Forsaking All Others
Recently I pulled out my diaries from 1993 through 1995 and read through them. My overarching thought was, “Wow, I was such a dork!” During freshman year in college, my friends and I had nicknames for all of the cute boys, and at night we’d go through our day and tell each other which of the boys we saw. And then I’d write it all down in my diary, what boy paid me some attention or made me laugh. I see now that I was a crazy flirt, and seriously just loved me my cute white boys at Wheaton. (If you were one of these cute white boys, I hope I did not alarm you. I alarm myself just reading through my diaries.)
Throughout the rest of college, I mellowed out and started to develop solid friendships with guys. I valued my guy friends, not just as givers of attention, but as true friends, sounding boards, and encouragers in the faith. Nate, of course, I valued and liked, then loved, the most.
When we got married, “forsaking all others” seemed like a no-brainer. Of course I wouldn’t sleep with anyone else, and of course I wouldn’t get emotionally involved with anyone else.
So I didn’t expect to struggle with keeping my thoughts pure toward other guys. Through the years, there were times when I valued and respected one of our friends, and if he was also cute and funny, it was too easy to let my thoughts and actions wander away from Nate, even just a little bit. Mental and emotional energy that should have been directed toward my husband got directed toward other men. This was not a reflection on Nate, of course, it was a reflection of how undisciplined and unwise I could (and can) be in my thoughts.
The most serious thing happened a while ago. There was a family we spent a lot of time with, and the other dad was cute and smart and he made us laugh a ton. I started thinking about him more, and I looked forward to those times that our family would hang out with his family. And when we did hang out, I found myself directing a lot of my conversation and attention to him. If you had examined my thought life, you would’ve seen that my heart was not pure toward him, that I was allowing myself to grow physically attracted to him, and that my thoughts were headed down a slippery slope.
The Lord gave me a vivid dream one night that confronted me with the dangerous ground I was treading. In this dream, my impure thoughts toward our friend were carried to their logical conclusion. I then dreamed that I had to go to his wife, my good friend, and apologize for sleeping with her husband, knowing that our relationship was ruined and would never be the same. Immediately after that, I dreamed I was walking on a dirt road. It was covered with rocks and there were snakes everywhere, disgusting snakes sliding along over my feet and in front of me as far as I could see. I tried to walk down the path but simply couldn’t; it was a road that led nowhere.
I woke up shaken up, but also praising God that He cared so much that He would send such a vivid dream of warning, that I HAD TO stop these impure thoughts. If I didn’t, I would eventually take action on them and do something that would ruin relationships and destroy my marriage. Even though my actions currently were moderately innocent, the path I was on, in allowing my attraction to this man to grow, was a dangerous path that led nowhere. It was a crazy dream, and served to instruct me how important it was to forsake all others except for Nate, even in my head.
Since then, I’ve thought a lot about how adultery happens way before the actual factual sexual act occurs, and what it means to honor my husband and forsake all others. I’d like to share the top five things the Lord has been teaching me in this area:
1. Think 50. Nate and I will celebrate 50 years of marriage in 2049, and I think about that day often. The goal is that on that day we can say we’ve been faithful to each other and that we’re more in love than ever. What will it take to make that happen, though? 50 years of strong marriage doesn’t just happen overnight, so I need to remember that it’s the choices I make daily that build up our marriage over time.
2. Say no to bunny trails. There will always be attractive, smart, and funny people around that I value. And that’s OK, I can appreciate and thank God that someone else is pleasant to look at (i.e., Brad Pitt) or that someone else seems like a great guy. There will also be times when our home life seems like drudgery, and it would be easy to fantasize and think that life with one of these other guys might be more exciting. However, I can’t follow these bunny trails. Staying faithful to Nate means that I slam the door on thoughts like I wonder what it would be like to kiss this guy or I wonder what it would be like to be married to so-and-so and not entertain them at all. Potential bunny trails also lose their power when I tell Nate that I think a certain friend is cool or if I’m struggling with impure thoughts. That way I don’t have a secret thought life.
3. Tell yourself, “I’ve made my choice and I’m sticking with it.” Nate summed it up one day by saying these wise words. Basically, he chose to marry me 12 years ago and he’s going to stick with that choice. He added that he’s not settling for me nor resigning himself to be with me the rest of his life, but that “sticking with it” is a joyful thing. Saying no to everyone else and yes to each other, daily, means that over a long period of time we get to know each other completely, learn how to give and accept unconditional love even when we don’t feel like it, experience the lows and highs of parenting together, and grow in sexual intimacy. Our marriage, while sometimes very hard, is a safe and life-giving place because we’re learning what it means to actively stick with it.
4. Invite in a few select friends. The Bible says, “He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm” (Proverbs 13:20). Marriage is a big and important enterprise, and we’re better off when we invite in a few trusted friends who can share about their own marriage journeys, listen to us, spot red flags a mile away, and challenge us to love our spouses better. Both Nate and I have a few of these wise friends, and our marriage is much stronger for it.
5. Press in. This is a lesson we’re learning every day. When marriage is hard and we’re fighting about something, we still need to “press in” to each other and hang in there while we work things out and regain emotional closeness. When parenting feels tedious and seriously unsexy, we still need to press in to each other and regroup instead of fantasizing about a different life. Our weekly date day has been a great tool: it’s a good time to re-calibrate, re-connect, and keep building memories that involve just the two of us. Knowing that we’ve set aside a couple of hours to give each other our best energy and focus, instead of our emotional leftovers, gives us both something to look forward to each week.
To sum up, marriage calls all of us to higher things – selflessly putting our spouses’ needs and desires above our own, disciplining our thoughts and our actions so that we’re emotionally and sexually faithful, and committing to foster our oneness so that we truly do life together. It’s hard, but it’s an awesome adventure that leaves both husband and wife better than each of us would be alone. Let’s do it. And we’ll be at your 50th anniversary party if you’ll come to ours.
Next up: taking care of your sexual relationship is also a very important way of keeping your marriage strong, and my friend Jodi Stilp will be sharing her “13 Practical Tips for Sexual Love in Marriage.” Can’t wait for you to see it!
Keeping Faith, Marriage and Parenting, ParejaTiempo. Bookmark the permalink.