Leslie backpedaled in disbelief. She never thought she would hear those words. As a young girl growing up she imagined a white wedding dress, a happy couple, a home full of children. Her fantasies had not left room for the devastating chill these words carried spoken by a man to whom she'd entrusted her life, her body, her deepest secrets and intimacies. And now he was telling her that he couldn't stand to be around her anymore.
The first cracks in their marriage had appeared about six years into their marriage when Tim confessed to a one-night stand. He told Leslie he was deeply sorry and was willing to seek counseling. After a lot of tears, they were able to put the affair behind them. Leslie had to work through some issues of trust, but the good times returned.
A few years later, Tim left for a three week business trip. He was scheduled to return on a Saturday afternoon. Leslie was anxious for him to be home on time.
Tim didn't return home on Saturday as expected. Leslie put the dinner dishes away and went to bed, expecting Tim to join her later that night. She woke up wondering if Tim would be lying beside her- but but he still hadn't made it home. She went to church that Sunday morning, convinced that she would see Tim's car in the garage when she got back, but the garage was empty. Her heart was beginning to sink, and then, later that evening, Leslie heard a noise coming from the garage. She opened the door and saw Tim putting his golf clubs in the trunk of the car.
"What's going on, Tim?" she asked. He had been gone for three weeks. Surely he wasn't preparing to go play golf in the morning. And then the words came- those four soul-numbing words that blasted Leslie's world apart: "Leslie, I'm leaving you."
She almost collapsed on the spot.
"I don't love you anymore. I haven't loved you for a long time." Leslie felt the hysteria taking over again, and she began to panic emotionally. Then she looked at Tim's hand and felt her heart stop. Tim wasn't wearing his wedding ring.
"You're not wearing your ring. Does that mean you're going to start dating?"
"Yes." Slam! His immediate, calm, almost casual reply took her breath away.
"Do you know who?" The fear started rising. Did she really want to hear this?
"Yes, but I'm not leaving you for anyone in particular. You and I just aren't right for each other. I've been living a lie all these years, and I'm tired of it."
Leslie began to feel herself losing control. The tears took over and she lost her composure. She held on until Tim drove away, then she became hysterical. The sos that came up from within her were deep and pervasive. Finally, she knelt down in a chair to pray, but there was still too much agony inside her. Day after day she waited, hoping things would change. Tim would come back. Months went by, and then years- and then finally the day that Tim told Leslie he was marrying someone else.
Sometimes depression would creep up on Leslie, bringing a new dose of fear with it, especially as Tim's wedding day drew near. But then- there's no other way for her to describe it- the Lord would take her face in his hands and say, "Leslie, look at Me. Look at me."
She wept and wept, but began to feel a new kinship with the Lord. Somehow she was sharing in His sufferings. They were gong through this together.
She still wore her wedding ring, and while some people felt she should just "let go," the ring was a sign of the covenant Leslie had made not just with Tim, but with God. Even though Tim had walked out of the relationship, The Lord was still there- so two out of the three parties were hanging in there.
"The wedding ring represents my commitment before the Lord- the One before whom I said, 'till death do us part." Right up until the day Tim remarried, Leslie wore her ring and kept praying for a reconciliation. By remaining faithful in the midst of unfaithfulness, her eyes were opened to God's presence in a new way.
"The faithlessness of Israel and the faithfulness of God really spoke to me. This entire experience has helped me to get to know God better. I've gained a sense of the incredible unconditional love that His covenant represents. The more I sought God's permission to take off my ring and start dating, the more He would talk to me about His covenant promise."
Two years after Tim left Leslie, Leslie's father called her on the phone. "I've watched what you've gone through. I've seen how you've reacted and I want what you have." This was a profoundly moving conversation for Leslie, for, like Tim, her father had been unfaithful to his wife (Leslie's mother), leaving Leslie to grow up with the pain of a broken home. But all the anguish began to melt away as Leslie walked through some Scriptures with her father in a hotel room, and her father knelt down and prayed to receive Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior at the age of 62.
There is an exalted truth in this conversation experience. What really happened was that by remaining faithful to an unfaithful husband, Leslie demonstrated the truth of a God who remains faithful to an unfaithful people. Her father had heard the gospel many times, but it wasn't until he saw it displayed in Leslie's life that he wanted it for himself.