06 Apr Down the path of brokenness
Writing this, sipping tea and eating biscuits. Very un-me. It’s been a very different weekend. I’ve got notes written everywhere, all spread out on the floor. I’ve had the time to think through everything.
So did I do this weekend?
First and foremost planning this weekend was not to about me. In my prayer and previous post, I mentioned about grieving and mourning over the sin. Immediately I have to say that any thought that this was ‘pious’ or self-righteous, or ticking the right boxes was completely rejected out of my mind. Shaving my head, for example. Was that to impress someone? Was that to come across as doing something noble? Not at all. And so throughout this weekend I’ve rigorously checked myself. And it’s only two days, so if I I was trying to impress people, two days is just not impressive in contrast to the 5 years of hurt. To summarise, I started this weekend really trying hard to have the right mindset: mourning. I’ve also had the verse “search me oh God and know my heart” because I don’t want a single ‘performance’ aspect like I had in previous weeks.
Coming off technology. Turning off my wifi has been so freeing. In a way, I want to disconnect from distractions, time-wasting and life in general. I’ve been able to focus on God. It’s also allowed me not to be on display for everyone to see what I’ve done. No distractions. Just thinking through my wife’s list about why she left me, thinking through that sin, and praying for empathy: to understand my wife’s hurt.
In the past I’ve felt very depressed being alone. As an extrovert, this is part of my DNA. However, I have punished myself to get out of that comfort zone. I’ve forced myself to be isolated. I’ve not sought out people or tried to call them or tried to see other people. Just alone. And that’s actually led me to miss my wife bitterly. I’ve not mourned before. So to make this experience make a further impact on me, I slept a night in our double bed. Normally I’m so used to feeling my wife next to me, hearing her go to the toilet, or her making her cute sleep noises. But there was nothing. It was cold, dark and empty. I was alone and she was not next to me. That really emphasised what I had lost. Normally I’ve been in the spare room, surrounded by books, scripture verses and my stuff. However the room I slept in was ‘OUR room’ however it felt so empty. It was empty because of my sin, so this activity, even just for a night was a painful to be reminded of the hurt I have caused.
Praying for the right thing: Christ > Sex
I had gone for a midnight coastal path walk. I asked God to take away my sex drive if it meant that I could gain Christ and keep my wife. Now I also know that to add ‘wife’ to that list is borderline making demands of God. To have a wife is a gift, and it’s certainly not entitled to me. But the heart of the prayer to God was “Christ is better than sex. Let me lose that so that I may gain Christ.” It’s an idol that I have, and I was surrendering it to God. And to be honest, living an entire remainder of my life without sex yet having good things like Christ and my wife, being with her and having that relationship is so much more important than any sexual ecstasy I could experience. So far, sex, masturbation and pornography have been deeply unfulfilling. Yet these past few weeks, I’ve experienced overwhelming contentment in having Christ. And so my prayer is genuinely serious. I am happy to be abstinent for the rest of my life – because sex is a gift as well. I’m not entitled to that.
Taking good steps: anorexic flesh
With excellent support from my accountability partner I have now racked up quite a few days clean, where I’ve not masturbated and not feed my imagination. I’ve been able to block websites, cut things out of my life that were tempting. In a recent book it talks about starving the flesh. However there’s so many good steps I could take and solid rules I can set. But unless my heart is fixed, no amount of practical steps will make a change. I also know that self-discipline comes into it. And so this weekend has been a helpful phase for me to get more resistance to the flesh – the constant nagging of sin. And that desire has gotten less and less. Why? Because Christ has increased more and more. I have felt that.
Before the weekend started, I came under strong temptation to view inappropriate images, however I was able to go straight to my accountability partner. I told him what I’d done, sent him a screenshot of the activity and asked him to block that site. I have to cut off the hand / eye. And can’t be near sin, “not even a hint of sexual immorality.” I had to flee. I’m just glad for that inner voice screaming at me to run. Praise God I did!
Before going offline, I download a few resources: podcasts and books on lust. What has killed the marriage? One of the killers is not sex, but it’s lust. Piper’s sermon on lust is astounding. Eye opening. And likewise Vaughan Roberts book on sex has also been excellent in pointing out Christ’s beauty in contrast to the ugliness of porn. Those are some things I have done.
No, I’m not perfect.
“Oh wow, this guy has a perfect halo” – not at all. I am not wanting to appear as some fake angel. Hell no. Other than prayer, exercise, listening to sermons, reading and thinking… I’ve also gamed. But it’s significant to state that I’m gaming with the internet turned off. Most of my games don’t work without the internet. So I had to play a mildly dull strategy game. But it’s been good to keep my mind active during this time. It’s kept me busy & out of sin. Normally I play more violent games with swearing, or with darker inappropriate themes. But that’s not right! And I can’t be all ‘holy’ and letting sin get in. Likewise with movies. I’ve not watched anything this weekend, because why would I want something potentially sinful?
In many ways all of the ‘good’ things I’ve done, all the righteousness is meaningless, it doesn’t impress God and doesn’t really impress my wife. So why am I still doing it? Two things:
- I know that I’m saved, “not by works of righteousness but according to his mercy” and so that’s something I’ve been begging him for. Mercy. Titus 3
- Counting it all joy. Listening to a podcast by R.C Sproul says “God has a purpose for the afflictions we’re called upon to bear. This purpose is always good.” Because God does work all things for good! And so even though my wife & I are both in exile and we’re separated: I am confident of this – that even in the darkest situation, God still is planning this difficulty to turn out for our good. It certainly does not feel that way. But if we look to Christ, we can have joy. We can smile. Even though humanly it’s impossible. We can smile. I can’t look to myself for a solution for this mess. Neither can my wife. We look to Christ.
But what’s the main reason for doing these things? If I’m not trying to impress my wife or anyone, what’s this weekend really been about?
“Who can tell whether the Lord will be gracious to me”
It’s so important that we’re not led by feelings. Our feelings are so dangerous. And so I wanted to base my weekend activity on scripture. For that’s how I’m confident God will hear me. So I’ve read 2 Samuel 12 in detail and tried to apply that scripture to my life:
My sin is like King David’s. I have committed adultery in my heart. I’ve been unfaithful and unloving to my wife. The selfish sex that I’ve demanded has hurt her. And my refusal to cherish her and understand her has torn us apart. And that list she read to me was the conviction point. Nathan the prophet came to David and pointed a finger at the King: “You are the man.” There is no excuse. There is no ‘but what about her…’. No one else is to blame. We’re both sinners, but this week I received a list of all my sin. And so that’s what I need to focus on. I am that man. I have done it. And I have been really convicted.
David’s response is the same as mine: “I have sinned against the Lord.” And Nathan says that God has ‘put away the sin’ however warns David of the horrific consequences of the sin: that his wives would be defiled and that his son would die.
“David therefore pleaded with God for the child and David fasted and went in and lay all night on the ground” and when asked why he did that he said “While the child was alive, I fasted and wept; for I said who can tell whether the Lord will be gracious to me, that the child may live.”
This reaction is the same as mine. I am trying to emulate this. My wife convicted me with the list of hurt. And so I have sinned against her & the Lord. And the consequences of my sin are horrific: I’ve lost my job, I’ve lost my wife and so many other things. And so now that I understand the wrong I’ve done, there’s a period of time where I mourn for the sin. “Who knows whether the Lord will be gracious to me.” He has already given me another job. But I’m seeking him earnestly that my wife would return. I need God’s grace! And I am so serious about this. This is no longer a game. This is real.
David also writes Psalm 51 which was such an honest prayer to God, who He had sinned against. And what are the things David does for God? What are the things I need to do for God? It’s not to impress Him or try and tick a few boxes and perform well. No!
“For you do not desire sacrifice or else I would bring it. You do not delight in burnt offerings. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and contrite heart. These oh God you will not despise.”Psalm 51
My wife hasn’t noticed me appear broken or changed. And these past 7 weeks as she has processed her hurt and she’s felt broken… now it’s the next step in our relationship for me to be broken now. I have waited to hear her list of hurt, and now I take it, I recognise how much I’ve sinned and now it’s time that I am broken and contrite. It’s now time that I change. Urgently
Contrition isn’t just feeling bad that you’ve got caught. It’s that devastating feeling of wanting to change that makes contrition different from attrition.
The brokenness I want to show though isn’t for her benefit. I’m not putting it on for her. I’m not shaving my head to prove anything to her. The things I’ve done this weekend are to humbly bow before a holy God, plead for his mercy, urgently ask for his grace, and ask Him to show me the depths of my wife’s hurt and to find the strength to change and repair this broken relationship.