Above all else, guard your heart

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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:

http://www.survivinginfidelity.com/healing_library/reconciliation/forgiveness.asp

You are my tower

I haven’t written for a long while. It has probably been the longest time of not writing, not thinking and not living the affair since our D-day. It’s a good sign. Sign of moving on, forgetting and letting go.

I am constantly amazed how quickly the healing is coming. I was preparing myself for a long struggle and a time where love is a distant memory or a hope for the future. I read some time after WW that it takes 2 years to heal and gain trust after your partner’s affair. I don’t know to what extent that healing is supposed to take place after 2 years but 1 year on I can only say I’m glad to be in a place that we are now. It’s a place of peace, trust and love. Place of commitment, understanding and knowing each other intimately. We aren’t perfect and never will be but we fully accept and love each other the way we are. The imperfections are what makes us human, part of our personalities but they are not the ones when you deliberately hurt the other person. We give freely and receive fully. We go to bed and wake up with thanksgiving: for love, for family, for grace and forgiveness, for marriage.

I feel so free I could stop writing now but I will continue to finish the story and to give testimony to the One who saves. Recently we attended a course called the Family Project. The leader keeps reminding us: God is in the business of fixing.

So what happened next?

10 days after WW came another milestone – the day of the concert for which our children won tickets on Spirit Radio. We only got two so we were looking forward to spending more time together but before we went we had something even more important to do – the last talk to Ana before she left. She was leaving for home the next day and we were hoping to never see her again, still there were things that had to be said.

It was I who insisted on that meeting. Not to let go of my anger towards her, although there was a lot of it built up inside, but to make Charlie ask her to forgive him for leading her on and to say that I forgive her for her part in the affair. I hadn’t fully ‘felt’ that in my emotions yet, they were too raw at that stage, but I knew it was our gateway to freedom, both for her and for me and this was the only chance to do it. We also wanted to give her one of the books she returned on TT. It was a special edition of “Jane Eyre”, she was very fond of it and mentioned she would like to keep it. Since then I read it and I think she might have identified with the character in the book.

So we asked her for a meeting and to my surprise she agreed. She only had half an hour for us but we didn’t need more than that. We arranged to meet in the office. It was Saturday and there was no one there. Before she came we prayed for peace and God’s presence. She came on time, wearing big hoop earings, with her head held high, as if she tried to say: I’m not hurt and I still have everything under control. However, under this cover I could detect pain, I heard it in her voice and saw it in her eyes. She didn’t answer to my greeting, passed me barely noticing I was there, going straight to Charlie – in other words – doing just what she had been doing since she came to work for us. He smiled to her and said:

Hello Ana. I haven’t seen you in such a long time.

The way he said it showed closeness between them and I felt a pang of jealousy.
We took our seats ending up at three different sides of the table and Charlie started:

Ana, thank you for coming, it means a lot to us. I know it’s not easy and we won’t keep you long. I want you to know that we decided to stay married and for this reason I won’t be in contact with you any more.
I’d like to thank you for all your work. I appreciate your help, it’s been very good although lately your presence was a distraction for me, I lost my focus, or rather my focus was in the wrong place and I started to see the effects of it.
I would also like to apologise for what happened between us and ask for your forgiveness. I know I have deceived you.

Here Ana stopped him for a moment.

You don’t need to apologise, we were adult people who knew what they were doing. The only thing I’m angry about is how you treated me in the last 10 days.”

“I had to do it. I saw I wasn’t a good man and I caused a lot of pain to my family. But I’m changing. Jesus really is powerful.

Ana sniggered quietly but she quickly added:

You know I tolerate all religions and points of view. Everyone has a right to believe what they want.

That’s ok. I saw that our relationship with God depends on whether we see that we are sinful or not. I saw I was. Also, I told you you were the love of my life – I’m sorry I said that to you. Ella is the love of my life and always has been. That’s why I’m sorry if I deceived you. I don’t have much more to say other than I’m sorry again. This is the book you wanted. We want you to keep it. Is there anything you want to say?”

“No. I have nothing to say to you. But I would like if you send me some photographs of our projects when they are finished.”

“Of course. I’ll have that arranged.

She got up and was about to leave but I stopped her.

Ana wait. I also want say a few words.

She looked at me probably for the first time since she walked in, smiled faintly and sat back down.

I was talking to my sister during the last year about how jealous we were of our husbands. I said I would scratch out the eyes of a woman who looked at my Charlie – don’t worry I won’t do it to you. I want you to know that what happened between you and Charlie and the length of time it lasted could take place only because I trusted him. I did have a bad feeling about his friendship with you and I confronted him about it a few times but he denied each time that anything was wrong and I trusted him. I didn’t have many reasons not to, things were good between us although we lacked time together and children often missed him too. We could talk here all day but I know you don’t want to, so I’ll just say one thing – I forgive you. I hope you’ll find someone for yourself and that you’ll never experience what I did because the pain is really huge.”

Tears were welling up in my eyes when I said it and my voice started breaking so I didn’t say anything else. I noticed she looked very uncomfortable when I said the word ‘forgive’, almost as if she was offended. She probably would have preferred to hear me curse her rather than forgive her. She got up and left, her nose up not as high as before but still composed and cool. All we heard from her since was a text message she sent to Charlie from the airport next day, thanking him for the work opportunity. He replied with the 1 Corinthians 13 verse, saying “please read it, it is not what we had but I hope you’ll find it one day“. After she left the office we got into the car and drove 2 hours for the concert feeling like we had passed another big milestone and closed the door behind us.

The concert turned out to be one of the greatest gifts we got from God in that time. It felt like 2 hours in heaven. We never heard of the band before it but we love it now. It’s Rexband – an Indian, charismatic, Catholic Christian band – what a mix! High quality music, professional musicians and each one of them have a personal relationship with the Lord, we were told. That night they played the music of our souls, they translated our prayers into notes and led us all into the Spirit. An unforgettable evening, filled with tears of repentance and hope for full reconciliation. If you were there and saw a couple at the back of the hall, who from the start joined wholeheartedly into the worship and thoroughly enjoyed themselves, it was us. Of all the songs one stood out for me and became my prayer – “You are my tower”.

Only when we left the concert hall and got back into the car did it dawn on us how amazing it was to be there. When Charlie was 18, just after he finished secondary school he went to India for a year to do voluntary work. He was in various places including a month in Calcutta working with the Missionaries of Charity, Mother Theresa’s order. During this time he met a born again Catholic girl who led him in prayer for salvation. It couldn’t take on the full meaning for years because of things that were still in his heart and mind but that evening there at the concert it was like he had made a full loop and was back in India, giving his life to God again, this time for real.

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PS. We came across these verses and that picture in one of our bibles (Sunrise Good News Bible) soon after that day. It made us smile.

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“The Lord said, ‘Look how proud the women of Jerusalem are! They walk along with their noses in the air. They are always flirting. They take dainty little steps, and the bracelets on their ankles jingle. But I will punish them – I will shave their heads and leave them bald.’
A day is coming when the Lord will take away from the women of Jerusalem everything they are so proud of – the ornaments they wear on their ankles, on their heads, on their necks, and on their wrists. He will take away their veils and their hats, the magic charms they wear on their arms and at their waists; the rings they wear on their fingers and in their noses; all their fine robes, gowns, cloaks and purses; their revealing garments, their linen handkerchiefs, and the scarves and the long veils they wear on their heads.”

Isaiah 3:16-23

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You are my tower – Rexband (Sonrise)

Everything is a changing all around
Wanna hold on to you
Everyday is a new beginning now
Wanna know what is right

You are my tower
Unchanging power
When storms come raging
You’ll be my road
You alone will do

In the night when I am tossed upon the sea
I will call out your name
When the road takes a million different turns
Wanna follow you lord

You are my tower
Unchanging power
When storms come raging
You’ll be my road
You alone will do

When I’ve lost my way
And I am far away from home
I will seek your face
I will always cling to you Lord

You are my tower
Unchanging power
When storms come raging
You’ll be my road
You alone will do