After I had first heard my ex-wife had cheated on me, I chose to give her a period of time, 90 days, to see what she would do.
I had also begun to ask counsel of those I knew whom I had respected in the ministry who had experienced divorce and they had given me counsel. One of those friends, who had an experience in marriage in which he was claiming aggrieved status, said that he went through and did a serious season of self-examination.
Yes, the divorce may seem like it is all their fault, but it is still a good thing for us to do self-examination.
As a result of that conversation, during that time period when I had taken to consider thoroughly what I should do, I began to recount my sins as well, the places where I had messed up in our marriage, and the places where I knew that I was in the wrong.
And while I never engaged in physical acts of adultery, I may as well have (Matthew 5:27, which is based not on a new commadment or new interpretation of the Torah, but on the old commandment of Exodus 20:17 and Deuteronomy 5:21). The wrong desire is adultery.
And, no, not even a first look is right or good. No, “admiring the L-rd’s creation” is the same as “scooping fire into your lap”. It does not work. I have heard all the preacherly catchphrases and they do not work.
Been there, done that, bought the T-shirt, got the tattoo.
We must resist the equivocation. If by my confession someone can be freed, it will be worth it.
And deliverance from all of that nonsense, whether the act is physical, mental, or emotional (and they all form pathways that are not often or quickly removed), is a process.
So, as I was going through that process, I had a conversation with a pastor friend who is an expository preacher and a Teacher by Redemptive Gift, and I told him what had happened.
He then directed me to a passage in Micah.
See it here:
I will bear the indignation of the LORD because I have sinned against him, until he pleads my cause and executes judgment for me. He will bring me out to the light; I shall look upon his vindication.
By hearing of our own offenses and knowing what sin is, we know the absolutes, and thereby where the boundaries of the fence are. And we can take a strange comfort in knowing where the boundaries are, because then we can know when we are in the right and when we are in the wrong.
We need to know that we can be wrong when we are wrong.
We need to know there are still standards.
Let’s cite Frank Peretti, because he says it better than I can, and BE FOREWARNED, to my survivor peeps, the context is an internal discussion pertaining to a bathtub drowning, and the character in the book is in the process of coming to grips with her own state of reality, which is necessary in order to overcome denial:
She looked at the tub; she touched the cold, blue-green porcelain. I could pretend, she thought. Just for the sake of discussion, I could pretend that this is a fence, a limitation, a boundary.
A boundary I crossed over, and shouldn’t have.
She let her thoughts continue on their own and just enjoyed listening to them huddle together and confer in her head.
What if what happened here was wrong?
Ah, come on, according to whom? There are no absolutes; you can’t know anything for sure.
What if there are, and what if I can?
Later, later. Just answer the first question.
What if it was wrong?
Then I’m guilty. I made a wrong choice, I jumped the boundary, I did wrong.
But I thoughts boundaries only exist in your mind!
I did wrong. I want to think that, just once.
Because I need a fence. Even if I’m on the wrong side of it, I need a fence. I need to be wrong. I need to be guilty.
Sally stirred. She pressed her hand firmly against the tub where her child had died. she mouthed the words, then she whispered them, then she said them out loud, “Because at least then I’d know where I am!
Apparently she’d awakened a dormant emotion; pain came upon her suddenly, and aching deep in her soul, and with gritted teeth and a stifled whisper, she pounded the side of the tub. “Oh, God!”
She rested against the hard plaster wall again, panting in hurt, anger, and despair. “O God, help me!”
Despair slipped and fell. His talons had lost their grip.
There, she’d said it. She’d followed the proposition through to its conclusion, had her little fit, and how she was finished. She didn’t know if she felt better. She felt a little foolish for talking out loud to herself–or to God, whatever the case may be. It didn’t matter.
-Frank Peretti, Piercing the Darkness, pp. 206-207-
Further, when we know there are fences, we know not only that there is a wrong side…
And when we are on that wrong side, and therefore guilty….
That there is a right side…
And we can be on that side…
And we can know when we are on that side…
I spent myself handling my offenses against the throne, and against Him, and against my then-wife.
Pam, to whom I am married now, helped deeply in that process of dealing with the offenses.
It is possible, while you are dealing with a divorce or even with a seperation with what you did wrong.
Consider the gravity of what Jesus said to the Pharisees.
“Because of the hardness of your hearts…”
Gang, I cannot overemphasize this enough.
If you are not dealing with the hardness of your heart,
it does not matter if you have biblical grounds or not for divorce.
It does not matter if your heart is wounded, and justifiably so.
It does not matter how many different ways you are tied up due to generational bondage or covenal agreements.
If your heart has gone hard, then it will be damned hard to have a successful single life or remarried life.
What made blasphemy of the Holy Spirit so easy for the Pharisees is that precise condition, and over and over again, that was the illustrated root of their resistance toward the Son of G-d. It was not a religious spirit.
It was hard-heartedness that got them. It was the resistance toward Ezekiel 37 and 38. They did not allow Him to breath life on them and remove their stony hearts.
Their bones were devoid of sinew and muscle. The Rulers had no Exhortery pliability.
In my own adultery, there were several things I sowed that reaped destruction.
And it began with fear of man, thinking this was the right person to marry based on a dream.
And after I bore the indignation of the L-rd and dealt with the process of recovering a pliable heart, He took up my cause, in some very subtle ways.
Hit the second half of that text from Micah 7:9
until he pleads my cause and executes judgment for me. He will bring me out to the light; I shall look upon his vindication.
“Executes judgment”. That is Mishpat. Execution. He can be trusted to execute to those who want his working in their lives. Judgment first starts in the house of G-d, with us, and then with our case. He judged it, and executed. He is the G-d who executes.
Our job, believer, is to handle our business honestly, vulerably, and openly. Come hell or high water, do it, and deal with your junk.
Now, concerning pornography in Matthew 5, I had a conversation with a friend who had some thoughts, and they echo mine here. What follows are our very rough, unrefined, unrevised thoughts somewhat mixed together.
I think that what Jesus was trying to say is not that the two (adultery and looking on a woman with lust) are the same. Rather, what He was driving at is “you think you are holy because you avoid the big act. Well, the act itself consummates because it is rooted in an attitude germinated in the soil that says that lust is okay.
That person that says it is “okay to admire the creation of G-d” does not realize the danger they are helping you to jump into.
One is adultery and the other is the adultery of the heart. One begins a process, the other finishes that process.
In the act of physical adultery, you are joining two people, two spirits into something that did not previously exist.
In the instance of lust, damage is done, but spirits are not joined.
Said another way, Jesus is saying, “Well, if you really want to be righteous “clean your thought life.”.
Don’t pretend that makes you holy just because you are avoiding physical adultery.
There are commonalities between the two, but they are not the same.
Would it feel the same to you?
If you had to pick between the two 10 years of porn that you could fight through together, versus one act of adultery, which would you pick? That give you the evidence that the two are not the same.
Having experienced both, I would have to say, “I would have picked having to fight through 10 years of porn to rescue my bride, over one moment of adultery”.
I know in her a lot of what was lost.
This woman is a card-carrying Exhorter who was given a birthright of authority over nations.
And because of the hell that we dealt with, she is now way-removed from that path.
So, in handling your own situation, my question is, “what will you do to avoid a hard heart?”.
Hard hearts are seedbeds for Jezebel. Jezebel is not merely this beastly dragon that wants to kill the prophets. It can end that way.
But Jezebel begins with a decision that “I am not going to let anyone hurt me like that again.”
And the entry point for her is subtle. A grandmother who neglects her grandchild or grandchildren. A mother or father who somehow hurts their kids.
Yes, they are accountable for how they hurt us. But ultimately, we are responsible to pass the Mercy’s Test. All of us. The test of the Right Response to Pain.
The news is that the Phoenicians hurt Jezebel by marrying her off as part of Omri’s contract with the Phoenicians. She was a gifted and multi-talented Exhorter, considering the gifts that Phoenicia had and gave to many places.
The news is that Jesus, our chief example, and an Exhorter, was hurt by all sorts of people, and allowed them to do what they did to Him, and yet gave Himself to them, for them. Just to have one Nicodemus.
And the news is that others will hurt. I have hurt, and some of you will hurt.
But we must protect our hearts and keep them tender before G-d, and not let it get that edge of hardness.
And we NEED EACH OTHER TO TENDERLY HELP ONE ANOTHER PASS THE TEST.
Must pass. Must pass. With flying colors. Bearing fruit in our season, and being planted by the streams of water.
Streams of revelation.
Streams of dreams and the vision G-d has for us.
Streams of affection.
And we must wrestle this temptation to grow calloused to the ground.
We have too many needless casualties of war because of wounds through relationships, marriages.
The bloodletting has got to stop.
Tempering my counsel from yesterday because I want you to catch the punchline, understand you may have a right to divorce, and that may be where G-d is sending you, but you do not have a right to leave with a stony heart and keep your life-giving effectiveness.
The gifts and callings of G-d are irrevocable, true.
But other things can be damaged and you still keep your gifts.
Your anointing can be affected.
The size of your conduit can be crimped.
The shape of your seal can be damaged.
The sum total of your potential effectiveness can be lessened.
And the level of your kinetic effectiveness will definitely taper off.
Gang, we must push through.