Tuesday, July 12, 2011

How to Affair-Proof Your Marriage

A staff member informed me the other day that a couple of ministers we knew had extra-marital affairs and were no longer serving in their churches. He wanted to know what I was doing to safeguard my marriage and my role as a spiritual leader. That conversation led me to reflect on what I have done to stay faithful to my best friend for over thirty-six years. (Most of what I wrote in my previous blog applies to this topic, too.)

In my book, An Angel in the Flame: A Tale of Two Saviors, the story of Samson with an eye to Jesus, our true Savior,  I write:

You can tell a man's character by two things: how he prays and how he manages his sex drive. How a man prays exposes his heart and to whom he bends his knee. How he manages his sexual urges exposes the depth of discipline in his life. Hypocrisy can mask both aspects of his life, and he can act out a persona many will accept as real. However, crisis and leisure are crucibles that reveal a person's true character. No Oscar-winning performance can hide a man's true identity in the heat of crisis or the calm of leisure. (87)

Samson, one of Israel's biblical "judges," prayed mostly about things he wanted for himself, and he managed his sex drive much like that of a rock star on tour. He failed to be the leader and man God chose him to be because he failed in these two areas of his life. His prayers in crisis were cries for God to give him stuff and to revenge his losses. His sexual activity in times of leisure were unharnessed pursuits of passion for foreign women. You know the story of Delilah, who betrayed him to his enemies through his lack of discipline and lust for her. (Judges 16)

Samson's failures teach me some things about how to keep my focus on my two most important relationships: God and Kim.

Prayer and similar spiritual disciplines like fasting, Scripture study, solitude, and community keep my heart connected to the One who called me to my relationship with Him and Kim. My prayers to God and with Kim expose my heart's intentions and focus of its attention.

I have found discipline of the heart produces discipline in every area of my life. Since my heart is "the well-spring of life" (Proverbs 4:23) and since from it comes all manner of evil in its fallen state, (Mark 7:20-23) my attention should be on my heart first, then my habits.

Let me say a quick word about living in community with other guys. My friend, Robert Sullivan, constantly reminds me that the way Satan picks guys off is by isolating them from the herd much like lions hunting in the Serengeti. Get separated from the herd of men living together as Christ followers, and you will get picked off. Nate Larkin, in his book Samson and the Pirate Monks, confessed his inability to remain faithful to his wife on his own:

"...but the climate of shame and secrecy in my religious environment forced me to battle the beast alone. On those terms the battle was unwinnable." (8)

The battle for your heart to remain true to your God and spouse is not a solo sport. Live openly and honestly with guys who care enough about you to invade your space with questions and truth to keep you the man God desires you to be.

There's more to this, as you know, but I'll stop now and see what you are thinking.  My prayer is that you and I will remain in love with the God who sacrificed His Son for us and our spouses who trust us day in and day out to be true to the vows we made to them on our wedding day.


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