About Me

 

 The greatest thing we can do is to show up for our lives and not be ashamed.

 -Anne Lamott

 

I'm a creature of the word, learning to tell my honest story.

I offer it here because telling stories is the road back home.

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Monday
Jan282013

i am a cheater.

Sin is not the adult bookstore on the corner.

-Anne Lamott, "Help Thanks Wow: The Three Essential Prayers"

In my post describing the details of the affair, I said it never crossed my mind that my husband would cheat on me, and I meant it. I really thought that two people who loved each other and went to church together (as if the mere act of going was enough to keep us honest) would stay together forever, no problems.  

Consequently, I did not guard my marriage. I didn't think I needed to.  And that was dumb.

Marriage is counter-cultural; it's counter-human for God's sake.  Everything is against it.  Why would I think our marriage would thrive without being intentionally fed and protected?

The Bible calls it "little foxes that ruin the vineyard." It's all the sneaky stuff that pokes in under the fences and wreaks silent havoc while we're snug in our beds, spooning each other.

Neither Michael or I were walking the perimeter, checking on our fences. 

But even if we were, even if our fences were solid steel walls, we've still got an enemy on the inside. And that's ourselves.


I have the heart of an adulterer.  


I didn't have to admit this (even though I've cheated on most of the guys I've dated...I think I chalked that up to being a teenager and having fun and not so much to my wayward heart), until a couple days after the truth of the affair came out.  I don't remember where I was or what I was doing, but I heard a voice deep inside me, deep down in my knowing place (which is basically in my guts), saying, "Trinity, given the right circumstances, you could have done the exact same thing.  You have the propensity for the same choices.  And unless you come to terms with that, you will never be able to forgive Michael. And if you cannot forgive him, your bitterness will fester inside of you for the rest of your life. And you will not be able to accept his love, or love him in return."

It was a defining moment.  

I could choose to judge my husband, to vilify him for his betrayal, or I could choose to realize my own capacity for selfish choices; to admit that just because I hadn't physically cheated on him, I was not better or less sinful or more Christian.  The playing ground was level. We were two messed up people who had committed with reckless hope to believe in something bigger than ourselves. 

 

I looked up the definition of adultery, and it refers to extramarital, consensual sex; given that definition, Michael is not an adulterer, and neither am I.

But I don't agree with that definition. 

I define adultery as unfaithfulness.

And given that definition, I am a cheater. Am I not?  

 

I betray my husband through being emotionally unavailable. I put work ahead of him time and again, I let my mind wander to fantasies about other lives I could be living; I choose to retreat into my own head instead of risking opening up to him with all my ugliness, all my brokenness. 

I am unfaithful- lacking faith, in this bigger than us thing called our marriage.

So what? Should I expect to be above my own humanity?  No. That's why I have a God who is bigger than my chronic unfaithfulness. He doesn't expect me to be above reproach. So why should I?

 

I think putting adultery up on a pedestal as one of the WORST sins is practicing a selective morality, and it pisses me off.

It pisses me off because post-affair I totally felt slapped with the scarlet letter; even as the victim, I felt the eyes on me as the woman who was cheated on. Oh. my. God.

I find it bizarre that in our oversexualized culture where anything goes, adultery still makes the headlines, still has us gasping with shock. Adultery is like the last univerally agreed upon evil.  That, and leaving your kids in the car or at home by themselves so you can get beer and donuts. 

It seems a bizarre morality that we advocate every possible self-serving choice in the name of personal freedom and liberation and yet if someone in a committed relationship looks at another person with lust, or God forbid, acts upon that lust, they are just the most amoral shithead of the universe. 

 

Does anybody really think it just comes naturally to stay faithful to one person your entire life?

Does anybody really think that verbalizing a commitment or having a ring on your finger obliterates any sexual desire (except of course for that one person you are already having sex with), obliterates any desire to feel desired, to try the forbidden fruit, to be pursued and then engaged in a secret love affair, to fall victim to "It's so wrong, it's right," syndrome? 

I think the fact that Fifty Shades of Grey tops the list of 2012's most popualr books more than makes my point.

 

And yet it seems to me like the Church (capital C) just refuses to publicly acknowledge that our natural bent is to adultery.

In my own experience within the Church, there seems to be a general consensus that spirituality trumps all else, including being a physical being; good church-going folk just don't struggle with latent desire or a propensity towards waywardness, and if you do have those desires, you should be ashamed of yourself.  

 

Ashamed of yourself.  Is this not what so many people equate with church these days? A sense that if you walk in that steepled building, you are volunteering to to feel shame?

 

If the Church preached the same message that Jesus preached, we would never wish shame on anyone; we would live in the freedom of knowing that we have broken hearts, we don't know how to love well; the hymn 'Come thou fount of every blessing' would be our anthem:

O to grace how great a debtor

daily I'm constrained to be.

Let thy goodness, like a fetter,

bind my wandering heart to thee.

Prone to wander, Lord I feel it,

Prone to leave the God I love;

Here's my heart, O take and seal it,

Seal it for thy courts above.

 

My husband's grandma says, "Bless their hearts," in her Arkansas accent. Not "shame on them," no matter what the case may be. She is a wise woman, and her choice of words rings true.  Christians are often called believers; I think this should define more than believing in Jesus.

I think it should mean that we are people who are characterized by belief. We believe in love; we believe in forgiveness; we believe in the sacred things that are bigger than ourselves; we believe in each other.  

 

For me, part of what sucked about our situation was that Church culture (whether the leaders intend this or not) shies away from creating public places where people can tell their stories of brokenness.

Sure, we talk about sharing testimonies- with the understanding that a testimony is the story of how once upon a time you struggled with this thing, and now you are on the other side of the victory.  "God is good all the time, all the time God is good!"

It's like church culture, which should be a place where all the brittle, broken bones come to have life breathed into them, has been turned into the place where all the buffed-till-they-shine bones come to hang out together and compliment each other's shininess. 

 

Why, when the very basis of Jesus Christ's message was admit your need and be rescued, was love covering over a multitude of sins, which stands to reason that there must BE a multitude of sins to be rescued from, or we wouldn't need love or grace or saving, why has religious culture turned into the places where we don't feel allowed to make mistakes?

Why do we hold such high standards of perfection over our own heads that we are becoming famous for our hypocrisy? 

I hear God's voice loud and clear saying, "It is for freedom that Christ has set you free. Why have you voluntarily returned to a yoke of slavery?"

Us Church people, me included, are working out our salvation on our own strength and priding ourselves on our ability to be good, until we fall flat on our faces, or someone we looked up to does; which is when we reject church culture-which most of the time means we reject God since the two seem to go hand in hand-and then we turn bitter towards anything smacking of religiosity or belief- it's a terrifying cycle.

 

I believe our marriages are failing because we don't fall on our faces before God and admit we can't do it alone, and we certainly don't fall on our faces before our communities and admit our weaknesses.

And if we don't admit weaknesses, then we do what my husband did- thinking he could handle it, he could play with fire and not get burned...until it's too late and the whole thing blows up in our faces, and everybody is so SHOCKED that such a thing could happen.

 If we could start a movement where we boast in our weaknesses, then we could all get our hands into the tiny opening called grace and pry it wide open; we could give God the opening to come on down and help us before the poo hits the fan and all we're doing is cleaning poo off our shiny white bones.

I am not saying all churches are falling apart, or all communities forego intimacy; I do think there are many trailblazers out there creating cultures of vulnerability and truth-telling, but I think the church in general has swapped truth for relevancy, and pursued being culturally relevant through peripheral matters: the website, the worship, the marketing, the sermon topics. 

Cultural relevance would mean admitting we are all weak and broken people, why pretend otherwise? That we need each other desperately. We need God desperately. We cannot be good on our own. We cannot earn love. We cannot even wedge our hands in the grace opening without God making it possible.

 

THIS is the crux of our story.

The places where the burn happens, the very places we avoid at all costs because of the pain and the frightening exposure, are the places we must press in to to become truly alive, to meet God, and to know each other.

 

 

 

 

 

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