A wife of noble character: her husband is respected at the city gate, where he takes his seat among the elders of the land. Proverbs 31, verse 23.
This is going to be tough for me to write because it’s time to say some things again that I don’t want to say about myself, and it’s time to bring out some ugly truths so that the glory of God may be increased.
You’ve read it here before: I’ve cheated. I sought my comfort outside my marriage, and I stepped over the line more than once. If you think of the selfish, immature SOB who puts his family through hell so he can get what he wants, that was me. I want to talk about what happened a couple of years ago in particular. When you’re down, disappointed and depressed, you don’t see how other people in similar situations can seek you out. That’s what happened when I got involved with another woman in my church. She was hurting, in a disastrous marriage, looking for someone to help her. We became friends and it didn’t take long for that friendship to degenerate into a full-blown affair. And we were both devout Christians, members in good standing in our church! I wasn’t a member of the formal leadership team – I had been asked to become one (I turned it down) – but I was an informal leader with a following. My life affected others but I refused to see it. She wasn’t a leader either, but she was charismatic, pretty, bright and visible. Without divulging the details, her personal life was also a wreck, with abuse of many kinds being the norm and all kinds of ungodly things brought wrongly to her hearth. She had reached out to numerous people for help and they couldn’t or wouldn’t help her. But I did. And then I stepped over the line, we stepped over the line.
At the time, I didn’t see that I had been a husband, respected at the city gate, sitting in my place among the elders of the land. That was possible because of my wife of noble character with whom I’d been struggling for awhile. Because of who she was, she made it possible for me to be ‘somebody.’ I was a visible, prominent member of my congregation and I threw that all away because I chose to be involved with another married woman who wasn’t my own married woman. If you didn’t know this about me and now you’re disgusted, ashamed that I would do such a thing, you’re in the right. I won’t blame you if you stop reading and never come back; a decent person has that right. I hope you’ll stick it out, though, because God’s glory shone brighter after than even it did before.
I was a respected husband because, in large part, God had been at work in my life through my wife. We didn’t have a perfect marriage; when a relationship suffers, it’s rarely just one person’s fault even when just one person (like me) does something so egregious. I was unhappy and desperate; she was unhappy and frustrated. Our life in the suburbs was anything but mundane, but I could honestly say then that she had worked her hardest to put all of herself into our relationship and still I did what I did. Something wasn’t right and it wasn’t her doing. I was able to live the life I did, to earn the respect I earned and sit with other people of good reputation in large part because my wife of noble character had submitted her all to our life.
And I crapped on it.
Have you ever lost your character and your standing because of something you did? I have. And here’s the kicker: it wasn’t the first time. It wasn’t even the first time for a sin like this. If I had to list out all the ways I have defiled my character in this life, not even counting the ways I’ve defiled my wife’s or God’s, I wouldn’t have time enough to write it. Such a list would take years to write. In the middle of realizing what hurt I had caused and the consequences of it, I sank into the worst depression of my life. It brought me to suicide, finding me sitting at my kitchen table while counting out pills to kill myself. Thinking I deserved the agony I was in because, in some way, I did. Thank God for a friend who interceded and talked me through it. And thank God for a wife who soon sought me out again to say “I forgive you. God isn’t done with you yet.” Most of all, thank God for His answering a prayer. That night, I was lower than I’ve ever been and I simply prayed to get through the night, that with His help I would face whatever happened in the morning but I needed help to get through the night. I put the pills away and slept hard that night, without those sleep aids I had intended to use as weapons.
And in the morning, God propped me up and helped me to face those challenges. He did it by reminding me to cling to Him in His words. To paraphrase the apostle John, I asked and He gave. He gave through the selfless love of a wife who had every right to disown and destroy me but sought to spread mercy instead. She made all the difference in the world.
The two years since then have seen more up’s and down’s; not the same sins but different challenges. We were still separated and it took time to reconcile. There were other times when I wanted to leave, to run out on my own and seek my comfort elsewhere. Even as we were trying to reconcile, I poured my time into other relationships, trying to pull away, and in the process people, friends, family, got hurt. I wish I could take it all back, but I can’t. One time last summer, I even moved out, briefly, only to find that God still wasn’t done with me. It took prayer, devotion, talking, therapy, counseling, work, time and most of all love to get to the bottom of why we had had problems, and why I strayed. I lost friends, and some friendships changed; some haven’t ever really recovered and may never. My position in life and my informal position in the church changed, and ways in which I had served before were now closed off to me by others. Those were some of the consequences. I don’t feel at all like the man I used to be and I’ve taken active measures to change from being him. Even though he was me and I was him, my heart and head have changed. I want to be better, so I follow a better example. My wife of noble character was on point for me, spearheading the effort for God to be in my life and remake me into who He really intended for me to be.
Two years ago, I forfeited my seat at the gate only to find that God had another place in mind for me, another way to serve His purposes. The words you read here resulted from all this and they have been a blessing to many. That blessing isn’t originally mine; it came from above, but because it was shared with me I now want to share it with you. We don’t always see how our sins affect others, but they do. We also don’t always see how our redemption can affect others in the same manner. I don’t sit at the gate in the place where I used to, but I’ve been given a different seat and another opportunity to serve in a new way. The difference is that now I see plainly how my wife of noble character supports me in doing this. God, working through her, makes it all possible. It isn’t always easy, it isn’t always fun, and I don’t always understand it. But it’s always rewarding and always now I can see the hand of Him at work, shaping and remaking and turning my wrongs into good for others. For this, and for her and her patient mercy, I am now always thankful. Thanks for reading all the way through.