“Little did I know that our heartbreak was the beginning of healing and reconciliation.”
“For as long as I can remember I was always happiest when people were happy with me,” said Stacey Robbins. “In high school, it was important to have as many friends as I could, and at church, I wore the mask of a good girl who served and did good deeds. I had to be perfect in order to have a relationship with a Holy God, right? I didn’t learn what the gospel really was, and I never understood that righteousness was not possible apart from Christ until about six years ago.
“I entered my marriage to Graham with my identity rooted in my performance. It was a rough start. Graham and I welcomed porn and other destructive sexual influences into our relationship, which brought to the surface my fear and insecurity. Full of guilt and shame, I worried that if I spoke up, Graham would get bored and leave.
“For the first 10 years of our marriage, I looked to Graham, not God, to determine my significance. I worked hard to be the perfect mother and wife, never being honest about my insecurity or feelings of invalidation when I communicated with Graham. As he bounced in and out of jobs, I became the breadwinner in addition to full-time motherhood. I was afraid to voice my concerns, because I didn’t want to be seen as the nagging wife.
“I always thought something weird was going on in our marriage, though I couldn’t point to anything specific. But one night about six years ago, Graham confessed that he had engaged in an extra-marital relationship. His words were so painful. Yet, in the middle of all that confusion, I also had a sense of relief that I finally knew what was wrong. “The first verse I read after that painful night was Matthew 5:3, ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.’” There was so much assurance in Jesus’ words. Little did I know that our heartbreak was the beginning of healing and reconciliation.
“After his confession, Graham and I got involved in a Community Group and took part in re|engage, Watermark’s marriage ministry. Graham thought we should do re:generation recovery at Watermark as well. I agreed, but only because I thought he needed it, not me. The first time we attended, I thought, ‘What is wrong with all of these people?’ I had no idea how deeply rooted sin was in my life.
“Soon, the Lord showed me how much performance and perfection were integrated into my heart. Rather than service and obedience to Christ, I performed so I could measure up to the expectations of other people. In fact, I was so focused on performing and people-pleasing, I could not have been a safe place for Graham to be authentic about his struggles.
“As I spent time in God’s Word, I learned that the Lord does not require perfection, performance, or good works. All I needed to do was trust in what Christ had already done for me on the cross. My fears and insecurities were not removed overnight, and I still struggled with feeling like I didn’t measure up. But, as the Lord increased my understanding of Christ’s free gift of grace, I found freedom.
“When Graham and I were asked to share our story at re|engage, we wanted friends to hear and celebrate with us. But then, Graham got a telephone message from the woman with whom he had an affair. She had heard we were sharing our story and was worried her name would be revealed. I was so upset by that phone call. But amidst all that emotion, I was reminded of Bible verses that made it clear that my life was about God’s glory and not my own comfort.
“So, I returned the phone call, and God took over at that point. We cried together, and I was able to tell her that God loved her and was for their marriage. The woman my husband was unfaithful with asked for my forgiveness, and because of God’s work in my heart, I was able to forgive. It was amazing to see how the Lord was at work as we spoke, and she committed to begin the process of confession to the Lord and her husband, as well.
“Today, God has changed my life from just a big list of do’s and don’ts to living in full dependence on Him. Because we live in a broken world, with conflict, busy schedules, and other commitments, it takes effort to prioritize time with the Lord. But the time I spend in community and studying Scripture resets my perspective and helps me to lean on Christ rather than the measuring stick of performance and good works. I hate that old measuring stick!
“Considering all God has done in our lives, it’s ironic that our relationship is actually messier this side of full devotion to Christ. We used to sweep conflict and sin under the rug; we don’t avoid conflict now, we work to resolve it, and that’s hard. But in spite of the mess, we have so much more fun and joy in our marriage I no longer seek perfection in my marriage or look to Graham for my value, because perfection isn’t the goal anymore, godliness is.”