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.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Incineration

I have a memory that stands out so vividly in my mind. One day, as I was riding through a small town with a group of friends, I saw a house on fire. This dwelling was not simply burning, though, in the traditional sense. Usually, when we think of house fires, we imagine windows pouring smoke and the glow of a flame concealed somewhere within. Not this time. The building I saw was reduced to a mere skeleton, torched to the frame by the swirling fireball that overwhelmed it.
It wasn't burning; it was incinerated.


That's what I want to do with the memory of my affair.


I don't want to merely move past my wicked actions -- I want to utterly destroy them. If there was any price I could pay to right my wrongs, I'd pay it, but this is a debt I can't afford. How can anyone who has stumbled so profoundly overcome their past? Maybe we can't erase our mistakes, but we can certainly respond with urgency to the wounds we've caused. No one can truly take back their own deeds, but we can work endlessly to undo their unjust repercussions.

Over the past few years, Hannah and I have talked to a lot of couples who have struggled with the cumbersome weight of infidelity, and each marriage handles it differently.  One thing's for sure -- many couples don't survive this. I don't mean this as a condemnation, it's simply a statement of statistical fact. I believe that couples can overcome this tragedy, but it's a matter of how. Those who survive the initial trauma of an affair often lose traction in the following months and years. There must be a better way to move forward.

There's more to recovery than staying together. Once you withstand the initial fallout that comes with an affair, there is a great deal of work to be done, especially for the one who strayed. For the transgressor, this means toiling tirelessly to help heal the wounds you've created. Every person who cheats has a choice to either act with urgency or fall into stagnation. How a person responds to their affair can make all the difference in the journey to recovery.

Step back for a moment and take an earnest look at your past. What have you done to radically combat your mistakes? There's more that can be done. Do not settle for a life of silent, married misery. If your former lover is in your life, sever them from it completely. If your spouse feels disgusting and ugly because of your wayward affections, tell them that you adore them every. single. day. until they believe it. Examine the issue and torch it. Do not settle for hanging by a thread.

If your spouse has agreed to stay, do not stop in your efforts to make things right. Your spouse's grace is not the end -- you can do so much more. Honor the mercy of your partner by tearing down the idols and monuments that your affair has constructed.

For me, part of incinerating my affair is this blog. Through this website, Hannah and I get to make an effigy of my affair. Unfaithfulness was supposed to conquer us, but instead, we are using it to heal and encourage countless people. We are taking our trauma and turning it into a weapon instead. It's beautiful and ironic.  If you are the victim of infidelity, evaluate the state of your marriage and honestly tell your spouse what you need. More quality time? Alright. Do you need them to change jobs because the affair started there? That's a reasonable price to pay. Tell them what you need, as difficult and painful as it may be.

Finally, if you are the transgressor, examine your actions, your inner self, and your marriage.  Discover the places where your affair still stands tall, and find a way to burn it to the ground. As long as your spouse is still around, you have the beautiful opportunity to counteract this dreadful error. More than ever, we want to encourage you all to contact us if you need help -- we're here for you and we pray for you. There is hope.

You are reading 
The Meaning of Repentance
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