Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.
Our pastor spoke on the seventh commandment this last Sunday. And then we discussed it last night in our small group.
This is a difficult subject to address – especially in a society where the rate of divorce is about 50% – which means 1 out of every 2 marriages will fail – if left untreated.
We seem to be a society that doesn’t care to address the issue of adultery – especially in the church. We know that people fail – even high-profile ministers and staff members. They were not guarding their heart – or protecting their “blind spot”. But why it happens in the first place – is quickly swept under the rug. We seem quick to want to usher them into counseling and not want an embarrassment for the church in any way. The church seems ill-equipped to handle the growing problem of adultery and just why it happens so much. The epidemic seems to be no respecter of persons. Women fall into this almost as much as men do – and for very different reasons.
It is so simple to quote scriptures and to think we have guarded our hearts – before we’re married – or even when we are married – but this “secret sin” is a heart problem and not a quick fix. And it has been a problem since the beginning of time when sin entered the world.
We have many friends in our circle who have either found themselves a victim of a spouse having an affair and leaving – or committed this themselves and are now in another relationship and marriage. It is easy to pass judgment and even try to “play God” with them – thinking that because nothing has happened like that to us – we are somehow superior. I grow up thinking that someone falling into a moral temptation or failure was somehow very weak spiritually – wasn’t reading their Bible or praying everyday. Now I know that although these spiritual disciplines are good for us – it does not guarantee our safety. And I don’t think being weak spiritually is the problem – nor do I think it is the work of Satan – although he certainly is in the business of destroying lives.
I believe it is a heart issue. The Bible says that our heart is “deceitfully wicked” in other words – we are self-centered to the core and want our own way! We wrestle with our own selfish motives in about every aspect of our lives. The flesh DOES NOT like to be told “NO”! It takes that renewing of the mind that David talks about in the Psalms in order for us to resist temptation – and even then, temptation is very strong.
We also have to realize that some have been a recipient of a failed marriage – or a moral failure of some kind. And sometimes even though someone has failed in a marriage – is truly remorseful and wanting to begin again – the spouse will not reconcile. We have a way of holding these victims of un-forgiveness as “prisoners” – thinking that somehow we need to make them pay! Like it’s our job or something. Lord help us! Let’s be compassionate – none of us is above temptation. We might be one that fails in some way – let’s treat others with love and mercy – we may need it someday!
I believe we need better education in marriages – and an understanding of what things are likely to happen – if we are not guarded.
It is easy to take your spouse for granted. We’ve all heard the cliché’s “He doesn’t see me anymore” or “She doesn’t appreciate me” – and soon a very magical thing happens – someone else does. It is easy to let this happen. Usually it is not a IN YOUR FACE kind of moment with someone else. No. It’s very subtle and starts out very innocently. It’s usually a trusted friend – or someone you work with and spend a lot of time with. It’s usually a heart connection – you find that this person makes you feel good about yourself again. This person makes you laugh and makes you feel young. There is usually a moment when something changes in the relationship – you sense something is different and you find yourself being drawn to them and wanting to spend more time with them – even getting defensive and protective about them – and you find you’ve crossed the line into the emotions and the heart. You care about them. Really care.
At this point you have a choice. You can continue – or you can turn away. Hard as that may be. Now here’s the dicey part of the equation: Sometimes there isn’t a firm foundation in your already struggling marriage relationship – and there is nothing to go back to. That isn’t always the case – but for the majority of cases – I think it is. Most people don’t stray from their marriage unless something is seriously lacking in their own. This is not an excuse – simply reality.
So adultery happens because it is a choice – and seems like the better alternative in comparison to what is not waiting for them at home. Those that have found themselves in the throes of this emotional decision usually weigh the good and the bad – and in the end – knowing it will cause all sorts of personal and emotional problems – they do it anyway. You pass the point of no return.
I’m not making excuses for them – and after some soul-searching when the bottom drops out for these people – neither are they. They know very well what they have done. It is against the natural order that God has set up – as protection for our heart and lives. And they know that. Ask anyone who has failed in this area – even emotionally and they will tell you it is a horrible pain that you never recover from – the guilt, remorse, pain of losing friends and family – even children because of their decision is a terrible thing and worse punishment than any man could inflict on them.
God does forgive – that’s the good news. No one is safe from sin. We are all capable of making really bad choices in life – and then having to live with them – even after God has forgiven us. Look at the life of King David. He was a “man after God’s own heart” and yet he was an adulterer, a liar and a murderer. He repented and God forgave him – but there were still consequences to his actions – and they followed him the rest of his life.
How can we help those who have failed in this area? Don’t shun them and treat them like they are criminals. If they have repented before God – then who are we to judge them? Love them and welcome them back with open arms – being kind and gracious just like Jesus is toward you when you blow it.
How can we guard our marriage? I believe it starts with our own heart. I believe it takes a big person to take full responsibility for his or her own actions – and not blame others for mistakes. If you are a compassionate person who likes to reach out and help others – be wise as you listen and also as you share yourself. Know where your weak areas are. Do you like to help hurting people? Does it make you feel good when they seem to respond positively to your encouragement and attention? Are you drawn to people who are flatterers? Do you like to be around people who make you feel good about yourself? Especially the opposite sex? Do you like to live close to the edge? Careful – many a person has been burned by casually flirting with someone and opening up an area of their heart.
Be accountable to other people who you trust in your life. We have a small group that meets every week in our home – and we have pledged to be accountable to these people. It was in my closing prayer last night that we would know for sure – that when we find ourselves in trouble – that these people will have our back and be a support and help to us during a time of temptation.
We also need to cultivate an emotional connection with our spouse. So many times the man will think if his physical needs are being met – he doesn’t have to connect with his wife. Wrong. Women connect with their emotions and their hearts. They need someone who values them and meets those needs before she can bond and connect with him physically. And as I learned in our small group last night – both men and women are capable of “withholding” as a means of control.
Women need to be smart when it comes to your husband. If you do not give him that attention he needs – both emotionally and physically – he will be vulnerable and open to flattery and connection with someone else. And Men – you need to be smart too – if she isn’t connecting with you – someone else will be glad to step in and connect with her. Don’t let that happen. Romance her and take care of her emotional needs. Don’t be naive – things don’t just happen. A good marriage is no exception. A marriage will go through many different seasons – if you are not willing to change and adapt – it is just not simply enough to say – “We made a promise many years ago”. That promise can be broken by as simple a thing as neglect. I’ve seen it happen many, many, MANY times over the years.
Find a way to connect with your spouse today – cultivate romance, caring, understanding and friendship in your relationship. Put all your energies into making your marriage better – and if you have failed in this area and find yourself in a new relationship due to circumstances either out of your control – or because of your own choices – guard your already fragile heart. Cultivate boundaries and protection around your heart – and begin again with your spouse in forgiveness.