becomes in a relationship with God. It’s living, it’s active, and it looks different. 

It’s really, really important to not believe the words because they’ll tell you lots of good words. He had told me things, but I needed to believe behaviors. It took time for the behaviors to represent the change that was occurring in his heart. So, again, it’s a process, and it takes patience.

Dennis: Yes, and I just want to underscore two things here. One, true repentance really does take time.

Meg: Yes.

Dennis: You made the statement, “He didn’t want to see it.” It took five people, at a dining room table, to ultimately force him to look in the mirror. 

And here’s the thing that all of us know in our heart of hearts. You know what?  True repentance does take time. It’s like peeling the layers of an onion. It may take—well, I’m sure, in some ways, he’s still repenting—ten years later—from that sin.

The second thing I want to just underscore is—true forgiveness takes time, too. Yes, it can be granted, at a point in time; but that time may be slow in coming. You know what?  It’s okay. It’s okay to go through the process and not be—and I don’t want to say this wrong—but not be a goody-goody two-shoe Christian—who kind of whitewashes the whole deal, and uses spiritual language over it all, and says, “Oh yes, I forgive you,” when, in reality, they’re still mad, as a hornet, and they want to punish them and get even.

Ultimately, what has to happen is there has to be a coming to grips with your own sin—as you described. You did that really well—of talking about how you determined what you’d done wrong—but then, taking your hands off the scales, and forgiving him, and giving up the right to punish him. 

Bob: In the same way, that there is a difference, as you have said, between confession and repentance—there is also a difference between forgiving someone and reestablishing trust. That’s a theme we want to explore with you before we’re done here this week. 

But let me remind our listeners that we do have copies of Meg’s book in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. The book is called Hope After Betrayal: Healing When Sexual Addiction Invades Your Marriage. It not only captures your story; but I think it gives folks some wise counsel from what God taught you, in the midst of the journey, that He had you on.

You can go to FamilyLifeToday.com for more information on Meg’s book and on other resources that we have available that we think you’ll find helpful if this is an issue in your marriage. You know, the statistics are that this is an issue in more and more marriages. Couples need to be ready to engage on it, know what to do with it, know how to deal with it, and how to work their way out of the ditch and back on the road when something like this derails a marriage relationship. 

Again, go to FamilyLifeToday.com for more information about Meg’s book and other resources we have available; or call 1-800-FL-TODAY. Someone on our team will answer any questions you have about the books that are available. Again, it’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then, the word, “TODAY”—1-800-358-6329.

You know, oftentimes, when we deal with issues like this on FamilyLife Today, we’re dealing with how to repair a relationship when there’s been damage done; but I think every couple needs to realize that there’s another side to marital health—and that is to be doing the ongoing work necessary to keep a marriage strong. 

A while back, our team talked with Dennis and Barbara Rainey about what they see as the key, essential ingredients for a marriage to thrive. They captured some of those thoughts and put them on a laminated card that looks a little like a bookmark—something you can put inside your Bible. Actually, it’s a little wider than most of the bookmarks I have, but you get the idea—something you can tuck into your Bible or into another book. 

We are sending these out, this week, to anybody who calls to request The Five Essentials for a Thriving Marriage card. It’s our way of saying, “Thanks for listening to FamilyLife Today.” We, especially, want to get it to those of you who are new listeners and may not be familiar with the resources we have at FamilyLifeToday.com or in our FamilyLife Resource Center.

We’d love to get you introduced to the ministry of FamilyLife Today. So, call and request two of these Five Essentials for a Thriving Marriage cards. We’ll send them out to you—one for you, one for your spouse. And, again, it’s just our way of saying, “Thanks for tuning in each day and being a part of the ministry of FamilyLife Today.” The toll-free number to call is 1-800-358-6329; that’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then, the word, “TODAY”. We hope to hear from you.

And we hope you’ll be back tomorrow. Meg Wilson is going to join us again. We’re going to talk about how a marriage reestablishes trust when there has been the kind of betrayal that Meg and her husband experienced. I hope you can tune in for that.

I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team.  On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine.  We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today

FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas. 

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Episodes in this Series

Forgiveness Day 3
A Time to Rebuild
with April 5, 2013
Meg Wilson talks about the state of her marriage eight years after her husband confessed to a sexual affair.
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Forgiveness Day 1
Shocked by Sexual Addiction
with April 3, 2013
Meg Wilson remembers the day her husband told her about his addiction to internet porn.
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