The Woman at the Well
John 4:16-19 “He told her “Go, call your husband and come back.” “I have no husband,” she replied. Jesus said to her, “You’re right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had 5 husbands, and the man you are with now is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.” “Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet.”
John 8:1-11 “Jesus returned to the Mount of Olives, but early the next morning he was back again at the Temple. A crowd soon gathered, and he sat down and taught them. As he was speaking, the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery. They put her in front of the crowd. “Teacher,” they said to Jesus, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. The law of Moses says to stone her. What do you say?” They were trying to trap him into saying something they could use against him, but Jesus stooped down and wrote in the dust with his finger. They kept demanding an answer, so he stood up again and said, “All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!” Then he stooped down again and wrote in the dust. When the accusers heard this, they slipped away one by one, beginning with the oldest, until only Jesus was left in the middle of the crowd with the woman. Then Jesus stood up again and said to the woman, “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?” “No, Lord,” she said. And Jesus said, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.”
In case you hadn’t guessed from the context of the verses that I used to predicate my story, the topic of the day is adultery. More specifically mine. Do I really want to write about this point in my life? No. I find that much of what I don’t want to write about ends up on display for the world to see if they so chose to click on the link to my website. Years ago, I would have been petrified to have “all of my business” so out there for any one to judge. I would have judged myself to be completely honest with you. I have judged myself and I realized throughout the last 20 years of my own judgement, God hasn’t been nearly so evil to me as I have been to myself.
One of the things that I have come to realize throughout my journey to share my story is that the devil goes after men first. There is a reason that Satan has attacked our men in such a way that they fail at being the family leaders. Those without leaders don’t know what path to follow. Father absence is a huge problem in this country and around the world. Ever think about why? With the dads out of the way, women have less protection. Even if the relationship can withstand the torture of life, distractions and lies will tear people further apart. I’m not going to play ring around the rosey with this part of my story. It’s too long already and I don’t have time. I have other parts to get to. But, I did want to mention that I have not been given permission to reveal all of the details that this particular point in my life has. I only talk about what God has allowed me to talk about. I talk about the things that I have done that led me to where I am. If you think for one second that anything that anyone could say about me isn’t something that I haven’t already said about myself, please think again. I understand the choices that I made, and I understand now where I went wrong and where God worked through with love anyway.
In my earlier posts about my time being married to my kid’s father, I talked about how lost I felt in my marriage due to a situation that happened in the early days. We weren’t even together for a full year yet when he made a decision for me that would cause me to distrust him with every part of my being. I tried to forgive him. But, looking back I believe my fatal mistake for our marriage was that I tried to forgive him. I asked God to help me with that, but I didn’t talk about it to anyone else. I was afraid that if I sought help, my kid’s dad would be angry with me, that people would see him as a jerk, that they would judge him and on some levels that they would judge me for choosing to marry a man that was capable of doing such a thing. As time went on, I stuffed that circumstance down as far as it would go…and never dealt with it. I knew that divorce was a sin. I knew that disrespecting my husband and his leadership was a sin. My issue came in when I didn’t understand that loving someone sometimes means you have to be tough about it. I didn’t like the way I was treated, and more importantly God never asked me to put up with the kinds of things that were going on in my marriage. People told me that, but God never did. I just didn’t ask him about it because I was afraid to find out that he thought I was lower than nothing. You see, the Bible says all kinds of things about marriage. But the only thing it says about divorce is that he will permit it only when there is adultery.
I already thought I wasn’t worth enough to get a good life. I thought maybe if I tried to be “meek in Spirit” and be a “peacemaker” that God would bless me and make it so that I would be happy. If I had really understood what those two things meant, instead of the “sort of but not really” truth that they held, maybe I would have chosen to do things differently.
Our marriage started out very lonely for me, and after the events of the first year, and the realization of what I had gotten myself into was a bit too much for me to digest. I didn’t realize that my new husband already had a drinking problem, deep self esteem issues and a porn addiction. His porn addiction grew until I felt like nothing more than a walking magazine. I got very little in the way of support and when I needed something…a nap, some time off from being around the kids, family support, it was always in trade. I had to trade something of mine to get what I wanted. It made me feel disgusting, but for a long time I clung to verses that said that the way we act can bring others to Christ. I don’t know why none of that happened for me. I do know that I wasn’t all the way honest with God and I didn’t know how to tell my husband he was hurting me by only being interested in me for sex or using me for “wifely things”. I tried the headache excuse, the “I can’t because the doctor said not for 8 weeks…I just had a baby” excuse, the “I don’t want to because the kids are awake” excuse. None of them worked and my resentment towards him grew until I could feel vomit rise up in my throat any time he was home and would come at me in any sort of intimate way. I was dying on the inside. His drinking helped nothing and always being pregnant was a constant reminder that I was the one the family fed off of to sustain itself.
I didn’t know that I could have told someone then. I had read the verses in the Bible about the man being the head of the household and that women are supposed to submit to their husbands. I tried. Nothing was happening…and for years I tried to be a good wife. I tried everything I could think of to make him happy and to be what God had asked me to be. I ended up very confused and I remember one day writing, “I don’t know what else you want from me!!!” in my prayer journal.
I decided to take a step out of my comfort zone one day while I was helping a friend of mine paint her basement. I told her that my husband was constantly asking for sex and I was in a lot of pain because of a medical procedure. I told her that he didn’t seem to care that I was up most nights, getting very little sleep, and trying to recover physically from having a baby. He slept through most nights using the excuses that he worked, and I didn’t, so it didn’t make any sense for him to get up. I didn’t get nights off and I was exhausted. I was in pain. I was hurt and frustrated from his lack of consideration. She said, “The Bible says you can’t withhold that from him. It doesn’t matter what you feel like. God says do it.” I went home more dejected than ever. I didn’t know how long I could keep doing what I was doing. I was constantly being pawed at and treated like some girl on the videos he watched. It got to the point where I would think about anything else just to get it over with. The more I prayed about it the farther away God seemed to get.
I started trying to find other ways to make myself just a little bit happy. I hung out with my sister. I took great pleasure in playing with my kids and teaching them new things. I learned to sew and create things out of junk I found at garage sales or thrift stores. Our money started falling apart and my husband was not exactly responsible when it came to how or what he spent. He handed all of the bills over to me after bouncing several checks. I had no idea how I was supposed to live with a man who could provide but then blew all of the money he made so that we didn’t have enough left to take care of our kids and treated me the way he did. I didn’t have a voice in the money; I didn’t make any of it. He was the husband and I was the wife. I didn’t know wife wasn’t supposed to be synonymous with doormat.
Somewhere along the way, other men started to make comments about my appearance. Some of them were creepy and some were very sweet. One day, an offer presented itself and at first, I rejected it, but the more I thought about the more I thought God was giving me a way out. The offer had nothing to do with sex but came from a man who was married. He was lonely, like me, and he was just trying to keep his family together for his kid. I was struggling with the same thing. I didn’t want my kids to grow up in a broken home like I had. I was convinced that if I could stay married, my kids would have a shot at a better life. The man appreciated me as a person, not a body part. Which, as you probably figured out, led to him appreciating me in a way that wasn’t right for either of us. We had a short affair. When I broke it off a few months later, I realized that part of the reason I couldn’t be happy in my marriage was because I didn’t care what the married man thought of who I was. He liked the part of me that spoke my truth. I never made the connection that if I stopped trying to give people only the good parts of me that I could talk about and not feel judged on, then I could maybe deepen the bonds in my marriage also. I didn’t know that my husband struggled to feel adequate and feel loved by me. I didn’t know the difference between love and abuse. Only what it felt like to be used and unappreciated…on my own end. I don’t know what my husband thought because I couldn’t get past the things he’d done to hurt me enough to tell anyone so that they could help us. I didn’t know how to rebuild the trust he seemed intent on breaking. He didn’t know about the affair and I knew if I told him he’d tell everyone our marriage ending was my fault. He knew I couldn’t and wouldn’t reveal the parts of our lives that made me inwardly hate him without hurting someone else I loved. I still won’t…even though I know that if I wrote about them the world would be on my side. Nobody would fault me for having an affair, or even getting a divorce. The problem with that is that God isn’t nobody and he finds fault in those things.
I didn’t see God as big as I see him now. I didn’t see him as loving as I see him now. I thought he only wanted my good and so I gave him that. He wasn’t interested because I wasn’t giving him my broken heart. I was giving him the heart I had patched together on my own and trying to pass it off as something that was clean enough for him to want. He didn’t want my fake, bandaged and painted heart. He wanted the broken one, complete with gashes and festering, bleeding, wounds. He wanted all of my pain and he asked for it. I just couldn’t give it to him and so I made a choice that cut my heart even more and made it so that I couldn’t bring any part of myself to God. It was easier to sit and blame my husband for the things he’d done that hurt me instead of going out and asking someone who knew God better for help.
I tried asking people. A few people knew about my situation and gave me their advice. The problem with that became that they didn’t know how big God was either. They said, “You gotta do what makes you happy.” Or “He’s a jerk. Leave.” Or the worst one was when I told my mom, “You married him. Go home and do what a wife is supposed to do.”
I thought that I could have an affair and be happy enough to survive what was going on in my home. I didn’t allow God to be big and ask him to fix it. I didn’t talk to God about anything that had to do with sex, because I didn’t think he cared about that.
Later, I read the book Undefiled by Harry Shaumberg. I realized that the patterns in my life that I kept choosing were based in part off an expectation that a man could fill the giant hole in my soul that my Dad had left. I expected one man to give me everything I had ever needed. When that one man failed, I looked for another.
Have you ever lost your car keys and noticed that you didn’t have them when you were already running late for work? The closer it gets to the time you are supposed to be responsibly at work, the more panic sets in until you are throwing couch cushions and dressers drawers full of clothing across the room in a frantic attempt to find your keys? You know you had them at some point, but can’t seem to remember where or how long it’s been since you’ve seen them? After the affair, and the crushing events with my husband afterwards that led to our divorce, the panic that I felt at knowing that my life was not turning out the way it was supposed to caused me to look for hope in places that I knew there was none. It was a lot like looking for your car keys, only on a much larger and more devastating scale.
I gave attention to men that didn’t deserve it. I gave attention to men who, if I had not been so blinded by my need for someone, anyone to love me, I would have seen that they were not out to be good people. Such frantic and desperate searching led me to an entanglement of a different sort of pain, several years after my divorce. After going through yet another breakup in which I knew that I had given everything I had to be what the man wanted, I was empty and lost and completely clueless. I still couldn’t admit that stuff to God yet, and so when I read in “The Lady, Her Lover, and her Lord” by T.D. Jakes that “the poison of unquenched anger doesn’t infect the perpetrator, but only incarcerates the victim” I felt like I got punched in the gut. I thought that by keeping my anger and hurt towards my husband a secret from God that I could just keep going on in my life as I had to in order to stay in my miserable marriage.
Quite a few years later, I found myself in a sort of “entanglement” that isn’t really all that uncommon in today’s world. I became friends with a man that I’ll call Link. He was the male version of me. He was angry and someone from his past had hurt him deeply. He couldn’t forgive anyone, and he wore his anger on his sleeve and on his face. At first, this resonated with me and I enjoyed talking to him. Until one day our entanglement reached a new level. Things got physical. He didn’t call or text for 2 months after that. It hurt a little but at that point I think I was too numb to care. I ran into an acquaintance of his and we started talking. I’m not sure what made me think that starting a new entanglement with someone else, especially someone that Link knew was a good idea, but it seemed like no big deal at the time. However, after less than a month I was desperate to get rid of the guy and forget I’d ever even met him, let alone let myself get caught up with someone who had such very little in the way or morals. I was pretty sure he was lying about having a girlfriend or a wife and I was disgusted at the way he was constantly asking me to buy things for him.
Link started coming back around, and we picked our entanglement up again. We never talked about his sabbatical from being my friend. I ignored how much it bothered me that he only called when he wanted something and that he was treating me like I wasn’t worth anything. Our friendship fizzled out two years later and I ended up blocking him from being able to contact me at all. Several months after I blocked him, I received a weird text from a number I didn’t know, but the content told me that it came from Link. I had been doing some soul searching and by this point and had found enough of God to know that I owed Link an apology. Not because he hadn’t hurt me, but because no matter what kind of pain I was in, I learned that God never gives us a pass. He didn’t tell me, “I know you spent a long time being hurt by your husband and I know that people don’t get over the things that you went through without my help, so I am going to give you a pass on your affair.” He didn’t say, “So, I know that Link was using you and so was his acquaintance, so you don’t have to apologize for breaking a rule I gave you.” God didn’t give me an out. He gave me an opportunity. I apologized to Link. His response was to call me a bunch of nasty names (you can guess what they are) and then to add insult to injury he called me a hypocrite because I had made a couple of comments about some people we knew and their “entanglements” as well. He said he already knew and had spent the last couple of years seeing how long I would keep doing it. Since the whole thing with his acquaintance lasted less than a month, I wasn’t sure how that made him a better person than I was. Again, he didn’t call me anything I hadn’t already called myself, but what I found rather odd in the exchange was that Link showed me how to forgive and what it meant to offer someone the other cheek. I wanted to point out that he had used me first, that he had treated me like I was all the things he called me, long before I ever acted like one. I didn’t. God told me to stop and listen. So, I kept the focus off me and more on Link and the hurt he experienced through my actions. His actions didn’t create a pass for my actions. I “took my lumps” and prayed about it.
God showed me a few very important lessons in all of these things. First, I’ve mentioned a few times already that God didn’t excuse me from my wrongdoings just because someone wronged me first. I still need to apologize for what I did wrong. I needed to confess them to someone, and so I did that, as God directed me. I could have argued with Link. I wouldn’t have gotten anywhere, and I probably would have made the situation worse.
God showed me John 8 in the days following that. The people in the crowd and the religious leaders were ready to stone the woman for her sexual sin but notice the man was nowhere to be found. Moses’ Law didn’t require that just the woman be stoned for committing adultery. They were both supposed to die that way. More often than not, this idea is represented in today’s culture. Women take far more criticism about who they sleep with or who they date than men do. The worst thing you can call a woman is a whore. Trust me, I’d rather not have this story to tell. Somewhere we get the idea that we are more holy than those who haven’t sinned sexually. Somewhere we get the idea that if we can cover up our sins that involve sex, we are better than those who can’t. Somewhere in all of that mess, we are certain that just because we haven’t cheated on our husbands or wives, or slept with too many people, or had any one night stands, or friends with benefits, or entanglements that we are better than the person who has. In one of my earlier posts I talked about the song, “Take Me to Church” by Hozier. One of my favorite lines in that song is “That’s a fine-looking high horse.” God led me to the lesson I will leave you with. Be careful of the high horse you ride. It’s often the one God allows to trample you so that you come back to him.
John 8 gave me comfort, not because the man should have been stoned also, but because God showed me that no matter what I’ve done, when I repented, he didn’t condemn me. I won’t even pretend I didn’t cry when I read his words to the woman. God was never asking me to be perfect. He wasn’t asking me to put up with all of the crap in my marriage. He never told me that I wouldn’t have any sort of comfort or peace in my life and that I had to settle for just being in a relationship or an entanglement with someone who used me. I told myself that and Satan used people to help affirm that opinion of myself. I could have gotten out of that whenever I wanted to, but I refused to let God have my broken. It wasn’t because I wanted to keep it. It was because I was afraid that he wouldn’t be able to love me if he saw it. The funny part about that is that now, I realize how much he loved me before I did it and I feel even more grateful for his love and his forgiveness and his grace than I did before I made those choices in my life.
Many people ask me how I can write about things that are so personal and be transparent about how I feel about them. I’ll be honest. I’m just not scared anymore. People judged me before they knew, and people will continue to judge me long after. People may hate me for the decisions that I made, or they may love me and understand. I can’t control any of that. I don’t have to worry about them. God didn’t give me a pass; he gave me redemption. God didn’t give me an excuse; he gave me grace. God didn’t give me a ticket straight to hell. He gave me the story of David in 2 Samuel. God gave me love and forgiveness instead of judgement and condemnation. This may sound callous and cavalier and I assure you it is not, but I write my story because God told me that someone out there needs it. Someone is struggling with the same feelings that I had and the same situations that I went through. God told me to help them. In return he would take my pain and use it for good. If you aren’t the one that can do that…you may be able to hurt my feelings with your opinion of me, but fortunately for me, only God’s opinion of me matters. I’m not perfect and he never asked that of me. He just told me to tell others that he never asked for perfection from them either.