Natalie and Nick Herr met in high school. As Nick was graduating and heading to Colorado for the Air Force Academy, he and Natalie began a long distance relationship.
“It was moving towards marriage,” Natalie recalls. “I moved into wedding planning and began to feel as if I was simply checking off boxes.”
In 2008, they were married and moved to Dayton. With a Public Relations degree under her belt, Natalie began to look for a job and resentment began to take hold. “I began to resent Nick because I didn’t like Ohio. I began grasping to get my old life back,” says Natalie. “Marriage is not a band aid.” She began to, internally, place the blame on Nick. “I began circling and thinking, ‘I must’ve married the wrong person.’”
In the midst of fighting thoughts of making a mistake and in her desire to return to her old life, Natalie began seeking comfort in a previous relationship. “I became very secretive with everything I said and did; I was unfaithful with my words and in my thoughts,” Natalie confesses.
With time, everything came to the surface and was put in the light, and she returned to where she attended school, Philadelphia, under the pretense of needing to “figure things out” with her friends.
It was in spending time with one particular friend that Natalie felt the Lord truly begin to move in this part of her and Nick’s story. “She told me the truth; she didn’t sugar coat anything or tell me what I wanted to hear, she told me, "you made a commitment,’” she remembers.
It was within the safety of those conversations that the Lord began to reveal to Natalie the sin in her desire to seek out male attention and affirmation. “This being revealed after we were married was God’s grace, honestly,” she says. “If it wouldn’t have been shielded, it would have been easy for Nick to back out.”
Natalie felt God whispering intentionally to her, ‘You made a covenant. These are your expectations, but this is how it really is.” Shortly after, they met with a pastor and Nick forgave her. “I struggled with anger and the forgiveness,” adds Nick. “I asked Natalie to call the friend she had been returning to and let him know they couldn’t talk anymore.”
Natalie sits on the floor of her living room and looks at Nick as their youngest daughter asks to color. It is easy to see there is restoration in this story just by being in the room with them. “I specifically remember asking the Lord to remove the sin from my memory,” she recalls. “When I think about this chapter of our marriage, the majority of my memories are of what He has done. He has saved our marriage. He has removed my sin. He has saved me, and continues to save me, from painful memories.”
Natalie and Nick agree that how they share their story now is vastly different from how they told it before. “It used to be so much more about seeing the sin, but now the sin is far removed and we can see how faithful our God’s timing is. He didn’t allow our sin to fester – He got right down to business in the revealing and restoring. This is God’s story.”
Walking through this as husband and wife, Natalie and Nick have come to realize and are often reminded, of how key community is in the healing process. “We’ve not forgotten the need for being in the body and a part of a house church community,” Nick says.
They both realized having people to ask how things are going and to have someone to point them back to the Word is crucial. “It will never help or heal if we are surrounded by people who say, ‘It’s okay to run.’ We need people to are regularly turning us back towards the Cross.”
“I think for so long I thought marriage was equivalent to arriving,” says Natalie. “Our culture perpetuates that thought and this has taught me so much about how that is not true.” The Lord used their sin and their humanity to reveal the true nature of themselves and, in the midst of that, He is teaching them how to turn back to Him in order to care well for their marriage.
Natalie smiles softly and says, “We will never arrive. We had to learn that. And God is powerful. His forgiveness is real.”
Author: Steph Duff
Photographer: Sarah Maigur