EMBRACING THE SECOND CHANCES I DON'T DESERVE
When I left home three years ago, my son was five, and my daughter was eight. Blinded by the delusion of a new soul mate, I resigned from the church I founded and headed off to San Diego with my wife’s best friend…not having a clue at how my choices would negatively impact my children. What I thought was the beginning of a new, life-long relationship and an adventurous season of life turned out to be 40-day affair that abruptly ended as my ‘mistress’ returned to her husband and family.
On the Thursday afternoon she left me, I quickly found myself at rock bottom.
I did my best to hold everything together, but by Sunday morning, I had dropped multiple f-bombs on a friend (in front of her two kids) and subsequently broke down in front of my own son.
I knew my life was falling apart at the seams, and I had to get help.
After handing him off to the children’s director at my former church, I drove immediately to the hospital and checked myself in for three days of don’t-kill-yourself therapy. Unfortunately, I continued to battle intense thoughts of suicide for two weeks after I checked out, and the only thing that prevented me from killing myself was the sight of my two beautiful children. I just didn’t want them to grow up with a legacy of suicide.
Covered in proverbial pig-slop of the prodigal sort, I finally came to my senses on May 3rd, 2008, and I called my wife to set up a meeting. I was a long way from home, and I had one thing on my mind…confessing my sin and apologizing to the woman I had betrayed.
As we sat across from one another at a local park, I took full responsibility for my selfish behavior, for the public embarrassment of the affair, and for deeply wounding her and our children. I didn’t ask for a second chance…all I wanted to do was apologize.
When I left to move in with the other woman, I assumed my wife would be incredibly angry, and my children would be resilient as we worked through the challenges of the life-change. “A lot of kids go through a divorce and turn out okay,” I kept reassuring myself. Having never experienced divorce in an up close and personal way, I had no clue what the ramifications of my decision would be.
I was blind to the fact that my wife would have to tell our children why I wasn’t coming home. I was clueless to the depth of pain I would cause my daughter by moving in with a woman she looked up to. I couldn’t have imagined the tantrums my children would throw, because they were confused by my absence at bedtime. I was oblivious to the tears that would be shed by both of my children as I picked them up for a visit and dropped them back off at home.
That tear-filled conversation with my wife turned out to be the first step in a multi-month journey toward reconciliation.
- Individual therapy for both of us to move toward health.
- A brain scan to discover my overactive basil ganglia (controlling fight or flight).
- Medication to help me with depression and anxiety.
- Spiritual conversations with four leaders committed to walking with me.
- Marriage counseling to process the betrayal and pain.
- Long, intimate conversations with one another to rebuild trust.
- Enjoyable time spent as an entire family.
In the midst of it all, I hoped and prayed that my wife would be open to the restoration of our marriage, and simultaneously I was doing my best to be the attentive Daddy I had been too busy to be over the past 10 years of ministry.
Within several months, we were in serious dialogue with our therapist about the possibility of me returning home. After experiencing my utter remorse and an ongoing commitment to my own health and the health of our relationship, she invited me to join her on a family vacation in August and move back home the following week.
She gave me one of the greatest gifts I’ve ever received…a second chance at our marriage.
Equal to sleeping next to my wife again, I’ll never forget the opportunity to tuck my children into bed on that first night back at home. What used to feel like a chore became a beautiful privilege I could share with my wife and kids…a recap of their day, prayers for good dreams, and anticipation for tomorrow.
Within a few days, my wife and I sensed that it was time for me to have a heart-to-heart conversation with both our kids that hadn’t seemed appropriate until that point in time.
I knew that the conversation would go differently with each child. My son was five at the time, and he had been a bit oblivious to the reality of the drama. Although he had experienced the loss, he was now just ecstatic to have me back at home. My daughter, on the other hand, was old enough to understand the full ramifications of what had been going on over the past six months. Although she was excited for me to move home, she had experienced great pain and trauma because of my actions.
As my wife knelt beside my daughter’s bed, I could feel my voice quivering before I even got started. “You are an amazing daughter, and I want you to know how much I love you. I also…want you to know…that I take full responsibility…for my selfish decisions.”
Tears were flowing down my face as I felt the weight of my actions. “I realize how much I hurt you through this all…and I’m so sorry.”
Without saying a word, she immediately sat up in bed and reached out her arms to draw me close. She held me tighter than ever before. As our cheeks touched and tears flowed together, I knew she was forgiving me. Although we’ve had many subsequent conversations over the past three years about my poor choices, that night I was given another second chance I longed for, but didn’t deserve…a second chance to be the Daddy I could have been all along.