Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Journey Past the Isle of the Sirens

Temptation.
                It is a mesmerizing melody, leading us blindly to our own demise. It is the ancient seductress of all righteous people.  It is the siren’s song.
                Every man on Earth feels the constant pull of a force that seeks to derail them for their life’s true mission.  What is temptation? It comes in many forms, but at the very root it desires to lead us into forsaking our deepest moral obligations and convictions.  Virtue and temptation are eternally at odds.
                A few months after I came clean to Hannah about my affair, I got a tattoo about this very idea.  The battle between virtue and temptation is ancient and epic, and each of us must decide where we stand in this struggle daily. 
    

                This image is a scene from The Odyssey by Homer.  In this passage, the hero (Odysseus) must pass by the isle of the sirens, which draw men to their deaths with their seducing melodies.  Odysseus is aware of this, and he orders the men on his ship to bind him to the mast and cover his ears.  He then commands them that they must stay the course on their journey, no matter what his temptation-maddened mind suggests instead.  This is the essence of true faithfulness, defiant in the face of blatant temptation.
                As I mentioned in a previous post, some people view marital obligation as a hindrance.  As a person who nearly lost it all, I have a renewed appreciation for it.  Faithfulness to a belief is like a taproot that strikes down to the deepest part of a man’s moral bedrock.  When we bind ourselves to a principle, like Odysseus to the mast, we declare a greater truth than our preferences or momentary whims ever could. We are pledging ourselves to a higher purpose now and forever.
                That’s why I love this illustration.  Faithfulness requires deliberate action and daily commitment.  It is not for the faint-hearted, and it is not a given.  We cannot simply stumble into being people of integrity – it demands sacrifice, effort and intention. 
                As I write these words, the phantom of my own failures torments me silently.  There are voices within that lob accusations of hypocrisy and shame at my spirit.  I know that I’m not qualified to write these words, and that every sentence could be met with contempt and condemnation. Nevertheless, I press on for the benefit of others. 
                I encourage you to take a moment and evaluate your marriage covenant, and perhaps other important moral causes in your heart.  Today, resolve once again to bind yourself to them as a promise of future faithfulness no matter what the sirens sing.  In doing this, we will strike a mighty blow to the unseen forces of temptation that march towards us constantly.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Reflections on Psalm 51

     Without a doubt, scripture has played a crucial role in my marriage’s healing during this season.  I find myself continually returning to Psalm 51, a beautiful passage where King David cries out to God during a time of great turbulence.  In this entry, I will unravel my own thoughts on this remarkable portion of text; you can read the entire Psalm here.
    David was an adulterer, and a murderous one at that. He was also an esteemed man, powerful and known for his fervor for God.  In a moment of weakness, he succumbed to the desires of his flesh and set in motion a series of events that would ruin lives and bring shame on his royal name.
    I find it so encouraging that the Bible, God’s precious word, would chronicle the experiences of such a man.  Thank heavens that the pages of the Old Testament are not filled with flawless, two-dimensional men that needed no mercy.  Reading about David’s broken nature invigorates me with hope, knowing that there is renewal in the shadow of grievous transgression.
    Psalm 51 is a candid and personal song of repentance and redemption.  It illustrates King David’s constantly present guilt (v. 3-6), juxtaposing the darkness of shame against the jubilance of God’s love.  The humbled king calls out that his Creator would grant him a new heart and a steadfast spirit as he pleads to once again taste the joy of his salvation (v. 10-13).
    Then, we come upon one of my favorite portions of this text.  David proclaims that his response to being restored will be one of deliberate action – he will teach transgressors God’s ways, turning them back from their wicked paths (v. 13).  This is the only natural response to a life transformed by grace.
    Finally we find my favorite verses in this psalm, and perhaps in all of scripture. I have quietly recited this to myself so many times when my spirit felt flooded with oppression from within:
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.
    This may seem elementary but I believe that if we examine this further, we find a unique insight into God’s heart and David’s intimate connection to his Heavenly Father.  David’s writing proclaims that a sacrifice would not be sufficient to cleanse his guilt… Think about this. Sacrifices were the path to atonement that believers understood at the time. 

    Somehow, David concludes that the true sacrifice is not a ram or bull, but one’s own pride.  We are the sacrifice.  For repentance to occur, we must place ourselves on the altar and relinquish our very hearts as an offering.  God will not despise a sacrifice that we bear from within ourselves; anything else is a hollow religious gesture.
    This concept is fundamental to our understanding of penitence.  Seeking forgiveness is not a matter of rituals or religious observances; it is one of spirit-rending introspection and surrender. Through all of my soul searching and prayer, I cannot escape the gravitational pull of this simple notion.  This is the meaning of repentance. 
(I wrote a song about this…. take a listen here.)

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Contemplating Legacies

     As Father's Day draws nearer with every passing minute, my mind is cluttered. A traffic jam of barely-related musings blare loudly, competing for my attention. Try to keep up.

     It seems to me that people often adopt a unique sense of entitlement around holidays. This phenomenon perplexes me most when I observe it in christians, who are supposed to walk in an attitude of humility and thankfulness. Most Sundays, believers show up to church professing that they deserve nothing but damnation, and yet on holidays we find ourselves stamping our feet in anticipation of what we are owed.  These two attitudes cannot be reconciled. We cannot embrace the world's notion of what we "deserve" without cheapening the depth of grace.

     As I come to terms with my monumental mistakes, I have tried my best to continually embrace a mindset of gratitude for my life.  On Father's Day, I look back and realize that I am truly blessed beyond words to even be a part of my family's life anymore.  Every day that I arise to the sound of my children's voices, I have been given a gift that is absolutely priceless.  I want to retain this perspective forever.

     My wife and I have resolved to not conceal this part of our marriage's history from our kids.  Though it would be simple to bury this from their view considering how young they are, this is not our desire.  My sincere hope is that they would be able to understand and even benefit from the trials and tests we've overcome.

     This is a lofty goal, I know. I spend many mornings contemplating one simple thought:  "How can I stop my children from hating me when they grow up?"  In all honesty, I fear that my errors will one day cause a rift in my relationship with my daughters. I recently finished reading Wild At Heart by John Eldridge, and he spends much of his book describing how parents often leave their children with a hidden wound that warps their outlook on the world.

    I believe that not all parents screw up their kids, but it certainly seems that healthy parental relationships are tragically rare.  Wounded people pass down legacies of hurt to their children, who often turn around and continue the pattern in the future.  I want so desperately to break the cycle, to cast off the surname of disappointment that has cursed humanity since our common father Adam fell into sin.  This is why we are going to be honest with our daughters.

    We're leaving a trail.  One day, my children will hear my songs, read this blog and know the depth of my fall and the mercy that rescued me.  Until then, I pray for the strength and clarity of purpose to raise them in a way that proclaims virtue over my past.

Monday, June 3, 2013

a man and his word.

    On Friday, June 7th, I will renew my vows to my wife of five years.  In the shadow of my affair, I can hardly believe that I’m getting to once again extend my word as a symbol of my deeper commitment to our union.  As this occasion nears, I am left to ponder on the purposes of vows and their place in modern life.
     Our culture recoils in horror at the thought of lifelong obligation; society insists that contractual marriage is not required to demonstrate love. This may be true to some extent, but I would propose that marital faithfulness is more indicative of one’s inward character than their outward affections.  We do not stand at an altar to merely profess fleeting desire towards another person, no matter how strongly it stirs within us.  It must be something deeper.
    After all, each person on this earth is a constantly-changing creature, and when we make vows of faithfulness and devotion, we are pledging ourselves to a future shrouded in uncertainty.  We have no absolute knowledge of what our partner will become.  I find it both amusing and somewhat tragic when spouses split under the pretenses that “they’ve changed”.  There’s no doubt about that – change is a given. It is the only guaranteed occurrence in a host of variables.
    When two bright-eyed lovers walk down an aisle, there is something so much more profound than romance taking place.  Shortly after my failures came to light, I went to a men’s gathering at church, and the focal point of the message was one simple phrase:     A man is only as good as his word.”
    Hearing this was like ingesting broken glass to my spirit.  After all, my word had been eviscerated.  In the fallout of my affair, I watched my words and actions become devalued to almost nothingness as they fell victim to my own dishonesty. It was like watching the economy of my self-worth plummet into calamity. I was powerless and worthless, and yet I believed this simple phrase as it was preached to me.
    A man’s word runs deep within him, like a vein pulsing strong with the lifeblood of his innermost character.  If his word is severed from his honor, he is weakened. If his honor is wounded, his word loses gravity.  With this in mind, it seems our vows say more about ourselves than they do about our spouses, and when we betray those vows, something withers inside of us like a tree limb removed from its trunk.  Our word is a direct representation of our integrity itself.
    This makes cheating all the more excruciating for the one who’s been wronged.  Not only must they sort through the manifold implications of sex, intimacy, romance and memory, but the betrayed spouse must come to terms with the greater underlying message about their partner’s very nature.  I have witnessed this, and I can say that there is no more chilling moment than when you realize your spouse’s belief in your character has been profoundly shaken.
    I realize that this is all very grave. However, let this be an encouragement, or even a warning to you.  Do not manipulate your word for selfish gains, or pollute the power of your words with dishonesty.  Hold firm to the promises you make, as they reverberate into the world with the deafening loudness of who we truly are.