Character Trumps Consequences

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The first moment that your former spouse voices their regret, you will be greeted by a flood of emotions. Validation, anger, hope, confusion, bitterness, justice, pride … just to name a few. For me, this encounter happened pretty frequently. Initially, his mind was made up and there was no way in hell he wanted anything to do with our marriage. As the finality of the divorce was approaching, the comments of regret started. Never were they followed by action, but they happened nonetheless. During the entire waiting game of the divorce, a small part of me was open to reconciliation had some deep conversion taken place. Call my faith too strong for my own good, but I know God’s power in even the most rebellious hearts and I wanted my family whole again. My ex would make comments of life with the homewrecker not being what he had hoped, missing me and the remnants of our little family. And then nothing. Life would go on as if nothing happened. We would interact as if the comments and conversations never took place. These interactions happened sporadically, but never amounted to much. If I am honest with myself, I would say they held me back emotionally.

Just about when his two year honeymoon wore off, the conversations with me became more real. His remorse was stronger. Real moments of grief hit him and I would wonder if our life together would ever work again. I would always come back to this: You cannot confuse consequences with character. He would come to me when he felt the consequences of his poor choices. This did not change his character. His character was that of someone who did all of this in the first place. Although, he expressed sorrow and regret for what had happened, there was no real life conversion that took place in the meantime. I am a believer that the only way one can truly turn from their destructive ways is from genuine repentance and a supernatural conversion. People don’t change people. God changes people.

Can a marriage be salvaged after an affair? Absolutely. I have seen it happen. Does it take an unbelievable amount of work and faith? No doubt. One couple that went through this saga one year prior to us ended up staying married. This came from the husband’s true, heartfelt repentance and renewed faith in the Lord. And of course, the wife’s willingness to embrace God’s grace within their covenant. As one counselor advised me, sometimes there’s simply not enough left to work with. This was terrifying to me. However, if bitterness, poor attitudes, and the lack of fight creep in, then he was right. Sometimes there’s just not enough to revive the marriage.  

The moments of my ex wanting to get back together were difficult for me. Difficult because I wanted for him to have that change in his heart, but it hadn’t yet happened. I reminded myself once again, that he is experiencing the natural consequences to the lies he believed in leaving our life together. I reminded myself that natural consequences to sinful choices are sad. However, this sadness cannot be confused with repentance. The fact of the matter is it’s sad when a man leaves his family. It’s sad when parents have to share time with their child. And it’s sad when people live in deep regret for the horrible things they’ve done. It’s all sad.

However, sad and heartbreaking circumstances can prepare you for the intricate good of God’s design. Sadness is a raw emotion and a result of natural consequences. This cannot be confused with the consistency of one’s character. Character is character no matter where you see it. It will carry over. Don’t ignore where it dwindles or exaggerate where it just so happens to do the right thing. Its authenticity will reveal itself over time. My prayer for you is if and when you deal with a former spouse that has regret, you’d examine the quality of their character over the sadness of the consequences.

Image by Jen B. Peters

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