Look around. From your Facebook feed to your pastor's sermons, we're living in a bullet-point world. The unfortunate truth is that some life obstacles cannot be boiled down to a tidy set of formulaic instructions that you can simply follow on your path to progress. In moments of crisis, we must ask ourselves whether we will reach for the cheap relief or instead, will we choose to dig down and unearth the deeper truths our soul longs for.
The internet is littered with lists that promise a healthier marriage. After an affair, however, there is one requirement that often goes unnoticed. For the transgressor, it's a prerequisite that can either empower your recovery efforts or defeat them single-handedly. It's step zero. It precedes all other endeavors in your journey to healing.
Step zero is the act of maintaining a heart prepared for repentance.
Speaking as the one who faltered in our marriage, I know it can be far too alluring to search for the silver bullet. "Surely, there's one magic cure-all for our wounds", you may think to yourself. Therapy, or a job change, or a re-commitment to intimacy.... these are all logistics. We can often lose sight of our spouse's deepest need in the search for logistical gains. Our spouse doesn't need a five step action plan -- they need to see our thorough repentance.
The dilemma of your heart condition can be tragically compounded by the affair itself. A spouse strays with a callous in their heart towards their partner, and the infidelity itself only serves to numb them further. Once they turn back to try and mend the marital wounds, they find themselves utterly estranged to the whole concept of feeling guilty. This, in my opinion, is the number one reason why many cheaters choose to surrender, clinging to their wicked actions, instead of turning to right their wrongs. Their deepest sense of repentance has atrophied. Transgression begets further transgression.
This phenomenon is why I believe it's so important for every spouse to take a self-inventory and ask, "is my heart prepared for repentance?" Think about it. If you massively failed tomorrow, would you be capable of profound contrition? Is your heart in a place where you can even fathom true and definitive repentance? We must remain vigilant over the wellness of our own hearts in marriage, because a calloused perspective can lead to actions that only serve to perpetuate this hardened state.
Wherever you are in your marriage's journey, acknowledge your true heart's posture towards your spouse. For the sake of our covenant and for the sake of our future, we must embrace the step that precedes all others -- we must be able to acknowledge our errors and pursue reconciliation from a place of true repentance. If we cannot complete step zero, nothing else matters.
You are reading The Meaning of Repentance, a blog about The Hartsfields and their journey to recovery from infidelity. We encourage you to subscribe via e-mail for regular updates.