Thursday, July 23, 2009

Let him who thinks he stands...

Recently Gov. Mark Sanford of South Carolina was in the news due to his recent "samba in the Pampas" with a woman who was not his wife Jenny. This was sad news to me, not simply because Sanford (politically at least) was a man of principle with whom I agreed on most policy issues and his moral failure is now being used to undercut those principles. And what is worse, another man has irreparably damaged his marriage and his children. Even if forgiveness happens, you can't totally put Humpty-Dumpty back together again. Two lessons emerge from this incident as I've reflected on it.

Number one, as the Scripture says, "Put not your trust in princes" (Psalm 146:3). There's always a temptation to attach too much importance to this world and consequently, to its rulers. We Christians can sometimes look to governors, senators, congressmen and presidents for a kind of secular salvation. While it's good to be involved in the political process, salvation comes neither from Washington nor from the statehouse nor from the governor's mansion, but from God.

And number two, "There but for God's grace..." Now, please understand. I'm not saying that I'm ready to ditch the whole pastoral thing and leave my wife and family for an Argentinian dancer. Far from it, in fact. My marriage is secure and my family sound. But it is true that temptation comes to us all, even if not in the same forms. And Satan can wait a long time to spring his traps. Isn't it interesting how many men fail not in the 1st half of their lives, but in the back half? Years ago, Pastor Tommy Nelson of Denton Bible Church told us seminarians about the Easy Steps to an Affair. They are:
  1. Eliminate the intimacy from your marriage. Be sure to spend a lot of time apart to spend the time you have together talking about only the mundane aspects of life-bills, work, discipline with the kids, dishes, laundry, etc. Stop dating and making romantic gestures of any kind. Stop having lingering conversations. Make sex, when it happens, as purely functional as possible. Before long you will be roommates with kids, a cook/maid married to a gardener/mechanic.
  2. Encounter an intriguing person. Meet a polite, intelligent, good-looking and interesting man or woman. Admire and appreciate their good qualities.
  3. Enjoy the relationship. This is where you start looking forward to seeing this person, working on a team with them, or talking with them.
  4. Expedite the relationship. This is where you start deliberately making plans to encounter this person. You plan your route through the office so that you pass by her desk. You go to the restaurant at the time you know he will be there. You stand in a place at a time you know he/she will walk by and you can talk, etc., etc. The more often you have time to connect, the deeper the emotional hook goes.
  5. Express your feelings. This is where the feelings that are beginning to spring up are becoming too powerful to contain. So you try a an "innocent" verbal volley to him/her to see if they are feeling the same thing: "Can I share something with you? I wish I could talk with my family like I talk with you." "Really?" "Yeah, really." You know, I wish I could talk with my husband/wife like I talk with you?" "Really." "Yeah." "I so enjoy just being with you." "Me too." At this point, you have built the bridge to Fantasy Island. You are hooked emotionally even though you've never touched. Virtually nobody ever walks away at this point. It's too late. The arrow has already pierced your liver (Prov. 7:22-23). All that remains is for you to bleed out. You are dead where you stand. Even if you draw the line here, you have still had an "emotional affair."
  6. Experience. This is where you actually meet in some clandestine location and have sex. This steps feels inevitable, like you were caught up in a whirlwind of circumstances and emotions that were beyond your control. But in reality, you took many little steps along the way that delivered you to the place you really wanted to go and in a way that still manages to confuse you even as you participated willingly in it. Satan's traps are ingenious, and this one is like a "Bouncing Betty" land mine (at right), which doesn't go off when you step on it, but waits until after you've gone one more step, at which point it destroys you completely.

No comments: