One of the great lies that leads to affairs, "I married the wrong person." So and so at work or from high school or from church or from my temporary duty assignment is so much more like me.
But check this out. Such a wonderful penning of the ups and downs, highs and lows, gospel nature of marriage.
We married wrong.
Don’t buy what anybody else is selling: Everyone always marry wrong.
Because what’s wrong in the world is always us.
Marriage and love and time, these are the enormous forces that inevitably chisel and change us into strangers. The springs sag. Mattresses sigh. Marriage changes us into strangers who have to meet and introduce each other to love all over again.
This is a talk I gave in 2003. I needed to 'hear' it again today.
This time of year is difficult for many, especially for those who have lost a loved one. I spoke at a 'Service of Remembrance' this past Friday. I told about a deleted scened from Jim Carrey's Bruce Almighty as my jumping off point.
Bruce answered prayers yes and got in the way of a young man eventually becoming a poet and an older woman eventually reconciling with her sister.
Morgan Freeman as God said, "You see Bruce, triumph is born out of our of struggle. Faith is the alchemist. If you want to paint pictures like this you have to use some dark colors."
Many who attended shared about their loved one and their experience of grieving. They were vulnerable with the dark colors God is using in their lives at this time. They touched hearts with their raw honesty.
Here is a portion of what I shared.
Deleted scene from Bruce Almighty God by Morgan Freeman, "You see Bruce, triumph is born out of our of struggle. Faith is the alchemist. If you want to paint pictures like this you have to use some dark colors."
I believe God is good and that He is bigger than our pain. That gives us the freedom to be honest with where we are tonight. Tonight we are not focusing on the triumph born in our struggle, although I do believe faith and trust in God during struggle is important. No, tonight I don't want you to feel one bit of pressure to get anywhere. I want you, us to have the freedom and honesty to look at the dark colors God is using to paint in our lives right now.
Root of Suffering We weren’t supposed to be here tonight. In the beginning, in the garden the world was different. No death and suffering. This world today was not supposed to be as it is. Adam and Eve ate the fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Following that, God pronounced that there would now be death for us...from dust you are and to dust you will return.
Someone you know has returned to the dust. And it hurts. Our souls are painted with some dark colors. Not dark bad, but dark painful because in the beginning we were never supposed to experience death and separation. Our souls are not designed to bury those we love and return them to dust, so our hearts ache.
A Grace Disguised by Gerald Sittser That is our condition today. It is best to walk into it. Gerald Sittser wrote this book, A Grace Disguised. I decided to use this tattered cover and copy because it really fits us more where we are than bringing in a nice shiny new copy like I was tempted to get. Like the shining face I am tempted to put on when my soul is in tatters and I hurt and am sad or mad and it's messy. Gerald Sittser’s mom, wife, and daughter died in the same car wreck. This book chronicles his journey. I recommend it to each of you.
Sittser says this, " ..My sister, Diane, told me that the quickest way for anyone to reach the sun and the light of day is not to run west, chasing after the setting sun, but to head east, plunging into the darkness until one comes to the sunrise. I discovered in that moment that I had the power to choose the direction my life would head, even if the only choice open to me, at least initially, was either to run from the loss or to face it as best I could. Since I knew that darkness was inevitable and unavoidable, I decided from that point on to walk into the darkness rather than try to outrun it, to let my experience of loss take me on a journey wherever it would lead, and to allow myself to be transformed by my suffering rather than to think I could somehow avoid it. I chose to turn toward the pain, however falteringly, and to yield to the loss, though I had no idea at the time what that would mean."
Gerald Sittser allowed himself the freedom to explore the dark strokes God was using to paint his soul.
Others in History who have Grieved Who are others who agree with heading that direction? Let’s look at scripture.
Job-Job16:20 My eyes pour out tears to God
Joseph Genesis 45:2 And he wept so loudly that the Egyptians heard him.
Isaiah-Lamenting over the desolation in Moab- Isaiah 16:9-So I weep...I drench you with tears!
Jeremiah-The Weeping Prophet-Jer 9:1 O that my head were a spring of water and my eyes a fountain of tears! I would weep day and night for the slain of my people. Lamentations 2:18-19 The hearts of the people cry out to the Lord. O wall of the daughter of Zion, let your tears flow like a river day and night; give yourself no relief, your eyes no rest. Arise, cry out in the night as the watches of the night begin; pour out your heart like water in the presence of the Lord.
David-A man after God's own heart-Psalm 6:6 I am worn out from groaning: all night long I flood my bed with weeping and drench my bed with tears.
Paul-Acts 20:19-I served the Lord with humility and tears. To those in Corinth he said, "For I wrote you out of great distress and anguish of heart with many tears, not to grieve you but to let you know the depth of my love for you---"
Jesus-Hebrews 5:7-He Offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears.
John 11:35 Jesus wept. The messiah with perfect vision of eternity and perfect awareness of the present, wept. Blessed are those who mourn.
Community of Brokenness As you can see there are many in the Bible who have hurt and mourned. They are part of our community tonight. Mostly we think of community in terms of our present time. Tonight, expand your view of community to include those across the ages who have shared their ache, shared the dark strokes painted on their souls.
Gerald Sittser calls it a community of brokenness. By being here tonight you have chosen to be a part of this community of brokenness. By joining with others in pain you are being changed. You are owning the fact that our world isn't such a safe place. We don't always have positive experiences in the middle of favorable circumstances. We really are not in control and it is important to connect with others who are understanding this too.
Together, tonight we enter with courage into the dark strokes being painted by God. The result, maybe tonight or down the road will be love.
By entering the dark strokes we will learn to love more deeply. As Sittser says, "Your soul will expand."
You may not want to love more deeply at this point. That’s ok. It hurts and the pain is fresh. Who would ever want to feel that pain again? But by embracing the pain, feeling the weight of your loss, and being with others who connect with the level of your pain, your capacity to love will increase.
Grieving keeps your soul from withering. Entering into community keeps your soul from withering. Choosing to love again keeps your soul from withering. Eventually, this allows you to experience the vibrant beauty of all God is painting in you.
In the book, Les Miserables by Victor Hugo, Jean Valjean has spent 19 years in prison for stealing a loaf of bread and a couple of escape attempts. Upon his release he is treated poorly as others see his yellow passport indicating he is a convict. He comes to stay with a bishop and two women who also serve in the abbey.
The bishop treated him with respect, not like a dog as others had. He called him monsieur.
Monsieur to a convict, is a glass of water to a man dying of thirst at sea. Ignominy thirsts for respect...
The bishop said to the man, "You need not tell me who you are. This is not my house; it is the house of Christ. It does not ask any comer whether he has a name, but whether he has an affliction. You are suffering; you are hungry and thirsty; be welcome. And do not thank me; do not tell me that I take you into my house. This is the home of no man, except him who needs an asylum. I tell you, who are traveler, that you are more at home here than I; whatever is here is yours. What need have I to know your name? Besides, before you told me, I knew it."..."Your name is my brother."
During dinner the good silver was used. Jean Valjean took note. During the night he grabbed the basket of silver and leaped the wall around the abbey.
Later the next morning Madame Magloire was upset the silver had been stolen.
The bishop said, "Now first, did the silver belong to us?" He continued, "Madame Magliore, I have for a long time wrongfully withheld this silver; it belonged to the poor. Who was this man? A poor man evidently."
A while later there was a knock on the door. Three gendarmes held Jean Valjean.
"Ah, there you are!" said the bishop looking towards Jean Valjean. "I am glad to see you. But! I gave you the candlesticks also, which are silver like the rest, and would bring two hundred francs. Why did you not take them along with your plates?"
Jean Valjean opened his eyes and looked at the venerable bishop with an expression of which no human tongue could describe.
"Monseigneur," said the brigadier, "then what this man said was true? We met him. He seemed to be running away, and we arrested him in order to see. He had this silver."
"And he told you," interrupted the bishop, with a smile, "that it had been given him by a good old priest with whom he had passed the night. I see it all. And you brought him back here? It is all a mistake."
"If that is so," said the brigadier, "we can let him go."
"Certainly," replied the bishop.
The gendarmes released Jean Valjean, who shrank back--
"Is it true that they let me go?" he said in a voice almost inarticulate, as if he were speaking in his sleep.
"Yes! You can go. Do you not understand?" said a gendarme.
"My friend," said the bishop, "before you go away, here are your candlesticks, take them."
He went to the mantelpiece, took the two candlesticks, and brought them to Jean Valjean. The two women beheld the action without a word, or gesture or look, that might disturb the bishop.
Jean Valjean was trembling in every limb. He took the two candlesticks mechanically, and with a wild appearance.
"Now," said the bishop, "go in peace. By the way, my friend, when you come again, you need not come through the garden. You can always come in and go out by the front door. It is closed only with a latch, day or night."
Then turning to the gendarmes, he said:
"Messieurs, you can retire." The gendarmes withdrew.
Jean Valjean felt like a man who is just about to faint.
The bishop approached him, and said, in a low voice:
"Forget not, never forget that you have promised me to use this silver to become an honest man."
Jean Valjean, who had no recollection of this promise, stood confounded. The bishop had laid much stress upon these words as he uttered them. He continued solemnly:
"Jean Valjean, my brother: you belong no longer to evil, but to good. It is your soul that I am buying for you. I am withdrawing it from dark thoughts and the spirit of perdition, and I am giving it to God!"
The bishop knew everything really belongs to God. In an extraordinary act of pardon and blessing, he saw beyond the outward man to the inward man of who Jean Valjean really was as made in the image of God.
One saying that Ann and I don't abide by is 'fake it until you make it.' That's manipulative and slaps the gospel in the face.
In dealing with Ann's affair she felt the full effect of my anger. She'll tell you that at times I didn't express that well and at other times I did. It was important for her to experience my anger to know how much her betrayal hurt me.
At the same time she also experienced my kindness. Real kindness. I felt the fullness of my hurt and anger AND chose to order her a birthday cake to celebrate her being on the planet. While my soul ached I chose to pick up a black lab puppy who became her beloved Sammi.
I could do this because Christ went way beyond that for us. He chose to suffer on the cross while I cussed him on the golf course. He ached for me when I acted as if his middle name was a form of the 'f' word. He was nailed to the cross while Ann had sex with a man not her husband.
You can choose kindness and not contempt because it has been done for you.
Grieving isn't just about the death of someone you love. We suffer 'deaths' of various flavors throughout our lives. Life isn't exactly like a box of chocolates Forest Gump. It's more like Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Beans, Harry Potter. We get great tastes like banana and bacon and other times we gag on rotten eggs or petrol.
My friend, Krista once posted this quote, "Every day we experience death. The death of dreams, misconceptions, illusions. The death of vibrancy and enthusiasm. The death of hope. The death of courage. The death of confidence. The death of faith. The death of trust. More often than any of us ever expect, life stuns us with the sudden wrenching away of a loved one, a devastating diagnosis, a conversation that begins with the chilling words, “There’s something I’ve got to tell you.”
In our stunned state we must allow ourselves to grieve our woundedness, i.e. loss of relationship and intimacy because it will eventually lead to extraordinary encounters with God. Our woundedness includes ways we have been hurt and ways we have hurt others.
We had much to grieve following the revelation of the affair. One of the best decisions I ever made was to face as much of the pain possible every day. Though there was a constant washing of pain, I figured there was still only so much pain to deal with in this deal. If we managed to make it through I didn't want it constantly snaking around in our relationship two decades hence.
Betrayed and Betrayer: Rescuing your marriage after the affair by Ben and Ann Wilson
Affairs of the Heart: Emotional Affairs Are A Dangerous Game in a Marriage I thought you'd want to know what an impact it (your article) is having. We know the great ministry value an article like this can have and are very thankful to you for sharing it with us. We pray it reaches many more people who need help and healing in their marriages and relationships.
~Valerie Hancock, Lifeway.com
"Your ministry is crucial. So much infidelity, so little restoration. I bless you both for what you are doing. On behalf of the church, thanks. You've paid the price to be able to share what you do."
Larry Crabb, author of over 20 books including Inside Out, Soul Talk and Marriage Builder