Author and blogger Jessica Smartt offers suggestions for capturing special moments with your family that you will cherish remembering for years to come.
Dr. Audrey Meisner: Finally, the voice inside my heart said, “There’s nothing about this about this that is you, Audrey. This is not you. This is not you. You love your husband. You love your children. You love your family. You love God. This is not you.” It’s screaming, “Stop! Stop! Stop!”
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John Fuller: That’s Audrey Meisner, describing the moral tug-of-war she experienced with the sin of infidelity. Audrey and her husband, Bob, are back with us on Focus on the Family. Your host is Focus president and author, Jim Daly. Thanks for tuning in. I’m John Fuller.
Jim Daly: John, we had a powerful conversation last time with Bob and Audrey, who described how their picture-perfect marriage of 17 years began quickly to crumble because Audrey was involved with another man. They were leading a church, involved in full-time ministry. They had three kids, and everything seemed to be going well in their relationship. And then that unexpected thing happened. And you might say, “Why are we talking about this?” You know why? Because a miracle occurred in their relationship. And I believe, as Focus on the Family, we need to talk about these difficulties in our relationships because we need to be healthier in our marriages so that the world can see authentic Christian love for one another. And that’s what you’re going to hear today. It’s not about the mistakes. They’re present, and we talked about them last time. I often say, if you missed the program last time, you got to get it. Can I implore you to get it? If you’re having marital difficulties, this is not a throwaway statement – get a copy of what we talked about last time. It was so full of God’s truth. It will help you. And today, we’re going to come back to this discussion, and I think honor the Lord and glorify the Lord with what He did in Bob and Audrey’s life.
John: Yeah, it’s one of the most powerful stories we’ve heard all year. And the CD and digital download can both be found at focusonthefamily.com/broadcast. Or call 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY. And we also have details about the Meisner’s book, Marriage Undercover, when you get in touch.
Jim: Bob and Audrey, welcome back to the program.
Audrey: Thank you.
Dr. Bob Meisner: Thank you.
Audrey: We’re so honored to be here.
Jim: And I’m honored to have you. I really am.
Audrey: Thank you.
Jim: And, uh, some people who listened last time, let’s face it, they’re going to have a mixture of emotions. Some will be mad at you, Audrey.
Jim: You broke the covenant.
Audrey: Yes. Yes.
Audrey: And it was so selfish. The most stupid thing I could ever have done.
Jim: Well, let’s pick the story up.
Jim: Audrey, you committed that act. It lasted about three weeks…
Audrey: Mm hmm. Mm hmm.
Jim: …Your affair with a younger man. Bob, you had that gut feeling that something was going on.
Bob: That’s right.
Jim: Um, a lot of spouses who have gone through that feel that. They knew something wasn’t right but didn’t know how to corral it, how to wrestle it down, how to get to truth.
Bob: Mm hmm.
Jim: And here you are, self-described as a high-truth person.
Jim: That had to be gnawing at you. And Audrey, you came forward on your own freewill to say, “Bob, I have blown it big time.”
Audrey: You know, when I asked that guy that I had the affair with to leave the city, just, you know, we can’t have any form of friendship or relationship, this is being cut off completely, we never can see each other again. Done. He left the city. And I had no intention of ever telling anyone, Jim. Are you kidding me? I am that girl that loves Jesus. I am that leader, that example to everyone. I’m a mom. This – no one ever has to know. Nobody found out. This can be my secret forever. I had no intention of telling anyone. And then I fell to my knees, and I said, “God, I need You. I need You. I want relationship back.” You know, it was kind of like David’s prayer, like you mentioned. “Create in me a clean heart, oh, God, and renew a right spirit within me.” That was sort of my cry to God. Like, “I did this terrible thing, God, so create in me a clean heart.” And I felt in my heart that whisper of God say, “You need to tell Bob.” I was like, “What?” Like, “I will never do this again. No one ever has to feel the extreme pain of this. This does not have to be confessed.” You know, and I think back, and I think, you know, God says, “Confess your sins to me, and I’ll forgive you.” But in James it says, “Confess your sins to one another,” and that’s when He heals you.
Audrey: You know, like, we want…
Bob: Oh, totally.
Audrey: …To be forgiven, but God wanted us healed.
Audrey: And He loved me enough to say, “Audrey, you’re going to have to tell Bob.”
Jim: Take us back, Bob, to that moment…
Jim: …When Audrey is pouring out her heart just as she is there. And I so appreciate it, Audrey, again, I admire who you are.
Audrey: Thank you, Jim.
Jim: Um, I really do.
Audrey: Thank you, Jim.
Jim: And people can judge decisions that you make, that everyone makes, and be harsh. But God’s heart is for you.
Audrey: Thank you.
Jim: His heart is for…
Audrey: Thank you.
Bob: Mm hmm.
Jim: And, Bob, you’re in the moment. You’re the one representing the heart of God in this marriage. And Audrey tells you this. What happens next?
Bob: Well, in that moment, my mind goes immediately – I mean, we all know fight or flight. And then the third one is freeze. And so, in my mind, I began to create images of my mind of leaving because I knew it’d only be a few days before others would begin to question, you know, “Where is Bob?” You know, the kids, “Where’s Daddy?” But my whole intent was that then she would be exposed for what she did to me because I knew, you know, just of our pattern over 17 years, “I’m so sorry, forgive me, let’s move on.” And I’m like, this is bigger than just a little oops or a blip on the map. This is a big deal and we just can’t ignore this. And so, I thought of leaving. That was my initial and I wanted her to feel my anger. I wanted her to, you know, sense my rage and disgust with this. You know, initially I thought, oh, maybe she did something inappropriate. But with my interrogating, you know, words towards her I began to find out that, no, it was actually a sexual affair. I mean, I was enraged. And I think our listeners need to hear that. I mean, really angry. I went to my office, and I stared at a blank wall.
Jim: So, you – you didn’t respond to Audrey in that moment? Or you did… ?
Jim: …Or you just went – you shut down?
Bob: I shut down, asked questions, you know, found out that it had actually happened. This person was now out of town. Now, I got to deal with her.
Jim: So, you walk away.
Bob: I walk away.
Jim: What happens?
Bob: The only prayer I could get out was this. You know, “Holy Spirit, what do I do?” And immediately, I was reminded of a book that was on my bookcase, call that author. He had been a guest on our television program earlier. I called him, and he begins, you know, to just ask a few questions. The first one was, “Who knows?” I said “Nobody.” He says, “Good. Let’s keep it that way.” And I’m like, “Wait a minute. We need to get the elders, the deacons, the leadership, we need to get a committee together because we need to discuss and figure out how are we going to fix her. She’s the problem.”
Bob: And he says, “Don’t tell the children. Don’t tell anyone until we are able to speak together later tonight.” That evening we sat together, we could hardly be in each other’s presence. I mean, I was that angry.
Audrey: And I was that scared. I was that scared.
Bob: And we’re staring at a speakerphone, and he begins to just challenge me, speaking truth. And I’m a little confused because I was waiting for him to rip into her, saying, “Audrey, what were you thinking? What were you doing? How could you have done this? Bob, you didn’t deserve this. I can’t believe she would do something like this to you.” Meanwhile, he’s challenging me as a man and as a husband and as a father. Proverbs 25 verse 2 was one of the verses he used. And it was this. “It’s God’s glory to conceal a matter, but for a king to discover its understanding.” He’s challenging me with the love of a father. “Bob, would you cover your wife, rather than exposing her?”
Bob: You see everything inside of me wanted to expose her. Everything inside of me wanted to shame her. “Look what she did to me.” But all that would do is puff up my self-righteousness. “I’m the innocent one here. I’m the victim here. She did this to me.” And he says, “That’s not the heart of God.”
Jim: Well, Bob, I so appreciate that reminder. But, again, it’s kind of like Peter in the Garden.
Jim: You’re operating so much out of the flesh in that moment because you have all the right to be vengeful, to be bitter. And the key thing is how do you bridle yourself and your flesh to say, “OK, I’m going to react in the spirit of God?”
Bob: In my – right.
Jim: I’m going to be Stephen. I’m going to say, “Lord, forgive her for what she’s done to me.”
Bob: I’m not at that place yet. I’m not – I was not at that place yet. I was too angry.
Jim: So, it takes time.
Bob: Oh, gosh, yeah. But you see, I needed a man of God to challenge me. You see I needed somebody to come alongside me because I knew, left to my own demise, I would blow this thing up.
Jim: All out of the flesh.
Bob: I would have. I had a victim mentality. And I was making it all about me. And I had no concept of the pain and the heartache that she was going through. So, he’s speaking these words to me. And they’re just words. But what I was choosing to do was “I’ll obey you and I’ll trust you. I can’t trust her. She’s betrayed me. She’s lied to me. But I’ll trust you.”
Jim: Why did you do that? Why did you say, “Yes. I’ll trust you?” What inside you…
Bob: Because I – I was crazy! No, really…
Jim: Yeah. You needed an anchor.
Bob: Yeah. I needed somebody. Otherwise, I mean, I don’t want to hurt my kids. I don’t need to hurt other people. I wanted to involve everybody. But I needed somebody to just help me and to bring some truth. You see, when you are willing to embrace truth, it’s there that you experience grace. You see, we all want to experience the grace of God, absent from truth. But I needed His realities truly to become mine. So, when you’re willing to embrace truth, no matter how countercultural it might feel, no matter how opposing to your present situation it is, when you’re willing to embrace that truth, it’s there that you begin to experience that grace. So, that very first night, before I hung up the phone, I said, “I have one more question for you. Where do I sleep tonight? Do I sleep on the couch?” You know, “Do I get a hotel?” You know, “Do I go to her parents’ house? Where do I go tonight?” And he said, “Bob, you’re going to get right back into your marriage bed tonight. You and Audrey will not spend one night apart from each other because we will not participate with the spirit of divorce.”
Bob: It was – yeah. A real wow. And, you know, we went to bed that night. We didn’t cuddle. I hugged the edge of the bed. But what was so surprising to me – I call it the darkest night of my life because not only was every hope and dream of our future erased but every happy memory of 17 years was gone.
Bob: And the enemy just began to scream to me, “Unlovable. Undesirable. She’s never cared for you. She never will.”
Jim: Bob, that imagery of you and I’m sure Audrey on the other side of the bed, clinging to the edge of the bed with your backs probably turned toward each other, not knowing what to say, how many people are going to bed tonight like that? And how many couples…
Jim: …Are going to bed like that tonight? Where they’re – they just don’t know what to do.
Bob: We survived another day.
Jim: And I’m telling you folks, um, if you’re in that place or even at the front edge of it, where you’re thinking it’s going that way, would you please get a hold of us? Let us be that help to you. Let the Lord work through all of us to bring you that truth that Bob is describing, that word that brought him a compass in that moment because when you’re in this situation, I’m telling you, your flesh, your humanness, can get out of control. And you make decisions that you may regret for the rest of your life. Two bad decisions don’t make a right decision. And that holds true here. And, again, I just appreciate your vulnerability.
John: Well, as the listener, we really want to hear from you. And, uh, you can connect with us and talk to one of our caring, Christian counselors. We’ll schedule that time for you when you call 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY. 800-232-6459. Or you can find our counselor referral link and other resources and help at focusonthefamily.com/broadcast. Let’s go ahead and continue now with this episode of Focus on the Family featuring Bob and Audrey Meisner.
Jim: Bob and Audrey, we’re hearing this. We’re seeing the emotion. I mean, your eyes are full of tears, which will probably never leave you in a beautiful way, the scars of love. Um, again, that’s not all the bad news.
Jim: There is more to come. A couple of weeks after, Audrey, you’ve told Bob. You’re working through that. You’re trying to get up every morning after…
Jim: …Staying in the same bed at night, clinging to the edge of that bed.
Jim: You get more news.
Audrey: Yes, because when I told Bob about the affair that was the worst day. I didn’t think I could face my future. Just the fact that I had caused so much betrayal and pain in our relationship. I didn’t know if I could take another day of it, as you said, going to bed every night. But then two weeks later, I found out, and we were both in a doctor’s office, that I was pregnant as a result of this affair. And we knew it was not from Bob, this baby. And the first question the doctor said within a split second was, “Do you want to continue this pregnancy?”
Audrey: And he must have seen the devastation on our face. And he didn’t know the story. But he could feel our pain. And Bob said, “Yes.” So, we walked out of that – that doctor’s office. And I didn’t think I could face my life because you see, I’m that girl, that happy, joyful, I-love-Jesus girl. And now, I’m carrying a baby. And this baby won’t look like the other kids. I love my children. They’re 10, 12 and 15 years old. And that voice that screamed into my ear was, “Everyone is going to know the most stupid and selfish thing you’ve ever done. That’s what you’re going to be known for, for the rest of your life.”
Jim: And this baby will remind you every day.
Audrey: “And this baby will remind you. And your kids are going to be screwed up because of you. Those kids you love so much, you’ve just messed up their world. Everything is over. There’s no happy ending. And you are disqualified from ever saying you love God.”
Jim: So, in the middle of simply trying to get your marriage back together, now you got this happening. What does that discussion sound like, Bob?
Bob: There wasn’t much of a discussion. When I was in that doctor’s office, immediately I knew what I was being asked to do. I – it was not even a thought. I have a baby coming. And I have a new responsibility. This baby is innocent.
Bob: This baby has done nothing wrong. And this baby needs a dad. Tag, you’re it.
Jim: Man, I can’t think of a more profound, pro-life statement than the one you just made. This isn’t your child. Your wife has an affair. She’s pregnant. And you say, “I will raise this child as my own.”
Bob: Absolutely. Absolutely. And there…
Jim: Who – let me…
Bob: …And there was no doubt.
Jim: Let me just ask.
Jim: And this is not a political statement.
Jim: This is a moral statement. Who can contend with you, philosophically, on that from those that support abortion? When you have that heart, who can come to you, who has the right to come to you, to say you’re wrong?
Bob: My motivation isn’t to be right. My motivation is to love. And this child needs a dad. This child needs a home. And that is a responsibility that I have.
Jim: Audrey, were you in that same spot?
Jim: I mean, you see Bob going, “OK, we’ll raise this child as our own.”
Audrey: You know, I remember walking out of that doctor’s office and, honestly, I was buckling. I couldn’t walk. And I was hanging onto his arm. And I remember feeling this strength from Bob. And I was going where is this coming from? Like don’t you know my mom and dad started the first Christian TV show in Canada? Like, we are well known. Everyone knows our family in this nation. And I am – I am a disgrace. I am a disgrace. Do you get it? Do you understand the message I’m sending to everybody? That this is the worst. And that desperation – I was alone in my kitchen. Nobody was home. And I made a phone call to the abortion clinic. And it’s not political. It’s not because of my belief system. I did not believe in abortion. But I was desperate. I have mercy for those ones who choose in that moment that there is no way out. I am so scared out of my mind that this reality is something I’m not strong enough for. And I said, “God, I don’t want to take that next step of murder. I can’t do the next step.” And I – you see, because what I was wanting was to be – I was begging God. I said, “Well, then, God, if I’m not going to have this abortion, you know I love you, God. This is real to me. You’ve been my Father my whole life. You’ve been my Best Friend. And I don’t ask for a lot. But I’m begging You, God, take this from me. Please give me a miscarriage. Take this baby to heaven. Please, please, I’m begging You.” And I think back at that moment like it was just today. And I can say because God loves me so much, He did not answer my prayer because I was asking God for an evacuation out of my current circumstances. But in His Father’s love He comes to me exactly where I am and He says, “Audrey, I’m not going to take you out of this. I’m going to come to you right where you are. And I’m going to walk you through this. And when you walk through these painful times, you’re going to find Me like you’ve never found Me before. When you feel like the whole world is against you and judging you for your worst mistake, I’m going to be the One telling you who you are. And we are going to walk through this. And when you get on the other side, you’ll never be the same.”
Jim: Boy, isn’t that what Jesus is saying to us. Screaming it through Scripture.
Jim: I mean, here’s the point in Scripture. There are mostly messed up characters in there.
Audrey: Yeah (laughter). It’s true. It’s true.
Jim: And we’ve talked about them. And here’s – here’s the neon sign for all of us. We are them.
Jim: We are messed up, too. And we need God’s love and His grace in our life. And we need to be able to show it to others around us. All right, a deep breath because I want to…
Audrey: Oh, yes.
Jim: …Ask you about this child.
Bob: Yeah. He’s the most handsome. He’s the – one of the greatest gifts our family has ever experienced. He’s not an outsider. He’s my son. And the challenge, you know, in our journey to wholeness, the biggest challenge that I had as a dad, was will I be able to love this baby as my own? Or will he forever be a reminder of the betrayal and the rejection? I recognized that I had a limited capacity for love. Not his problem, my problem. And it’s detailed in the book, in that journey. But, again, going back to the covering that I was being challenged with. That’s how we told our children. One evening, they came and we sat as a family on the floor. But before I ever spoke a word, I pulled a large blanket from the bed and with Audrey there on the floor, I took that blanket and I covered her from head to foot. And I wrapped my arms around her. And I look deep into my children’s eyes. And I said, “Kids, this is what God does when we make a mistake. He comes to us and He covers us. And He wraps His arms around us. And He says, ‘I will never leave you. I will never forsake you.’” With Audrey covered and held in my arms, she’s four months pregnant, I’m speaking to my children my love and my devotion for their mom, my wife. I’m speaking to them that we’re a family and that we belong together. I’m speaking as much confidence and assurance as I can that I’m not going anywhere. We’re a family. And it was a journey. It was a hard journey. But before that little baby was born, God had to work on me. And we had people coming to us saying, “You don’t need to keep this baby. You can adopt this baby out.” All of those challenges that I was facing, but the biggest thing was my anger. And one morning with my pastor, I was begging him to answer the question for me, what do I do? And he said to me – looked me square in the eye, he says, “Bob, there’s a baby on your doorstep. What do you do? Will you participate with this fatherless generation? Or will you become a father to the fatherless? Bob, you’ve got to grow up.” So, in that…
Bob: So, in that hospital room – and I choose my words carefully. When my son was born, when our son was born, I gave him my name Robert because I don’t want him to ever question one day in his life whose boy he is. He’s my son. His middle name is Theodore. It means divine gift. He’s not an accident. He’s not a mistake. He’s not the result of a sexual affair. Just like my other three children, he’s born out of the heart of God and entrusted to us.
Bob: We’re a family. And he belongs.
Jim: Powerful. I mean, Bob, that is so powerful. And we’re all adopted into His family.
Jim: That’s what’s so beautiful.
Bob: So much.
Jim: Bob and Audrey, um, fantastic story. I can’t imagine the pain in the moment and what you both went through, what your family went through, to heal, to restore and the good decisions that you made in the face of, I’m sure, overwhelming opportunity to walk away and to just start over.
Bob: Mm hmm.
Jim: But I can only imagine God is smiling, to say this is how it should be. And He knows that you love Him. Look at the commitment you both have made. Even in the darkness of it all.
Bob: Mm. Yeah.
Jim: You’re such great examples in this.
Audrey: I can’t. I…
Bob: But in this, I want people to see look at the commitment God has made to you.
Jim: Yeah, well, I’ll tell you, I’m emotionally wrung out here, but spiritually challenged. Thank you for doing that to just me. I’m sure you, John, and I’m sure many, many of you.
Audrey: And can I just say that I know the one listening who had the abortion or had – the divorce – it ended in a divorce. I just want to speak to that listener. And I say, it doesn’t matter what has happened up to this point, that you can draw a line in the sand and just choose to believe that my Redeemer lives. He – God has this incredible, exceptional love, where He can turn something and love you in that place of pain and, as Bob said, make a way out. But it’s not over. Even though your story doesn’t have the same ending as ours, please hang on to the hope that that’s what you did, but that is not who you are. You are loved. You are a treasure. And there’s hope and a bright future for you.
Jim: And that is the right place to say thank you. Thanks for being with us.
Bob: Thank you.
John: “Hang on to hope.” That was something that really was a key theme in this conversation the past couple of days on Focus on the Family with Drs. Bob and Audrey Meisner.
Jim: You know, John, hope is essential if a marriage is going to survive. But it’s not hope in our efforts to forgive or overcome or reconcile. It’s hope in God. Believing that He holds the key to our success and future. And that’s true whether you’re in a marriage crisis or not. Even healthy, loving marriages need hope in Christ in order to stay that way. Now I’m sure there are some listening right now who don’t have much if any hope and you feel like giving up. If that’s the case, please contact us here at Focus on the Family. We want to help rescue your marriage and get you to a better place with the Lord. We have our counseling team, and we have Hope Restored, where we provide intensive counseling over several days for couples who are on the brink of divorce. We call it Hope Restored for a reason because we’ve seen God work miracles in broken marriages that seemed impossible to fix.
John: Yeah. It really is an amazing program with incredible results. And we have, as well, the Meisner’s book, Marriage Undercover, which shares much more of their story. And we’ll encourage you to make a gift of any amount to Focus on the Family today and we’ll send that book right out to you.
Jim: And like we often say, John, I mean if you can’t afford it, your marriage is worth it. We’ll get the book to you. Just let us know and we’ll trust others will cover the cost of that. All of these resources can bring hope back into the relationship with your spouse and if you’re willing to let the Lord work in your hearts. But timing is critical. Don’t delay. Don’t think about tomorrow. Do it today. Get the help you need to save your marriage now. And if you’re in a good place with your spouse, let me invite you to partner with us to rescue and strengthen other marriages that may be hurting. And, again, your gifts provide the fuel to make this happen. So, please, if you can make a gift today to help us, that would be deeply appreciated.
John: And right now, there’s a special matching gift opportunity where any donation you make will be doubled which means more help and more hope for the families that we serve together. So, please, be as generous as you can today and know that you’re gift will be doubled. Call us if you need information about Hope Restored or if you’d like that book or if you can donate. Our number again. 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY. 800-232-6459. 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY. You can also donate online and get the help you need at focusonthefamily.com/broadcast. On behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team, thanks for joining us today for this episode of Focus on the Family. I’m John Fuller, inviting you back as we once more help you and your family thrive in Christ.
Author and blogger Jessica Smartt offers suggestions for capturing special moments with your family that you will cherish remembering for years to come.
Dr. Mike Bechtle explains how we can stop allowing difficult people to control our emotions, and how we can set healthy boundaries and extend the love of God to them.
Cheryl Martin encourages singles to view their singleness not as a mistake or a holding pattern until marriage, but as an opportunity to become the person God wants them to be. She also shares how to honor God in the dating process through the use of firm boundaries and an accountability partner.
Pastor Dave Carder offers couples practical advice for protecting their marriages from adultery in a discussion based on his book Anatomy of an Affair: How Affairs, Attractions, and Addictions Develop, and How to Guard Your Marriage Against Them. (Part 1 of 2)
Pastor Dave Carder offers couples practical advice for protecting their marriages from adultery in a discussion based on his book Anatomy of an Affair: How Affairs, Attractions, and Addictions Develop, and How to Guard Your Marriage Against Them. (Part 2 of 2)
Jonathan McKee offers parents practical advice and encouragement in a discussion based on his book If I Had a Parenting Do Over: 7 Vital Changes I’d Make.