A few weeks ago I took a little road trip with several friends to Peoria, IL to take in Larry Crabb speaking about Life on the Narrow Road. Few people take this road because they don't want to join in with the word narrow which should really be translated something like crushing. Enter through the crushing gate. Youch. Yet, if you are dealing with infidelity in your marriage, you are experiencing some crushing.
What follows is a summary of his summary of our spiritual journey. As I describe it, know that it isn't a linear progression, but a general trending. Life is always messier than can be described and diagrammed.
Before our conversion to knowing Christ:
1. We try to make like work without God. We manipulate, self-protect, and develop strategies to feel good. At some point in this illustration we come to know Christ or experience conversion. At this point there is a new grappling with the question, 'what is life'.
Following our conversion:
1. Explore the question of what is life.
2. Begin to pursue 'The Blessed Life'.
3. Life is lived by effort and Old Testament principles. Do life by biblical principles and life will work. Blessings will flow. The problem is that God can't leave us in full enjoyment of blessings because we haven't really found the depth of our souls and who God made us.
4. With effort and seeking the blessed life we tend towards two directions. If life is going well we get proud. We tell ourselves, "Of course life is going well. I'm doing such a great job of being a Christian and doing what God says." If life doesn't go well we get mad. We're trying to do right but God isn't holding up his end of the deal.
Since God loves us too much to leave us in this place and wants us to know him more he has to move us. We experience SHATTERED DREAMS. For us dealing with Ann's affair was dealing with shattered dreams. We had been trying to do 'right' in many ways. But in a lot of ways we still didn't know our own souls.
5. SHATTERED DREAMS lead to pain. Many folks get stuck in the pain and never get through it. These people grow bitter and mean as they age. They only way through the pain is through the pain. There are many teachers who don't teach this. Just put the past behind you encouraging some sort of magical leap frog experience.
6. In going through the pain we begin to seek something different from the blessed life. We begin to desire 'The Healed Life'. With the healed life we desire Relief. There isn't anything wrong with giving effort and there isn't anything wrong with finding relief. It's as end goals they are inadequate. If the healed life becomes our end goal we can become narcissistic. Life becomes more about me and my recovery and healing and still not about intimate relationship with God. This can be most subtle. Again, God won't leave us there and so we are ushered into a greater Reality. This is where Larry says we find Life on the Narrow Road.
7. Dealing with Reality means tangling with our unmet longings in life and our continued failures. In this we deal with an emptiness inside or another way of saying it is our Groanings of Brokeness. As we allow ourselves to experience these groanings we encounter the Holy Spirit who knows the meanings of our groans.
8. In our encounters with the Holy Spirit we experience Gratitude and our deepest Thirst for God.
9. Out of this thirst we experience Hope and in this hope we know God more. Our pain and emptiness aren't bigger than his grace and are in fact transformed by his grace.
10. From this hope we experience Faith and learn to love in a more other-centered way than we thought possible. We learn to love more like Jesus.
11. From this faith we experience more of the Abundant Life.
This is highly simplified and is easier to see in a diagram than outlined like this. Even so I hope it provides some sort of grid for you. Our pathway to spiritual growth does involve pain and suffering. But God isn't masochistic. The suffering he permits us to navigate is redemptive. It allows us to experience more of him. In experiencing more of him we experience more joy in the abundant life.
How do you see the affair in your marriage in light of this? Have you been able to see any redemptive suffering as you've experienced the pain of infidelity? Do you see ways in your life that you've sought God's blessings more than you sought God? How does this view of the journey impact how you and your spouse might experience pain together? What other thoughts and questions do you have?