Thursday, November 7, 2013
In Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller, the author says that there's a conversation beneath every conversation, and I believe that's true. Whether we are discussing the weather, entertainment choices or food options, we are also perceiving how a person feels about us. Do they like me? Do they care? Do they understand? These are the seemingly child-like concepts that arise from our interactions with others, regardless of the topic at hand.
In these unspoken, often-unappreciated discourses, we send and receive signals about a person's worth and their value in our lives. It's the music of the conversation that matters. In light of my horrendous actions, the stakes are raised higher and the implications become even more severe.
There are countless consequences that come along with infidelity. Like a thousand tiny fractures, they cause friction and damage in every possible area, from the spiritual, to the romantic, and even in matters of finance. Everything is impacted. Although the cost of unfaithfulness is great and it's effects are complex, there is one simple question that we struggle with more than anything.
"Does my husband like me?"
Hannah's mind taunts her with this question. It concludes, in the dark and freezing shadow of my actions, that I despise her and that she's unworthy of affection or adoration. This question can very quickly leave her feeling unwanted and unappreciated.
This question is a vicious battlefield, because in the madness of daily life, paying bills, and cooking meals, the undercurrents can quickly turn against us. If I lose my temper, speak crossly, act in harshness, or remain distant, my actions speak a larger and simpler truth about how I feel about Hannah. I've learned this through a shameful amount of trial and error. I must do more than shower her with words of affection and monologues of penitence. I must prove to her, in the unseen places of our hearts, that I like her, want her, and treasure her.
As I continue to hear stories of marital strife and difficulty, I must conclude that these heart postures play a pivotal role in whether a couple struggles or thrives. Today, if you are facing challenges with your spouse, examine the simple questions that you both answer and ask beneath the surface. Do they like me? Are we friends, or enemies? Do I value or despise them? These foundational matters define us, and they can ruin us as well.
Monday, September 23, 2013
For so long, I wanted to flee from the sight of any reminder that would hearken back to my failures. It seemed only natural to avoid those painful parts of town, to move on (whatever that means) and to just not bring it up. Under this policy, the healing process stagnated. Needless to say, this strategy of avoidance and aversion was utterly useless. We have lost ground to this terrible incident, and I have come to realize that we must aggressively attempt to take it back.
Music and ministry is one area where strife has arisen after my affair. After all, my actions caused Hannah to rightfully question my character and my ability to stand upright in the face of temptation. It would be natural to consider leaving it all behind in the light of our experiences. It has been painful, but Hannah has been enormously gracious with me and she accepts my desires and callings despite what I've done. In this part of our lives,we have decided to stand our ground, and this point of contention has now become a major mechanism for our healing.
Similarly, Valentine's Day is a particularly difficult time of the year for us. This is the season when my affair took place, and any mention of that holiday comes with a certain darkness. Heading into the first Valentine's Day after my unfaithfulness, I can honestly say I was terrified. Should we just write off this occasion and try to bury it in our memory? Somehow, I knew that this would not suffice.
Instead, we celebrated our love in a special way last February. We escaped this town, where all of my indiscretions took place, and we reclaimed that holiday as a time for us. At certain moments, the sting of the past was tangible, but we stood strong against the quiet voice of accusation all around us.
I could unravel so many specifics about our journey, but this is the point:
I refuse to forfeit entire segments of my marriage up to my own mistakes. I will not offer up anything I love as a sacrifice. When you surrender in this way, you build a memorial to the trauma of the past. My former self does not have ownership of anything.
When offense comes into a marriage, there may be a time when you need to insulate your spouse from painful reminders and emotionally compromising situations. But there is also a time to stand, forging ahead in hopes of a better future. If your marriage is facing any kind of turmoil, whether it's infidelity or anything else, I implore you to aggressively defend your territory. Do not forsake parts of your life, large or small, for the sake of a coward's sense of "peace". Be specific, make a plan, and see it through. There must be more to life than being a victim.
Wednesday, September 11, 2013
Sometimes I survey my surroundings and the damage that I've done, standing baffled and wordless like a man observing the tremendous carnage left in a hurricane's wake. I reflect on what my eyes have seen -- all of the sleepless, tear-soaked nights and the dreadful recollections of my actions. In this moment, I pause to wonder how I could ever do such wicked deeds. How did I descend to that point?
Maybe the answer is simple: I followed my heart.
You see, our culture chants a mantra every now and then, in the lyrics of pop songs and the forlorn gazes of romantic comedies. "Listen to your heart", they say, as if it were something worth obeying. In the light of my experiences, I know one thing without a doubt.
My heart is like a broken compass, ignorantly spinning without regard for truth or virtue.
The bible tells us that a man's heart is not to be held in any esteem. Jeremiah 17:9 says that “The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. " I can attest with bitter certainty that this is true.
but its end is the way to death.[a] - Proverbs 14:12
This is where I was trapped, and this is where Christ rescued me. I was lost in the haze of my own failures, unable to guide myself to safety. As you read this, I urge you to search yourself and your allegiances. Align yourself with something greater than the broken compass buried in your chest. It will always fail you.
You are reading a post on The Meaning of Repentance, a blog about the Hartsfields and their journey to recovery from unfaithfulness. Click here for a brief introduction and make sure to subscribe by email(on the right side) for regular updates.
Saturday, August 31, 2013
This week, I began employment at a new workplace. It's been nearly three years since I changed jobs, and this whole "new guy" thing is very uncomfortable for me. I can say, however, that it has been a milestone for my marriage considering all that my past workplace represented and all of the wickedness that took place there.
I basically ruined my workplace experience for Hannah. Because of my unfaithfulness with a coworker, I made the entire concept of being away from home a toxic and anxiety-ridden idea for her, and it still weighs heavy on her at times. In the beginning, after I first confessed to my sins, we wrestled with one enormous question:
How could she ever be comfortable with me going to work again?
The necessity of earning a paycheck certainly kept me going, but that doesn't mean it was easy. There was a lot of checking in, a lot of questions, and a lot of suspicion on her part, to be very honest. I was expecting this, and I often told her "until you can trust me again... we will accommodate."
Sometimes I would send her photos of me at work to prove I was there. Often, we would talk non-stop via text for hours, and I would call during breaks. I also established a secret blog (good luck finding it!) for her eyes only, where I could correspond at length even when work kept us apart. Instead of despising the vacuum of trust, we embraced it as a challenge. It was an obstacle between us and a joyful, enriched marriage. Of course, the specter of my workplace indiscretion hasn't simply disappeared since I've changed offices.
There's no doubt that many men struggle with communicating in their marriage, and this can be aggravated even further during serious turbulence in the home. I've learned the hard way that I should basically over-communicate with Hannah in my eyes in order to bring healing to these wounds. I must also learn and adapt to her style of communicating, denying my own preferences. If she wanted details, I gave them. If she wanted to re-hash the events and timeframes to make sense of my actions, we talked late into the night, sometimes into the early morning. In the wake of a disaster is not the time to shut down emotionally or verbally.
So often, my spirit would cry out for a do-over.... If only we could just start fresh, everything would be wonderful from here, I promise. I suppose that's easy for me to say, since I was not the one shouldering the greatest load of baggage. Waking up as a new couple was never an option... We are learning to recognize our scars and to press forward, keeping them always in our periphery as a sobering reminder.
There's really no such thing as a clean break. There are no new beginnings, there is only the methodical daily journey that places distance between us and our torment more over time. We accept the road before us, hazards and all. Each day, when we look behind us, the sorrows of yesterday are farther on the horizon, and I thank God for that sight.
Friday, August 9, 2013
This city is a vast landscape of dreadful reminders.
Affairs do not occur in a vacuum. They are a cruel organism all their own, roaming familiar streets and leaving painful memories in their wake. Infidelity erects its own landmarks, like monuments to the wicked deeds done behind a veil of dishonesty.
As Hannah and I have journeyed on this path to recovery, we have confronted the harsh sting of these reminders. There are roads, buildings and entire sections of our hometown that taunt my wife as we are forced to pass near them. Perhaps the easiest way out would be avoidance, but we cannot forfeit more territory to the darkness of my past actions.
This week, I received a call that cemented a tremendous step in this voyage -- I was offered a new job. I will finally be departing from the ground zero of my life’s worst mistakes, never to return. This is cause for celebration in so many ways. No longer will my wife have to be haunted by the reminder of my betrayal each day as I leave for work; no longer will the financial sustenance of our home be entangled with our marriage’s greatest struggle.
I cannot describe the strength my spouse conceals within, radiating from deep down in her soul. Many women would crumble at the advances of these evil specters, unable to overcome the mental imagery of all that I’ve done wrong. Fleeing is not an option in her heart; she refuses to allow this city to be surrendered to my affair.
Instead of bowing to the defeats of the past, we have established new memories throughout this process. We have undoubtedly been on more dates in the past year than in the prior four years of our marriage combined, for better or worse. This proactive approach to developing our relationship has been so valuable as we wrestle with the wounds that still remain.
We are reclaiming lost ground, both emotionally and physically. It’s been a difficult path, but over time God has strengthened us to face down the demons that lurk around these bleak places. The past cannot declare ownership over our community. This city’s horizon is filled with monuments, but they are eroding over time as we remain unified in our desire to preserve this marriage.
Friday, August 2, 2013
This is a lamentation for the fallen state of man.
As I survey my surroundings, I cannot help but sometimes feel that men, in particular, are cursed. It seems that so many marriages suffer at the hands of men. Men are the faltering spouses, the cheaters, the abusers. We have grown so weak.
I turn my gaze to the world instead, and I discover much of the same. Men perpetrate most crimes, initiate and wage all the wars. The bloodletting that this world has witnessed throughout history has mostly been the product of the male population’s conquests. Around 99% of sex crimes are committed by males. With all of this in mind, I cannot help but conclude that we are fundamentally more flawed than our female counterparts.
There was a time when men held the world in their hands. Now, women are rapidly rising to the occasion and matching us in so many ways – professionally, spiritually, and politically. This progress is worth celebrating for the females of our society, but it also highlights the clear stagnation of men. We have grown apathetic, fattened and handicapped by our familiar sense of power and authority.
This observation seems dismal, I know. I ponder these ideas in hopes of finding some greater understanding of this pervasive pattern. There’s an illness spreading through the men of our society and it’s reaching epidemic proportions. We have fallen so far from our callings.
I suppose you could blame this devolution of man on many factors, both personal and cultural. Men have been weakened by their own indulgences and by the two-edged sword of society’s expectations. The media embraces a depiction of the married man as aloof, useless and clueless, and then scratch their hands in confusion when men become this very stereotype. This world rallies against men and cries out in surprise when they finally fall.
The notion of true masculinity has been warped to a nearly unrecognizable state. Where you find a deep flaw in the fabric of modern manhood, you also find a profound perversion of true manliness. Men are called to be defenders of justice and innocence, and instead we celebrate wanton and meaningless violence. Men are meant to be fierce and devoted lovers, and we have been transformed into sex-crazed beasts, both heartless and mindless in our pursuits. Fathers are supposed to be both loving and firm, and yet so many have grown silent in the face of family strife. This shade of true masculinity has overtaken our knowledge of the real thing.
This is not, however, an attempt to divert blame from the individual. No matter the cause, now is the time for every man to wake up from our collective daze, review ourselves thoroughly, and press forward to a higher goal than the vapid shell of masculinity that this dark world has placed before us. There is a greater role for men to play in our culture, and it’s time we embrace it, daunting as it may be. I simply pray that I could have the boldness to do this myself.
Wednesday, July 10, 2013
In my last post, I discussed the very real nature of every Christian’s spiritual opposition. This portrait of the unseen struggle between good and evil illuminates my perspective on nearly everything, from marriage, to parenting, to the simple occurrences of everyday life.
Now, let me clarify my stance before we proceed with this exploration. I do not believe that people are totally controlled by the spiritual realm; we are not merely puppets lacking our own will or motives. We have the capacity for independent thought and action, and sometimes our actions bring forth consequences that are totally unrelated to some kind of demonic activity.
A few months ago, I read the book Wild at Heart by John Eldridge, and in this he diagnoses a common and crippling problem for many men. He says that many husbands wake up decades into their adult lives, drained and totally bored. Why is this? Eldridge suggests that men have lost their sense of adventure, denying the voice within them that calls out for deeper fulfillment until it fades from their heart’s perception.
I agree with this assessment… but what’s the solution? In the book, he advises people to embrace whatever brings them alive – hobbies, pastimes, and so forth. I believe that the real prescription for this issue is something much greater. I am convinced that marriage is every man’s greatest and wildest frontier, untamed and rife with danger. If the spiritual realm is filled with struggle, then every home is a battleground beneath the surface.
We find ourselves fading when we lose sight of the very real warfront that takes place within each household. As a husband, you are leading a charge against the spiritual forces that want to tarnish and destroy every family in your community. In light of this, each man should be equipped with knowledge, internal fortitude and constant prayer to thwart the enemy’s advances.
This is war. It’s time for men to take up their arms and realize that their home is their ultimate theater of war; it is the most turbulent battlefield imaginable. If you are married and reading this, I urge you to ask yourself in silent honesty:
“What am I doing to defend my marriage against the snares of infidelity?”
Do not be misguided by foolish notions that wish to distract us from the battle at hand. Common thoughts like “my spouse could never do that” or “he loves me too much” only serve to weaken our defenses. Let us not be guided by naivety, but instead let us be vigilant for the sake of our partner.
I implore you, as a man fractured by his own failures, to consider this seriously. Fortify your home with prayer, cling to Christ as your lifeline, and remain steadfast in love and devotion to y our spouse, especially during difficulty. This is every man’s foremost challenge and most perilous voyage.
Friday, July 5, 2013
10 The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life." (John 10:10)
Think about that. The same aggressor, Satan, that has been fracturing relationships since the Garden of Eden, is doing the best he can to drive a wedge between you and your spouse. This is a high-stakes scenario, and it deserves more attention than we ever dare to afford it.
I remember, in my prior life of naïve ignorance, thinking of evil and temptation as an abstract annoyance that wants to do nothing greater than simply irritate us. It wants us to miss Sunday school, forget our bedtime prayer, and smoke cigarettes, I thought. Now, I soberly acknowledge something very different. As the verse above states, the enemy’s primary goal is death and destruction.
Tuesday, June 25, 2013
Tuesday, June 18, 2013
You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;
you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.
17 My sacrifice, O God, is[b] a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart
you, God, will not despise.
Saturday, June 15, 2013
Monday, June 3, 2013
Friday, May 31, 2013
The contents of this blog may, at times, be very heavy. They may be hard to digest, confusing, and even offensive. This is where faith, folly, grace and guilt intersect. I believe that this is the beginning of a greater dialogue in my married life. I pray that this cultivates conversation, prayer and self-reflection. If you have a question about what you read, ask me. If this blog challenges you, examine yourself. It’s time to use our stories for the greater benefit of all.
You are reading a post on The Meaning of Repentance, a blog about the Hartsfields and their journey to recovery from unfaithfulness. We encourage you to contact us if you have questions or comments. Make sure to subscribe by email (on the right side) for regular updates and check out our other blog here.