“My husband was supposed to be home after work and he was late. I called a few times. No answer.
He finally called back and in the most uncomfortable, emotionless voice said, ‘Ashley, we have to be done.’
‘What?’ I asked, shocked and hoping he didn’t mean what I thought he meant.
He said it again.
I cry-yelled, ‘What? Whyyy?!’
‘I’m done talking. I don’t want to go to anyone else for help. We have to be done. I’m turning off my phone for a few days.’
‘How can you do this?’
‘I’m going, Ashley. Bye.’
He was leaving to be with someone else. He had confessed it to me and we were taking all the steps, counseling, praying, talking, but I was devastated! I cried all night. My friends came over and cried with me and prayed over me as I bawled into the blanket on our bed.
Sad isn’t a sufficient word for the way I felt when he told me he wasn’t coming home. My heart was broken and my body felt the radiation of the pain coming from my soul. Half of me had been ripped away. You know when you watch a war movie and someone loses a limb? All the parts of the inside are exposed and just hanging out? Sorry for the gruesomeness of that visual, but it’s how felt. My person was done with me.
I was on my knees and face, praying, crying, mourning, and reading my Bible for days as Jesus comforted me. He was so close to my broken heart, as He promises He will be. He never left my side. There were times when I was sobbing so heavily and I could just imagine my head laying on Jesus as He ran His hand over my hair like a good father would comfort his baby girl.
In the first week, I knew after reading Scripture that God wanted me to wait on Him to do the work in Josh, and as I waited, to not repay evil.
I couldn’t change Josh’s heart. I’m not a heart changer, but Jesus IS. All that He wanted for me to do was wait on Him, stay close to Him, and trust Him in every next step. He never promised He would bring Josh home or I would ever get my husband back, and it if never happened, God would still be good… but I knew from His word He was for me and He was for our covenant marriage. Josh had broken the covenant, but I hadn’t. I would wait it out.
God is serious about covenant. A marriage covenant is not just a promise as long as we feel it or as long as it works for both parties. It is a promise to stick with it even when it’s not working, even when people fail terribly.
Everyone loves seeing that couple that makes it to their 75-year anniversary. There is NO way 75 years together didn’t come with some serious challenges. It’s easy to love how romantic that is, but it came at a cost. They had to sacrifice of themselves during those years to walk with each other through the good times and bad. I had stood before God and promised to love this man and to do that in sickness and in health, in the good times and bad, for better or for worse. Did I mean that? …YES. Yes, I did.
I knew God wanted me to fight for my husband. That wasn’t going to be through saying all the things I wanted or shaming or yelling him back to the Lord. My call was to PRAY…to cry out to Almighty God who has immeasurable power. That same power would be the only power that could change anything in my husband. So I prayed and waited and prayed and waited.
For almost 3 months, I prayed and studied God’s word, listened to sermons, worshiped God, and saw Him work in so many ways, big and small. All the while, He was working in my husband.
I got a text from Josh 2 or 3 weeks after he left. It said, ‘Is there still hope for us?’ I told him there absolutely was hope for us! Then, nothing…for a while. He couldn’t figure out what was true and what was not. He was a mess inside.
Sometimes God used me to speak to Josh and often times, He didn’t. We’d meet at parks or fast food restaurants so he could see the kids. They were pretty awkward meetings at first, but every time we’d meet, I would notice Josh’s heart getting a little softer. The date of our coming divorce was looming.
One day, we were at a fast food joint, letting the kids play while Josh and I talked.
‘Can I come home?,’ he asked.
I was so happy…among so many other feelings. This is what I had been waiting for. I knew it wasn’t going to be an easy process, but I knew it would be worth the hard work we would undoubtedly be putting in. He didn’t move home for a few months after that conversation. I needed to see that he was committed to coming back fully. He needed time alone…for God to do heart work. I knew I couldn’t be the one to do it.
He began with visiting us at home. The kids and I were so excited to see him. They all ran to hug their daddy and he came with flowers and a latte in hand for me… my faves. It was so nice to have him back in our lives, because we loved him so much, but I’m not gonna lie…it was awkward. We had gotten into our own rhythm and we all needed to readjust to life together, but over time, God worked that out as well…as we knew He would.
Josh would visit us almost every day after work and on weekends and we began going through counseling together. He’d been getting counseling from a professional counselor we knew through family and we continued to have couples sessions with him. Counseling was incredibly valuable; in fact, I don’t think we would would’ve made as much progress as we have today without it.
On July 25th, Josh returned to us. When he finally moved back in, things felt more comfortable. We had all begun to spend so much time together that it became a very obvious next step…and we were ready. Ready to put in the work every day and night for the rest of our lives.
Everything didn’t change in a day, but it also did, because with that first act of obedience of leaving where he was, walking in repentance began. Restoration for us began that day. It was rough and he didn’t move right back in. Things took time. Through counseling, professional and with trusted pastors and mentors, and lots of time together in Scripture, we’ve both learned a ton about what was going on in Josh’s heart during that season and even how childhood experiences affected him. None of it a reason to be unfaithful, but when it’s happened, you have to look at what experiences led someone to make those decisions and what can be changed so that they never approach that again. It’s been good at times and terrible at times along the way, but the Spirit has walked us through every bit of it. He still is.
Today, we’re closer than we’ve ever been. My husband’s heart has joy and my heart is at peace. Our family is loving every minute together. We tear up periodically in thankfulness that we’re together…as a couple and as a family. Beyond our healing (which is huge), Josh’s relationships with our kids, many family, and friends have been restored (which has been awesome to see), and we’ve both felt this nudge from God to look outward. We’ve been working on us and our family for a while now. It’s like we’ve been through a war, time in a figurative hospital, and therapy. We have scars, but they get less and less sensitive every day. God has strengthened us, giving us a message I need you to hear today: There’s hope.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Ashley Stockel of Austin, Texas. You can follow her journey on Instagram and Facebook. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.
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