Choosing to cheat: It is not a thought I coined but it is one I love and go back to frequently.
Cheating is a part of my story. It isn’t something I am proud of. For a long time it was something I strayed away from telling. The insecurity of my mind and other’s reactions swayed me to stay silent even though that small, still voice inside of me whispered: “You need to speak.”
But as with any truth that needs to be told, the speaking and telling has to come organically. It cannot be forced, pressured, or rushed. It must be birthed in those moments where the tension of the internal silence can no longer be managed.
It was shaky, unorganized, chaotic, and simply ugly at first. The tears could not be controlled, the hurricane of emotions was exhausting. It felt like a birth and a death all at the same time.
Ironically, this truth was not first shared with the one who so desperately needed to hear it. Instead it was shared with a only a few. A few people who gathered around me, looked me square in the eye and said: “You have no choice. If you want your marriage to last, you need to tell him.”
I think I knew deep down it was what I was suppose to do. But somehow my crazy mind was convinced this was something I did not actually need to do. I had confessed in my heart, I had prayed for forgiveness, wasn’t that enough?
The problem was I had experienced life-changing grace at that point. I had tasted redeeming love and I had been shaken to the core by the love of a heavenly Father who came running to my rescue despite all of my mess.
I fought hard to suppress the urge to speak that confession. At times I wanted to blurt it out in ordinary moments, to just be done with all the wrestling. But I knew these words could not be spoken in the rush of every day life. They needed to be planned, organized, and thought out. And I also knew there was never going to be a perfect moment; one that would promise, guarantee, and reassure things would still be okay after all is said and done.
Friday marks John and I’s five year wedding anniversary. As each anniversary has passed, I try to go back through our wedding photos, reminiscing about the beauty of that day, recalling the moments that passed by so quickly.
This picture is one that always brings tears to my eyes. It was taken during our “first look.” I will never forget the fear I felt in that moment. The truth had been spoken, our hearts had been wrecked…but he stayed. And he leaned in. And on that day, five years ago, he vowed to keep pursuing, to keep loving, to keep moving towards me no matter what storm of life might come our way.
And I am forever grateful.
Marriage truly has been a beautiful thing. But as with all things worth having in this life, it has been hard and turbulent, messy and inconvenient. There have been desert seasons and then seasons of abundance.
In early 2016, John and I found ourselves at yet another crossroad. It was one we never intended on arriving at nor did we fully see it coming. I thought cheating had played out its role in our relationship and that the topic had been put to rest.
We got married young, in the beginning of our careers. In the beginning of our adult lives together. We both had visions of what “ideal” looked like for our marriage and careers, and marital roles as husband and wife, we just didn’t know how easy it would be to to wrongly prioritize those ideals.
The past four years had taught us working around the clock was necessary. Overtime was normal. Limited interaction, missed dinners, and warn out promises of: “It’s just a season and will get better” started to lose their assurance. Sure, we didn’t see each other that much, but there was no physical cheating nor emotional cheating going on. Just manageable distance and space we thought we had under control.
But the tension didn’t go away and after avoiding it for too long, we decided to seek the wisdom of someone far wiser than we were.
One early January morning of last year, we sat down with the man who married us. We laid all the cards on the table. We acknowledged the tension and we asked for his help.
“You have to choose to cheat…on work, on extracurriculars, on loved ones, on favorited past times. You have to choose coming home to one another first and foremost. That’s what dictates your time. That is how you must qualify every moment of your day. Boundaries must be set, limits must be made. You have got to choose to cheat on the things that are taking up most of your time.”
This concept is one we knew of, it was one our church and pastor heavily believed in and spoke about. But somehow we had missed the ship so to speak in practicing what was being preached.
John and I both feared the repercussions of what this would like when it played out. Would clients understand? Would our professional reputations be impacted? Would our finances be influenced because of this necessary shift in our schedules?
It felt risky yet undeniable all at the same time.
And so we started making commitments to one another. We started saying “no” to so many things, good things. Things that on paper seemed really great, and filling, and worthy of our time. But we listened and promised one another that in this season we would try our very best to get rid of the excess.
We had to get rid of the covert cheating. The cheating that was taking place in our evaluation of time. The cheating that when played out translated to: This thing, this event, this income…it is more valuable than you are and so I choose it. You can wait. You will be there when I get home.
The change was not perfect nor right away. But over the course of the year, we felt the tides start to turn, we felt the positive ramifications of margin and rest. We experienced renewal and joy and one of the sweetest seasons of marriage to date.
And the story of my cheating, it started getting easier to share. The wrestling was gone, the anxiety had been broken. Truth was really all my heart longed for. My alignment had been redirected and it was as though I was finally on the course I was suppose to be on.
God’s plans are incredibly ironic at times. If you would have asked me about my relationship with cheating five years ago, I would have said it was done, finished, and assured to never return. But God has a way of continually humbling this prideful heart of mine. And as it turns out, cheating can look like a myriad of bad, heartbreaking things…things you simply never saw coming.
But it can be an unstoppable movement for good, too, when applied correctly. Cheating on the right things, as it turns out, can be one of the most radical decisions you can make in your life.
I wish I could go back in time and undo all of the hurt, all of the mistakes I made, but I can’t. All I know to do is to not be afraid of this “C” word that I fought so hard to not use for so very long. To keep using it, to keep talking about it, to keep being reminded of the truth that God really can and does know how to take something so broken and turn it into a force for His good.
If you have a secret wedged somewhere in the dark places of your heart, I pray that God will show you as only He can that that thing, that event, that person, that mistake…it isn’t one sided. It isn’t all bad. That somehow and in some way, it will be used for His good and His glory. That this thing, it is dark and beautiful in its very own way. And He wants to use it. When the time is right.
To John, my love, I am so glad it is you. Thank you for always encouraging me to share this story, our story. It is one I hate and love so very much all at the same time. Cheers to the next five.