A piece of my journey into grace was God reminding me how thirsty I really needed to be. It involved me beginning to write a story. I called it Nails. I was feeling self-righteous in my anger. Arrogantly, I felt like I was doing rather well following God and then wooooosh, I was nailed to the wall with a thousand nails with my arms spread out. You can hear me identifying with Christ in that. I was about halfway through the story and God tapped me on the shoulder, “Ben, we need to talk about a relationship you have at work.”
He said, “This woman that you’ve been close to at work isn’t honoring to your marriage. Your relationship with her is a problem.”
I hadn’t perceived my relationship to her as a problem. We had moved closer and closer, but the relationship never became physical. So as that desire passed for me to have sex with her I felt relieved as in "that was close but no harm done". God began to show me that wasn’t really true. I caused much harm to Ann's soul.
I was giving my heart to this other woman at work. Most of the jokes about having a work spouse aren't funny when you get to the core of it.
I had left Ann lonely, abandoned and emotionally vulnerable. I had to begin to own my share of that and how I had hurt Ann.
Actually, a couple of months before I found out about Ann's affair I had decided not to contact this other woman any more. We hadn't been close for a while but would touch base every couple months. One day she called and said her husband was going to divorce her. Soon after, Ann told me about her affair.
What a set up for me. Could this be God arranging for me to leave Ann and go be with this other woman? (Don't be fooled. God does not work that way.) Her voice became a powerful drug to me in my pain.
In every affair, people hide in different places. It isn’t always with other people. A classic example of that is the man who works too much and puts all of who he is into work. Work becomes his mistress. The woman begins to feel that and she decides to put all of her energy into the kids. It can look really good. He is earning kudos at the office. She is always with her kids somewhere. But, she isn’t being honest with her heart and he isn’t either.
We can put our hearts in a lot of different places.
Our counselor helped me to see the dynamics in the other relationship and to bring it to a close. In honesty I did relapse on a couple of calls and emails which I told Ann about. We had finally labeled my relationship with the woman at work as an emotional affair. Emotional affairs are just as devastating on a marriage. When I say that sometimes I am asked why wasn’t there a huge explosion in our marriage when we realized I had had an emotional affair. Part of it was we were already in the process of dealing with our marriage. It was important to deal with the affair, but it was most important to deal with the overall picture of our marriage. We were already doing that.
Also, with my emotional affair there wasn’t a trail of lies to deal with. I didn’t lie to Ann about my whereabouts or whom I was with. My deception was mostly with myself. The other reason the emotional affair didn’t cause a huge explosion involved the great amount of shame Ann was feeling over her own affair. She didn’t really feel the freedom to express her anger with me at this time. We did eventually talk through my emotional affair. I admitted my sin. I owned the damage I caused her soul and asked her forgiveness over this and she has forgiven me.
What about Nails? It's half finished, a reminder of my arrogance, blindness, hubris and desperate need for God's grace.