Life After Betrayal
A story of God’s amazing grace and forgiveness
“I’m going to have to take your razor,” the nurse said as she was going through my personal toiletry bag. Hearing the bewilderment in my voice as I said, “OK,” she quickly added, “it’s for your safety.” It dawned on me that they thought I was suicidal. Was I? I didn’t think so. I just felt numb, indecisive, and very sad. She left and then popped back in to say “the first group session is in thirty minutes in room 510.” This all seemed so unbelievable. This happened in the movies, not to anyone I knew and certainly not to me!
I sat on the bed and wondered how it had come to this! When it was time, I left to find room 510. Now I have always been the great pretender. I never let people see my true feelings, making sure I appeared happy and altogether and, of course, I put on my “please other people” at any cost personality and greeted everyone I saw as if I was one of the staff. One staff member did meet me in the hall and very harshly asked, “What are you so happy about Gabrielson?” “Take that smile off your face!” I had never been spoken to like that before and I couldn’t believe that they would treat me so unkind. Fighting back the tears, I entered the room with all eyes on me–the newbie. I was intimidated to no end and I found myself frozen. There was no way I could talk about why I was there. In fact, I was not sure why I was there. The facilitator explained that it was to everyone’s benefit that we explain what we were dealing with. What was I supposed to say? I’m sad? I’m depressed? One of your staff members just hurt my feelings and I want to go home? She also said that it might take time for me to open up, but that I could do it when I was ready.
So knowing I was safe at least for this session, I began to listen to everyone else.
I realized these people had some seriously complicated personality disorders. The woman across from me thought she was the mother of Jesus. A few chairs to my right, a man actually thought he was Jesus. In my sick state of mind I remember thinking, why don’t they hang around together since they seemed to think they were related? There was a woman that suffered from agoraphobia, several recovering drug addicts, and a Vietnam veteran who wouldn’t let himself sleep because of nightmares and flashbacks. What in the world was I doing here? I had a husband who loved me unconditionally, two wonderful sons, and a loving family. What was wrong with me? I was silent throughout the entire session. I wanted to go home but I was still so depressed. I didn’t know how to fix it and I knew I was there until the counselor would release me; so I had to endure this hour by hour, day by day.
When we weren’t in a one-on-one meeting with our therapist or group therapy sessions, we were pretty much on our own in the commons area visiting with each other. A lot of that week was a blur. But there are a few things I will never forget. One of the recovering drug addicts was a young woman probably in her early twenties. She smoked constantly. (This was before smoking was outlawed inside public places). She had her eye on me all the time. She seemed to sit as close to me as she could. It was kind of eerie, so I nicknamed her Shadow.
Another was an 80 year old woman admitted during the night. I heard her moaning and crying for two full days and nights. I kept asking why someone wasn’t taking care of that poor woman. No one would tell me anything and I was beginning to think this was one of those horror movies and maybe we would all eventually be tortured like this woman. But then she sobered up and came to join us in group therapy one day. She had been in and out of treatment centers for years and couldn’t stay sober. She admitted to licking the cork of the bottle in the taxi on the way to the hospital. She was so frail. I always helped her with her meal tray because I was the self appointed assistant, helping everyone with everything.
I would change the TV station for some, bring coffee to others, ask if any of them needed a lap blanket…ridiculous! But I had to keep myself very busy, keeping my mind off of my own problems. Then one day as I had helped everyone with their lunches, making sure everyone had what they needed, I sat down at the only open spot next to my little Shadow. Her cigarette hung from the corner of her mouth and smoke circled around the two of us until I could hardly breathe. She got even closer to me and said, “Tell me the truth; you’re a spy aren’t you? You aren’t in here for anything, are you?” I don’t know what ever possessed me but I looked to the left and then to the right and then I got even closer. Choking through the smoke I said, “Yes, but you can’t tell anyone!” She threw her head back and slapped her knee and said very loudly, “I knew it!” Then she got close again, winked and said, “Don’t worry, it will be our secret!”
Well, the day finally came and I knew I had to break my silence during group therapy if I ever wanted to be released.
As I waited for my turn, only half listening to the group’s conversations, I reflected over my life. I was trying to sort out just how I had come to such a place as this. I had given my heart to the Lord at the age of nine; I experienced sexual abuse at the age of ten; I married a Christian man when I was 20. We got busy with family, career, and church. My spiritual life was more about “doing” than “being.” We spent so much time “playing church” that we didn’t realize how Satan was deceiving us. Paul says in 2 Corinthians 11:3, I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ.
Both of us brought baggage from our childhood into our marriage and we began to drift apart. We did not heed the warning in 1 Peter 5:8. Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.
My husband Dave’s poor self esteem lashed out at me with hurtful comments that caused me to feel unloved. My controlling and manipulative personality did not give him proper respect, which caused more unloving actions which led to more disrespect, and we found ourselves in what Dr. Emerson Eggerichs calls the “Crazy Cycle” in his book, Love and Respect.
There was such a disconnection between us that I believed Satan’s lie – I had married the wrong man. I was primed for Satan’s seduction. Seduction begins with a seed of doubt. Just like in Genesis 3:1 – Did God really say, “You must not eat from any tree in the garden?” Or in my case; did I wrongly hear from God? Did I make a mistake marrying Dave? In the midst of feelings of isolation and powerlessness, I did the unthinkable – I allowed myself to be seduced by the enemy.
So, as we sat in our usual circle, the facilitator said, “Arlene, I want you to tell us today, why you were admitted into the hospital”. All eyes were on me, including little Shadow’s. Shadow had a sly smile however, and I could see she was anxious to hear just what lie I would tell the group. Knowing I had no choice, I heard my voice saying, “I had an affair.” Absolute silence filled that little room. After what seemed like an eternity, a woman broke the silence, “Is that it?” I nodded yes as I sobbed in shame. And as the entire circle of patients broke into laughter, totally unable to identify with the shame that I was feeling, the facilitating staff member smiled and said, “Good job Arlene.”
Although I realized the “good job” comment was because I finally opened up, I heard it very differently. Good job? Didn’t they realize what I had done? I had the Spirit of the Living God living in me and I sinned against Him. I hurt my husband, my family, my church family!
The seduction lasted only for a very short season because the feelings of devastation and indescribable sorrow came, ushering in deep repentance. Through the work of God’s Spirit, my husband was given a supernatural ability to forgive and extend grace to me. In fact, our God is so good – Dave even went to the other man without me knowing it and forgave him. As a result of that miraculous encounter, the other man gave his heart to the Lord!
However, as we began our restoration journey, and after I had experienced such amazing grace and forgiveness, Satan would not let it rest. I became seriously depressed and, thus, the hospitalization. But as I listened to the laughter in the little therapy room after my confession, I realized that very moment – it was shame. It was shame that had sent me into a deep dark hole. God had forgiven me, Dave had forgiven me, but shame had begun to consume me. Shame had settled deep within my soul and was trying to sabotage the progress Dave and I were making in our marriage!
Oddly, the staff labeled that confession session a success and released me from the hospital. And predictably, my wonderful Lord whispered in my heart – “I do not condemn you. Shame comes from the enemy of your soul.”
God was victorious again as Dave and I continued in our successful counseling sessions, Family Life marriage conferences, good praying friends, and family.
Our marriage looks so different today. We have open communication, a deep desire to please each other, and we have gotten off the “crazy cycle.” I truly respect Dave and I feel safety, security, and unconditional love. The closer we each get to God, the closer we are to each other.
The enemy seduced me, had his hold on me, but he is now defeated and I am set free, praying constantly for protection against the devil’s schemes and living victoriously in a loving marriage.
In Beth Moore’s study, When Godly People Do Ungodly Things, she gives us ways to seduce-proof (to resistant Satan’s seductions) our lives according to 1 Thessalonians 5:16-25 (AMP):
• Be happy in our faith
• Abstain from evil
• Pray unceasingly
• Always be thankful and give thanks
• Do not quench the Spirit
• Do not despise instruction, exhortation, or warning
• Test and prove all things
• Allow God to sanctify us through and through
• Be blameless in our spirit, soul and body
• Know that God is faithful to do what He says
• Recognize our need for prayer
While we are waiting on the Lord for more direction, we are bathing ourselves in the scriptures and soaking up His incredible love for us and seeing His incredible love for the entire world.
We have experienced firsthand the works of the enemy. John 10:10 tells us that, “The thief comes only in order to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance (to the full, till it overflows).” (Amplified Bible)
We choose daily to walk in His abundance.