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223 || Ministry After Adultery: Learning To Live By Grace

I sat on the sagging, dated sofa with my head down. It was difficult to make eye contact as I shared my journey into sin with this kind, godly Christian counselor. I didn’t like who I had become. I told her all of it: my marriage was over, my children were hurting, and my friends and family thought I had lost my mind. All my ugly feelings and painful choices were so heavy I couldn’t bear them. No point in sugar-coating it. I was at the end of my rope, and everyone knew it.

As a believer, I had wrestled with the question of why. Why would God allow me to set even one foot on a path that would lead to my near destruction? Why didn’t He stop me before I made such a mess? I knew I had made the wrong choices. But now what? I was crumbling under the weight of those choices—the secrets, the lies, the affair, and the collateral damage that ensued.

I was done. Game over. Whatever plans God may have had for me—CANCELED, EFFECTIVE IMMEDIATELY.

Lisa listened patiently, but when she spoke, her words penetrated my darkness. She looked kindly at me and said, “Kari, when I look at you, do you know what I see? I see a godly woman. And when God looks at you, He just sees Jesus. And He can’t help but love you, even in the middle of this.”

The dam broke and the tears flowed. The pure grace of God washed over me in that moment. I was already forgiven. Already free. I just had to learn to walk in that forgiveness and freedom. I did not have to hang my head in shame, or hide my past or my pain, because He already knew and He loved me just as if I’d never sinned. I can bring my messy self—sin, fear, doubt, and questions—straight to the throne of Grace. He looks at my mess and sees only the beauty of His Son.

Too Stained for Service

Fast forward a few years down the road of healing and forgiveness. I sat in yet another office, with another godly and wise woman. She was not a counselor, but a staff member at my church, who had requested to discuss a potential ministry opportunity. I had been dreading this meeting, not because I didn’t long to serve God in the church, but because I felt like I was obligated to decline because of my past.

I rehearsed my “No, thank you.”  It went something like this:

“You must not know who I am. Let me tell you all the reasons I am not the woman for this job. Adulterer. Mistress. The Other Woman. Divorced. Not exactly the best image for your women’s ministry. In fact, I half-expect to be asked to leave every time I come to church.” (That has never happened, by the way.)

She looked at me kindly, and said “Kari, I can tell that YOU don’t think you are quite ready. So let’s put it on hold and revisit it later.”

I left feeling relieved that the meeting was over, but sad at the same time. Like maybe I had just missed an opportunity to do something I truly loved. So imagine my surprise when she called me back three months later and presented again the opportunity to serve the women of my church and community. This time, I was ready. My past was still the same mess it had always been, but in the meantime, I learned something about grace.

Getting Back in the Game

Once I was forgiven and walking in healing, God began bringing women who were going through the very same thing, or similar versions of it. They desperately needed someone to see through what they had done to who they truly were, someone who knew how it felt to walk that path, and someone to offer hope. I could walk with them not as a counselor, but as a friend who knew the way.

Second Corinthians 1:3-4 (MSG) has become my life verse:

“All praise to the God and Father of our Master, Jesus the Messiah! Father of all mercy! God of all healing counsel! He comes alongside us when we go through hard times, and before you know it, he brings us alongside someone else who is going through hard times so that we can be there for that person just as God was there for us.”

Grace means I can get back in the game.  I can serve others and serve Him out of the very experiences that I thought had eliminated me. I can love women who are hurting because I have hurt. I can extend grace because of the great grace that has been extended to me.

“I want you to get out there and walk—better yet, run!—on the road God called you to travel. I don’t want any of you sitting around on your hands. I don’t want anyone strolling off, down some path that goes nowhere. And mark that you do this with humility and discipline—not in fits and starts, but steadily pouring yourself out for each other in acts of love, alert at noticing differences and quick at mending fences.”  Ephesians 4:2-3 (MSG)

A Work in Progress

I may never be free of the consequences of my past, and there are parts of my story I wish I could clean up. I’d like it to look more like a Hallmark movie instead of a Lifetime Movie Network miniseries. But seeing God use my ugliest moments for His glory has softened my view of my past.

My story isn’t over yet, and neither is yours. Whatever you are in the middle of God can use for His glory, in His kingdom, in His time.

“I am not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made, but I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal. where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back.” Philippians 3:12-14 (MSG)

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9 Comments

  1. I love this story. I love the realness, the transparency. You have no idea how many women share your story. God’s purpose for us never changes, regardless of how many “detours” we take along the way. I can’t imagine you not openly serving the God you love so very much. He gave you that sparkle in your eyes and that beautiful smile! His love for you was their in the design and will be there when He welcomes you home. Thank you for blessing me Kari Long!

    Reply
    • Susan, thank you so much for the encouragement! I could not have written this without having people like you in my life who have always extended such grace.

      Reply
  2. My sweet friend, this story touches my heart more every time I hear it. The struggles may not be the same for all women, but for all women there are struggles. And for all women those struggles feel like something we need to hide, but in reality, the freedom comes in the exposure to truth and in beung honest with oneself and the Lord. You’re an amazing woman. Thank you for being so willing to share your story so that other women may know the power of healing through Christ!!

    Reply
    • Andi, thank you… You are so right about finding freedom when we bring our truth out in the open. It still isn’t easy to do! But friends like you help me be brave. Thank you.

      Reply
  3. Thank you so so much for this. I too, have walked through adultery. Not just once but many times. I have walked with my secret for many many years. There are very few who know my struggle. I hear the devil tell me every day how unworthy I am to be loved any more. That my marriage of 14 years was a waste of time. Unworthy, unworthy, unworthy. Why would God listen to you? Your a failure. I struggle with this every day. It’s a secret I have yet to let go of. I struggle to forgive myself even though I know God has forgiven me. I struggle with putting myself back in the same scenario that got me here to begin with. I’m a work in progress….I needed this more than you will EVER know. I’m so thankful for people who can relate to me..and know exactly how I’m feeling. I don’t even know you….and I love you already 🙂 This has truly saved my life. Thank you!

    Reply
  4. My husband had a affair with another married person in our small town. Her marriage ended. Her Husband got the kids. Our kids go to the same school and are even in the same activities. Not sure why but I always feel somewhat ashamed/at blame when I see them in town and at events. Maybe because I chose to stay in my marriage even though it was more for money reasons. Couldn’t afford to leave. That woman didn’t think about me and my family at all.

    Reply
  5. Thank you Kari for sharing. It was my husband who had the affair. It was a shock. It also shattered him so completely. Also shattered me but not as much as him.
    Were it not by the grace of God I would never have gotten through it.

    Reply
  6. Maybe one of these days I will be strong enough or weak enough to tell my story (somewhat similar).But as for now,Im a closed book. Your brokenness has made you strong and although you may not have it all together at least your on the road of recovery. I have felt the grace of God more times in my life than I deserve. What I struggle with the most is God forgiving me, as odd as that may sound!! I still go though humbleness and constantly feel I’m at Gods mercy because that’s were I feel I belong. I haven’t been good enough to see myself as God see’s me? Its like I still believe I don’t deserve God’s grace, even though he gives it to me, there is a part of me that believes he shouldn’t. I know that sounds ridiculous, but I am very hard on myself and I guess I think God should be to! Feeling Broken is almost a comfort zone for me. Feeling weak, afraid, ashamed,embarrased, like I am wearing The letter A by choice. God seeing me as “Beautiful” as he does his own son just seems to good for me.And the bad thing is Im ok with it because thats how underserving I feel. Its like the fact that he just forgives me ,is enough ,I wont ask for more.Thank you for sharing your story Kari,God truly has turned broken into Beautiful!

    Reply
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