Sometimes it takes my breath away when I see the capacity for humankind to be unthinking, unkind and cruel to one another. Treating others with disregard and meanness is, of course, nothing new in this world. Absolutely no one century or race or religion has a corner on throwing others under the bus.
However, it also takes my breath away when I see the capacity for humankind to be merciful, loving and grace-filled even in the most challenging of circumstances. As a follower of Jesus, I want to think that when I am hurt emotionally or physically by another, I could tap into my highest self and be forgiving and show grace toward the one who has injured me. Unfortunately, I usually operate less at my highest self and more at my middle self.
I think most of us operate at the middle-self level, perhaps going a little higher or lower depending on how we are feeling at the time. Showing grace to others who hurt us is extraordinarily difficult, which is why it is so noteworthy when it does occur and why it always takes my breath away when I am witness to such acts of grace.
Can You Find Grace?
So many things happen in a person’s life; many of us have at least one opportunity within our lifetime to practice abundant grace toward someone who has wronged us, hurt us, or abused our trust. For instance, perhaps you find out that your spouse is cheating on you. Do you stay with your spouse or leave the marriage? Now, having an extramarital affair is nothing new or earth-shattering, as it has been going on since the age of The Flintstones. But when it’s happening to you, I’m sure it feels very new and very earth-shattering. So, what do you do when you feel so betrayed and hurt by someone you love and trust? Can you find grace? Can you forgive?
Now let’s up the ante. What if your spouse informs you that not only did they have an affair, but there is a baby on the way. A baby that is a product of that affair. Now what do you do? Is saving the marriage a possibility? Do you even want to try? What about the baby? If you were somehow able to piece your broken marriage back together, how would this baby fit in? Can you find grace anywhere in this complete mess of a situation?
Not Just Theoretical
As it happens, this is no hypothetical situation. It happened to someone I knew many years ago. This woman—let’s call her Kathy—had been married for close to 20 years. Their life had been humming along nicely when Kathy found out that her spouse was cheating on her and that the woman he was having an affair with was having his baby.
I remember when Kathy told me her story for the first time. I was dumbfounded, and I imagine my mouth must have hung open. But my mouth hanging open in astonishment was premature. After Kathy told me the rest of the story, not only was my jaw hanging open but my eyes were bugging out as well.
This was how everything played out. Kathy and her husband decided to try and save their marriage. With much couples counseling, prayer and support, they did manage to put their marriage back together bit by bit. Of course, I’m leaving out the millions of tears shed, the hundreds of angry words screamed and the acres and acres of pain Kathy walked through. Still, with all their hard work, the marriage survived.
What About the Baby?
And what about the baby? Where would this child fit in? What would you do? Would you decide that your spouse is on their own when it comes to the baby and the baby’s mother? Would you maybe even tell your spouse that in order for your life to get back to normal, they need to cut off all contact with the baby’s mother and by extension the baby? In other words, would you pretend they don’t exist and that this whole horrible chapter in your life never happened? Considering the awfulness of this whole situation, I would be very tempted to pick the “let’s forget this ever happened” option.
However, Kathy didn’t choose either one of those options. Instead, she decided to welcome this child into her family and into her life. After the baby girl was born, Kathy, her husband and sons saw the baby regularly and spoke often to the child’s mother to address scheduling and parenting issues. By this point, my eyes were practically popping out of my head. I was thinking, “You’re doing what? You are helping to raise the baby of your husband’s affair? Really?”
But that’s exactly what she did. By the time she told me this story, the baby was no longer a baby but a school-aged child. Kathy’s anger had been replaced with love for this little girl. Kathy assured me that nothing about this was easy; navigating all these relationships was tricky and frustrating. Talking with Kathy, it was clear that forgiving her husband as well as the baby’s mother was a conscious decision. Kathy reminded me that forgiveness and grace are always choices that are available to us.
Every Situation is Unique
Of course, every situation is unique and there is no “one size fits all” answers to dealing with infidelity or any type of betrayal. Even if Kathy had decided the best way forward for her was to leave the marriage and separate herself completely from the baby and the baby’s mother’s life, a decision regarding forgiveness and grace would still be on the table.
The best window I have into God’s heart is seeing grace at work in those around me. Everything about how Kathy navigated this painful part of her life has been a lesson in grace and forgiveness. When I think about Kathy, I see a woman who is free—free of anger and bitterness and outrage. I see redemption in this mess of a situation, and it takes my breath away. I stand in a state of awe as I am witness to grace so abundant that I am speechless.
(either individually or with a group)
Read the blog. Read it a second time, maybe reading it aloud or asking someone else to read it aloud so you can hear it with different intonation and emphases. Then spend some time with the following questions with words, crayons, Legos, paints, or anything that helps you reflect more deeply. Take these questions for a walk in the woods or in your neighborhood, for a swim or a run or for a hot soak in the tub. Invite the questions to join you for tea or coffee.
- When have you experienced someone extending abundant grace to you?
- What did you learn from that experience?
- Where in your life are you being called to extend abundant grace to another?
Download a pdf including the Reflection Questions to share and discuss with friends, family, or members of your faith community small group.