“KEEP SHORT ACCOUNTS…”
It’s likely that most anyone who’s been a follower of Christ for any length of time has heard this phrase at least once along the way. But what does it mean?
In general, it means that when we sin, we should quickly make every effort to get alone with God, ask His forgiveness, and receive His cleansing with thankfulness. We should also work to make things right as quickly as possible with any other person that we have wronged. Living daily with a clean conscience is far more peaceful to the Christian than living with the black cloud of conviction hanging overhead. When there is long-standing conviction, it definitely opens the door for our enemy Satan to use it as condemnation. And if we choose to let condemnation overtake us, our spirit can be crushed.
If you’ve read any of our previous posts, you’re probably aware (at least somewhat) that we have walked through adultery in our past. I have written bits of the story in previous posts – here and here.
In this post, I’m going to share a bit more about this part of our marital history. There won’t be any new details about the events themselves, but more detail about the long-term effects that keeping the knowledge from each other had upon us.
Here’s the “nutshell” version just to bring you up to speed. For slightly over a 4 year period (over a decade ago), Tiffani carried on an online affair with a man we met in a multi-player game we used to play. I caught her from time to time and it always caused a big explosion, with her telling me that it wasn’t a big deal, they were just friends, and/or that I was crazy for thinking there was more to it. Eventually she went on a business trip to the west coast, putting her in his home city for a week. And yes, they got together for a night – taking it from “virtual” to physical. But… even though I strongly suspected it, I could never prove it – and she denied it for years afterward. I would not learn the hard facts about that night on the business trip until July 2011. Sometime in the next 6-7 months after the trip, she repented and cut ties with him, and began working on serving the Lord again. As the saying goes, “hindsight is always 20/20 (perfect) vision”. I have looked back at our timeline and I cannot deny that from the moment she decided to fully cut ties with him, I have seen the evidence of Tiffani doing whatever she could to restore trust between us. And she has continued building our friendship bond and intimacy to this very day.
My side of the adulterous coin played out like this… Several years after Tiffani’s story, I was on a business trip of my own – but it was much closer to home. I spent a few nights in a hotel while attending a business class, and ran into an old girlfriend from before my marriage. She invited me to her house for drinks and chat, and I found myself propositioning her. She said no. Knowing exactly what I had just done to my marriage vows (and feeling quite a bit like a real-life monster), I got myself out of there in a big hurry and never looked back. I determined right then to bury & forget the incident, and never again put myself back in a situation like that with ANY woman who was not my wife. But -wrongly- I decided in my heart not to tell Tiffani about the incident, and to just attempt to forget it.
Diverting for just a moment… for those who may be tempted to say that I wasn’t guilty of adultery because I never actually touched the woman… here’s the problem with that thinking. At that moment in time, I WAS WILLING. And according to Jesus, a willing man is a guilty man. Matthew 5:27-28 says this: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery’; but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” I take full responsibility, and yes… I was just as guilty for my actions as my wife was for hers.
The problem with both sides of our story is exactly the same… we each made the conscious choice to NOT tell the other what we had done against them. We each figured that what they didn’t know wouldn’t hurt them, and they’d never find out. In my story, it’s true that Tiffani never suspected – and if I’d kept silent, she likely would never have found out about it. In Tiffani’s story, I definitely suspected it – and tried multiple times over the years to get her to admit it, but she was adamant in her denials. Therefore, I made a choice to bury it in my mind, trying hard to believe she was telling me the truth (and usually failing), and then just hoping that she stayed faithful in the future. All in all, not a good way to build a truthful and transparent marriage.
God’s conviction was upon both of us from the very beginnings of our sins, but we each chose to ignore it. And let me make it crystal clear… this was a BAD choice. Because of our decisions, we literally spent YEARS in our own private cages of condemnation. Every time we heard teaching messages about lying, adultery, dishonesty and the like, it would put us right back into the middle of our individual sins – and the devil would heap on the condemnation. In hindsight, it was a rotten way to live! But it was our choice to live like this for years.
Sometime in early 2011, Tiffani began listening to a teaching series by Nancy Leigh DeMoss. One of the messages was on the topic of lying to your spouse – even those so-called “little white lies”. God’s conviction was definitely flowing as she listened to “I Don’t Lie–Do I?” (the actual title of the message, dated February 9, 2011). A couple of months later another message really spoke to her as well – “Keeping Secrets In Marriage” (dated July 4, 2011). These messages, along with a few other things God used to bring conviction, caused Tiffani to decide that it was finally time to bring all the lies into the light. A few weeks later she took me out on date night, and spilled it all. Her openness that evening broke the floodgates on my own heart, and I told her my story as well.
There were a ton of tears that night, and in the following months as we each tried to adjust to our new “normal”. Even though these events were now YEARS OLD, the pain was as big as if they had just happened yesterday. If you’ve ever had a wound in your skin that had taken some time to heal, and then when you thought it was all but gone, it had torn open again… yeah. It’s quite a bit like that. But heart pain is like no other – it’s far worse. Tearing open these old wounds was to date, THE most painful experience I’ve ever had to walk through. I’m sure it wasn’t much different for my sweet bride – I had certainly given her some new demons to deal with. We have spent a lot of time together since those disclosures, working through our feelings, learning how to put those things to rest, and realizing how absolutely freeing it is to truly be open and honest with each other. As I stated in the opening paragraph, a clear conscience is an awesome thing for a Christian to have.
So what have we taken from this? It’s my hope that through our story, others will learn from our mistakes. Tearing open old wounds is far more painful than dealing with them when they are new. Romans 8:28 says “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, who are called according to His purpose.” Can God somehow use our horrible past for His good purpose? Absolutely! We know that there are people out there reading this who are in the shoes we once wore. We want to show those people that there IS hope, there IS reconciliation, and there is most definitely a great marriage to be had beyond your current pain. It takes two people committed to Christ, and to the ultimate good of the marriage. Ladies & gentlemen, if your own REPENTANT spouse says “yes, I want to make the marriage work”, then I’m here to say today – YOU have all the hope in the world. Do NOT let that fact pass you by… reach out and grab it – it is for you.
Tiffani and I continue growing closer to the Lord and to each other as the days & months roll by. We truly are the very best of friends. Very recently, Tiffani even said to me that she considers me to be her closest friend and confidant. Hearing those words from her lips REALLY blessed me to my innermost place. We love spending time together, and we completely enjoy each others’ company. Today, we are a million miles away from the ugly place we were earlier in our marriage. And for that, I am grateful to God. We also both know full well how far we have fallen, and we each have solid boundaries in place in our lives that we will NOT allow to be crossed by anyone of the opposite sex – for any reason.
If you’re currently holding back a dark secret from your spouse, consider… is it really worth it to live day by day, wondering if today might be the day they stumble over the truth? Then what? How will you deal with it? God calls us all to be truthful with our spouses. Keep short accounts, both with the Lord and with each other. And here’s a freebie… Be FAITHFUL to your spouse. Then you won’t have to walk the road we’ve walked. It’s a rocky one, but if you’ve already started down it, through Christ there is hope for recovery.
I have finally gotten the courage up to write this story out because of the mentorships of Paul Byerly (The Generous Husband / The Marriage Bed) and Brad & Kate Aldrich (One Flesh Marriage). A couple of friends who have made mention of our story are Jolene Engle at The Alabaster Jar, and “J Parker”, the funny lady behind “Hot, Holy & Humorous“. We are also very grateful to so many of the “Christian Marriage Bloggers Assocation” friends we’ve made in the past two years. Thank you ALL for speaking the truth about Godly marriage!
Almost two years ago, Paul Byerly said to me, “I’d love to see the written story of how telling the truth so many years after the fact has affected you two.” Here it is Paul… a little late, but still just as necessary! 😉