Wholly Living

The Prodigal Pastor’s Wife

"The reality of my God is that he is a healer of broken hearts. My thankful heart can never express what I owe the One who welcomed back this prodigal." by Wendi Barczynski

The judge’s gavel hit the sound block and the divorce was final. Even though the divorce was my idea, I couldn’t believe that my marriage was over. Tears streamed down my face as I walked out to the car. I was heading in a direction I never intended, not sure where the downward spiral would take me. Never in a million years would I have thought that I could go from a pastor’s wife to the unfaithful wife who was walking away from a 20-year marriage. I felt hopeless, helpless and alone. How had I gotten to this point? Where was I going from here?

My ex-husband was a pastor. I had spent hours at church doing everything from children’s worker to janitor, whatever was needed, I filled in. My pastor-husband was a workaholic. He put hours into his work, which left me so lonely. I felt like I had to keep everyone at arm’s length in order to stay professional. There was no way I could ever talk to anyone about how my husband treated me. So the “aloneness” became almost alive, growing stronger every year. 

I remember the time I found out I was pregnant with our fifth child. We were so excited. But that excitement soon turned to grief as I realized one day that I was miscarrying. My husband was too busy to stay home with me as my body rejected our little one. I remember lying in bed, weeping and grieving and feeling like a lost little girl with no one to hold on to. Everything was more important in my husband’s eyes than me.  

I remember hearing a sermon warning about the slippery slope, the one where before we even realize it, we were slipping down and away from our relationship with Jesus. That’s exactly how it happened to me. Through social media, I connected with a man I had known in school. When I was back in my hometown, we decided to meet for dinner to “just catch up.” It was a nice dinner and fun to catch up on our school mates. That little bit of friendship made my heart yearn for more. As we continued to talk, I was surprised that another man was interested in me. With my husband’s rejection, I felt that I was not desirable any more. This new relationship showed me something different. Here was someone who liked spending time with me. We met several more times; each time became a little more intimate. The slippery slope was taking me in. I could not keep going on with this secret. I needed to tell my husband about the affair. I knew I needed to confess it. 

One Sunday night after a prayer meeting, I knew it was time. When we got home, I was going to tell my husband about the affair. I sat him down and told him I needed to tell him something. My intention was to come clean and get back on track with “right living,” but the words that came out of my mouth were “I’m leaving.” Even I was shocked! I never intended to say that. I never even had acknowledged to myself that this is what I was thinking. I left that night and drove to my friend’s house. As I drove into his parking lot, I saw my parent’s car. I was afraid that they knew about the affair. Afraid of what I had actually done. As I got out of my car and headed to the door, my mom got out and yelled at me. My heart burst. My husband had wasted no time letting my parent’s know about my decision. Now, even my family would be against me. Soon everyone would know and there was no turning back.

As the weeks went on, many changes occurred. I found a new job and an apartment. Meetings with the lawyer. Trying to help my children deal with the situation. It was a dark, dark time in my life and I had no one to blame but myself. I can remember nights when the children were at their father’s house and I was all alone in my apartment. The darkness swirled around me. Satan had my mind for his playground. He sent lie after lie and I believed him. One night in particular, the lies were so overwhelming that thoughts of suicide reared their ugly head. If it hadn’t been for those who were praying for me, I would have ended my pain then and there. I did make it through that night one step at a time. Each one was not easy but I had no other choice but to go forward. 

The man I had the affair with became my best friend during those times. We eventually decided to get married. Even though I had walked away from my faith, I couldn’t totally give it up. We would go to church together every week. I had chosen a large church where I could attend anonymously. I didn’t have to get involved, but I could meet God there. 

Every week, God’s word worked ever so sweetly drawing me close, back to His open arms,  healing the hurts and letting me know that even if everyone gave up on me, He never would. There was one Sunday in particular that I remember. As the sermon started, panic filled my heart when I realized the sermon passage was about the woman caught in adultery. Tears filled my eyes as I sat there listening to how Jesus dealt with the woman. The pastor said that she had probably been dragged from the actual act of adultery and she was probably wearing what she had been wearing when her unfaithfulness was discovered. I gasped slightly when I realized that the dress I was wearing was the same one that I had worn the first time I had allowed the physical intimacy to go too far. In church that day, the story of this woman became very real to me because I was her. 

Spiritually, I was sprawled in the dirt before Jesus. Accusing eyes pinned me to my place on the ground. I could not look the Master in the eye because of shame for what I had done and what I had become. But then the loving words of God reached out and defended me. Jesus looked into the eyes of my heart and said that he was not condemning me. He loved me and wanted me to go and sin no more. 

The block of ice that had replaced my heart melted that day. Tears streamed down my face. Those around me had no idea who I was or what the Lord was doing. Everyone else faded away and it was just me and the Lord. I knew at that moment that healing was coming; Healing for me, for my children, for relationships. I left church that day drained, but feeling that a new day was dawning. Hope started to fill the empty spaces in my heart and mind. The reality of my sin is that there were a lot of people hurt, but the reality of my God is that he is a healer of broken hearts. My thankful heart can never express what I owe the One who welcomed back this prodigal.  

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