“I just can’t believe that someone like her would be interested in someone like me,” said my then husband as he talked about his mistress.
As the words came out of his mouth, I remember thinking—maybe saying—“What am I? Chopped liver?”
Yes, his girlfriend had been a cheerleader in high school. She had a college degree. She was an attractive lady. She was my friend—or at least had been. But, it’s not like I was a total loser. I was valedictorian of my high school class, and I had been named one of the top 100 seniors in the state of Oklahoma. I had entered Oklahoma Baptist University as the recipient of the Carpenter Scholarship, an award given to the top incoming freshman, and I graduated summa cum laude. I wasn’t all academic, either. I was well-known and well-liked. I was active and involved in all types of clubs and activities at school.
And, I was a good wife. I was loving and supportive. I was there to listen to him when he needed a safe place. When suspicions began to be voiced about his relationship with this woman, I staunchly defended him. I told him that even if he was fired from the church, I would stand by him and we would get through it together.
Sure. After fifteen years of marriage and three pregnancies, I was carrying a few extra pounds. Because I sacrificed everything for my kids and my husband, I rarely did anything for myself—which meant my clothes were old and I was a little frumpy. With children ages 4, 7, and 9, who had time to pamper myself—to focus on my appearance? But, I was a loving and supportive wife. I was a good mother. I was a good pastor’s wife.
Why had the man who had pledged to love me “until death do we part” choose someone else? Why had he rejected me?
A reader recently asked me to address this issue of dealing with rejection, so I am going to give it a shot. We all have different backgrounds, and I have no doubt that my background had a huge influence on how I handled it. I grew up in a very loving, supportive, and stable family. I had been in church from the day I was born. At the age of 6, I gave my heart to Christ. Shortly thereafter, I began to dive into the Word of God on a regular basis. In short, I had a very solid view of who I am in Christ. I went into marriage a strong, confident woman.
Perhaps you didn’t enter marriage with the advantages I did. Maybe you are new to the Christian life. Perhaps your family was somewhat dysfunctional. Maybe you don’t have a list of successes and accolades that you can rattle off. Regardless of your background, God can take you down the road of recovery. I hope these practical steps will help start your healing process.
Take care of yourself. I remember waking up one morning about seven months after I first learned about his affair. I had finally reached a place where I realized that I was the only one working to keep our marriage together, and I had vowed to never wear my wedding ring again until he showed me he wanted it to work. As I looked in the mirror, I began the daily critique, “Look at yourself. You are so ugly. It’s no wonder he chose her.”
Suddenly, I got mad! If I didn’t like the image staring back at me from the mirror, then I was going to do something about it! I decided to quit eating sugar and quit snacking with my kids. I was amazed at how quickly the weight began to fall off. Then, I began to walk. As my body began to change, I began to regain a sense of confidence. I decided to do something different with my hair, to buy some new make-up. I was being transformed on the outside, and the inside was following close behind.
When I filed for divorce, I somehow instinctively knew that I had to treat myself well if I was going to have the strength to care for three young children on my own. I began to set aside the money for the occasional mani/pedi. Something about having pretty nails just gave me an extra boost of confidence! As I lost weight, I had to buy new clothes. It felt good to look nice again. With every little thing I did for myself, I began to sense the bounce returning to my step.
Perhaps you don’t need to lose weight. Maybe you are happy with your external appearance. The important thing is to remember that you are worthy of good things. If you have children counting on you, make sure that you take time for yourself—whatever it is that helps you feel better. If you are constantly pouring yourself out for your kids, you must take time to renew yourself. Otherwise, you won’t have anything to give to your kids—and they need to see that you consider yourself worthy of love and care.
Surrender. I’ve talked about some of the mistakes I made. In the days after I filed for divorce, I found myself involved with another man who had also been walking through the pain of adultery and divorce. Every time I walked into a room, his face would light up. Please understand: I do not recommend getting involved with anyone until you have taken time to heal. It only leads to more baggage. However, God allows all things to work for our good (Romans 8:28). Having an attractive, successful man constantly speak words of affirmation to me did wonders for my self-confidence…until he chose another woman over me. My fears, hurt, and insecurity caused me to allow myself to be used and hurt again.
During this time, however, I heard God calling me to get my security for Him. The harder I ran, the more He pursued me. It was during this time that God was waging a mighty war for my affections, that He was pursuing me as a husband should pursue a wife. He was not content to let me ruin my life by walking in the ways of the world. Finally, I surrendered. I told Him that I didn’t like this journey, but I was willing to take it. I only needed Him to do an amazing work in me so that He could do an amazing work through me. That moment was pivotal. When I finally gave up control, He began the process of putting me back together.
Knowing that my Father loved me so much, that He was willing to leave the 99 sheep to pursue me—the one who had wandered away (Luke 15), gave me an amazing sense of how much He loved me. Knowing that you are loved by the Creator of the universe, that He is unwilling to leave you in your sin but will relentlessly pursue you gives you a sense of worth like no other.
Fill your mind with scripture. As I said, I was blessed with a great foundation. Some of you might have been raised in more dysfunctional families. Maybe you struggled with self-confidence and didn’t have a proper self-image to fall back on. Although it might have been easier for me to pull out of the rejection stage, the same process applies to both of us.
For you to look at yourself as anything less than God’s masterpiece (Eph 2:10) is sin. Scripture teaches us that we are the apple of His eye (Psalm 17:8), His treasured possession (Deuteronomy 26:18), a royal priesthood (1 Peter 2:9). We read in Psalm 139 that we are fearfully and wonderfully made. We are made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27), and He clearly said that we—His creation—were very good. He loved us so much that He sent His one and only son to die for us (John 3:16).
The only way to know how God really feels about you is to fill your mind with scripture. It has to be an intentional act, spending time in the Word each day. For me, it looks something like this: I wake up and grab my phone and open a Bible app (my favorites are Bible Gateway and YouVersion). I read my selected passage from a reading plan and ask God to fill my mind. I have favorite scriptures posted on my mirror that I read while I am getting ready in the morning. I keep my radio on a Christian radio station 24/7—something about having the music playing fills my home with the atmosphere I want. While I work out, I listen to sermons or praise music or books. I have prayer books in my car, and at every stop throughout my day, I use them to pray for my children and someone else. Little moments of saturating my mind with scripture go a long way to showing me how God feels about me, to transforming me by the renewing of my mind.
Recognize the cheating spouse has a problem. Even if you know that you contributed to the downfall of your marriage, no one deserves to have his/her spouse cheat. Adultery is betrayal in the deepest and most intimate way. God created marriage to allow the two to become one, and ripping that union apart is excruciatingly painful. Knowing that there was an unwelcome third person in every private moment can be almost unbearable. To know that you gave everything to someone only to have him/her decide it was not enough can cause even the strongest person immense damage—trust issues that will last a lifetime. You did not deserve to have your spouse trample your heart, your commitment, your trust the way he/she did.
You must understand that your spouse/former spouse has a problem. I don’t know the root of that problem. In my situation, I can trace the genesis back to insecurity, approval addiction, and pornography. But the fact is that he has a problem—a problem that only complete surrender to the Savior, the Healer can fix.
Having said that, realize that you must forgive him and see him the way God sees him—as a helpless harassed sheep in need of a Savior (Matthew 9:36). Ask God to let His forgiveness flow through you, to give you eyes to see him as He does. Pray that God will pour out His greatest blessings on Him and bring Him to a place of repentance. Please know that this does not happen overnight! After five years I still struggle with asking God to bless my ex-husband! But, it becomes easier with each passing day.
Overcoming the rejection of adultery is a difficult process. Remember, it is the journey, the process, that brings about the most amazing changes in you. God wants to do an amazing work in you so that He can do an amazing work through you. Surrender to Him, and ask Him to show you the purpose in the pain. You won’t be disappointed!
Lord Jesus, for those suffering the pain of rejection from their spouses’ betrayal, I pray that you would pour out your healing on their hearts. Give them eyes to see themselves as you do—as your dearly loved children who are masterpieces created for good works. Let your forgiveness flow through them to their spouses/former spouses so that they can be free of the bitterness and anger that can consume their souls and rob them of the abundant life you have planned for them. In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.