[In yesterday's post the focus of attention was on the practical put off/put on disciplines that aid in the protection of the purity of our marriages. Today, I've asked counselor and Dean of Men at Northland International University, Dave Coats, to address the deeper issue, that of our heart's greatest affection. Read Dave's excellent words.]
Let me build on yesterday’s post from the standpoint of having dealt with men who are controlled by pornography or are recovering from the effects of the sensuality of our culture. I would also like to comment from the standpoint of counseling those in marriage who are fearful they will stop loving their wife along the way, thinking they will go into adultery.
What I would suggest is that the ultimate “adulteress-proofing” is dealing with the adulterer in my heart first and foremost. God points this out to us often enough in the Bible in His relationship with His people. The problem is our propensity to wander in our love with God. If I don’t see myself as a potential adulterer, then I am blind to the depravity of my own heart. If I don’t see how I have at times been adulterous against God then I have missed His pointed statements to me. (Especially see the OT passages describing God and Israel and then James 4:1-4.)
I think all of us as husbands lack the focus, at times, to invest in our relationship with our wives. Building intimacy with them beyond sex is a major need and not one that we pursue well (at least from my personal experience and lack in developing it, and from the testimony of other men). There are some great discussions in some of the marriage and husbanding books out there in that arena. Let me suggest one more level, and that is the contentment and satisfaction in Christ alone. Why?
- Because the culture is not going to get any less sensual and we will continue to be bombarded by its lies about men and women. Answer: I must be daily immersed in the Word to see the beauty and glory of Christ. My adulterous heart must be denied, and in its place a one-love-for God heart developed.
- Because the “wear and tear” of ministry, life, trouble, relationships, finances, and other serious pot-holes we face do not get easier. We can get tired of “saying no” to the sensuality thrown at us. Answer: We must avoid going into what I call the “catholic style” of living where we trade our huge amounts of doing right and choosing right and “serving God” with off-setting “me-time” that I think I deserve. So when the flirtatious advance comes from within the church, or from without in the culture, we may be in that self-mode. I must be so entranced by Christ that I will not be drawn to the cesspool of sensuality.
- Because fear of man is a temporary motivator. It lasts until the fear wears off. How long? You don’t know. Being afraid that a woman may trap me or that I may have “wandering eyes” is something I need, but I can get to the place where I don’t fear that anymore. Pride will lead me to think that I won’t fall (I Corinthians 10:12). Pride will lead me to think that I deserve some of that “me time.” Answer: The fear of God (enjoying Him in His glory and beauty and holiness that leads me to bow before Him as well as the vision of the cross which will lead me to love and serve Him) must be the fuller answer. I can never get away from God if He is enthroned daily in my heart and I “experience” Him as the all-knowing, all-seeing God who paid for my lustful heart-longings by His cross work. I can always find ways to eventually get away from the eyes of man.
- Because my spouse will not always be the same woman that I married, but she can and should always be my life companion and joy. I say this carefully lest I be misunderstood. But I am speaking practically. Here is what I have found with men that I speak with. When a spouse struggles with fear or jealousy, what do we do? When she is tired after dealing with kids all day and collapses in bed out of fatigue, what do we do? When she carries such a busy physical and emotional load of training our kids, and our sex drive is unfulfilled, what do we do? When a wife struggles to walk with God, perhaps gets bitter at God about things that have happened in the church, what do we do? When she goes through discouragement and even depression, how do we respond? When God allows these and many other things to be the realities of life for us, we are still called to love our wife; and in fact this is when biblical agape love really kicks in. When I am not getting out of my marriage what I think I deserve then it is about time I get off my selfish, man-centered horse and walk with my wife through the deep things of life. But then what? What if God allows my wife to become extremely ill or debilitated? Am I more vulnerable to sensuality and lust? Am I more likely to take the second look? Does temptation become more of a tsunami wave than a little splash at the door of my heart? It could become that. ONLY one thing will sustain my heart against the tsunami wave of temptation that has been created by all of this going on with a wife, much less if some of the same things are going on in my heart. That thing I need is my total satisfaction with God, my seeing Him as good, my enjoying Him even if all other things change. So how do I get to this point? And how do I maintain this longing and pursuing of God? If I don’t know, I need to find out.
- And finally, to go back to my initial point in the post, there is an adulterer lurking in the shadows of my own heart that must be denied daily; and instead the love for God must be a reality and joy that helps me cling to Him alone. I must be a one-marriage Christian who is faithful to my husband Christ. So the marriage-wrecker within me is far more dangerous than the one who lurks in the church or the town.
[Dave has also co-authored, with his wife Judi, HELP! My Teen Is Rebellious]