What do you guard and protect in your life? Your loved ones, home, health, looks, possessions? They are all worth caring for but what the Bible tells us to protect most is our heart – the source of life. In Proverbs 4:23 we read: “Above all else guard your heart for everything you do flows from it.”
Note what are the most vulnerable parts of our bodies, the ones we protect most in accidents, shootings or fights because by hurting them we are less likely to survive? The head and the heart. The same goes for your inner man. Your mind with it’s thoughts and your heart with it’s desires determine the quality of your life and where it brings you.
Another translation of the same verse reads: “Keep your heart with all vigilance for from it flow the springs of life.” If you have your own spring or a well you want to keep it clean and protect it from all contamination so that you can be sure you drink clean water. How much more then should we guard our own heart if that’s the spring of life! Do not contaminate it with lies, hate, grumbling, pessimism, lust, greed, bitterness, etc. The list goes on.
I have heard people say about their affairs “It just happened”? As if it fell on top of them out of the blue.
I personally believe affairs start a long time before the actual act of betrayal. They start in the heart and in the mind of the betraying person, initially as an insignificant thought, maybe ignored, put aside and not dealt with properly, and then slowly growing to a size of a full blown desire that reaches the point of no going back. But before that final stage there is a lot of time to stop and think: is that what I really want to do to my marriage / relationship, or even myself? It is in those early stages that the seed is sowed and out of that will grow life or death of your marriage. Be very careful which thoughts you give attention to, which seed you give water to develop.
The problem is that we often come up with a thousand excuses why we are entitled to feel and think like we do. A classic one is blaming the spouse or feeling that somehow we ‘deserve’ it, some people may even say they were ‘pushed’ to do it by their spouse. They are all selfish attitudes that revolve around our egos as if our husband/wife didn’t deserve happiness. Choosing an easy way out by leaving or getting involved in an affair is often a step to ending a marriage – one of the biggest investments of your life.
But there is another side of infidelity which can ruin the marriage too and it also starts in the heart – unforgiveness.
Last weekend we attended a family reunion in one of the most beautiful places in Ireland to celebrate Charlie’s parent’s 50 years of marriage. Stunning scenery, delicious food and lovely company of Charlie’s 4 brothers, their wives and children. I came back rejuvenated and refreshed.
On a few occasions during that weekend I reflected on how their marriage also wasn’t free of flaws but despite that they both saw the big value that it had and carried on through ups and downs to what my mother-in-law called “the happiest years of their life”. The stability of a home with a mum and a dad and a respect and love they had for each other, plus their faith, surely had a very positive impact on the boys and how great they turned out.
On Sunday, as part of family activities we went to mass in the local church and the moment the priest spoke out I knew there was LIFE in him. He delivered a beautiful sermon on forgiveness, on how important it is to forgive and to be forgiven, to let go of the past and move on, to not let the unforgiveness stunt your growth. He described forgiveness as a decision at first that starts a process of healing. You don’t need to “feel it” to do it. It also does not mean you excuse the wrongs done to you or say it was ok.
One of the things I remembered most from the book “The Shack” was a description of forgiveness: to forgive someone who hurt you is to let go of his throat. Quite a literal view of what it’s like to hold a grudge!
I was listening to the priest knowing first hand how true those words were. Not too long ago I was the one who knew that if I didn’t forgive I would poison the spring of my life and have my own input into the fall of my marriage. I knew those words were going deep into Charlie’s heart too and I was afraid to look at him in case someone noticed and read it in my eyes.
One of the readings that day was the parable about the two men who owed a debt, one more, one less. Jesus made a point about the fact that when you owe a lot and your debt is forgiven your love and gratitude is bigger too. It is interesting that some people don’t even know they owe anything when their sin is small and they have to go really low to realise they are sinners too and they need salvation. That unfortunately was Charlie but when it happened he knew immediately he needed help, salvation and forgiveness. It made it a lot easier for me to forgive.
No matter which side of the infidelity (or other sins) you are remember: we are all imperfect and we are all a “forgiven something” in Christ. Those imperfections are a constant reminder that we need the perfect Lamb in our lives.
I attach a useful link on the subject from Surviving Infidelity page I used to read a lot in the first months after our D-day: