The Birkeys' Broken Marriage
By Amy Reid
The 700 Club
CBN.com --“Even though on the outside it looked like we had this beautiful little family, in reality we just didn’t have any depth to our marriage at all,” says Kara.
Jesse and Kara Birkey met as teenagers and married young. Not only did their marriage not have any depth, neither did their relationships with God.
“I had not been reading the Bible,” Jesse says. “I had Kara’s voice in my ear telling me that I needed to do devotions every day, and so I was pretty tired of hearing that.”
“I began praying that God would raise him up as the spiritual head of the household,” Kara adds. “And simply I was just asking that he would do a Bible study every morning for five minutes.”
One day, when Jesse least expected it, things changed completely.
“I had a pool cleaning business, and I was on my way to a commercial account,” Jesse recalls. “And I was listening to a teaching on encountering Jesus. And the atmosphere around me was just charged; I had no idea what was going on. And I just heard the Lord begin speaking in my heart. He was just saying things like, ‘I love you. I’m with you. I have a plan for you. I’m changing you. Get ready for me.’ And I called Kara right after that, and I said, ‘Something just happened, the Lord just got a hold of me.’”
“After that I started reading multiple chapters in the Bible every day, spending an hour with the Lord, fasting two days a week, every week, asking the Lord to reveal more and more of himself to me, and he did.”
Jesse longed for Kara to experience God the way he had, but she wasn’t interested. Kara remembers that time clearly.
“I just wanted him to spend some time in the Word and really, he became very radical in a way that I had never known before. I was raised a little bit more conservative than he was and wasn’t very familiar with things of the Holy Spirit, and he just went on this journey that totally freaked me out. I saw this passion he had for God, but I didn’t see it for myself. So it was almost at that point that I made the decision, ‘No, I’m not going to go this way.’ And so I shut myself off to the things of God.”
Kara pulled away from Jesse too, and then she did something she thought she would never do. She had an affair.
“There’s the guilt and shame and just the struggle with the voices that you hear that tell you what a terrible person you are and what a terrible wife and mom,” she recalls.
Kara decided her only hope was to turn to God.
“I just got on my face before the Lord and really broke emotionally in a way that I hadn’t allowed myself to before. I just needed God to love me, and I needed to know that I was loved. And he showed me that and he assured me of that in a place that I was able to then take that strength and move forward.”
Kara made things right with God, but she wrestled with the decision to tell Jesse.
“When we first got married, we were talking about things that would be deal breakers in our marriage,” Kara remembers. “And we felt that we would be able to walk through anything together, but if anybody had an affair, that it would be done, it would be over, there would be no questions asked. And so I wasn’t willing to confess if I didn’t know for a fact that it was from the Lord.”
One night Kara was watching tv and Jesse was upstairs praying.
Jesse remembers that night. “The Lord began to speak to me up there. He said, ‘I want you to go downstairs and I want you to lay hands on Kara and I want you to tell her that it’s time.’”
For Kara, it was the answer she’d been looking for. “And at that point I knew--I knew exactly what he meant. I knew this is the Lord saying, ‘It’s time.’ But I had the voices telling me, ‘He’s going to leave you. Your family’s going to turn their backs on you; your friends are going to turn their backs on you. Your kids might even be taken away.’ God never promised me that none of these things would happen. He said, ‘If everything else fell away, would I still be enough for you?’ And it was at that point that I said, “Yes.”’
A few days later, Jesse was on a fishing trip when Kara called. She told him she’d invited his mentor, Richard, over to meet with them.
Jesse remembers that night. “For some reason, I couldn’t shake this thing In the back of my mind that was just…terrifying to consider, that he was coming over because she had had an affair and she was going to confess to me that she had done that. Maybe because it was my biggest fear, but I couldn’t shake it. And that was the longest car ride I’ve ever experienced in my life-- it was just tormenting.”
When he got home, Richard hadn’t arrived, but Kara was waiting for him.
“I didn’t even look at her,” Jesse says, “I was feeling pretty numb at that point, I just said, ‘Who was it with?’”
“I ended up confessing to him at that point,” Kara adds. “There was lot of ugliness that came out.”
Jesse was still angry when Richard arrived.
“He said, “Do you want to hear what God has to say?” Jesse recalls, “And I was like, ‘No! I don’t want to hear what God has to say. Because I know that if I listen to what God has to say he’s going to ask me to do something that I have no intention or desire to do.” So he looked at me and he said, “I know you’re going to walk through this well.” And I said, “What does that mean?” And he left. I was backed up to the wall, just at a complete loss and having an internal battle on whether or not I was going to listen.””
Jesse knew that God wanted him to forgive his wife.
“As everything was falling down around me, I just said, ‘Yes’ to the Lord,” Jesse recalls. “And I was just completely flooded by His grace. And he said, ‘I want you to tell her that you forgive her.’”
“And I just fell before him just begging him, ‘Please stay,’ Kara remembers, “I’ll do whatever it takes.’”
“She wouldn’t stop saying how sorry she was,” Jesse adds. “And I said, ‘I want you to forgive yourself.’”
“I didn’t understand,” says Kara. “But he opened up his arms to me and just held me and told me that he was making the choice to forgive me. Before that I never knew, really knew the grace of God and the love of God. But in that moment it was reflected to me in such a tangible way.”
Jesse’s forgiveness laid the groundwork for restoration, but the pain took time to heal.
“I thought I would be able to confess and it would be over and that would be the hard part,” Kara recalls. “I didn’t realize it would take nine months or longer to deal with every emotion that could possibly come up. It meant going to the Lord together; it meant going to the Lord separately. It meant being real with each other.”
For Jesse, not dwelling on the past was a struggle.
“Forgiveness was an everyday battle for me,” he says. “And I wanted to hold the cards and say, ‘I have a right to hold you in condemnation, I have a right to hold you in bitterness because of what you did.’ If I ever felt like I was guilty of something I could pull that out and say, ‘You’re worse than I am.’ And so much of that stuff is so ugly when God reveals it.”
Today, Jesse and Kara’s relationship has been completely transformed
“We’re to reflect forgiveness and grace and love and mercy and hope, all of these things that God is, that in a marriage we have the ability to reflect that to our spouse,” Kara says.
Jesse agrees. “We’re emotionally intimate with the Lord; we’re emotionally intimate with each other. We’re able to risk the vulnerability that we open ourselves up to when we’re totally completely honest with each other and lay our hearts bare.”
“It’s not perfect every day,” Kara adds, “but God is that cord that unites us together. And if we’re both seeking him, we’ll be able to make it.”
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