When meeting with couples in crisis, Cassie Soete often asks, “Do you believe me when I tell you that your marriage can survive what’s happening now?”
Most don’t for a lot of reasons: affairs, fights, blame, anger, even hate. None of that fazes her. Soete knows what God can do.
She has lived a story of restoration.
On Oct. 10, Soete received a WLKY-TV Bell Award, which is given to individuals who volunteer and serve in the Louisville community, for investing thousands of hours over 26 years mentoring couples ready to give up. It is what she loves to do.
“I am honored but don’t feel worthy to be considered,” Soete said. “I’m doing what I love to do.”
That’s not what some 900 couples would say. She has loved and encouraged them through extreme challenges. Her notes on mentoring meetings fill a stack of notebooks over two feet high. When Soete’s husband, George, died suddenly in 2015, she wasn’t sure she would continue meeting with couples, but the calls continued.
Not much surprises her anymore. Over the years, she has heard every kind of story. About half of those who come for help end up in divorce.
“I have deep compassion for those who go through divorce,” she said. “Not every marriage can be saved, especially if one isn’t willing to do hard work. On the other hand, we serve a mighty God. Why don’t we let Him do what He does?”
Soete wears a necklace George gave her on their 50th anniversary that tells the story of their life together. One circle of stones represents the first 20 years of their marriage: a young couple falling in love, raising six children, busy about life, but no relationship with Jesus.
Soete was shocked when George left her on their 20th anniversary to be with her best friend. Double betrayal began nearly five years of conflict. George home. Not home. Divorce papers drawn up.
Soete once asked George about the chance he would come home. He said half a percent. She hung onto that glimmer of hope. Plenty of friends advised her to move on and quit hoping things would change. They told her no matter what happened next, she could never trust her husband again.
But one thing did begin to change: Soete began to pursue Jesus. George noticed she was happier and calmer. One day when he was picking up the kids, he also picked up a sermon tape on marriage Soete left on the counter.
That was the beginning of drastic change. Later that night, George dropped to his knees and gave God the broken pieces of his life. He wanted the peace he had seen in his wife.
Eventually, George rejoined the family, and they thrived through the next 30 years. The second circle on the necklace represents those 30 years. A stone in the middle represents Jesus.
Together the Soetes mentored couples in crisis, often spending hours talking in their family room, a coffee shop or at church.
“It is often the same old story,” Soete said. “The biggest problem is we believe so many lies about marriage.”
>Lie No. 1: It’s too late.
Soete said the night before George died, he told her, “I love you so much. I just want to thank you because you never quit on me.”
“God always redeems and restores if you give it to Him,” Soete said.
>Lie No. 2: I deserve to be happy.
“I tell couples they deserve to be obedient,” Soete said. “Through our hardest days, I held on to a picture in my mind of our whole family in a pew together when one of our kids got married.”
>Lie No. 3: It’s not my fault. I just need to move on.
“Too many play the blame game,” Soete said. “They don’t take responsibility for what has happened.”
>Lie No. 4: Everyone will be better off if we divorce. The kids will adjust.
“Ask any of my six children how they felt about divorce,” Soete said. “No one is better off. They don’t want their parents to split up.”
>Lie No. 5: I’ve done my part.
“Marriage is not 50/50. It’s 100% all the time,” Soete said. She often asks couples, “What part of all-in don’t you get?”
>Lie No. 6: Too much has happened. I could never forgive him/her. “Real love is forgiveness. It’s not giving up. When George and I got back together, people treated me like I had ‘fool’ written across my chest. They were all talking about me. Well, they’re not laughing at me now.”
>Lie No. 7: Once trust is broken, it can never be restored.
When Cassie and George reconciled, he said, “You will live to see the day you will forgive and trust me.” That happened.
Soete wouldn’t trade 50 years with George or the years she has invested helping couples.
“I value marriage,” Soete said. “When you almost lose something, you value it more.”
Soete said she continues to mentor couples so they can have what she had.
“God took two humble wretches so He could get the glory for putting our marriage back together,” she said. “What is so sad to me is 50% of the couples I talk with don’t make it. It’s hard work. Reconciling is difficult, but it’s so good.”