Recently, I was re-reading a very helpful book for affair-proofing marriage titled “Close Calls: What Adulterers Want You to Know about Protecting Your Marriage”. It’s by Dave Carder, a colleague I’ve known for many years who specializes in the area of affair recovery and who also (like me) has a big heart for those in Christian ministry. In the book, he gives lots of illustrations of the various risk factors that frequently lead otherwise unsuspecting men and women into affairs or “close calls” with affairs.
One particular illustration struck me. Not so much for the actual story line, but rather for the unintentional three-point outline I noticed that (in my own professional experience) is more at the heart of how we end up flirting with just about any area of sin in the first place.
“I thought I could control the situation on my own.” The list of things we can control as humans is extremely short. For the most part, it’s an illusion. Just ask any spouse, parent or small business owner for an honest answer on this and you’ll see what I mean. The smoother sailing our circumstances are, the more we tend to buy the lie that we are in control. But when the headwinds begin to blow, we quickly find out otherwise.
So also when we flirt with the danger of lust. Whatever it’s expression we’re drawn towards, as long as “rewarding” circumstances are experienced, we falsely interpret that we’re getting away with it, that we have permission to continue, or that we have God’s blessing in the pursuit. This last one is the most dangerous, as we believe and even tell others that what God actually calls evil we’ve come to label “good”.
“Of course, I knew what to do — get up and run away as fast as I could.” The story of Joseph in the Old Testament running from the seductive grab of Potiphar’s wife isn’t just a memorable Bible story from our childhood. It really is our best response when it comes to sexual temptation, whether the seductress is in the real world or the virtual world. But knowing must turn into doing, and must do so quickly in most cases of seduction. The typical brain can become flooded with powerful brain chemicals (like dopamine) and can quickly alter brain functioning the longer we hesitate. As offensive to our pride as it may be, the best response is a quick recognition of the danger signs, a gentle turning of our attention from the temptation and a firm redirection towards anything that is “true, noble, right, pure…” (Philippians 4:8).
“Why? Why did this have to happen to me?” In reality, it didn’t. For all of us, the reason we sometimes find ourselves in such situations is often because we’ve failed to heed the lessons that trickle down from a sober view of the previous two statements: (1) we can’t control the situation in isolation from supportive relationships who know our areas of vulnerability, and (2) we ignore the Holy Spirit’s early-warning prompting that so easily gets drowned out by the “song of the siren” the longer we linger.
In what situations do we currently find ourselves believing the lie that we can control it? Is there presently in our lives a situation we know we’d be wise to flee, but for whatever reason we’re either hesitating or lingering?
Do something now and don’t be one of those who later say “why did this have to happen to me”. Find someone to tell that you trust. If nobody comes to mind, I’m here if you need me.