Jeff and Cheryl Scruggs describe their marriage journey of infidelity, divorce and restoration, and encourage other couples not to give up on redeeming their relationship. (Part 2 of 2)
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John Fuller: Well, she was having an affair and pursued divorce, but said that the day the judge granted her divorce request was the worst day in her life. This is “Focus on the Family” and you’re going to hear an incredible story of God’s restoration in more than one life, as Jeff and Cheryl Scruggs share with us today. They’re the founders of Hope Marriage Matters Ministry in Plano, Texas and authors of the book, I Do Again. And your host is Focus president and author, Jim Daly. I’m John Fuller.
Jim Daly: John, it is always a pleasure to bring hope into someone’s life. I mean, as Christians, it’s really a wonderful thing to be able to share the hope of Christ with people and to see their lives come back together. And that’s what we’re gonna be talking about today. If you missed last time, you really need to go download it or order it through Focus on the Family. What an incredible story. Jeff and Cheryl Scruggs, they were married for about 10 years, ended up divorcing because Cheryl was having an affair and they lived separately for seven years divorced. And then God began to work in their hearts during that seven years and rekindling the romance, the relationship and what it meant to be committed for life in a marriage. And it is powerful and I want to welcome back Jeff and Cheryl to “Focus on the Family.”
Cheryl Scruggs: Thanks Jim.
Jeff Scruggs: Thanks for having us back.
Cheryl: Good to be here.
Jim: Great to have you. Last time, again Cheryl, I’ll start where I left off. I just again wanna, for both of you, just want tosay thank you for your vulnerability. In the Christian community the mistake we make is trying to project some kind of perfection.
Jim: And people that are living what you lived don’t know where to connect because we’re saying, “Hey, you just, you know, you accept the Lord and you live happily ever after.” That’s not always the case.
Jim: And God definitely wants that life for us. I’m reminded of John 10:10, that the thief comes to kill, steal and destroy, but He came that we might have life and life more abundantly, of course, talking about the Lord Jesus Christ.
Jim: You live a testimony now that fulfills that Scripture because your marriage was dead.
Jim: And the Lord breathed life back into it.
Jim: So let’s pick up from that point. Again if you didn’t you didn’t hear it, you gotta go listen to it because it was dramatic. As Cheryl said last time, it was like living a soap opera.
Jim: Jeff you put the pieces together. Cheryl was never really able to tell you that she was having an affair.
Jim: But after the divorce you went to pick up your daughters and you saw the man; you knew the man and put two and two together.
Jim: You talked about feeling that anger at the end of the last program. We need to talk about that, ‘cause men in this situation, there’s a lot of testosterone that goes on at that moment.
Jim: You wanna throttle some people.
Jeff: Yes, yes.
Jim: Talk about what you were feeling and how you dealt with it.
Jeff: I was so angry for a couple of years really and I didn’t deal with it very well, to be honest with you, but, at the same time I knew that the girls didn’t want this divorce.
Jeff: So my motivation was to make things as easy for them or as healthy as they could be given the situation. So when I would have the girls I would try to be as positive and upbeat as I could be. I never spoke badly about their mom in front of them.
Jim: At the point of divorce how old are your girls, twin girls?
Jeff: They’re 4-years-old at that point.
Jim: Four years old when your divorce is final.
Jeff: It’s so sad when I think, even today when I think back on it about their little lives how crushed they were, ‘cause every night when we put ‘em to bed, when I would put ‘em to bed, they were, it was just, you know, they would spill their guts to me.
Cheryl: When you had ‘em. (Laughter)
Jeff: Yeah, and they’d cry every night, you know, and it’s like Lauren typically would want her mom, you know. And it never felt settled. It was always fractured. I was angry. I felt like I was on a roller coaster. When I had the girls, I was on a high and when I didn’t have ‘em, I was in a low.
Jeff: And probably, lookin’ back, I was probably depressed.
Jim and John: Who were you angry at?
Jeff: I was mostly angry at Cheryl and … and you know, to be honest with you, I was angry at God, too. I was like how could He let this happen to my family? Of course, looking back I see how selfish that was.
Jim: Well talk about because that’s a common statement that people make.
Jim: But when you really reflect on it, I’m sure God’s saying, hey, in reality I didn’t do this.
Jim: You’ve done it.
Jeff: Well exactly! And I made it all about me. You know, I’m this good guy. I haven’t done anything wrong. You know, I haven’t done anything wrong;of course not. In fact, at that point, I wasn’t having any ownership of it. I was blaming the whole thing on Cheryl. And you know, in looking back now and what the Lord started to show me was, I had a lot to do with it and it wasn’t so much what I did; it was more what I didn’t do. And so, it was the sin of omission, you know, and really that I never loved her like God calls us to love our wives and, you know. When I read 1 Peter 3:7 now, it just convicts me.
Jim: Well, what is the verse?
Jeff: Well, we’re to treat our wives as the weaker vessel and I never treated her as the weaker vessel. And you know, as like a piece of porcelain, like protecting her, covering her. I never did that. And then it goes on and co-heirs of the grace of life and, you know. I never treated her as a co-heir, as an equal. You know, I always looked at her as like I knew the part where she was supposed to submit to me. I got that, right? But I wasn’t submitting to the Lord. So how does that work if I’m not submitting to the Lord and I’m the spiritual leader of the family? So God started revealing this to me in so many different ways. And so, eventually, you know, I was still helping with the high school youth at the church. Probably two years after that they asked me to teach the boys a Wednesday night Bible study and they wanted me to use the book by Kent Hughes, called The Disciplines of a Godly Man.
Jeff: And I would tell these high school boys, you know, you need to do as Kent says in the book, not as I did. And I would use the mistakes I made in my marriage as an example to these high school boys and I also told ‘em, I’m learning this three days ahead of you. And that’s because I’m preparing the lesson on Sunday night, delivering it to you on Wednesday, so you’re anywhere from 14 to 17 and I’m 34 at that point. I’m learning with you.
Jeff: And the reality was God was just really starting to show me how I didn’t treat Cheryl [right], and how I wasn’t the spiritual leader. And you know, I didn’t love her like Christ loved the church.
Jim: You know there’s something unique that’s coming out in your story and I don’t know that a lot of people experience this in the circumstances that you faced. I mean you’re, Cheryl, you’re having an affair; you end up divorcing. You’re two to three years after the divorce. There seems to be an incredible sense of humility in it though.
Jim: It’s like you know what’s happening; your heart is broken.
Jim: The tether between you is still there even though it’s like the visual I have is a rope with all the threads torn except one.
Jim: There was just something still hanging on between you.
Jeff: Great visual.
Cheryl: There was.
Jim: What was that?
Cheryl: Wow! That’s great! I never thought about the humility factor. Wow! That’s interesting.
Jim: It does take humility to stay connected.
Cheryl: Yeah, right.
Jim: ‘Cause that anger could have overwhelmed either of you.
Jim: And that’s what a lot of couples deal with.
Jim: It’s just done. It’s over.
Jim: Cheryl, what you did wrong.
Cheryl: Well, and starting in year two or so, I did started getting angry, but it never showed. I mean, I’m the typical type A, you know perfectionist, had a great spirit, you know, just smile on my face. Outwardly loving my husband, dying on the inside. That’s how I would have described myself. You know Jeff and I had an incredible working relationship with the girls. We lived five minutes from each other. We didn’t have the normal visitation. We did have a schedule, but you know,Jeff wanted the girls two nights overnight during the week so he could take ‘em to school and we agreed on all of that.
He never came to the door mad at me; we never put the kids on the sidewalk. We walked in each other’s homes, you know, mostly right in the front foyer, but not, you know, walking around the house and things like that, but we did have a good relationship there, but my heart even though I now was free to pursue this other relationship, my heart was still with Jeff.
And so, when you talk about this one little strand, it’s the covenant that we made with Godis that, is really what that was. Which we at that point we weren’t pursuing or I didn’t even know anything about that. At this point, you know, three months after we divorced, I finally come to know the Lord and for me it was like a Damascus road experience for me.
Cheryl: It really was. I was 33 and my eyes were completely opened. I was so hungry for the Lord. I was reading everything I could get my hands on, on marriage. I couldn’t stay out of the Word. I had my home set up where I had a little chair and a little light and I’d wake up every morning at 5 o’clock in the morning. I didn’t even know how to read the Bible. And one day I’m sitting there and this is about two or three months after I came to know Jesus. It’s right after Christmas actually and on my paper was “Pursue reconciliation of your marriage.”
Jim: That was written in your journal?
Cheryl: Yes and I looked at those words and I shut my journal and I’m like, there is no way.
Cheryl: I’m in love with someone else, I’ll never consider that. And that’s where the anger was for me at that point, because I was so mad at Jeff that, you know, he didn’t do what he was supposed to do,I guess. You know, that’s the way I saw it.
Jim: What did you expect him to do? What did you want him to do?
Cheryl: Well, just, you know, he was supposed to read my mind. (Laughter)
Jim: Well yeah. I asked that question for that reason. I think a lot of women, a lot of wives are frustrated with their husbands because we find that very hard to do, much to your chagrin.
Jim: But how did you manage that? What’s the next turn? Where do you and Jeff take that broken strand around that single solid strand and how do you tie that together? And what was it?
Cheryl: Well, I kept waking up every day and that was the topic. Pursue reconciliation; pursue reconciliation. And finally I was invited to a Tommy Nelson study, The Song of Solomon.
Cheryl: Tommy did it live back then, it was in 1993, January of ‘93 and I sat with a thousand other people and I had no idea what the Song of Solomon was. (Chuckle) Didn’t know where to find it in my Bible.
Jeff: She thought it was a rock group. (Laughter)
Cheryl: And I sat there with my mouth dropped open for six weeks.
Cheryl: And I thought I had no idea God had a plan for marriage,that He had a plan for dating, He had a plan for us. And what I realized because I was now in tune with the Spirit of God that the Lord was sharing with me that here’s another marker for you, for you to pursue reconciliation. And it was a turning point for me. So at that point I, I went to Jeff and I communicated to him that I’d become a Christian. And he kinda shook his head like, whatever!
Jim: And you’re doing the Bible study at your church at this time.
Jeff: Uh-hm, yeah, so I didn’t believe her when she said it.
Jeff: I’m like, okay, I’ve been fighting for this marriage for all these years and then three months after the divorce she comes to know the Lord. Yeah, it was just too coincidental for me. I didn’t believe her.
Jim: Uh-hm. Okay.
Cheryl: So I told him, I said I felt like I’m learning the Bible I’m learning about marriage that God’s intentions andwe did it all wrong and I really feel like God is leading us to restore the marriage and really try to work on putting it back together.
Jim: Okay Jeff, I gotta ask. I mean, at that moment, what are you thinkin’?
Jeff: I’m thinkin’ she’s crazy.
Jim: There’s no way.
Jeff: Yeah. I’m so prideful. I’m just like, no! You know, I’m still angry, I’m still dealing with that anger I have and I’m just lookin’ at her like, you’re crazy!
Cheryl: Well he said, “I’ll never reconcile with you ever. Don’t ever talk to me about it.”
Jeff: Never, never.
Cheryl: Never say “never.” (Laughter)
Jim: That’s amazing though.
Jim: So what, I mean what was the catalyst then if your hearts are, you know, you’re reaching out; you’re trying. Jeff’s rebuffing that effort.
Jim: What took place that opened your heart, Jeff? I mean, how did you say okay, I’ll try.
Jeff: It was definitely a combination of things. One of them was that Bible study that I was, teaching the young men at church. But then one night I was just [lying] in bed and I didn’t have the girls that night. And typically when I didn’t, many nights I’m just lay in my bed and I’m really just cryin’, lookin’ at the ceiling and just crying, just like, you know, how did it get here? And I was just like toss[ing] and turn[ing] and I opened my Bible and I was reading Proverbs. You know it was interesting, it was probably on the 3rd, ‘cause somebody said hey, there’s 31 proverbs, you know.
Jim: Right, which we’ve all done. (Chuckle)
Jeff: Yeah, right. And so, I turned. I was reading Proverbs and I came across proverbs 3:5 and 6, which was a verse I memorized in vacation Bible school back at my Baptist church in my hometown and the verse said, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight.” And I’m reading that verse and I’m feeling like, really like I’m wrestling with the Lord and He’s showing me Jeff, you’ve been leaning on your own understanding for, at that point, 36 years.
Jeff: It’s time to trust Me. And I really felt like that was the pivotal time in my life, ‘cause I’m like, I get it; I get it. I really have been doing things my way. another friend had told me, “You used to be one of the most positive people I knew and you’ve become this angry guy.”
Jeff: And I didn’t wanna be that guy either. And so, I feel like the Lord was just showing me, Jeff, it’s time to do it My way. And so, that was the pivotal night for me.
Jim: Now for both of you, though, and it took some time because you’re separated and divorced for about seven years.
Jim: So it didn’t just happen overnight. It was a process.
Cheryl: It was a process.
Jim: What happened during that period of time? How did you, I mean, you’re three months into it.
Jim: You’re divorced; you’ve got six more years now separated.
Cheryl: Six and a half years, yes.
Jim: What was that journey all about? What happened?
Cheryl: Yeah, you know, I left Jeff’s house that day after sharing my heart with him probably for the first time on a deep level.
Cheryl: And I had my tail between my legs,. [I]got in my car and I thought ,I guess that wasn’t God. So I got back to my home, five minutes away, and I just sat with the Lord and I’m like God you know, I guess that wasn’t You, and I really don’t understand all that You do yet and I’m (Chuckle) so new. And so, it was very clear that God laid on my heart just to continue in this journey. Don’t give up on this and so, literally I was in the process of breaking off the other relationship. That’s a whole ‘nother, you know, part of it and so, that was not an easy thing to do, because my heart was attached, even though it was all deception. It was lies and deceit and everything. It still was an attachment.
So I had to work through that and literally the Lord laid on my heart just to continue to love Jeff like I was supposed to in the first marriage ‘cause that what I was learning now, even though we weren’t in the same home. So I did my best to do that. I know I didn’t do that very well sometimes because I was so anxious about that we had, you know, made so many mistakes and I just wanted a second chance. And so, finally five years in, I had been inviting Jeff over for dinner for about a year and he turned me down every time for a year.
Cheryl: And one day he said yes, (Laughing) “I’ll come over.”
Jeff: She cooked.
Cheryl: Five years into the divorce.
Jim: Why did you say yes after all that time? What in you made you say yes?
Jeff: Well, I think it was just, you know, that the Lord had been softening my heart.
Jeff: And that just, you know, I was getting to the place where I could start to look at her and not feel that anger anymore.
Jim: In fact, Cheryl, I was gonna say, you wrote in your book about a letter of reconciliation that you’d written Jeff.
Jim: I’ve got an excerpt of that.
Cheryl: Oh, cool.
Jim: And it’d be great if you could read that for us, because my guess would be, Jeff, this certainly helped soften your heart.
Jeff: I’ll speak to that after she reads it. (Chuckles)
Cheryl: “You know Jeff, believe it or not, I pray for us every day. I pray for our situation and ask God to show me what He wants from my life. I do not have peace with what has happened to us. It just isn’t settled in my heart and mind. My heart is still so much with you. I know you may not want to hear this as you appear to have gotten on with your life and appear to be happy. There are times when I really miss you.” (Emotional)
Jim: It’s okay.
Cheryl: “I’m sorry for being selfish with you (Emotional) and trying to solve everything on my own. Jeff, I’ve always loved you and probably always will. Jeff, you may think differently, but I always loved you.”
Jim: I appreciate the tenderness in which you’re reading that and most of us listening are crying with you, ‘cause it’s such a heartfelt note.
Jim: What did that do for you Jeff?
Jeff: You know, at the moment, I was just so full of pride that, you know, I basically had no emotional response to it and I’m not sure exactly what I said to her, but I didn’t let her think that, that touched me in any way, but what happened was, I kept the letter.
Jim: So it meant somethin’ to you.
Jeff: Yeah, I put it in the nightstand beside my bed and I probably read it 12 times over the next several months.
Jeff: And it was just another one of the many things that the Lord was using to soften my heart and show me that, you know, this can happen. This could really work.
Jim: So that was the first time you thought it’s possible.
Jeff: Uh-hm, yeah, there [were] just so many things that would happen, but that was one of the catalysts, yes, absolutely.
John: And Cheryl, it takes, and Jim referenced this earlier, it takes a great deal of humility to get to a point, as you were writing in that excerpt that you had failed and that you were the driver behind the divorce. All these years later is there still a sting there of the pain. I would imagine the humility is not something that you grab for, but the Lord kind of pushed on to you.
Cheryl: Uh-hm,I am thankful that the Lord humbled me (Chuckling). I don’t know what I would do without that at this point. Yeah, you know it’s really interesting. We share our story to a lot of churches across the country, different venues and all that and I still at times during the testimony, there are certain parts that I cry at every time and I think, okay, this (Laughing) time I’m not gonna cry, but the Lord just continually reminds me of what He pulled me out of and what He can do and how He can redeem anything. And there’s hope no matter what (Laughing). And He’s in control and we’ve got to lean on Him.
Jim: You know when I hear the story and see the tears, and see where you’re at today, what strikes me is that, especially here in America, with our children and with our marriages we want this pristineness, yet God teaches us so much in the valleys.
Jim: I can only imagine, I’d like you to respond to this, but I bet the depth of your relationship today, with all of the vulnerability, with all of the pain that you’ve gone through, is more of a mountain top than you had before and something beautiful is in that. And you know, I think God smiles with that.
Jim: It’s not about living falsely, living a false mountain top.
Jim: God wants you to go through the valleys so character is developed. Hope is developed. Love is developed. And I would think when you look back on it, even with all the pain, would you do it differently?
Cheryl: (Chuckling) Well, yeah.
Jim: Certain aspects of it probably.
Cheryl: I guess you would say you would do it differently, but honestly, I wouldn’t change a thing. You know, I wouldn’t change a thing. When I get before the Lord, when we go to heaven and all that, I can’t wait to ask Jesus why it took seven years. (Laughter)
Jim: There’s perfection in that (Laughter) from what I understand. (Laughter)
Jeff: It’s called being married to a stubborn husband.
Jeff: You know, it’s pride, you know I was a prideful man and it took me a long time to admit that and admit that I had actually played a role in it and there was something I could do about putting it back together. You know, so it’s not a story that I would choose for us, but we’ve learned so much through it and first of all our relationship with the Lord, we know now is the most important relationship in our life.
Jeff: And second to that is our relationship with each other and we have such deep conversations now. We talk about just about everything and so, probably really wouldn’t trade it.
Jim: And I can feel that and hear that in the dialogue today.
Cheryl: Well, I was just gonna say that, you know, the seven years, I do kinda joke about that a little, but honestly when I look at all that God was teaching us, year, after year, after year,the seven years, there was a reason for all of it, because if we would have remarried three years in, you know God was teaching each one of us something each one of those different years. So, it was the perfect time--God’s perfect timing.
Jim: Yes, and you know, we have, these last two days, we’ve concentrated on your relationship, rightfully so. We talked last time about the age of your daughters when this all started, about 4-years-old. They’ve ridden this journey and we haven’t come back to talk about them. How are they doing?
Jeff: Where the girls are now, is that they have seen the Lord look power ... work powerfully in our family’s lives.
Jim: It has to be such a foundation for them.
Jeff: Right, and even their teachers would tell me that, “Your girls pray for y’all’s marriage; they pray for you and your wife.” And they would tell me that and that was so humbling.
Jim: But what an incredible thing to strengthen their faith, because their prayers were answered.
Cheryl: Right and they, you know, they actually wrote a chapter in the book, which is, you know, I cry every time I read it. But what’s interesting is, you know, they’re twins and, you know, the foundation that they have going into marriage is so strong because they’ve seen, you know, what God’s done in Jeff and my marriage, and then also the hundreds of couples that have come across our path.
Cheryl: And th just don’t take it for granted because, you know, as you were asking earlier, one of those things that Jeff and I don’t do anymore is take our marriage for granted.
Cheryl: And we didn’t have the right focus that’s what we were missing, is the right focus. We thought it was each other and when our focus is on the Lord and not each other, that’s when we have the strength to love each other and we’re free to love well.
Jim: And Cheryl, as you’re saying that, those of us in the Christian community, you know what, there [are] struggles there. And when we claim Christ, people watch.
Jeff: That’s right.
And you’ve done such a wonderful job, even with all the brokenness, coming back around and making that fundamental commitment to the Lord. That’s what I heard you, the last couple of days, say that started with your relationship with Christ.
Jim: And that’s what you’ve built it on and once that foundation was set, you got things together.
Jim: The crooked things became straight and now you are in a relationship, married twice and loving each other and your girls are watching that. And guess what? The rest of the world is watching too. And you’ve done it so beautifully. And I just wanna, again, say thank you.
Jeff: Thank you.
Jeff: And we give all that credit to the Lord. Really it wasn’t anything we did; it was more just letting the Lord work in our hearts.
Cheryl: Well, and I think what’s important to note is that, you know, Jeff and I don’t have a perfect marriage. Everyone thinks we have a perfect marriage because of everything we’ve been through (Chuckling). And the truth of the matter is, we’re a sinner married to a sinner.
Cheryl: And so, the difference between our first marriage and our second marriageis, we go to Christ now.
Cheryl: And that’s the difference.
Jim: That is the difference. Well again, I just wanna say thank you so much for being with us and being so vulnerable, I love it and I know many, many marriages will be touched because of what you shared with us. Thank you.
Jeff: Thank you.
John: Today on “Focus on the Family,” an inspirational story with Jeff and Cheryl Scruggs and their testimony is captured in their book, I Do Again. And we’re gonna recommend that for you if you’re struggling in your marriage or get a copy and give it to a couple that you know is having difficulties. Contact us today when you call 800-A-FAMILY; 800-232-6459.
Jim: And when you make that gift to support the ministry, to help marriages thrive, we’ll send you a complimentary copy of their book, I Do Again and let me say, thanks in advance for helping us and I hope the book helps you, as well.
John, we’ve heard such an uplifting story from Jeff and Cheryl today and I know that there are those who’ve been listening and they’re thinking about their own relationship and where they’re broken. And you know what? First of all, that’s okay. Recognizing that brokenness is a good thing. Maybe you haven’t been through a divorce, but you’re concerned that things are fallin’ apart and headin’ that direction. Let us help you through our program called Hope Restored. It’s an intensive counseling program. You’re there for four days, working through those weak areas of your marriage.
And here’s the best part. The success rate for the Hope Restored couples is almost 85 percent two years after the counseling is done. We are so encouraged by what God is doing through this effort of Focus on the Family, Hope Restored, which is located there in Branson, Missouri and Rome, Georgia. So, call us if you’re in that spot where your marriage is hurting. Let us be there for you.
John: Yeah, like Cheryl said, there’s no perfect marriage and if ... if you’re really hurting, our number is 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY; 800-232-6459.
And it might be that you have some tensions in the relationship. You’re not thinking of divorce; you need a tune-up and this broadcast would be a great resource for you to listen to with your spouse. Get it on CD or download. That’ll have additional content and you can order those and other helps at www.focusonthefamily.com/radio.
Join us next time as comedian Kenn Kington shares the highs and the lows of parenting.
Mr. Kenn Kington: “You’re tired. You need to go to bed. It’s past your bedtime.” “I don’t want to go to bed. I don’t want to go to bed.” “Well, you’re tired. You need to go to bed.” “I don’t want to go to bed.” “Okay, you have a choice. Do you want to put on your pajamas and brush your teeth and go to bed, or do you want a spanking?” She put her finger in my face, “No!” (Laughter and Applause)
End of Excerpt
John: I’m John Fuller and on behalf of Focus president, Jim Daly and the entire team, thanks for listening. Join us again next time, as we once again, help you and your family thrive in Christ.
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Jeff and Cheryl ScruggsView Bio
Jeff and Cheryl Scruggs are speakers, counselors and co-authors of the book I Do Again, which chronicles their three decade journey of a broken marriage restored by God. They are also the founders of Hope Matters Marriage Ministries, an outreach dedicated to sharing God's heart for marriage and relationships. The Scruggs have two daughters, Lauren and Brittany, and have co-authored a book with them titled Still LoLo.