“A year and a half ago my life was approaching a major hurricane I never saw coming. For 20 years I had been the happy wife of a pastor and three growing kids. My husband Jason worked at a church we loved, and I thought things were going well. That fall morning I took the first day of school pictures of my two younger kids and then headed off to my job at a local middle school. My first day went great. Late that afternoon I heard my text alert sound.
And that’s when everything changed. The text was from my husband. It said, ‘I just got fired. I’m a loser. You should leave me.’
My first thought was that he was playing some kind of crazy prank on me. ‘Hey Ashton, am I being Punked?’ Adrenaline shot through my body, from the top of my head, down to my toes. I couldn’t catch my breath and started pacing our front yard like a crazy person. What is happening?
Rewind to about a year before this. I had been sensing for quite some time that something was just very off. Strange things happened, like Jason disappearing at the oddest times, catching him in lies, experiencing his increased anger, weird stuff…
When his car came down our driveway, I proceeded to hurl about a million questions and accusations at him. ‘Did they really fire you? Did you fight back? Are they crazy? Are you crazy? Did you kill someone? How could you do this to our family? What is happening?’
He just sat and cried. I was not having it. I told him to wipe his tears and tell me the truth. Needless to say, I didn’t get it. He wove together some odd story with little pieces of the truth but nothing remotely close to what was actually going on. This is what we in addiction circles call, ‘trickle truth.’ Those little bits of truth were just the tiniest chips of a very imposing iceberg threatening to capsize our marriage and family.
The following afternoon I spoke with our pastor about what they had seen of him at work and what we had been seeing at home. We had both witnessed a prolonged pattern of hiding, lying, and acting strangely. All of that added up to addiction. Together we decided he needed to go to rehab, and he was admitted to a 90-day program in Minnesota later that week.
When you discover your spouse is lying to you about pretty much everything, you become an excellent detective. With my husband out of the house, I had time to dig through all of his work correspondence, bank info, emails, and so on. Computer hacker much? Yup! I was desperate for anything that would reveal what he was actually doing. In all transparency, this day was one of the hardest of the entire process because I started to get a clearer picture of who my husband had become. It. Was. Ugly. He had opened a private bank account where he had been hiding his lifestyle. I found countless large charges to the local casino. I found angry emails. Work phone calls he had ignored. Texts he had sent trying to cover up where he was and what he was doing. Lastly, I discovered he was regularly viewing porn. I was livid. Heartbroken.
The first few seconds after waking each morning became the best part of my day, those few seconds before I remembered what my life had become. Then reality would slam, and I would fly out of bed like someone being shot out of a canon. I had loved and trusted my husband, and he had made a complete fool of me. What I never dreamed possible had happened, and it shook me to my core. It left me nowhere to run—except to Jesus.
During this time, I also discovered that my husband had confessed to a friend about an inappropriate interaction he had had with another woman. The term ‘epic freak out’ now reached a whole new level. I proceeded to delete my husband’s phone number from my contacts. I blocked him. I did not know where to go with all I was feeling.
Throughout the next few weeks, while Jason began the hard process of rehab, I tried to prepare myself for the time when he would confess the whole truth. I prayed he would be fully honest with me despite the horror of it. God answered those prayers. I’m grateful God answered, but, oh, how I wished I didn’t even have to pray for such a thing.
At the end of his first month in rehab, Jason’s counselors and mine planned a Facetime phone call where Jason could look me in the eye and tell me the truth, Truth with a capital T. I traveled to our church, where my counselors had set up the call and would be with me if I needed support. My sister drove me there, as I wasn’t sure I would be able to drive home. On the way in she asked me, ‘What do you hope happens during the phone call?’ My expectations were low. I said, ‘My hope is that he tells me the truth. I don’t expect him to apologize or even be remorseful. I just want him to tell me the truth.’
Before the call, everyone gathered around and prayed for Jason and me. God’s power felt electrifying. Even now, writing this, my heart pounds! I knew I faced a life-changing event, and I felt terror and hope at the same time. When I answered the call, I saw my husband’s face for the first time in a month. His face was tear-stained. Broken. Immediately I knew something had changed. My husband looked me in the eye and told me the truth. The Truth. He admitted his addiction to prescription drugs, gambling, and pornography. He then told me the hardest truth…that he had been unfaithful to me. That our covenant was broken. Jason begged for my forgiveness, but then admitted he had no hope I would ever forgive him, that his only hope was in Jesus. No words in the English language describe the searing pain that truth produced. I got up from the phone call and walked out into the parking lot of our church and screamed. For a moment, I actually thought I might pass out. Perhaps that sounds dramatic, but I felt completely overwhelmed with grief. I found some old plastic tubs sitting in the front entry of the church, and I took them and smashed them into bits. Honestly, I went a little berserk. My awesome counselors just let me have it out.
I went back into the office after I had gathered myself as best I could. I prepared to read my long letter to Jason entitled, ‘Reasons I Loathe You.’ Nice, Holly. I looked him in the face ready to spew hate, anger and bitterness. To tell him what a piece of crap he’d become and how I wanted nothing to do with him ever again. I think I got about three words out…and then I couldn’t go on. I took the letter and threw it into the trash. Instead, I told him I was thankful. What? Why in the heck did I say something like that? In that moment, God was opening my eyes to the prayers I had prayed. Those prayers where I begged God to open my husband’s eyes, to reveal the truth and begin to change him. I saw God beginning to answer those prayers. So instead of ‘I hate you,’ I said, ‘I’m thankful. I don’t hate you. I just feel pain. I feel like somebody died but I don’t get to go to a funeral. I’m so proud of you for telling me the truth—but I’m broken, shattered.’
As the weeks following that conversation passed, I was left many conflicting emotions. I was relieved. I could breathe—the weight of not knowing had been lifted. But the not knowing had been replaced by an awful truth I never thought would be mine. The pain and grief were almost physical. I cried and sobbed until I thought my throat would bleed. But simultaneously, God was healing my heart and giving me the strength to forgive my husband.
We began to write letters almost every day. We could express things in a letter that would have been difficult in a quick phone conversation. Seeing another letter waiting for me in my mailbox gave me hope. We still had difficult things to cover and a long road to healing. It wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows. But each step brought us closer to reconnection, reconciliation, redemption.
I went to visit Jason a few weeks before he was set to come back home. I wanted to understand what his experience in rehab had been like. When I saw him for the first time after so long, there was no desire in my heart to hurt him like I had been hurt. My heart held only hope for what God could do in our marriage and how He could turn the ashes of the past year into something beautiful.
Jason came home after three months, and we began to experience how different a life can be when built on grace, honesty, respect, and a love for God. This past summer we renewed our vows before God and our family and friends, a powerful time of recommitment. We have been blessed to share our story with many through our blog and while walking alongside couples in counseling. God has transformed our family in the most miraculous way, and the beauty and gift of it never fails to amaze me. What can I say now except what I said to Jason in our phone conversation: I’m thankful.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Holly Grate. You can follow her journey on Instagram and her blog. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.
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