50. The One Truly Freed

50. The One Truly Freed

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Power of Forgiveness

The One Truly Freed

It takes a huge effort to free yourself from a memory.

~Author Unknown

“You got a few minutes?” If my friend’s tone of voice was anything other than normal, I didn’t notice.

“Sure.” We walked to the resort’s pool, empty at this time of the evening. “The lecture was good, wasn’t it?” I sat down and dipped my feet in the water.

“It was,” she said. “It affected me deeply. That’s why I wanted to talk with you.”

Rosie had bounced plenty of things off me over the past few years. She faced difficulties working in the private school she and her husband founded. Raising their children when she wanted to continue her education had been a frequent struggle. I assumed she might ask me to pray for her to be a more supportive wife or devoted mom.

“What’s up?” I asked when she remained quiet.

“The speaker talked about how important honesty is for a good relationship. Your husband and I…” She stopped long enough for a feeling of foreboding to wash over me. “We’ve been pretty close.”

“I know. You work well together.” He had been teaching at their school for two years now and was great with the children.

“It isn’t that.” Was she going to confess that she was attracted to him?

“Earlier this year, we stepped beyond the boundaries of… you know, marriage.”

I didn’t want to know any more, but I had to know. I forced myself to speak in a low tone of voice. “How far beyond?”

“Pretty much all the way.”

My mind raced back in time. She said earlier this year. I’d had a baby in April. He was now seven months old. Rosie and my husband worked together, but they didn’t have private time, did they?

“When was it?” I asked.

“Valentine’s Day.”

Tears clouded my vision. “When I was visiting my parents?”

“Yes. Diane, I’m sorry. We never should have. We’ve been close since then, but we’ve never gone that far again.”

“What do you mean by close?” I swallowed hard. It wasn’t the time to cry.

“You know, just kissing and stuff.”

Just kissing.

“I knew it was wrong. Going behind your back.”

I couldn’t speak. I wiped my face quickly, not wanting Rosie to see my tears.

“He really loves you, you know. It’s just been a difficult time.”

I wanted to scream at her. He loves me enough to have an affair when I was seven months pregnant? Enough to pursue a relationship that breaks every rule of love and trust?

“I’m sorry.” She spoke as if her apology made everything okay. In her mind, maybe it was because she stood to go. She never mentioned it again.

When we got back from the women’s retreat, I asked my husband about it. He apologized and said it never should have happened. He opted to quit the job that brought him into contact with Rosie every day.

She phoned me the following week, angry that they no longer had a teacher and she had to take up the slack while they looked for another one.

I couldn’t respond to her over the phone, shocked that she didn’t seem to understand why he quit.

Over the next weeks, I plunged into depression. I considered leaving my husband. It made sense to me. He could pursue whatever relationships he wanted. I could take the baby and move in with my parents until I found a job.

Didn’t I have the right to do that? But a phrase kept running through my mind, words I spoke in my vow when we got married. “What God has put together, let no one put asunder.”

I knew my husband and I were meant to be together. So I stayed with him. I didn’t move out, but my heart was far away. I simply blocked out the brokenness and the wounding emotions that came with it.

Three years passed. My husband found a new job. I had a second child, then a third. I went back to school. I heard that Rosie and her husband had moved to another state. Life continued normally on the outside. But when I took time to think about it, I was going through life’s motions without joy. And I didn’t know how to find it. Whenever I thought of Rosie, my heart burned almost physically.

One day in January, my husband struck up a conversation. “I heard from Adrian.”

Rosie’s husband. I nodded. My heart raced.

“Rosie left him and the kids. She moved in with some guy.”

“Couldn’t have seen that one coming,” I blurted without thinking. “It was just a matter of time. That horrid woman has no heart for anyone but herself.”

“Why are you so bitter?” my husband asked.

I glared at him and stomped off. Why was I bitter? Hadn’t he cheated on me with that very woman? Hadn’t he broken my heart when he vowed to protect me and love me?

I got in my car and drove, not knowing where I was going. When I began to cry, I pulled into an alley behind the local library because I could no longer see the road. There, I cried. They were not tears of sorrow, but rage. Not at Rosie though. Beneath my animosity toward her, my heart seethed with anger at my husband. It was him that I was bitter toward, him that I would not forgive.

But I couldn’t. I didn’t know how. I couldn’t tell him, “I forgive you.” It wasn’t that simple. It wouldn’t work anyway. I had to do something, though. And it came to me.

Valentine’s Day.

We hadn’t celebrated it for three years. Of all days, he had chosen that one to be unfaithful. He didn’t deserve anything for Valentine’s Day.

“Do it anyway,” a voice seemed to tell me. Even though part of my heart was against it, another part convinced me to go through with it.

I planned a perfect morning. Made sure the kids would be out. Made the menu for a great lunch. Picked up a romantic movie. Decorated the house that morning while he ran errands. He came home, unsuspecting and pleasantly surprised. I played the part of a loving wife.

It’s just a role, I thought. But something inside me loved those moments. The morning had been perfect.

I told myself to keep playing the part. Pretend I was enjoying married life. For my children’s sake, if nothing else. I kept at it. A small deed here. A kind word there. A loving glance.

Weeks passed. And I found my role had changed. I was no longer playing a part. That faithful, loving wife was me. Really me. Joy that had evaded me for so long finally filled my heart. I had forgiven my husband. And I discovered that the one truly freed was the only one who had been bound all along.

Me.

~Willow Swift

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