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The Day My Life Ended

wedding pic smashed with hammer

 

May 1987

It is mid-morning…Bright sunshine along with a refreshing breeze filters into the living room through the open wooden sliding doors.  The rustic room is cool, partially in the shadows.  The mood is somber.
Those present are: my husband of 37 years, myself, three of our children, a son-in-law, plus an American pastor and his wife who are visiting us.

A tragic life-changing conversation is in progress. . .
My son is speaking, with tears in his eyes:  “Dad, you didn’t only betray Mom; you betrayed all of us six kids.”

This horrible, sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach keeps worsening, it won’t stop.  I know my world has just now forever changed. I was hanging onto my sanity, even as I wanted to run screaming from the room, shouting NO, no, no. . .
I was in total shock as I looked at my husband. I had no words. I knew our relationship had serious problems.  But this?

My adult children had discovered their father had other children outside of our marriage, with a woman I knew well whom had been a friend.  Their relationship started over 12 years earlier.  As my children and our friends spoke with my husband, they discovered my husband had been involved with even more women as well, at least two of them whom I knew and loved.

I was speechless and sick.  How could this be possible?  What do I do now?
God, help me please. How could this have happened? What is wrong with me? Am I stupid?

 “Oh God! Now what?”

Infidelity –
Is there a difference between a one time and a life style?

I had struggled with my husband’s infidelity at the beginning of our marriage.  I loved him.  He had such a storehouse of talents.  He could sing, lead people, and preach. He had a charismatic personality which covered the inner problems he battled of sarcasm and anger.  We had been married for just a few years when the infidelity happened for the first and, I thought, the last time.

We had three small children five and under.   For about three years, we were constantly with one other couple. Camping. Game nights. Movies.  Our children played well together. One small incident happened on one of our camping trips that had made me uneasy. I talked with my husband about it, and was reassured.

One sunny morning in August, soon after my husband left for his business, the phone rang.  I picked it up quickly before it awakened my small crew.  It was the husband of the other couple and he had difficulty speaking.  “Voni, your husband and my wife have been having an affair for over two years.  I found a note last night.”

Three months without knowing what was going to happen…I forgave him and then had to wait for him to work out releasing the other relationship, for it was OVER.  I was determined to keep my marriage. The day before our oldest child’s 6th birthday, my husband released the past and turned toward our future.                                                                                                                                          He asked forgiveness.
We moved to Texas, with our three small children.
It was rough. I learned the necessity to continue forgiving, and we began re-building our marriage.  I also learned to pay attention when I felt that little twinge of a red flag when he was around some specific woman, and would warn him to be careful. He listened.

We had some good years.  Challenging and good. Our relationship strengthened, and we were working together.  He was running a business, and started studying at a college when he was 30.  We moved to a small oil town in Oklahoma (one stoplight where the main street crossed the “highway”) and he began preaching at a small church. Wow, the things I learned!

(Did you know if you bring your clothes frozen off the line, they are perfect for ironing.  No steam iron necessary?)  (Did you know that when people in the congregation get upset with the preacher, they usually start talking badly about his wife or kids?)  I learned how to type the bulletin and run it off on the mimeograph machine. –look that up on Google.  Our family spent many hours in a friend’s storm cellar, as tornadoes passed over.  Those – and many other valuable life lessons.  I got to study Greek – and loved it.  I got undulant fever (brucellosis) from bad milk. (Another one to Google.)  … and more.

We moved to Oregon, where my husband preached at a larger congregation.  Loved those people!  More life lessons.

In 1967, we moved to Brazil to serve as missionaries. By that time, we had five children, from 15 years old down. (Our sixth child was born in Brazil.) I painfully learned life lessons of culture shock . . . and the “red flag” started flying.  I didn’t understand what and why, but my husband changed.

I sensed there might be other women . . . but there was nothing concrete.  I continued loving him, learning, caring for our children, bonding into the culture.  Our home was filled with our children, their friends, others who came to talk, learn English, and learn more about our Lord.  Life was full, with adventure after adventure as the years went by.

We started a language school as a tool for income (which we needed), and a way to reach into the community. Inner loneliness was a part of my life.  We were busy: our lives were full.  But the relationship I desired with my husband was not there: it was gone. Although no one knew it, I was living in anguish.

Looking back, I realize my husband “set me up”, asking me to teach an intensive language class with a CEO of a large firm, who was a womanizer. I didn’t know that fact; my husband did.  Classes five days a week, three hours each day. In our English classes I was able to share about Christ and what He meant to me, and my student and I became friends.  The day came when I realized the loneliness in my life was making me vulnerable to the possibility of emotional involvement. I entered into a battle with myself I’d never thought was possible.    It was God Who gave me the strength to pull out of the situation and kept me safe.  But I learned a new humility and understanding that I’ve never forgotten

More years passed.  A young woman, whom I’d loved, sat on my lap, weeping, asking my forgiveness for an affair she’d had with my husband.  She was the age of one of our daughters, and this had almost destroyed her.  I was angry and heartsick. I told my husband if this happened again, I was leaving, and he knew I meant it.

Over the years, I had  spent hours and hours studying Bible scriptures about marriage.
I knew them well.

e.g.How  the attitude of both should be toward
one another.
  And if he doesn’t treat me with love and honor,
God will not listen to his prayers.  (I like that one!)  Check it out
here:1 Peter 3 The Message (MSG)Cultivate Inner Beauty1-4 The same goes for you wives:
Be good wives to your husbands, responsive to their needs
. There are husbands  who, indifferent as they are to any words
about God,  will be captivated by your life of holy beauty.
What matters is not your outer appearance—the styling of
your hair, the jewelry you wear, the cut of your clothes—
but your  inner disposition.
4-6 Cultivate inner beauty, the gentle, gracious kind that
God delights in. The holy women of old were beautiful
before God that way, and were good, loyal wives to their
husbands. Sarah, for instance, taking care of Abraham,
would address him as “my dear husband.”
You’ll be true daughters of Sarah if you do the same,
unanxious and unintimidated.The same goes for you husbands: Be good husbands to your
wives. Honor them, delight in them. As women
they lack some of your advantages. But in the new life
of God’s grace, you’re equals. Treat your wives, then,
as equals so your prayers don’t run aground”    [italics mine]

 

Next question:  How do I know my husband (or anyone else) really loves God, and therefore I can trust them when they say they love me?

The Only Way to Know We’re in Him
1 John 2 The Message (MSG)

2-3 Here’s how we can be sure that we know God in the right way: Keep his commandments.

4-6 If someone claims, “I know him well!” but doesn’t keep his commandments, he’s obviously a liar. His life doesn’t match his words. But the one who keeps God’s word is the person in whom we see God’s mature love. This is the only way to be sure we’re in God. Anyone who claims to be intimate with God ought to live the same kind of life Jesus lived.

9-11 Anyone who claims to live in God’s light and hates a brother or sister is still in the dark. It’s the person who loves brother and sister who dwells in God’s light and doesn’t block the light from others. But whoever hates is still in the dark, stumbles around in the dark, doesn’t know which end is up, blinded by the darkness.

I asked myself, what is hate?
Not walking in God’s love, not keeping His commandments – can that lead to hate?
If someone goes against His commandments, can I believe anything they say?

In reality, God’s commandments generally go against our own selfish nature.
Our tendency is to put ourselves, our desires and our needs, as the first priority in our lives. If we haven’t established God’s boundaries in our lives, we will ignore the God-given rights of others. Therefore, what was my husband’s real attitude towards me?  Obviously, not one of love.

God heard the vows my husband and I made together – yet, my husband broke them when he put his own desires ahead of his family. When he stopped caring for, protecting and serving those whom he had promised to care for, although he said he loved God and loved us, his life turned into a lie. But we – his family- didn’t know this, and many things happened we didn’t understand.

Obviously, this wasn’t a one-time action.  It had happened only one time in the states. I have no idea what happened when we moved to our new country?
But that morning in our living room, I learned he’s had a lifestyle with different women, over many years; all of this while we were in public “ministry” together: singing, teaching the Bible, and recording cd’s with our band. I loved those young men who worked with us over the years.  I loved the children’s group I was working with: we’d presented Kid’s Praise before thousands, and made CD’s that were selling all over the country.  How could we have betrayed the people like this?  (Logically, I knew it wasn’t me but, in these situations, many years may go by before the other spouse is free of the feeling of guilt for the failure.)

I know you may think I’m crazy:  I should have left him long before? By American logic, maybe. However, we were living in a foreign country. In the culture we were living in, divorce was not legalized until 1977.   Infidelity was a common problem in that culture, usually on the part of the husband. And, though I suspected, I had no proof before that young woman crawled into my lap a year and a half earlier. To protect her, although I spoke plainly with my husband, I didn’t talk with others.  She needed protection, and I gave it to her.  Ethically I felt I had no choice.
I made the right decision.  She has grown and matured, helping many others, and I thank God for His goodness!

Some good friends of mine had chosen not to separate from their husbands. I learned to respect and honor these women. They stayed to maintain their homes. It wasn’t because of economics, but was based upon a choice of what would be best for all. I gleaned from their experiences. (Yes, the positive and negative factors are open for debate, and each case needs to be individually assessed. If you wish, we can discuss this aspect later.) A huge difference between them and I was their husbands were not looked at as leaders in any church.

One thing I want to emphasize:  over the years, I did the best I knew how to do before the Lord, based upon the knowledge I had.  Whether others agree with our decisions or not, we walk in the wisdom we have at the time, making choices step by step.

In this new situation I faced, I now knew my husband’s betrayal was far greater than anything I could have imagined, and I accepted in my heart that I had to separate myself from him. We were leaders – I had learned we were not living what we were teaching. The very thing I’d fought against for years, the destruction of our family, I was living in the midst of it, walking down a path with no idea of where it would lead. All I could do was hang onto God’s hand!!!
Isaiah 41: 10,13 Amplified Bible (AMP)
10 Fear not [there is nothing to fear], for I am with you; do not look around you in terror and be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen and harden you to difficulties, yes, I will help you; yes, I will hold you up and retain you with My [victorious] right hand of rightness and justice.
13 For I the Lord your God hold your right hand; I am the Lord, Who says to you, Fear not; I will help you!                                   

We had many friends scattered over the country where we lived, besides those in the US.  This was a mass betrayal, so many people hurt.  Worst of all, the message about following Jesus Christ that we’d shared for over 20 years was sullied!
I was shocked – and ashamed.  How could I have been so stupidly blind?????

 In the next  post, I will begin sharing some of the things I learned from God and His Word  that continued changing my life, gradually relieved the anguish, took away the despair, gave me hope – and I began to laugh again.  It’s quite a mixture.

If you desire to follow this path with me (with a few detours along the way), click on the box and request to receive these posts in your email.

About Voni Pottle

10 Replies

  1. Joni roeder

    Sounds just like my pastor’s dad. He would actually brag about all the women he had affairs with. He eventually accepted the Lord before he died but it did cost him his marriage.

    1. Voni

      Joni, this is a heartbreak that is altogether too common. This is not what God wants to happen to anyone!

  2. Joe Gosha

    Thank you for sharing this Voni!

    1. Voni

      Joe, when all of this happened, one of my questions was “for what purpose?”
      I know that none of this was God’s will! But Romans 8:28 is truth, not my emotions.
      And I remembered Paul stating that he received comfort from the Lord so he could comfort others.
      I have shared and taught over the years, the comfort He gave to me. Now I’m writing it.
      Would appreciate your prayers… for wisdom, clarity, and strength. The sunny day in May 1987, was 28 years ago. It is still indelibly in my mind, along with the emotions and sorrow. The sharp edges of the grief have been softened by the Lord. The sorrow is always there. This is not what my heavenly Father wanted. But He never left my side; He continued holding my hand. I am thankful!!!
      Long answer for short comment. ah well…

  3. Carolyn Galligan

    Voni I appreciate you openess and honesty and love you my friend!

    1. Voni

      Thank you, Carolyn – and I love you. How I enjoy laughing with you!

  4. Tania Webb

    IT IS HARD TO UNDERSTAND HOW HE WAS SO MUCH OF A GOOD ACTOR. I WAS THERE SOME OF THIS TIME AND SAW HIS PREFORMANCE. THIS MAN DID NOT HAVE THE FEAR OF THE LORD?

    1. Voni

      Tania, I’d forgotten you were there then… sadly, you are right… it is a heartbreak… I hope he does now. My constant prayer for him all these years is for him to have the joy of walking with the Lord.
      How can any of us survive by our own strength without God. I know I can’t!

  5. I admire you for remaining faithful in the midst of so much anguish and deceit. That is true virtue. You have shared the suffering of Jesus, who is faithful when we are not. God bless you.

    1. Voni

      Julia, do you remember when so many of the followers of Jesus left Him, for His teaching was too hard? Jesus turned to the 12 and asked them if they would leave also, and Peter replied, “Where would we go, Lord?”
      In the midst of all that has happened in my life, I know that the triune God was and is my only safe refuge. I, like millions before us, know there is no other place to go than Him. And I want no other place than Him.
      Bless you!

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