Adultery is a Pandemic

3c8e503a9d8358d897cce3ac62bf30f2It’s been a while since I wrote my last article. I cycle through these periods where I struggle to articulate what is in my soul. I withdraw until another story brews in my spirit and then I put fingers to keyboard. I’ve decided to take a break from blogging for now and work on my book- title to be announced after I obtain my ISBN.

I believe in the sanctity of marriage and it is not okay with me that most relationships do not endure the pressures of infidelity. Survivors of adultery are often left without a voice. We are told not to air our dirty laundry because no one needs to know our business. We are shamed and asked “What did you do to make him/her stray?” We are admonished when we do share our stories and feel we need to hide. It is more acceptable to talk about all our ailments and diseases or post pictures of our daughters on social media wearing scantily clad outfits and bikinis than it is to talk about infidelity. Adultery is a pandemic, it is a global problem of epic proportions and it is ripping families apart, but no one wants to talk openly about it! Just boggles my mind!

I recently finished my latest John Maxwell book, Intentional Living. He asks his readers three questions: (1) What makes you cry? (2) What do you sing about? (3) What do you dream about? The answer to all three questions for me is, my marriage and my children. So for their sake (yes I said “for their sake,” it could happen to them one day), I am breaking the code of silence and I am writing and I will continue to write until I die because marriage and family are my passion. I am sharing the story of our reconciliation, redemption, grace and forgiveness. I am talking about my emotions and the agony of betrayal. This is not something you “just get over.” It doesn’t go away after a month, or six months, or a year. This isn’t the same thing as overdrawing the bank account or spending frivolously at the mall.

It has been nine months since I discovered my husband’s affair and every time I think about it (which is pretty much every hour) I get angry. I still break down and sob in his arms at night because last summer after 20 years together, I stopped being enough for him. In spite of all my anger and pain, I have forgiven him and I am learning to trust again. If I can do this, others can too- but how will they know if we don’t talk about it?

 

 

A Broken Vow and New Beginning: An Epic Love Story of Betrayal and Redemption

Part IV: Epic Love

My beloved and I met at Crowley’s restaurant beneath a canvas of Marilyn Monroe. Although there was a strong chemical attraction, we just enjoyed each other’s company and hangIMG_0719ing out with friends every week. Our first date was two months after we met. We bonded quickly in those early days; our connection was deep spiritually, emotionally and physically. In his words, “I fell for you hard and fast.” We married 13 months later and “we loved with a love that was more than love” (Poe, 1849). Ours was a special union and I would have bet my life that our marriage above all others could stand the test of monogamy and time.

When I walked through the valley of cancer, my man was my caretaker. When I miscarried three pregnancies, when I faced dismal career disappointments and rejection from family, it was Todd who allowed his strong and sturdy shoulders to catch my tears. This man was the last dream of my soul; he was everything to me as I was to him. Matched on dimensions of: intellect, humor, education, looks and spirituality- we were compatible in every way.

From the moment we met we sensed a knowing about one another that can only be described as kindred; truly, it felt we had known each other since our time on earth began. We experienced an emotional intimacy that extended beyond the heart and mind. Our bond only continued to deepen as newlyweds and parents. We attended bible studies regularly, prayed and shared nightly devotions together; keeping Christ at the center of our marriage served to protect and strengthen our relationship. Dreams and laughter filled our hearts and home for many years. Our love was (and remains) an epic affair of the heart and soul.

In 20 years, the majority of our arguments have stemmed from our similar personalities. We are both feisty, dominant type A’s who believe we are always right. We are bossy, confident, and aggressive and we like to assume the leadership position. That tends to present challenges for us at the times when I just need to let go of the power struggle and give him the baton.

This matchless bond  we formed effortlessly is the lone reason our marriage could be saved. We stopped cleaving and drifted apart. We lost each other while wondering around on our own in the darkness. Life grew cold and lonely without the other and as we both questioned, “What happened to us?” We were terrified… because if OUR love wasn’t real- was love even possible?

 

Three Ways to Love Successfully

loveSecular advice on love and success focuses on ways to maintain another person’s sexual interest or directives on getting your emotional needs met. In the end, this cheap brand of love is shallow and doesn’t lead to long term success. Genuine love is sacrificial and pure, it doesn’t demand its own way or take advantage of others. If you are interested in a love that endures all things, continue reading. I have identified three essential ways to love and be loved successfully:
1. Pursue love- How would you feel if you were deeply in love with someone who was investing more time and energy with their friends, career or hobby? Most likely you would feel insignificant and you certainly wouldn’t feel your love was reciprocated. We invest in the things that are important to us. People think nothing of investing in vehicles, real estate or the stock market, but they rarely apply that same logic to their relationships. Love is a verb. Couples must sacrificially work together to keep love safe, secure and alive. You cannot assume the passion you felt early in the relationship will remain if you invest little effort.

So just how do you pursue love? Put your partner’s needs ahead of your friends. If your other half is sick, cancel your golf game and play nurse instead. Enjoy each other’s company and pursue BFF status with your significant other. Regularly participate in activities you have in common. When eyes start wandering, people begin wondering what they’re missing; love has to be guarded with fierce devotion. Make your relationship an exclusive two-person arrangement. Continue dating after marriage, see a counselor before things go south and finally, never stop discovering new things about one another.

2. Nurture love- Love is among the most basic of human needs; everyone wants to be loved by someone. The ability to express love is what makes us human and sets us apart from the animal kingdom, so before we go any further, let’s define love. Is it a feeling? Is it a decision? Is it more spiritual than emotional or more cognitive in nature? Love is too broad a term to adequately describe in the English language. Would you take a bullet for your car or die for your favorite jeans? Of course not! You probably would, however, give your life for your child or your soul mate! The Greek language provides four major words (and at least eight minor ones) for love:

1. Agape- the idea of a person giving all his or her love or favor to another. Often associated as the love God demonstrates towards us, it is a pure and whole love.
2. Phileo- emotional love, emphasizing affection or a fondness one person has for another.
3. Eros- refers to the passionate love between a husband and wife.
4. Stergo- refers to the love between parents and children.

When the passion fades, you will have to make a decision whether or not to keep on loving in spite of how you feel or you will never leave Phileo Land and experience the depth and richness of “eros” or better yet, the perfection of “agape.” Love is sacred and for it to grow, it must be nurtured. Love should not be repetitive, it should be creative, original and inspired.

3. Hold on to love- Our culture has sold us an unrealistic brand of love. We have been deceived into believing that love is simply physical, which makes you and I no better than Fido the family pet. Romance novels and the silver screen hold men and women to unbelievable standards that devalue love and set us up for failure. Beauty is fleeting, in time romance dwindles, the physical gets boring and eventually, without a strong commitment, we abandon ship and jump into the next hot relationship. Initially love begins as a feeling, but if you want love to last, you must make it a choice and hold on with all your might. Commitment is the most important ingredient to a long term successful relationship. Commitment means honoring the promise to love someone even when the “feeling” is lacking.

In reality, there is no fairy tale ending and there is nothing magical about “true love’s kiss.” Successful love is an unfailing love and in all its splendor, it is quite ordinary. Love that never fails is long-suffering, it is the first to forgive, always seeking to understand rather than seeking to be understood. It means loving a person when they are unlovely or unlovable and loving in spite of each other’s failures and short comings because people are imperfect. Enduring love understands that there are not those couples who have it together and those who do not. We are all broken, messed up and in need of redemption, grace, mercy and forgiveness. So, you want to be successful in love? Pursue it, nurture it and hold on to it with fierce devotion!

Love One Another

Although many Christians may have the best intentions, they all too often judge and reject others without even realizing it. In doing so, they push people further away from Jesus rather than bringing them closer. Most non-Christians say Jesus stood for love more than anything else and they are right. Jesus said the world will recognize Christians as His disciples by their love for one another (John 13:35). But there doesn’t seem to be much love going on when those who claim to be Christian speak with judgment or in disparaging ways towards others.

A careful reading of the Gospels, reveals that Jesus didn’t get angry with sinners and he never turned them away. Jesus actually drew them to himself…by the multitude. He even made them feel at ease and was known as the “friend of sinners” (Matthew 11:19). Jesus had harsher things to say to the religious folk of the day because they were judgmental hypocrites who failed to extend any measure of grace or love. They believed God was about regulatory compliance (i.e. rule keeping). Jesus taught the people that God’s greatest “rule” was to love the Lord with all your heart, soul and mind and to love others as yourself (Matthew 22:36-40). God didn’t send Jesus to condemn sinners, He sent Jesus to save sinners (John 3:17).

The Pharisees loved rules and laws and were devoted to keeping them and they thought everyone else should be “rule keepers” too. Oddly, the greatest opposition Jesus faced came from the Pharisees, because they missed a crucial point, God wasn’t concerned with all their rule keeping, He was concerned with people. So while the Pharisees were busy crushing people with their unbearable religious demands while never lifting a finger to ease the burden, Jesus was drawing crowds and teaching about the kingdom of God. Jesus’ teachings were a radical departure from what ordinary men and women were used to hearing from their pious leaders. Grace, love, mercy, forgiveness…all wonderful new concepts and these teachings were turning people away from organized religion. The Pharisees should have celebrated this renewed interest in God because the citizens were coming in droves to hear Jesus preach. Instead, they were disgusted that Jesus was so willing to associate with lowly sinners. In response, Jesus had some intense things to say to the religious leaders. Jesus used names like hypocrites, blind guides, filthy and full of greed, whitewashed tombs, snakes and sons of vipers (Matthew 23) to describe these leaders.

The religious leaders didn’t love God, perhaps they thought they did, but they weren’t fooling anyone, certainly not Jesus! Oh, they loved the Scriptures and searched them diligently because they believed eternal life was found in the written word, but the Scriptures they so loved, pointed straight to Jesus (John 5:39). In short, the Pharisees and other religious leaders were really just putting on an act; they weren’t authentic lovers of God. Truth be known, we too are sometimes guilty of faking our affections for Christ. We fake our affections when we just go through the motions at church or when we judge someone because they don’t share “our values” or when we intentionally fail to extend love and grace. When we deceive others and lie about the motives in our heart or when we think we are superior to other people because we are more “mature in our walk with Christ,” we are faking our affections.

Jesus warned his followers numerous times about such hypocrisy and judging others in four broad expressions.

1. The Motives of a Person’s Heart

You can really tell the motive of a person’s heart if after doing a good deed for someone, it is kept in confidence or broadcasted to the universe on Facebook or some other media outlet: “I helped buy groceries for a needy person today!” “I sponsored an orphan in Africa!” “My family adopted a huge family at Christmas and donated 10 Operation Christmas Child boxes!” Such a person is really using God rather than allowing God to use them and stands in stark contrast to the way Jesus told his followers to give when helping the needy, “So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full” (Matthew 6:2).

2. Judging the Sin of Others

Believe it or not, there are plenty of “Super” Christians who go around judging the sins of other Christians as well as non-believers. These “Super” Christians see themselves as the standard for everyone else to follow. They believe they should be emulated in word, deed and action. This is nothing more than spiritual pride and they are practicing “a more sinister and deadly sin than the sins of those they are denouncing” (Hamilton, 2010, p. 15).  Jesus said if you are going to judge the speck of dust in your brother’s eye to first get the log out of your own (Matthew 7:1-5).

3. Getting Sidetracked

In their quest for rule following and keeping the details of every law, the Pharisees forgot how to love people. Sometimes, God’s children do the same when we argue, divide and split over matters such as female preachers, who can partake in the elements of communion, forms of baptism, speaking in tongues, homosexuality, science, politics, other religions, and interpreting the Scriptures. When we get sidetracked on these issues, we are pushing would be believers away from Jesus rather than drawing them closer. Jesus said our love for one another is how the world will know we are his followers (John 13:35).

4. Backstabbing Other People

Have you ever met someone who presented as a warm, kind and loving soul, but the more you got to know them, you realized they were the antithesis of who you first believed they were? Jesus knew a few people like that too and he had this to say, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup, so that the outside also may become clean” (Matthew 23:25-26). You would think Jesus was speaking to the unchurched, the sinners, but he was speaking to the religious people and his message still applies to some Christians today. They are adept in “religious” talk, they raise their hands in worship and go around talking about “God’s will be done” and they’re always “praying” for someone. However, their religion doesn’t change their values or how they live their lives. As an example, these are the folks who are gossiping about other people’s business, or slandering another sister’s name behind her back while hugging her on Sunday morning, or sharing confidential details that were sworn to secrecy. Their religion is for show- it’s an act.

We need to clean the inside of our cup to  match the outside as Jesus commanded the Pharisees and live out our faith and beliefs caring about what God cares for: people, grace, mercy and justice. Most people including atheists struggle with hypocrisy and judging. It’s all too easy to do the right things for the wrong reasons and it’s easy to point out the sins of others while neglecting to see our own. Most of us has pretended to be someone we are not, but it is only when we recognize our penchant to be as Pharisees that we have any hope of getting it right.

When Christians act in ways that are hypocritical, compassionless, hurtful, and cold hearted, we are behaving in ways that are unchristian. Paul used these words when describing how Christians should behave: loving, joyful, peaceful, patient, kind, generous, faithful, gentle and self-controlled (Galatians 5:22-23).  When Christians get it right, love is the motive. We are most like Jesus when we are building friendships with those who are outside the church rather than condemning them and preaching sermonettes on all the things they are doing wrong. As Christians, we should remember that it isn’t our job to offend others- that’s the job of the Holy Spirit (John 16:8). When Christians get it right, people are drawn to rather than repulsed by our faith. They want what we have and they want to serve the God we serve.

Reference: Hamilton, A. (2010) When Christians Get It Wrong. Abington Press: Nashville.