Hey, this is John Fuller and Focus on the Family is looking for talented writers and editors to help produce our audio programs and podcasts.
Go to FocusOnTheFamily.com slash jobs to learn more about these and other job opportunities here at Focus. But then they discovered God at work and what he did is unbelievable and wonderful. Your host is author and Focus president Jim Daly. I'm John Fuller and Jim, this broadcast is going to offer hope to a lot of people.
John, the great thing about God's economy, there's always hope for everybody no matter what your circumstance is. And if you're struggling in your marriage, I think you'll be encouraged today that there is hope for reconciliation, even in the most difficult of circumstances. The last time we aired this broadcast, one listener contacted us and told us it saved their marriage and that's what we're about here at Focus.
That's always the big victory that we were able to save a marriage because at the core, it's our faith in Christ that motivates us and I know motivates these couples to reconsider. Jeff and Cheryl Scruggs are intimately familiar with what it feels like to have a marriage gone wrong and they'll share about their difficult journey and how God rebuilt their relationship. Yeah, and they're the founders of Hope Matters Marriage Ministries based in Plano, Texas. Together they've counseled hundreds, if not thousands of couples over many, many years. Cheryl is the host of a podcast called Thriving Beyond Belief, and Jeff and Cheryl are also the authors of the book, I Do Again.
This discussion is based on the content of that great book. A key part of their story is that they were married for 10 years, divorced for seven, and they've now been remarried for over 20 years. So today on Focus on the Family, we begin the conversation with Jeff and Cheryl Scruggs as Jeff talks about where they were spiritually when they met. You know, Cheryl and I met and it was interesting, neither one of us were walking the walk. She grew up Catholic and I grew up in what I would consider a legalistic Baptist church, but more of it was just the way I perceived it. And then when I got to college, I kind of made a left-hand turn and walked away from my faith. And so when we met each other, neither one of us were, you know, walking with the Lord. Now, did you meet in your mid-twenties? Yeah, I was a senior in college.
I grew up going to church all my life, but I didn't understand about a walk with Jesus until later on. Jeff and I met, he swept me off my feet. I was actually just about engaged to someone else and we started dating and it was kind of a love at first sight type thing. We were married about a year after we started dating and moved to California. We moved to LA and we were just kind of living the California lifestyle. We were successful in our jobs. We were in our mid-twenties and making a lot of money. We had an ocean view home. We had all the right stuff. Cheryl, there's so many people that may profess a Christian faith, but they don't live it.
They're not close to the Lord in that way. And it sounds like you were kind of in that category. When you looked at the way your jobs were going, you were doing well, you lived on an oceanfront house, it sounds like the dream.
You guys were living the dream. But what was going wrong? What was not happening in your relationship?
Well, there wasn't really any intimacy or a depth of intimacy in conversation and just really getting to know each other's heart. In fact, Cheryl, you probably should speak to this because I thought everything was fine. I thought everything was perfect.
Yeah, Jeff thought the relationship for our marriage was perfect. For me, going into marriage, I would have considered myself a Christian. I believed that Jesus died on the cross.
I wasn't really sure why he did that. And so going into it, I mean, I prayed. I prayed a lot. And two years into the marriage, I started to feel empty. And I wasn't really sure why I felt empty. But and I really actually thought there was something wrong with me because What did that emptiness feel like to you? Because I know there's many women that may say that's how I feel.
Describe what that means. Yeah, I really I was craving a connection with my husband. I didn't realize the hole in my heart.
At that point, being a spiritual hole, I didn't I didn't get that. But I needed to be closer to my husband. I felt like we were doing great in so many areas of life, but we didn't really connect. And I didn't know how to go about that. I didn't really learn how to do that as a kid.
And I'm the oldest of five. I was very responsible and all of that. But I wasn't really close to my dad, as far as emotionally close. And so I didn't really know how to pursue Jeff. And actually, I had Jeff on a pedestal.
I idolized him. I thought that if I told him that I was, you know, not happy or that things didn't feel right to me that he would leave me, ironically. And so I just kept it all to myself. And I just really lived with this burden of emotional connection with him.
What was the snapping point? What was the event that broke your relationship? Jim, you know, I really thought just to back up for one second, I thought having kids was the answer.
So we had, you know, gone through some infertility issues and ended up getting pregnant with twins, which was awesome. And I really thought that was going to change everything. You thought that would fill that hole?
I did. I thought it was, you know, it's kind of the natural next step kind of thing. So once the girls came along for about a year, I was I was pretty good. I was pretty even and not really feeling, you know, void in a lot of areas with Jeff and the girls were 16 months old. I had been I had a big sales job. And I went to our national sales meeting, which I went to every year. And I started talking to a guy that I'd known for a long time, we had the same position in the company. And he was in Northern California, I was in Southern California, we started talking about our job to begin with. And then he started to share with me that he was having problems in his marriage. And I had kept all of my concerns about my marriage and my hunger for more with my husband to myself, I hadn't shared it with another person, not a girlfriend, my family or anything. And so for the first time, I started to open my heart up to a man that I was having, you know, questions about my marriage that I didn't know if I was married to the right guy, I didn't know if I was in love with my husband anymore.
And that was, luckily, the last evening of the sales conference that we were at, nothing happened physically. But what I felt there was a bond and a connection that, frankly, at that point in time, I felt like I had never experienced in my life. And so the next morning, he said something to me about having breakfast in the morning.
And I said, No, I can't do that. I knew I, like I said, I was the oldest of five kids, I grew up very responsible and never, you know, gave my parents any trouble. So the bells were going off. Oh, for sure. You knew this was dangerous. I knew it was dangerous.
Yeah. And I, you know, I always wanted to do things right. And so it just wasn't who I was. And the next morning, the temptation was too strong for me, I had breakfast with this man. And, you know, I think back about that now. And I think, gosh, what were the other salespeople thinking?
I mean, there were 150 other people there as well. We both got on our respective flights to go back to our cities. I got off the plane in Los Angeles. The girls were with Jeff at the airport.
That was when you could walk up the tarmac and everyone was standing there. And I got off and I saw the girls and just hugged them and was I was so excited to see him because I'd been gone for a week. And I looked at Jeff and I, he hugged me and I had my head on his shoulder. And I realized I hadn't missed him at all. And then I all I could think about at that point was this connection with this man. And that was on a Friday.
And what's interesting about that timeframe back then was in 1990. We didn't have texting, we didn't have Facebook, we didn't have email or anything like that. So this was a Friday. And I wasn't going to the office till Monday. So basically, for me, it was waiting over the weekend, to be able to talk to this guy from the office. So you're anticipating that Cheryl, when you look at that fork in the road, and you mentioned it, but there are probably women and men in the work environment listening to us now, that they're at that fork in the road, when you look back on that, trying to override those emotions that you're feeling connecting with this person emotionally, which was the void you were feeling at the time. What could you have done differently?
You know, and would it even been possible at that moment when you think about it? Well, now, I know what I could have done differently. And I chose not to, but I was very weak at that point.
I was deceived. And I didn't, I just, I had no boundaries. I didn't know that I wasn't supposed to be talking to a man alone. I wasn't to share my deepest, darkest heart with with a man. So I know all that now. But that would be one of the things and then I knew throughout that evening that I needed to be walking away from it.
And I didn't. How long then did this go? I mean, you went now another few months or another year or two? Or how long did that fare?
In essence? How long did it occur? So Jeff and I went back to our normal life. When I got back, I started talking to this man on the phone that Monday. And we started talking two or three hours a day on the telephone from the office. And what was developing there was, was a connection and a relationship. And I literally thought that I was falling in love with someone.
And if you think about that, how can you fall in love with someone over the telephone? But anyway, that's where I was at that point. This was in March of 1990.
In April of 1990, he intentionally got a flight to LA. We met at a hotel. And that's when it became a full blown adulterous affair. And that was a month after we had had that conversation.
That same week, a lot of things happened. I went to Jeff. And I told him that I didn't know if I loved him. And I didn't know if I wanted to stay married. I didn't know if I had ever loved him. And we were quite shocked by that.
And Jeff, this is the first that comment that Cheryl made that would have been the first inclination that there was a problem. During that month, you did not have any idea. I was totally clueless. Was there something you missed?
I mean, as a man helping other men? I mean, I shouldn't say I was totally clueless. I did notice around that time that there was a little distance between us. And I asked her if we could go to counseling. And we actually did go to counseling twice. But the counselor in Los Angeles told me I was wasting my time, that her heart wasn't into it. And then it wasn't long after that.
I mean, Cheryl can probably tell you exactly when but it was maybe a month. And I got transferred to Dallas with my job. So we were picking up and moving to Dallas. So I thought, well, maybe this is what we need. Maybe we need a fresh start a new city, you know, get away from that lifestyle. And, and maybe maybe that will be what will make things better. I can only imagine Cheryl at that point, you're questioning whether or not you want to go.
Right. I definitely questioned it. And I didn't see any other choice. Actually, the way I felt was, I'm leaving this new love.
But at the same time, you know, I'm, I was very family oriented, loved being married, you know, loved having the girls and the family and all of that. And so I literally thought eventually, Oh, my gosh, this is a relief. We can get to Dallas, we can start over, Jeff won't have to know about any of this, because you hadn't told him anything about this. I was petrified to talk to him about it. And that, again, is where our relationship wasn't strong, because I should have been able to go to him and say, Hey, I've been tempted and really right at the beginning, because maybe the hotel situation wouldn't have happened, if I was able to go to him and share, but I was, I was scared to death. I was just scared, I guess that he would leave me or, you know, I don't know, take my kids, I don't know what I was saying.
Cheryl, you're saying something so important, I want to kind of stop us all and think about it. What you're saying is that if you felt greater security in the relationship, and, and Jeff, I'm sure this isn't just a reflection on your relate. I mean, all of us have moments, I think, in our marriages, where, you know, there's a lack of security that I'm not sure if I share that with my spouse, if he or she will respond. But you're saying if you had that at that moment, you think most, if not all of this may have been avoided, if you could have talked about it.
Why do you think people fail to recognize the wisdom of that? Why did you fail in that way? Well, I honestly, it's probably a couple of things. One is fear, that would have been the first thing. I was fearful of talking to him, I was fearful of my dad growing up.
I didn't feel comfortable talking to him about things. And then the other part, honestly, if I'm, you know, being very frank here, is that I enjoyed what was going on. And I felt a connection and I really wanted to explore that it was meeting a need. It was.
Yeah. Well, this is Focus on the Family with Jim Daly. I'm John Fuller and our guests today are Jeff and Cheryl Scruggs.
They've authored the book I Do Again. And what I've heard both of you say is expectations. Cheryl, your expectations of Jeff once you got in the relationship and Jeff, your expectations about the move to Dallas. Did that exasperate things when you finally did move or did that calm things down?
What effect did it have on both of you? You know, after we moved to Dallas, I mean, we actually moved into an apartment and we were building a house. So I'm thinking we're building this house on a golf course. Cheryl grew up on a golf course. That was her family business. This would make her happy. This is what I'm thinking.
And but I would come home every day from the office to the apartment. And many times she's sitting on the couch crying. So I'm thinking there's something psychologically wrong. I'm thinking she needs counseling. Maybe she's depressed. You know, she left her job.
She's she went from this big career to come into Dallas and being a stay at home mom there with the two babies. And so I'm thinking all those things. And I'm also thinking, is she crazy?
Do I is something wrong? Should I feel safe leaving my daughter's home with her when I come home and see that she's just sitting there crying? Those are the kind of things that are going through my mind. And at this point, you don't know the full story. I still don't know the full story.
Let's move there. How did that happen? How did that come out into the light? And how did you respond? I really didn't know the full story until after our divorce. OK, so you kept that and you moved ahead with divorce. Yeah. Yeah.
OK. Yeah. And I think, you know, going talking about expectations, John, I, I watched soap operas growing up. And that is really probably where I got my idea of what I thought marriage was supposed to be like. So I'm expecting all these things.
And I think, you know, now as I counsel women, I see women that expect so much that are really expectations you can't even meet in a relationship. And so that's that was one thing. And then coming to Dallas for me was a refreshment. I literally thought I could run away from that. It wasn't who I was. I felt like I was two people living two different lives.
I was excited about being a stay at home mom. And so what he was seeing, I didn't even know he was thinking I was crazy or thinking that I was depressed. You know, I was excited about what was going on, but I didn't know what to do with this dilemma.
Right. And so I started to miss that relationship. So we started to talk on the phone again.
Like I said, we didn't have texting and Facebook and things to communicate that way. And so I was afraid, again, to say anything to Jeff. I wanted to.
I almost did a dozen times because I wanted him to just know the truth so that we could move on and get our marriage back on track. Well, and that guilt had to be so heavy for you. Oh, it was just terrible.
It was terrible. What happened? I mean, again, you're moving toward divorce. You made that decision. Was it in part so you could cover that up and not have to deal with it? Did you get to that point where you said divorce would be easier than facing Jeff with the truth?
No. Divorce was the answer because I thought I was in love with somebody else. Okay. And so I went to an attorney behind Jeff's back. I filed papers. And then you can tell that story about how. Well, yeah, at this point we had moved into our, what we affectionately call the shrine to our marriage now, our McMansion.
Now we know that's not the important things of life. But anyhow, I was upstairs in our new house reading the girls at bedtime story. And the front doorbell is ringing. I knew Cheryl was downstairs.
I mean, why isn't she answering the door? And so I grabbed one of the girls, I can't remember which one it was, and just headed downstairs. And it was the sheriff serving me with papers. And that's the first I knew. That was the first you knew? Yeah. And I don't even know how I kept it together long enough to go back up the stairs, put whoever had my arms back down, put them to bed.
And then I went downstairs and just kind of freaked out like, what in the world is going on here? What's important about that is that that was a two year timeframe. Right. And then we were divorced in August of 92.
Well, let's talk now. You do go through the divorce. Where does God enter the picture? How does God become more vital in your life? You recognize the need for him. Is it through the divorce that you turn to God?
Well, when we first moved to Dallas, like many, many people do and couples do, is we were in trouble. And so we were invited by a couple that we knew in Dallas, the only couple we knew, to go to church. And what was going on with me is my heart was being stirred. The Holy Spirit, God was coming after me. I didn't understand what it was. All I knew is that every time I went to church, I cried through the sermons.
I'd cry through the singing. And I was so curious and hungry for whatever this was. I couldn't put my finger on what was going on. So for me, God was really pursuing me.
And, you know, you, I don't know, Jeff kept trying. But I think for you spiritually. Well, I mean, for me, it was, you know, just getting back to my roots and understanding that I had walked away from my Lord and I love the Lord. And, you know, it wasn't long after we started going to this church that they asked me to help with the high school youth group, which was kind of a joke because I was in no position to be leading or, you know, but actually I was just there for crowd control for the first year or so. And that was even ministering to me. Just the, you know, the 25 minute talk that the youth pastor would give on Sunday nights after I'd heard the sermon in the morning. So, you know, the Lord was working on my heart at the same time and just drawing me back to him. Now, when did you actually find out about the affair?
The papers arrived that night. Did you have a talk that night or did it take even more time or did it? She still didn't tell me about the affair. It was like I could not figure out why she would go through a divorce. I mean, I knew her family and, you know, her parents didn't have a great marriage, but they stuck it out. You know, and like my parents had been married at that point close to 50 years. And, you know, so I was just like, I didn't get that divorce wasn't even in my vocabulary. And I'm like, how can things be so bad that we can't just go get help and fix this?
But she powered on and pressed on. And I really didn't know what to think. You know, and so you were at a loss really? Well, he tried and tried and tried and I finally moved upstairs and he just kept begging me like, Cheryl, what I mean, what could be so bad? And so I'm keeping this huge secret.
There's an elephant in the room that he didn't know about. So we divorced in August of 92 and obviously we didn't keep going to the same church. So I'm the one that left and went to a new church. And again, this church was just the gospel was being preached every single week. And I kept hearing it and kept hearing it and kept hearing it.
And these women at the church my age were normal, fun. And they kept loving on me and I kept thinking, why do they love me so much? I'm a mess. My life's a mess.
I just went through a divorce. I felt like I had a scarlet letter on me and all of that. And what I realized is what they had was Jesus and I didn't. And so within a couple of months, literally three months after we divorced, I came to know the Lord as my Savior. And so as great as that day was, that's how devastated I was too. Because what I saw is what I left in my wake. And that was a broken marriage and broken family. But Cheryl, I mean, it's interesting to me to hear how God was working on your heart, even in this depth of despair, really. How did you feel pressing ahead with the divorce when that day came and the divorce was final?
How did you feel? August 21st, 1992 was the worst day of my life. That was the day our divorce was final. And I stood at that in front of the judge and he said, so you're here to divorce? And Jeff wasn't there, of course.
He wasn't going to go. And I said, yes. And I stood there. My heart was just breaking as I stood there. And I thought, what am I doing? And then the attorney, I left the judge and I walk outside the door and he grabs my hand and he said, congratulations. And I said to myself, congratulations? And so I literally got in my car and I thought, what in the world have I done? But it's what I wanted. I called the guy that I was having the affair with, said it's over.
And then we could actually start a relationship. And I'm doing all these things. My heart is broken. It was the worst day of my life. That contradiction when you look back on it. What was happening in your heart?
Well, I believe what was happening is that God was just coming after me ferociously. Don't do this. Don't do this.
Don't do this. And I, in my flesh, now I understand the difference between the spirit and the flesh. My flesh was winning out. And I was following that and I was diving into the temptation and I was buying the deception.
It's really what was going on. You still haven't told Jeff where things were at at this point. How long from the point where the divorce was final did you actually come clean and basically tell Jeff what was going on?
I didn't actually come clean. I mean, the way I found out was through going over to her house to pick up the girls. And I went over to the house to pick up the girls and I saw him in her house. Well, then I was able to put two and two together because I knew him. He had come in for the weekend. So it was like six o'clock in the evening and Jeff was picking the girls up for the weekend.
And this guy was right there at the front door because he had just gotten there. And my first feeling was actually relief because I'm like, now I know what's been going on. I couldn't figure out what was going on up to that point, but now it at least made sense to me. And then it went pretty quickly to anger.
And I stayed in that anger stage for a couple of years. Jeff, this is a tough place to cut off, but we've got to hear that side of the story again. I think so many couples will benefit. Cheryl, I want to say thank you for being so vulnerable as we wrap up today. And you know, it takes a lot of courage. But I am a big believer that when we as Christians allow our faults and our sin to be shared in a respectful way, people connect to that because you know what?
We're all sinners saved by grace. And I just want to say thank you for being so bold. And let's come back next time and keep the story going because I just, I can feel in my bones, we're helping a lot of marriages today.
So thank you. Well the time today on Focus on the Family with our guests Jeff and Cheryl went by so quickly as they opened up with us about their troubled marriage and their divorce. Though it doesn't end there, John, next time we'll hear how God put it all back together for the Scruggs.
It's amazing what happened and I don't want you to miss it. Maybe you've been listening to Jeff and Cheryl and you've related to the brokenness in their marriage and you're thinking, my marriage is kind of similar. I want to strongly encourage you to look into our program, Hope Restored. That's our intensive counseling program for couples struggling to keep their marriage alive.
Many of those couples who go have already signed divorce papers, but this is their last hope that something can be done. So if you need that kind of help, please call us at least to find out more about Hope Restored. Yeah, we'd be happy to tell you about that opportunity and also about other resources and our counseling team.
Our number is 800-AFAMILY, 800-232-6459. Jeff and Cheryl's book in which they share their story is called I Do Again. You'll be encouraged by their perspectives and the thoughts of their daughters as well. Request your copy when you get in touch and get a CD or download of this two-part broadcast. We're going to have additional insights for hurting couples on the CD and download. These and other helps at focusonthefamily.com slash broadcast.
Or call 1-800 the letter A and the word family. And I hope you'll prayerfully consider helping us to strengthen marriages that are in trouble. That's our mission together. We're in the trenches every day helping couples to thrive in their marriage with biblical advice and encouragement. When you give to Focus on the Family today, I want to send you the book I Do Again as our way of saying thank you. Yeah, it takes so many different people joining together to make this kind of a ministry possible. Your partnership is vital and so please donate generously today when you get in touch. Again, our phone number 800-AFAMILY. And on behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team, thanks for listening to Focus on the Family. I'm John Fuller inviting you back next time as we continue with the Scruggs and once again help you and your family thrive in Christ. We'll see you next time.
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