Hi, my name is Bryana. Today I will be sharing my story about how I have been scarred by scandal. In order to briefly give a bit of background without making you read a novel, I’ll tell you a few things about me before I start. I grew up as a second born of four children in a Bible believing family who was faithfully apart of our local church body. I met my husband in highschool and we dated for 3.5 years before we married at the baby ages of 19 and 20. A few weeks after we married, I moved across the country with him where he was playing college basketball for an elite division 1 university. We welcomed our first baby girl a couple months after he graduated and then had our second daughter came 17 months later. My story begins after we had moved back and forth across the country, trying to settle into a career that could support our family.
If the Lord had told me that one of the words I would use to describe how I have experienced His character and grace towards me would be scandalous, I think I would have opted out. Sexual brokenness and immorality was the one thing I wanted to avoid at all costs. I was arrogantly convinced I could control the presence of such things in my life. If I had been honest with myself about my own struggle for purity during my dating relationship with Michael, I might have seen some of the red flags. But here is the thing: whether I would’ve chosen it or not, it’s what happened. It’s my reality. This is my story, and this is the precise way I’ve come to really know and have fallen in love with God, the Creator of the universe. It’s my scandalous miracle of mercy.
It was a nagging and terrible curiosity that led me to log on to facebook that particular morning. There may have been an actual purpose, but most likely, it was just the desire to know if others knew how decimated my life had just become. I read only a handful of comments, but the words did their work quickly. I can’t actually remember them exactly, but they were in the same category of familiar words that we hear anytime a sexual scandal comes to light. Scum, piece of s***, dirtbag... you can imagine. This time though, the knife of these words cut me deeply. This wasn’t a stranger or an acquaintance I was reading about. They were talking about my husband.
Hours earlier, in the middle of the night, I was woken up by a collect call from the county jail in our hometown. I struggled out of my sleep induced stupor to grasp the meaning of the words the woman on the line was saying. My mind raced as I waited to hear Michael’s voice. What could have happened? I suspected maybe he had been caught intoxicated somewhere. We did not drink alcohol but I knew that Michael didn’t share my strong conviction about it. That would have explained the suspicion I felt that he was hiding something. Maybe now that I was out of town, maybe he had taken things too far in the freedom of isolation. I mean, what else could’ve gotten him arrested?
I wasn’t left to wonder long. He came on the line and started explaining why he had been arrested. When he said her name, my stomach dropped and my heart shattered. I can’t explain the feeling of shock that came over me while at the same time, I knew it was true. He said there was more that I didn’t know but he couldn’t tell me over the phone. I hung up and fell to the floor feeling like I couldn’t breathe, as though a thousand pounds had swung at my gut and knocked all the air out of me.
An hour after I hung up, the story was already in the paper and on the morning news. It felt like everyone knew about a part of my life that I didn’t even know about. It immediately felt like the words FOOL, UNWANTED, REJECTED were written across my forehead and anyone that looked at me could see the shame of my husbands exposed secrets. A life of secret sexual sin that had started in junior high had grown and finally caught up to him. A previous affair with an underage girl had come to light. The consequences that followed would be devastating.
The unknown of the next 30 hours tormented me. What didn’t I know?
Michael confessed to a secret addiction to pornography and to dozens of affairs over the course of our relationship and marriage. The truth was less awful than the places my imagination had run, and yet, was worse than I expected. When I knew people had read about the story in the news, I wanted to correct them on the information. I wanted them to know that in so many ways, that was only the tip of the iceberg of the betrayal I was experiencing. I was frustrated at my instinct to defend and protect my husband in certain ways. I loved him and hated him all at the same time, and I wanted everyone to be able to read my mind and be where I was at, even when I wasn’t sure myself.
The legal processes drug out for over a year. Michael and I remained separated during the proceedings. However, we conceived our 3rd child during this time. One of the hardest things for me was being questioned about that pregnancy. Quite frankly, I didn’t understand what God was doing. It felt like He was adding insult to injury in giving me a rapid growing womb for others to gawk and wonder about. It took some time, but that little girl became a gift that I treasured as I carried her. God was changing me as He peeled back my layers and layers of pride and self-sufficiency. And glory be, He was even starting to heal my marriage with the help of counseling and community. I assumed God would allow the legal consequences to be minimal or just be done with altogether. However, a month after our daughter was born, Michael was sentenced to two years in prison.
At times, going places and risking being asked about my husband, my children’s father, terrified me. I didn’t want to be asked where he was. I didn’t want to explain our situation. I didn’t want to be a single mom, and I didn’t want to miss my incarcerated husband. But I was raising our girls by myself and I deeply missed Michael. I didn’t want to have to answer innocent questions with answers I knew would be shocking. Yet sometimes I felt so alone in my pain and wondered if people who knew my story avoided asking awkward questions because they didn’t understand why I was waiting for restoration of my marriage. I think people assume that when its an unfavorable situation that maybe “I shouldn’t bring it up”. I craved someone to give me permission to talk about how hard it was to love a man who’s decisions had wrecked our lives. I wanted others to acknowledge my loneliness and the pain that flooded me when I didn't have a partner to laugh with at our kiddos antics or rejoice with as our oldest trusted Jesus with her eternity. In the midst of this place my heart continued to break for all the brokenness and messiness of my life. But in that brokenness, I found true intimacy with my Maker. I learned to give thanks for the ways my girls made me laugh and the wonder of newborn squishes. He showed me that He was the companion that my soul so desperately sought and I learned to pour my grief at His feet and HE LIFTED MY HEAD. I entrusted Him with my fears about being known and found unworthy and He made me bold with bravery to tell my story about how HE RESCUED ME. I wrestled with my fleshly desire to make much of myself, and HE FAITHFULLY HUMBLED ME (and still does). I wept from the pain of wanting things to change, yet also declared that HE WAS ENOUGH FOR ME. For the very first time, I believed it.
God was doing miracles in our marriage as we communicated over timed, recorded calls. He was giving us a new start as He was making US NEW. It is one of the most profound experiences I’ve ever had. I wouldn’t trade it for the world. Michael’s prison sentence ended up being shortened to 8 months, but those were some of the hardest days I’ve ever lived.
I often wish that our season of scandal could’ve concluded the day we were reunited as a family. But the truth is, it continues on. Not exactly in such a dramatic and everyday-obvious way, but the consequences of sexual sin still remain. New consequences to old sin still pop up.
Its taken a continual and surrendered dependence on the Lord to process that pain and to trust that He has a good plan for our family.
Some of the lies that are ‘frequent visitors’ that I battle with are that “because of my story I am an embarrassment to the name of Christ,” that “if people knew about our soiled past they would be turned away from wanting to be in relationship with us and maybe even Jesus,” that “we are ‘that’ family that respectable people want to protect their families from,” and so on. The devil is a slimy accuser. As the Lord has revealed the ways I believe the enemy over the King, I’ve realized that Satan uses facts that have happened in my life and wages war in my mind by disguising lies with the tiniest bit of ‘truth’. The bottom line is that the enemy knows my propensity to value human opinion. But even in recognizing these lies, there will still be some people who reject us on basis of this story.
BUT GOD. What does HE say about His redemptive work in my life? He’s completing it (Philippians 1:6). It is by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ that I am reconciled to Him and am declared holy and blameless and BEYOND REPROACH by the Father, not on the basis of any behavior or morality modification I can muster on my own. (Colossians 1:22) He is renewing me in the image of the Creator and in that renewal there is no distinction between any persons in the church regardless of their background(Colossians 3:10). We have all fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). At the foot of the cross, we all stand on even ground.
These lies that I’m tempted with also detract from the work God has actually done and what He has given in my life. We have been loved and healed within the church and our gospel community in ways we had never experienced before. Has it been perfect or always felt good? No. But it has changed our life and shown us more fully who God is and what His church should look like when we practice obedience to His word.
God has used the gritty circumstances of my life to teach me to judge others less harshly. When the media tells a story that sheds light on someones sordid personal life, instead of jumping in and participating in the defamation, I am more prone to stop and remember that they are a human being with family and friends and heartbreak and a real life story that I know nothing about. And while the press may be correct in the details of the scandal or even partially accurate, I see people’s humanity with a heck of a lot more grace than I used to. I spend less energy on thoughts of “they should know better” or “how could they” and instead ask the Lord to show His hope-carrying people to say ‘repentance is a gift’ and ‘lets find a way forward together’. For all the things that my personal story holds and all the roads I haven’t walked, its a joy and humble honor to say “but by the grace of God, I am what I am” (1 Corinthians 15:10). These scars over my past that are still visible in my present have been the breaking of the bondage and idolatry of perfectionism that was killing my soul. Praise be to my God for loving me enough to set me free.
Bryana lives in Northern California with her high school sweetheart husband and 5 children. Between homeschooling and homemaking and intentional, gospel-community living, she loves to decompress with crafting, tjmaxx browsing, and laughing with friends. The Lord has stirred a deep passion in her to live radically authentic and vulnerable in order to share the hope she has found in pursing Jesus in the most dark and broken places of her story. She is an unlikely optimist who audaciously believes God’s divine power to change people and their stories with His transforming mercy and irresistible grace and doesn’t ever want to stop shouting from the mountains, or believing in her current circumstances, how God is worthy of all of her affection and worship. Find her on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/bryana426/ and Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/bryanas.designs?ref=bookmarks and her blog with her husband https://michaelandbryanaporter.com/