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What Love Really Means

By: Stephanie Ables

Stephanie and her husband, Adam, live in Knoxville, Tennessee. They spend their time raising Bear, their little seventy-five pound Golden Doodle, and enjoying the beauty of the Smoky Mountains. But mostly you will find them mentoring others to begin the process of allowing the Holy Spirit to lead them into to recovery.

My view of marriage did not start out in a healthy way. My parents divorced when I was six years old and my mother moved her boyfriend in with my sister, brother, and me not long after my parents’ separation.

I am the youngest of six children in this blended family. My mother and stepfather did not actually marry until my senior year of high school. The life I grew up in did not encourage abstinence or for me to save myself for marriage. I was raised Catholic, so I knew God existed, but I didn’t know he wanted to be the center of my life.

In my preteens, I became very interested in boys. I sought out their attention and affection eagerly. I was out drinking, smoking pot, and making poor decisions with boys at about 13 years old. I really wanted to be loved and for someone to pay attention to me. I’ll spare you the details, but I was involved in one unhealthy relationship after another. All of them ended with me being betrayed by the ones I thought loved me..

While I was in college, a string of circumstances led to my moving to Louisiana to live with my parents (who had moved there to care for aging relatives). Here is where my life did begin to change forever.
I started waiting tables at a restaurant in town. I also immediately started partying and dating. The first boy I was with was completely different from past choices. He was a college boy and from a good family. Of course it seemed he was too boring for me. Eventually, I left him for the man who would become my husband.

Adam was exciting and liked to party. He was a challenge and a player. In the years of our courtship, there were a lot of ups and downs. He was a big flirt, and I was jealous. I definitely wanted to be with him because he was from a good Christian family. I saw a kindness and a light in him that I had never seen before.

While dating Adam, I began to be chased by Jesus. I remember reading a series of books by Francine Rivers and wanting to be baptized afterward. I knew I had known of God in the past, but things really became more intimate in my desire to know and love Jesus. I was baptized, and that following October, Adam and I were engaged. At the time we married, we were living in Nashville and I was in nursing school. Two years later, I graduated and began a full-time nursing career.

Our marriage seemed to be moving along in all the right direction. We bought a house and found a church and had somewhat of a community. The two of us each had our own demons we were fighting personally and totally hidden to the outside world. He struggled with an opioid addiction, and I struggled with an eating disorder.

We somehow managed to work through these challenges enough to stay together and decided to move to Alaska. At the time, I thought we were doing it because Adam would relapse if we did not. He also mentioned he would cheat on me if we didn’t move.

I signed a two-year contract, and we moved to Alaska. We did all the amazing outdoor things that should be enjoyed while living in Alaska. I took with me my unhealthy food issues and Adam continued in his other secret addiction which grew worse while in Alaska. I found an amazing church with a fantastic women’s minister. I grew in my love for Jesus and finally learned that He loves me no matter what I did and that I couldn’t earn His love. This was a huge breakthrough for me.

While in Alaska, we were asked to become missionaries in the Dominican Republic. We were asked to help with an orphanage that we had been working with on weeklong missions for years. We jumped at the opportunity and went.

Those were some of the loneliest and hardest days of my life up to that point. Adam was very distant. He would shut down for long periods and it wasn’t safe for me to be out and about alone. I sought Jesus for strength and He showed up for me in ways I feel so blessed to have experienced. I read my bible for hours every day, and Jesus was with me.

After six months of living in the Dominican, we came back to America. We worked with the church that had sent us to the Dominican for a year. I went into travel nursing during that year, and then Adam joined me. All of our secrets and struggles followed us no matter where we moved.

We finally prayed about setting down roots and living in one place. Knoxville became home.

One week after moving to Knoxville, I was awakened by a voice clearly telling me to look at Adam’s phone. It was five o’clock in the morning and I was confused. I heard the voice again, and with my heart pounding loudly in my ears, I looked at his phone.

I found evidence of him seeking out an affair. At first he tried to deny it or minimize it. Then over the next several weeks, I learned that my husband of 11 years had been unfaithful to me for six of them. There really are no words to describe the pain and suffering that I felt. Adam had been my Prince Charming. He was the person who loved me the most in the world and then all of a sudden, he hadn’t and didn’t.

I wanted to die. I begged God to take my life. I contemplated suicide often. I know that God knew if I had found out any of this stuff sooner, I would’ve taken my own life. I have no doubt. But when I would think about committing suicide, I would think about my nieces and nephews that don’t know Jesus. I would think about how it would look to them that their auntie, who loved Jesus, took her own life. I wanted so much to help bring people to Jesus, and I knew killing myself would not help in that fight.

Luckily I found a church with Celebrate Recovery, and that’s where I found a family of believers who loved me and guided me through some of the darkest days and hours of my life. I also had some amazing family from the church that sent us to the Dominican. They came to us and prayed for us and spoke with us over the phone.

I became very involved in Celebrate Recovery. I worked my own twelve steps on codependency and continued work on my food issues and insecurity. I am still very involved in this ministry today. During this time of ultimate betrayal, I learned how God sees me. He loves me and forgives me, even though I don’t deserve it. My eyes were opened to the fact that sin is not the sinner. I learned that forgiveness is a process. Forgiving Adam was definitely a process for me. It probably took an entire year in recovery to truly forgive him.

I am now thankful for what has happened between Adam and me because I know that God has never and will never leave me. He carried me through this horrible event and brought goodness out the other side. He is the love of my life. He never disappoints me, and He is always faithful. I trust Him with everything I am now.

I am still married to Adam, and I am thankful for him and the work that God has done in him. But Adam is not my hope; he is not my everything anymore. I really should have never put all my hopes in a human. God is my hope. I know hard days will return, but I also know that God will carry me through them.

I stand in such a different position in life now. I used to try to control every aspect of life to make things secure and safe. I have learned through this tragedy that there is no such thing as controlling life. I don’t live in a place of control and worry anymore. I finally understand what it means to live in peace and in freedom. God is my great love story. My prayer is that He will be yours as well.

Photo courtesy of Stephanie Ables