Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Through the Valleys

Marriages are measured in seasons. Our lives continually change as time passes by, and with each new season, relationships transform into something utterly different. This summer has been a particularly trying time for us. I believe it's imperative that we share both our victories and our obstacles with you, because the road to recovery after an affair is not guaranteed to be smooth.

This entire blog is an exercise in honesty. Through this platform, we get to share our hearts on a global scale and our readers get to bear their burdens in return. Although it can often be quite tragic, I still appreciate the countless people who anonymously share their experiences through emails and comments. That's why I write to you today, to continue in this pattern of transparency. This season has been profoundly difficult and we've been struggling. We've faced some daunting challenges recently.

We have faced setbacks in virtually every foreseeable way -- spiritual, financial, physical, and more. This is our voyage through the valley. This summer has been a season of unrest and unpredictability for us and that's why things have been quiet here. Why do I bring this up? Not because I want to air the details of our daily life with you all -- I will spare you that much. Simply put, we need your prayer as we navigate the paths before us, and we want to expose our struggles to encourage you on your own travels.

One thing I've realized lately is this -- if two people are trapped in a pit, they cannot help each other out. Someone has to escape. I must admit that I've always seen serving your own interests and needs in marriage as selfish, and therefore antithetical to your relationship. However, sometimes caring for yourself and tending to your needs is the best thing for your marriage. After all, you've become one. This means that caring for yourself is a part of caring for your union. You are a pivotal part of this new creation! This is especially vital in the realm of spiritual well-being. How can I lead Hannah out of a spiritual rut when I am caught in one myself?

How we respond to trials and setbacks is so vital to the future of our marriage. I want to cling to my wife during times of frustration and disappointment. I want us to become a team, not bitter enemies that war against one another. I want to find us on the same side of an issue. Most of all, I want us to soberly face the facts of where we stand. It does our marriage no good to romanticize our journey, portraying it as something perfect and complete when it is most certainly not.

I encourage you, especially if you're dealing with matters of infidelity, to be honest about your own path. You will have victories and you will face moments of weakness -- be candid about both. This road to healing is tumultuous at times, but it can be beautiful and life-changing.  Our path hasn't been perfect and yours won't be either. But, as I've said before.... God doesn't want perfect marriages, He wants redeemed ones. Seek redemption, not perfection.

Our story isn't over. It continues to unravel before us, and we discover it one step at a time, as if we're walking through a heavy fog with only a lamp in hand. Walk with us and pray for us. For our regular readers, know that we care deeply about you all, and we treasure this community.  As always, you can reach us by email or in the comments below. Our story is an open book, and it chronicles our triumphs and our failures. Thank you for reading.

You are reading The Meaning of Repentance, a blog about the Hartsfields and their road to recovery after unfaithfulness. We encourage you to follow us on Facebook and comment below if you have questions or thoughts!

Thursday, August 7, 2014

A Spoonful of Poison

Today I am going to share a heavy burden on my heart. There is a source of great shame that's weighed on me continuously and I'm trying my best to shake it. Before my affair, I was very active in our community. I lead worship, played in bands, wrote faith-centered songs... I was a good Christian, by superficial terms. Inside, I was decaying, and now I leave a legacy of sorrow in my wake. I am going to share a pointedly specific part of our journey with you, and then I will demonstrate how it applies to so many other struggling marriages.

I was in a band during my affair. A christian band. Now, the group was practically broken up during my affair -- we had one practice and one, final farewell show during my unfaithfulness, and yet seeing the band's name or hearing our old albums brings us a great deal of grief. Why is that, exactly? Certainly, our pre-affair life was lackluster, but we face other things from our former days regularly. We still live in the same house, we still have the same friends, and we still frequent the same places in the same town. We can't just start over.  Why, then, does my old band haunt us?

It's because of the overlap. No matter how small the time period was, my affair has soured the legacy of that band.  The group was together for two years, singing songs about God and trying to lead others to Jesus, and yet that brief overlap has tainted it all. I say this with a sober spirit, knowing that this experience is Biblical. In Galatians 5:9 and 1 Corinthians 5:6, we are told that "a little yeast leavens the whole lump of dough". In other words, the presence of sin, no matter how small it may seem, can totally alter certain things in your life. I know this; I feel it in my heart and see it in my life. A spoonful of poison has turned our past into something truly toxic.

After an affair comes to light, navigating through the details of the recovery process can be extremely difficult. I am convinced of one thing -- during your healing journey, some things should be salvaged and other things should be surrendered. There are things in your life worth redeeming for the sake of your marriage, and there will be things you must relinquish for your spouse's benefit. If you had an affair, one of your greatest battles is determining what to salvage, what to surrender, and how to do this gracefully.

If your affair happened at work, perhaps your job should be surrendered. It's a reasonable price to pay for your errors. If you met your mistress at the gym, then it's time to cancel your membership.  There will be things that must be cast aside for the sake of your marriage. On the other hand, there will also be battles to fight. Do not simply surrender everything -- fight to redeem things for your spouse's benefit. Your sex life is worth redeeming, for example. The city you live in, the world that surrounds you, is worth redeeming. Your friendship with your spouse is worth redeeming. The rest is up to you and your partner.

I'm slowly in the process of wiping my old band's name from memory, because I have no doubt that it must be surrendered. I cannot redeem it -- I must forsake it instead. As I continue to clear the group's name from our lives, I feel a sense of peace in my soul. This project was poisoned by my actions, and my marriage needs for it to be sacrificed.

Today, I encourage you to search the world around you. If your marriage has faced great turmoil, analyze your life all over again. Determine what must be redeemed and what must be forsaken, because the presence of something poisonous can totally change the tone of your married life. As always, we are praying for you, and we encourage you to contact us via email if you need to talk.

You are reading The Meaning of Repentance, a blog about the Hartsfields and their road to recovery after unfaithfulness. We encourage you to follow us on Facebook, and we urge you to contact us if you need help with the recovery process. We offer support services in-person and via Skype/Facetime.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Choosing to Refrain

There is a battle waging in the hearts of so many married people. It is a conflict of what they know against what they feel. So often, affairs begin when a husband or wife unduly places their emotions on a pedestal, making an idol of their own heart. I know, because I've been there. Temptation finds root in our feelings, and I write today as a person who's looked this dreadful beast in the face. Temptation itself is not the source of a marriage's downfall, however, and here's why.

Temptation is a matter of feeling. Temptation's dark allure appeals to our primal and selfish desires, regardless of our conscience's objections. By contrast, faithfulness is a matter of choice. In the past, I've written on the topic of temptation from my own personal perspective, but I feel it's necessary to present a better alternative. If married couples wish to resist temptation, they need something else to embrace in its place.


Our society has elevated feeling to a place where it does not belong. Our emotional center should not be the compass of our lives.  Though feelings have their own value, we must submit them under a greater and more enlightened authority. We often hear of a person's emotions being centered in their heart, and I believe that each person is at odds constantly. There is a battle raging between our heart (what we feel), our mind (what we know), and our hands (what we do). We see it every day in the world around us. It's time for each of us to question where our allegiances lie.

You've heard it on TV before -- couples claim that their marriage was dissolved because they merely "fell out of love", as if their vows depended on feeling warm and fuzzy about each other. We've received emails like this before, and I can tell you with certainty that your marriage isn't won or lost on the basis of feelings. Instead, it is your choices that make the difference. The desires of your heart are always in flux, like the cascading waves in a vast ocean. Temptation cannot uproot your relationship by itself. Your response to temptation will either make or break you.

Desire is a feeling; restraint is a choice. The desires that influence a marriage cannot overcome it without the surrender of a spouse who's willing to give in to temptation. By indulging our flesh's base desires, we are giving up to the lower and more primal part of who we are. This is where affairs begin, when we allow the ever-changing current of our emotions to overcome our intellect and volition. As I look upon my own journey, I feel like my bow to temptation demoted me to the level of a mindless animal. I forfeited a part of myself in that moment.

Today, know where you stand. Your marriage cannot stand strong on the basis of how you feel. Knowing is superior to feeling, so embrace what you know is right for your home regardless of your emotions.  Faithfulness is a matter of what you choose, not what you want in the moment. If you find yourself drawn to the siren's song of temptation, choose to refrain. It is your choice that will either preserve your marriage or destroy it.

You are reading The Meaning of Repentance, a blog about the Hartsfields and their road to recovery after unfaithfulness. We encourage you to follow us on Facebook, and we urge you to contact us if you need help with the recovery process. We offer support services in-person and via Skype/Facetime.