Dear Lauren,

My heart sank and the anger rose up within me as I read the very public coming out of your husband, Christian rock star Trey Pearson. Immediately I thought of you and your precious children, and the nightmare that has just been inflicted upon you. I wish that I could hug you while you weep and sit with you while you rage and question.

Reading Trey’s coming-out letter made me flash back to November 29, 2007, when my Christian husband of nine and a half years had his own coming out. He declared to me that he was gay and that a gay/straight marriage cannot work, so we must get divorced. I too was told that he was not able to love me the way that I needed to be loved. He said it was the most loving thing for him to leave so that I could find the one who could love me the way I needed to be loved and he could do the same.

A powerful and strange thing happens when your husband comes out to you: in a profound way, the intimacy between you two exponentially increases. The man that you have loved and committed your life to, who—unbeknownst to you—has kept a part of himself from you, now reveals his innermost secret. That is precisely what is supposed to happen in our marriages. We are meant to let down all the façades, unlock the hidden doors, and give our whole broken selves to our spouses.

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If your experience was anything like mine, I imagine that this beautiful intimacy was sparked at the same moment that your husband has torn you apart by telling you that he is not able to love you the way that you should be loved. Lauren, he has no right to decide what love you need or don’t need or what man is right or not right for you. You chose him. You committed to love him and navigate life together with him. The decision was made before God, family, and friends on your wedding day. Let’s also remember that he chose you and committed his life to you. He didn’t have a gun to his head. He loved you.

Yes, he was holding a secret about himself from you on that wedding day, but that secret is not the sum total of the man you married or the man he is today. If he believes that it is, then he is embracing a lie about himself. All of us are so much more than our sexual attractions and desires. Since my husband left, I have not had a sexual relationship with another man, but I am no less heterosexual than the day I was married. The fact that we deny some desires doesn’t mean that we are not free to be who God created us to be. In fact, I would say that it is just the opposite: it is denying my wants that allows me to accept and embrace so much more of what God has created me for. My life is full of love, even though that area is not fulfilled. Is it a loss? Yes. Does it negate my ability to be authentically me? No. Similarly, your husband’s life can be full and beautiful, even if he chooses not to act on his same-sex attraction. There is another way available to him and you.

Lauren, I know that you are a Christian, like me. Always remember that Christ came to restore us to himself. He came to turn off the darkness. He came to rebuild and redeem the brokenness. He came to save. When we enter into a relationship with him, we too become agents of restoration, rebuilding, reconciliation, healing, life-giving and hope. Christ would never set out to destroy what he has joined together. The destruction of a marriage and family is not of Christ—it is in direct opposition to God’s design for humanity.

As you move through this incredibly difficult time, may I offer you some advice?

First, you must believe and remind yourself as often as necessary that you had nothing to do with your husband’s decision to embrace same-sex relationships. Hold tightly to the beautiful femininity that God knit within you. You will probably be tempted by thoughts that twist reality. If you were only more beautiful, had sex the way he wanted to more often, worked out more . . . on and on goes the ridiculous list. Resist these thoughts. You are beautiful. You are uniquely created distinctly female. You are created for your complementary opposite. Your femininity is good and valuable.

Second, continue to value masculinity. You may be tempted to withdraw, build walls up around your heart, and become incapable of trusting another man. Resist. Masculinity has been under fire for so long in our culture. We have emasculated men to the point that sometimes it is difficult to see the difference between the feminine and the masculine. You, I, and all women need men to be who God created them to be. The first few chapters of Genesis give us such a rich picture of male and female and of marriage. I would encourage you to go read the first three chapters of Genesis and reflect on God’s beautiful plan for us.

Third, if you haven’t already, make an appointment to see your OB/GYN immediately. My best friend urged me to do this. In my state of complete shock, I couldn’t even fathom that I would need to have such a visit, but I am so glad that I listened to my friend. I had contracted two different STDs from my husband. He had put my health and my life in jeopardy, without my knowledge or consent. Due to the nature of one of the STDs, I had to visit my doctor on a regular basis for months afterward. Your life is too precious to let diseases ravage your body undetected.

Fourth, fight for your children. Your life going forward will be governed by the family courts. You will be told when you can see your children and when they are forced from you. They will become pieces of property to be shuffled between two households, all against their wills. Your husband, the one who caused your family to be torn apart, will be treated as an equal or perhaps even elevated in status over you in the courts. As much as you don’t deserve this, your children absolutely don’t deserve the harm that has been done to them. Begin now to pray for God’s healing work in the wounds that have so deeply been etched upon their souls and minds. Pray and believe that God the Father will be the perfect father, teacher, leader, and guide that your little ones need. He will never leave them.

Fifth, I am sure you have already encountered the notion that you must embrace your husband’s coming out—that it is the loving thing to do. You probably have also received a welcoming embrace from the LGBTQ community. Let me warn you: most members of the LGBTQ community will only sympathize with you as long as you champion and embrace your husband’s gay identity. But your pain is real. No one gets to dictate how you are allowed to feel that pain. Being embraced and welcomed is wonderful, but you should not let yourself be exploited. I encountered many welcoming embraces as long as I endorsed my husband’s coming out as a good thing. When I began to resist that idea, the arms closed. I was no longer welcomed, and my pain was ignored and deemed irrelevant. Guard your heart.

There is so much more that I want to share with you, but I fear that I may have already overwhelmed you. Please know that you are not alone on this journey. There are others who are walking this path. Though it is difficult to navigate and may seem unbearable at times, we have found one that is more than faithful. He is the best provider. He gives strength. He will teach you, guide you, bring order to the chaos, and give justice and mercy. God is going to use the pain you are going through now to bring forth an even greater purpose and mission.

Remember, your identity is not “divorced.” It is not “my husband is gay.” It is not “broken.” Do not let yourself forget: you are beautifully and wonderfully made. You have purpose. You are beloved.

My heart joined to yours,

Janna Darnelle