Written By Josephine Tan, Malaysia
On my birthday in 2005, I found out that my husband was having an affair.
I can still remember the details vividly. That day, he had given me a hand phone as a birthday present. Excitedly, I began fiddling with it but wasn’t quite sure how to navigate it. I decided to use his phone (which was the same model) as a guide. While scrolling through his phone, I stumbled on some intimate messages he had exchanged with another woman.
I was devastated. We were 16 years into our marriage and I did not suspect anything was wrong all this while. Aside from the fact that my job required me to go out of town for a couple of days each month, we had a relatively “normal” marriage.
When I confronted my husband, he apologized profusely. But I was not appeased. I headed to the temples and fortune tellers to seek advice on what to do. But nothing could remove the feelings of betrayal and hurt I felt, and I decided to file for a divorce.
My husband tried to persuade me against it, promising that he would stop the affair. Initially, I wasn’t convinced; the hurt he had caused me was too great and I couldn’t forgive him. But for the sake of my three children—aged six, nine and 13 then—I decided to hold back from going through the divorce proceedings.
Over the next two years, my husband tried his best to win me back, but I was too hurt to reciprocate. It was also during this time that a friend brought my husband to church. Slowly, my husband’s behavior changed. As a husband, he became more caring towards me, and as a father, towards my three children.
Although the change in his life was visible, I refused to acknowledge it. Every morning, I would burn incense at the altar and pronounce curses on my husband, one of which was that he would get a migraine if he ever looked up the other woman again.
After a year, a relative of mine invited me to attend an Alpha Course with my husband. I was reluctant at first but decided to go after some coaxing. The first speaker at the event was a well-known doctor who shared about how his life changed after he came to know Christ. I was fascinated when he revealed how he used to be bad-tempered and impatient with his patients but changed when he came to know Jesus, and now made the effort to show care and concern for his patients. His testimony intrigued me, so I decided to stay on and attend the rest of the sessions.
At the seventh session, someone in my group asked me to reveal what was in my heart and offered to pray for me. I decided to share about my broken marriage and all the hurt and disappointment I felt with her. I couldn’t stop crying as I poured out my heart.
Later on, another group member passed me a booklet to read. It was about a pastor who refused to shake the hand of her father’s killer when she went to visit him in prison. But the Holy Spirit convicted her and prompted her to forgive him. The story and call to forgive pricked my heart instantly. Right at that moment, I knew that God understood what I was feeling and that He wanted to set me free from my enslavement to anger, hatred, and bitterness.
With tears streaming down my eyes, I resolved in my heart to get to know this God personally. That night, I clutched my husband’s hands, apologized to my husband and told him that I forgave him. I saw joy on his face and felt a huge burden lifted from me. It was the first time in two years that I slept soundly.
After we received Christ, my husband and I started to attend cell group meetings regularly. At one of the sessions, we read Rick Warren’s The Purpose Driven Life, and learned that each of us had been born for a specific purpose. One of his quotes which left a deep impression in my mind was this: “Behind every hurt, there is an intention.”
That proved true in our case. Through this experience, my husband and I have been able to relate to those who are facing marriage problems. My three children have also been able to reach out to those whose parents have separated. In 2007, my husband, three children and I were baptized.
Today, I am fully cognizant of the fact that making a marriage work requires effort from both parties. I’m also learning to respect my husband as the head of the house every day.