A Second Chance

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by Mary Larmoyeux / FamilyLife

To a watching world, Mike and Mary Murray were a perfect couple. They had been high school sweethearts, and appeared to have an ideal marriage. Mike had a good job, and Mary was able to stay at home with their children. They owned their home and had two kids, two cars, and a family dog.

But to Mike, after seven years of marriage, something was terribly wrong. The Murrays had reached their material goals and Mike wondered, Now what? He began to look to his job for fulfillment and often worked 60 hours a week. Mary poured herself into the children. It was so easy for her to turn her focus from Mike to 6-month-old Eric and and 2-year-old Brittany.

And now the marriage seemed empty. Their lives were traveling in two different directions. They no longer really communicated-yes, they answered surface questions, but they didn't talk heart to heart as they had in the early years of their marriage.

Mike felt trapped. With two young children, he and Mary couldn't just pick up and go places when they wanted. "I never had time to do things that I wanted to do," he says.

Mike did not share his feelings with Mary. Instead, he followed the slippery path of many others-he became involved with a woman at work who was separated from her husband. It began as a simple friendship. "I was able to listen and she was able to listen," Mike recalls. "It escalated real quickly into a sexual relationship."

Mary had no idea of the battle waging in Mike's soul. "He wasn't home as much, and we weren't talking as much," she says. "I was wrapped up in the kids and I just couldn't imagine anything ever happening."

The situation escalated when the Murrays attended a wedding and began to argue. Mary asked Mike if he was seeing someone else and he said, "Yes. It's just an emotional thing." Then he lied and said, "We haven't had any physical relationship."

Mike can still vividly remember the look of hurt and total surprise on Mary's face. She was distraught, and he knew that he had betrayed his best friend since high school. The expression on her face jarred him into reality, and he began to understand the harm he was doing to his family.

Mike had been raised in the church and had a deep conviction that they needed spiritual help. Although Mary was uncomfortable about seeing a pastor, she wanted her marriage to be healed. Mary says, "I didn't care where we went as long as we could get help."

The pastor asked Mike to make a full commitment of his life to the Lord. Then he looked at Mary and asked her if she had ever received Jesus Christ as her Lord and Savior. She recalls, "I had no clue what this man was talking about-being "born again" and "committing my life to Christ." ... I'm thinking, Why are you asking me all these questions? ... We're here because he messed up." But soon Mary began to realize her own need for Christ. "That night I asked the Lord into my heart. After that things just really started to change for me."

The future began to brighten for the Murrays. Mary and Mike had each committed their lives to the Lord, and they were both trying desperately to heal their broken marriage. Then, when things were looking hopeful, the "other woman" came to Mike and told him she was pregnant.

He was at a critical crossroads in his life. "I was suicidal and had a 12-gauge shotgun in the trunk of my car." Then, it was as if God spoke to Mike at his lowest point and said, "If you are willing to die, die to yourself and let Me live through you."

At the same time, God was working in Mary's heart about forgiveness. She told Mike that she forgave him, but his reaction surprised her. He began to weep and confessed his sexual relationship.

Mary screamed; she felt like a knife had gone through her heart. "It hurt so much," she recalls. "I asked myself questions like, 'Where do I go from here?' and 'Is this what being a Christian is like?'"

As God continued to work in her life, Mary recalled 1 Corinthians 10:13b, "God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able." This gave her the strength to forgive her husband again. "I know now, looking back, that God knew that I couldn't handle it all at the beginning. Now that I had the Lord, He was working in me."

About this time the Murrays' pastor saw an ad in the newspaper inviting people to attend a HomeBuilders Couples Series study, and he encouraged them to join. Mary and Mike agreed, and they began meeting with four or five other couples to work through Building Your Marriage, by Dennis Rainey.

"We really wanted to put our marriage back together," Mike says. "We saw a real opportunity with the material that was before us. If we could apply these things, it would work. God healed our marriage in the HomeBuilders study."

Almost a decade has passed since the Murrays' marriage nearly became another divorce statistic. God has used them to facilitate at least 20 HomeBuilders groups, and they now serve as regional developers, helping start HomeBuilders groups in New England. Mike still feels some pain when he remembers the affair. "She told me that she got an abortion," he says. "It is something that I have had to deal with. The Scripture teaches us that we are forgiven but the consequences sometimes remain."

Today Mike and Mary have a third child, Michaela, who they say would not be here today if their marriage had not been saved. As Mike says, "God chose to use HomeBuilders to restore our marriage. He gave me a second chance, and I want to make the most of it."

Real FamilyLife, a publication of FamilyLife, September/October 2000, pages 6-9.

2001 Family Life. Used by permission.