Listen to a broadcast about the power of forgiveness with Al and Lisa Robertson.
The girls are staying here,” Al Robertson said to his wife, Lisa. “You’re leaving. Now go pack
your stuff and get out.”
Earlier that autumn evening in 1999, Lisa had confessed to a secret
— a 14-month-long affair. And Al, known best as the “beardless brother” from A&E’s hit reality
TV show “Duck Dynasty,” demanded she leave.
So Lisa gathered together what she could and,
before leaving their home in West Monroe, Louisiana, made her way out to the backyard. In the gray
dawn, Lisa lay down on her lawn, her face to the ground.
“I knew how desperate I was,” she
recalls. “I was lost.” Indeed, she was losing everything: her husband, her children, her church, her
family, her friends.
God, I can’t get any lower, she prayed, opening herself to
God’s mercy. I have to find some kind of relationship with You.
The pain of the
affair drove both Al and Lisa to deep despair. They were shattered, exhausted and drained of all
pride. But the crisis was also a turning point. In the following weeks and months, they discovered
just how much they needed to give and receive mercy — what they now call “desperate
forgiveness.” And that has made all the difference in their relationship.
Wounds from the past
To be sure, Al and Lisa’s marriage troubles didn’t begin with Lisa’s affair in 1999. In fact, 10
years before, a similar scenario had unfolded. Al had discovered that Lisa was having an emotional
affair with a co-worker. She had even reserved a hotel room for the two of them, but they never used
it. Before they could, her co-worker confessed the affair to his wife, who told Al.
such concrete evidence against her, Lisa tried to hide the truth. She downplayed the relationship
and portrayed the man’s wife as madly and needlessly jealous. But her lies soon fell apart, and she
was forced to confess.
Al and Lisa eventually made amends after her emotional affair, but
they never truly healed. They plodded along in their marriage — always against the backdrop of
Al’s threat to Lisa: “If you ever do anything like this again, I will divorce you.”
months that followed, discord showed up whenever Al became suspicious, even if Lisa was merely late
from work. Al recalls, “Every time we had an argument, I wanted her to hurt the way she had hurt
“If you ever do this again . . . “
Over time, Al and Lisa’s marriage seemed to improve. He joined the ministry staff of White’s
Ferry Road Church after finishing some courses in biblical studies and preaching. And Lisa started
working with Al’s family at Duck Commander, the now-famous duck call production company.
girls got bigger,” Lisa remembers. “I could do more things with Alan because they weren’t babies
anymore, and that really helped with our relationship, too.”
Then one August day in 1998,
Lisa took an order from a local customer wanting duck calls. As it turned out, he was one of her
boyfriends from high school. After a few minutes of small talk, Lisa asked him if he’d like the duck
calls shipped to his house. “You could just deliver them,” he replied. She did. And that began their
14-month-long, all-out affair.
By the next summer, Al suspected something. Lisa denied it,
telling him — and their friends — that he was acting insanely jealous and
“I felt like I was going crazy,” Al recalls. Then he found solid proof of
Lisa’s affair — cellphone records that showed exactly how long she’d been cheating on him. So
after putting the kids to bed that Friday autumn night in 1999, he confronted her. She denied
everything at first. But, after hours of interrogation, Lisa’s defenses finally broke down.
“If I tell you everything, you won’t love me anymore,” Lisa told him, afraid that he’d divorce
her, just as he threatened to do 10 years earlier. After all, she had not only slept with another
man, but she had also embezzled money from Duck Commander to fund her romantic escapades.
Despite her fear, she opened up to Al. And as he listened to her confession, the weight of
uncertainty lifted from his shoulders because he finally knew the truth. He was shocked and
heartbroken — but not angry. After hearing her out, he called some friends, who showed up at
their doorstep a few minutes later to take Lisa elsewhere.
So as she lay on her lawn in the
early morning hours, Lisa saw herself in a new light. Who am I? she asked herself. What
has happened, and how did I get to this point? She had been baptized 15 years earlier. But, as
she later admitted, she had done so merely to please Al and his family and not because she knew
Christ personally. And now in her brokenness, she realized that she’d faked her Christianity all
along. She longed to know God and begged Him for mercy. Then she took her belongings and left, not
knowing if she’d ever come back.
Like Lisa, Al felt desperate. No longer could he fix his marriage. On the Sunday after Lisa’s
confession, he was still in shock. He didn’t know what would become of his marriage. He didn’t even
know what he wanted to happen. Feeling like a failure, he stayed home from church.
didn’t. That morning at the end of the service, she walked to the front of the sanctuary and handed
her pastor a letter, which he read to the congregation. The letter contained the confession of her
affair and her hypocrisy and told of her newfound faith in Christ.
Al knew nothing of the
letter being read that morning, but now he credits it with much of the healing that followed. “That
was one of the most courageous things that I could ever imagine,” he says. “I respect her so much
for doing that.”
Lisa’s full confession also helped in another way. “The more honest you are
at the beginning,” Al explains, “the easier it is to heal as you go along. And the less honest you
are, when you’re having to pull teeth to get the truth, it hardly ever works.”
Teaching mercy, living mercy
After experiencing life without Lisa for a few weeks, Al realized that he wanted to reconcile. So
the couple began to see a counselor and explored the heart of their marriage problems. In that
process, the Robertsons found true forgiveness.
Ever since that time, Lisa and Al have “paid
it forward.” The following year, they attended a Valentine’s Day marriage retreat at their church,
and after only a few years, they began to help lead the annual retreat. As a result, they also began
to counsel other couples and speak at other marriage retreats and seminars. And once “Duck Dynasty”
aired on TV, their ministry expanded to a national audience.
But before Al and Lisa could
teach forgiveness, they had to live it. During one counseling session, Al asked Lisa to stop using a
diet pill that he felt was unnecessary and unhealthy for her. But one day he noticed their grocery
bill was a bit high. He asked her if she had bought the pills. She replied no. But less than five
minutes later, she turned to him and said, “That was a lie.” Gritting his teeth and checking his
anger, Al replied calmly, “Thank you for telling me the truth. Please don’t do that again.”
At that moment, Lisa knew all would be well. “[Al] responded with grace,” she said. “That was a
gift from God.” Because her husband was merciful, he freed her to speak truth without fear. Because
of their discoveries about forgiveness, they’ve ministered for nearly two decades to struggling
couples around the nation and have written several books, including their latest, the Focus on the
Family release Desperate Forgiveness:
How mercy sets you free.
Almost 20 years ago, to mark their reconciliation, they
bought new, simple rings to symbolize their new start in marriage. Al promised never again to hurt
Lisa by throwing her sins in her face, committing to always handle her honesty with grace. Lisa
promised to be faithful to Christ and, in turn, to Al — “in honesty, purity and love.”
Benjamin Hawkins is a freelance writer and associate editor of The Pathway, the news
journal of the Missouri Baptist Convention.
Do you know of a marriage in crisis? Learn more about Focus on the Family’s marriage intensives by visiting HopeRestored.com.