marriage

Better to be a Whore in Church, than a Christian who has Committed Moral Failure?

I grew up hearing a crude expression as a little girl. 

“I was more nervous than a whore in church!”

Believe me. I’ve been the whore in church before. And I find that it is far better to be in that highly celebrated position than it is to be part of a Christian marriage which has been disqualified from ministry because of moral failure.

“I was more nervous than a Christian who committed moral failure in church.”  Yep. Far more nerve wrecking and scandalous.

Let me explain.

You see, when a person like me got saved in my mid twenties, I had “sold” my body for things like cheap dinners on dates with men who never even acknowledged my soul. I was living with a man who had zero intention to commit to me outside of my keeping him from being lonely cold in his bed at night. When Jesus wooed my heart to Himself, I gave up that life and ran far away from it, without ease. I didn’t know what my life was going to look like as a follower of Jesus, but I was all in. 

Thats the kind of story that is (rightly) celebrated by the church. 

As I sit here and write, I recall being baptized and the congregation cheering after I shared what God did to radically change my heart and life completely. I felt loved, welcomed, accepted among the people.

No more hiding. No more secretly using drugs or my body to get me the fulfillment I so badly desired. 

In addition to my new life, I had met and married a godly man who was the complete opposite of the ones before him. He was intentional about giving me his last name from the moment we met, committed to serving the Lord and me. It really was, and is, an incredible story about how God plucks people from the pit and places them in the story created by His design for those who love him. (Romans 8:28)

What does it feel like to be a Christian exposed as a moral failure in the church? 

Oh. I would rather be the whore in church any day than feel the weight of that shame we carried as we walked back into that same church for the first time since our marriage came tumbling down.  

Hand in hand, we walked to the pew on the opposite side of where we used to sit, unable to even entertain the idea of being in the same spot, because we were no longer the same couple who used to sit there. 

Limping at best, we parked in the pew, holding hands for dear life.

Though I was angry with my husband, there was no one else who felt more safe in that moment than he did. Its as if the war in our marriage was put aside in order to celebrate a sacred holiday. I “put down my gun”, so to speak, clinging to him and our bloodied marriage.

It was difficult to look anyone in the eye.

This was a church who loved us well, allowed us to serve in worship, cared for our children, poured out time and resources on our behalf. Talk about massive weight in shame to come back, knowing that from a biblical perspective, we were disqualified from serving at any capacity in the church. 

All the trust and status we had going for us, no longer served as any form of comfort. 

Most friends didn’t know what to say to us. I can understand that. I didn’t know what to say either. My husband and I could only cling to one another and the gospel, relying on the power of Christ and his ability to turn our disaster of a story into sweet redemption. 

Which is Jesus’s thing, by the way.

I take this lesson as a great gift. The gift of empathy for those who are lifting their hands high in worship of Jesus, who are so deep in their secret sin it take God’s exposure to set them free.  Once they are exposed, they are in need of the utmost care! 

Instead of running away in fear of christians who are found in their mess, let us run toward them, offering them the hopeful assurance that it was God’s mercy on their lives for Him to expose them, reminding them that the gospel is ever as powerful for the newly converted whore in church as it is for the saint who has utterly rebelled against the God he loves.

For this is true;

“Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” 1 Peter 5:8

New Adventures & New Life

Things are a lot different these days.

Our marriage is different, our family dynamic is changed, and hope permeates this house like it never has before. The fruit of resurrection tastes awfully sweet, making solid our commitment to keep up the hard work that comes with rebuilding our marriage.

When the conduit is broken.

I couldn’t put my finger on it then, but while adultery was present, I sensed my husband's prayers for me and our family were hitting the ceiling, so to speak. Along with the difficulty to connect with one another (no matter how many date nights we had), there was also the impression that the separation was even bigger between Burris and God.

“Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers.” 1 Peter 3:7

When the conduit is fixed.

Since everything was exposed, we are experiencing the fruit of repentance, reconciliation and (daily) restoration, a joy which is astonishing. Prayers are no longer hindered for my husband, making our lives full of adventure, laughter, and the ability to see enemy tactics. The connection we now have, though requiring heaps of diligence on our part, is full of adventure and wonder. 

Thanks to the Spirit, there is a renewed sense of purpose and calling on our lives.

We have no idea what is in store for us, but the presence of God is tangible in our home again, causing us to be eager for the unfolding of our story, together. I feel grateful to be on the receiving end of unhindered blessing.

I guess we do know ONE thing in store for us…

I snuggled in with my son one night, running my fingers along his ear as his eyes rolled back into his head, nursing himself to sleep. With every gulp, waves of nausea crashed over me, causing me to look around the room for something to throw up in. A startling thought jumped to the forefront of my mind..could I be pregnant?

Yes, I could. And, I am. 

The Ridiculousness of Forgiveness Part 2

Dragging myself to bed, it was nearly 1am. Day 4 since the exposure, and 5 hours since The Whisper called me to forgive. Fan humming, my two sleeping girls recharged their bodies with every inhale and exhale, but for me it would be another sleepless night with our unborn. My son tumbling warm in his womb, chiming in to my quiet whimper with the nudge of his heel,  and I am unable to deny that God grows life in the midst of sorrow.

Jesus, I welcome you into this violation.

Hand rubbing belly, the inward conversation began. I had not spoken to the Lord since yelling at him on the porch, but His hovering wouldn’t go away, for where could I go where His presence would not be (psalm 139:7)? “Jesus, I see that cross you are asking me to bear. Its not what I want, but I remember that you also asked our Father for another way (Matt 26:39), to the point of sweating blood. I don’t understand, and haven’t a clue how to do this, because I am not sure I have ever really forgiven anyone of something this costly. Nonetheless, I invite you into this violation.” 

I begin sobbing.

Hot tears streaming down my cheeks, my belly begins to contract. Dehydration was having its way with my body, as stress was making it difficult to drink water without feeling nausea. I may not be sweating blood, but my pain, it matters. I matter. For the first time in my life, I could see how costly it was to forgive my sin upon the cross, and how much I must have mattered to God, that he would take my transgression and suffer in my place.

“I am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins.” (Isaiah 43:25)

I close my eyes and The Lover of My Soul shows me my cross.

Written on it was the entire affair in all its gory detail. Countless hours of flirtatious conversation, the exchange of many photos, lies upon lies, the double life. Its heavy, full of sensual demise, and I am wondering how its even possible to pick it up, let alone carry it.

Don’t forget the nails. Or the hammer.

Long metal rods driven in by hammer would be every time I chose to hold back taking vengeance into my own hands; every time I chose against reminding Burris of the “great mercy” I had for him by granting pardon (self righteousness); every time I chose to pursue him warm and tenderly instead of avoiding him or being frigid; every time I chose not to diminish him in the presence of others; every time I refuse to ask people to “pray for him” in the spirit of gossip.

Oh, and the spear in the side.

The finale would prove most difficult for me; The refusal of playing back the offense in order to keep the loss fresh in my mind. It would mean relinquishing my fleshly desire to see him suffer, in exchange for the Spirit within me who prays that he would be restored in repentance.

He is not my enemy, but my brother, friend, lover…

Now 3am, I sleep, knowing that my husband would be set free, with great cost, and in no way would I ever be alone in my suffering.

The Ridiculousness of Forgiveness - Part 1

“This isn’t fair!” I screamed.

The storm doors never felt like such a terror to open, as I rushed out to the front porch in tears. Just three days after our Macbook tattle-tailed my husband’s double life, God called me to a form of voluntary suffering when He whispered; “Forgive Burris.”

I couldn’t stop shivering. 

“I didn’t deserve this! How dare you ask me to forgive him, and this quickly!” I wrestled aloud.

Maybe it was the crisp October evening air in Northern Michigan that sent my body shuddering to keep itself warm, but I am not convinced that it wasn’t the realization of this weighty truth; as a Christian, I have signed my rights away to unforgiveness.

Tears flowing down my face, I winced at the idea of this unreasonable request. You see, when I mentioned in an earlier blog post that I planned to hang my husband for his sin, I wasn’t kidding. This deed of adultery was my royal flush, giving me power to avenge any pay back of my choosing.

Oh I know. I am first in line to admit that I have said yes and amen to many a sermon talking about forgiving your brother. You know the scriptures well, where Peter turns to Jesus and asks him “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” (Matthew 18:21)

Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.” (Matthew 18:22)

Ok. This is all fine and dandy when we are talking about two believers failing to be kind toward one another when they disagree about an open handed issue in the church, but we are talking about my believer husband who had been caught in adultery

One time forgiveness felt impossible, let alone seven. It just didn’t make sense. 

Forgiveness would be an exchange of my “power” in the flesh, in order to receive healing and power bestowed as a gift from on high. Suddenly, I didn’t feel like a mature Christian at all,  rather, I felt like one of the disciples who didn’t count the cost of following Christ;

“Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:27-33)

Forgiveness, the very basis of Christianity, is a glorious opportunity to understand the weight of the cross.

Could it be that forgiveness, while utterly painful at the beginning, would be the very platform in which I would see the great cost of being a forgiven sinner? Is there a kind of suffering, for the sake of setting someone free their debt, that would usher me into the throne room of grace in a way I would have never otherwise known?

Head in my hands, I couldn’t decide on that porch right then and there, but for reasons of Godly proportions, I was unable to turn away from His Whisper. Who else, but God himself, knows the pain for forgiving an adulterous people? 

 

Ashley Madison and The Gospel

Just as divorce lawyers are foaming at the mouth for massive profit from those being exposed on Ashley Madison, a website founded on its slogan, “Life is short, have an affair”, I too, find myself standing in that line, offering the same people to save their money and become rich themselves.

Betrayal as painful as adultery has a way of wakening the soul with a type of despair that is unlike no other.

I would know. It has been nearly one year since I found out that my husband was pursuing another woman outside of our Christian marriage. My once apathetic soul, was awakened by agony.

Anyone who is made in the image of God, watching the desolation of their marriage via unfaithful spouse, will endure a despair that the heart of God knows personally. This pain reveals an inner groaning in the core of our soul, no matter who you are.

We never rejoice over sin, but we rejoice at the exposure of it, as sin is our one contribution and requirement for salvation.

People. Matter.

We never, ever, EVER, rejoice over evil. Marriage is under a special kind of assault, as it is a tangible expression of the relationship of the Trinity (Father, Son, Holy Spirit). I know first hand that God exposes sin in order to save us, as sin is the only requirement on our behalf to receive salvation. People matter so much to God, that sometimes on this side of heaven, he exposes personal sin in order to draw people unto himself. 

A sort of wake up call. (Lord, revive your people)

God is always poised to pour out his mercy upon those who repent.

Many of my friends are not Christians. I love all people deeply. If you are reading this and are walking through this painful time, you are not alone. I meant what I said about saving your money for the divorce lawyer and making you rich. It doesn't mean that you won't end up divorced, it doesn't mean that you will end up divorced. It means that regardless of what happens in this time, you will have a hope to cling to. 

You are never out of reach to receive mercy.

What can Christians do?

Position yourself. Remember that, according to God's standard, every spouse has committed adultery. That is not explicit to sexual lust in the physical sense, but includes lusting over the imaginary spouse you have made up in your head, that you wish they would be. Any thought that doesn't honor them, at all times, is lusting. Wanting something in place of them. 

Yes. That is harsh. But I say that in order to strip you from thinking you are above this (or any) sin. God has truly stripped us from the ability to judge sin; we are all in the same boat, having received a mercy that none of us deserves. The moment a believer places himself above any other person, they become non-effective in the advancement of God's kingdom. The Enemy wants you to to see yourself as a better person, keeping us from preaching the gospel.

Remembering why Christ died for you, positions you to be compassionate.

Position others. You may haze zero experience in this area, to the degree that hurting people in the wake of the AM exposure are, but there are believers who can help, like myself, who are walking through this dark time in the light of Christ. Send them to people and resources who will be a giver of hope.

Pray. I love this teaching by John Piper;

God Has Preserved All the Prayers of All the Saints

Look at Revelation 8:3: "And another angel came and stood at the altar, holding a golden censer; and much incense was given to him, that he might add it to the prayers of all the saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne."

Notice: it is the prayers of "all the saints" that have been piling up on the altar. If you wonder where your prayers go and what God does with them, here is one of the answers. They go onto an altar before his throne. If mere human beings can invent a microchip that holds millions of bytes of communication, it is not difficult to imagine that God has no trouble at all devising a way to preserve on his altar every prayer that has ever been prayed in the name of Jesus.

Your prayers matter and are being stored up by God himself.

It is no surprise that people are cheating on their spouse, what is surprising is how powerful sin exposure can be, and how God is always poised to pour out his mercy upon those who repent. Today if you hear his voice...

The harvest is plenty, but the laborers are few. Lord, strengthen the laborers.

Speculation: Cause For Separation or a Tool for Glory?

5 a.m. I woke from a nightmare. 

I headed downstairs to boil water for french press, feeling insecure and furious. I hate dreams like this. They tend to set the tone for my day, rousing irrational anxiety, making it difficult work to find joy. I need grounding. I pull out my bible, open the Mac and begin documenting. I won’t go into detail, but the nightmare involved a woman I follow on Instagram, and a certain man I get to snuggle every night.

Yeah. One of those dreams.

Since we have been doing the hard work of reconciliation, there are some boundaries, that with lots of conversation, are becoming more flexible these days. When we lay in bed, Burris will grab my phone and scroll through my social media. We laugh at viral videos, read controversial blog posts, and talk about some of the crazy photos you all are posting. 

Ok, back to the dream. The girl is an old aquaintance who can be found snapping photos of herself in her bathing suit, mini skirts, high heals and the like. Which, whatever. I like the girl. She is obviously hurting and desires validation (what human doesn’t). We used to go to the same church. But in light of what happened nearly a year ago, recounting my REM caused my heart to thump a little faster.

I stop and begin to pray.

“Lord, I am feeling anxious and curious this morning because of that dream. Did my husband click on her profile and look through her photos? Is this a dream of warning or fear? Is this irrational thinking? I know he sees her posts when looking at my feed, because I see them. Please help.”

”Ask him.” replies the Familiar Whisper.

“Ask him!? But what if he did? How can I endure that kind of pain? What if he didn’t, and my asking rouses anger? It is 7am, this could ruin our morning and set a dark tone for our day.” I plead.

”I AM at hand.”  He reminds.

Speculation between spouses, or anyone for that matter, is cause for separation, and God is always about the work of reconciling people. When we are willing to engage with our fear and ask the person in question, it is another building block to the foundation of trust. Specifically, when two believers stand in conversation, any wall of offense has been removed because of the finished work of Christ; they can talk about ANYTHING. 

Isn’t that just like the Lord? Unwilling to waste an opportunity to restore a marriage, no matter what messy tools (even nightmares) we have to offer.

And the Whisper comes again;

“do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7

My soul laid bare before them, I chose a road less traveled, facing the fear of inquiry. The three of us stood in that kitchen addressing the nightmare and turns out, he was feeling just as awkward about her photos as I was, uncertain how to process it himself. His eyes lingering with mine, speak apology, redressing again, my seeping wound.

We prayed, and kissed long. 

Moments of redemption like this mean everything.