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As featured in LifeWay’s HomeLife Magazine (April 2016)!
Read the first full chapter here:
One of “Those” Girls
I still remember sitting on the floor of my shower, clutching my knees to my chest. I alternated between bowing my head, as though I were trying to hide from God, and leaning my head against the side of the shower, searching the ceiling as though I was looking for Him. Within minutes, I was crying so hard I lost control of my breathing and started to hyperventilate. It was as if I wanted to exhale as much of the confusion and pain as possible with every erratic gasp of heaping air that I gulped in and spewed out.
My tears mixed with the water that flowed from the showerhead above. Deep down, I knew the water that washed over me couldn’t really cleanse me, but I sat there anyway, even after the hot water turned cold. Among the thoughts I wanted the water to drown out was the question I had been asking myself frequently during the previous weeks: How did I get here?
“Here” was an adulterous relationship with a married man.
I was attracted to him the first time I saw him. There was something about him that instantly made me sit up a little taller, and my heart beat a little faster. He was tall, handsome, and seemed so confident, just by the way he carried himself. (I was usually attracted to confident men because I was very insecure.)
And then I met his wife.
It then felt as though that same giddy, faster-beating heart had stalled and fallen all the way into the soles of my feet. I felt dashed and disappointed, but not at all did I feel like my new mission in life was to seduce him into an extramarital relationship with me.
During the weeks that followed our first meeting, our paths did cross on a predetermined basis, because of the nature of the circumstances under which we met. (I realize I’m being vague, and very purposefully so.) I did nothing to avoid these situations in which I knew I would most likely see him and his wife. And so, we all began to consistently see each other, and I became better acquainted with him and his wife. And I became all the more attracted to him, as we discovered a comfort and connection with one another that felt very natural.
I soon realized, by things he would say and ways he would act, that he was also attracted to me. Knowing that made it harder to deny my feelings for him. And yet I stood and stayed in denial. I should have run in the opposite direction of where this situation was heading, and faster than I could have forecasted at the time. Instead, I tried to conceal how I felt, from him, his wife, anyone who observed the two of us interacting—and myself.
When we were around each other, he would joke and tease and flirt. He reminded me of the schoolboys who used to chase me around the playground. He would even say flirtatious things to me in front of his wife. Usually, she would react indifferently or even join in with her own chiding. I can’t help but think that must have been a façade. She must have felt wounded, but didn’t want to appear insecure or jealous.
Despite my growing enjoyment of his attention, I still feigned disgust or disinterest. I did so partly out of denial, and partly out of wanting to protect myself from any suspicion: up to that point, when I saw him was also when I saw her. I wish I could say I was also trying to protect her in some way, but I don’t think I was being that noble; I started to like the attention from him too much.
I knew I shouldn’t like his attention, though. I knew it was wrong to want his attention. I started to shock myself: I’m not one of “those” girls, I thought. I grew up in a Christian home, with prayers before dinner and special dresses for Sundays; I was christened as a baby and asked Jesus into my heart as a child; I even graduated last summer from a distinguished Christian college. I’m a good girl. I don’t do stuff like flirt or date—or more—with someone’s husband.
Truth be told, I was also a very judgmental girl, who looked down on women who, intentionally or not, wound up with married men—be it on a few dates, in a relationship, or in bed for one tryst. I could never do that to another woman, I used to proudly think. I’m better and smarter than that.
I knew I wasn’t supposed to be attracted to him, but I didn’t know what to do with the feelings I was still having. Looking back now, I see how unwisely I thought that I alone would be stronger and smarter than the temptation creeping in around me. My pride indeed came before my fall.
He attributed her indifference (and his freedom to flirt, even in her company) to the state of their marriage. When he detailed for me the trajectory of their relationship, he explained it as a union more out of convenience and platonic partnership than love. And he assured me that she didn’t mind, as long as she didn’t know the details of what he chose to do outside of their marriage.
But no matter how he justified his flirting, it didn’t justify my sinful response to his flirting. It didn’t matter why they got married: what mattered was they did, period. Despite the uneasiness I felt with his reasoning, I gradually guarded my heart less and less around him, as I felt more emotionally connected to him. Not guarding my heart with clear boundaries was one of my first mistakes.
Thinking I wasn’t capable of making some of the choices I made was another one of my first mistakes. Do not underestimate how powerful temptation can be, especially when you are relying on your own strength to resist it. I thought I was better and smarter than to commit adultery. I thought I could resist the growing temptation without God’s help. In reality, it was as though I was standing at the base of a mountain, seeing a crack in the snow at the summit, and thinking that it’s not a big problem, that I didn’t need to get out of the way. And then it was as though I remained at the base of that mountain as the crack in the snow deepened, the wall of ice and snow began to quake, and thinking I could stop it from crashing down on me. Thinking I’d survive the impact of the avalanche unfolding right before my eyes.
The Bible says your heart is your wellspring, and Satan is all too happy to try and pollute it, because he knows from it all else flows. He will gladly oblige taking an inch you give him and running with it, not for miles, but until you’re dead, destroyed, or pleading for mercy. For your sake I hope it’s God’s mercy for which you plead.
It’s amazing how Satan can influence our thoughts and emotions, until we find ourselves rationalizing even our sin. Even without the influence of evil, we are fallen human beings with free will. We are capable of making sinful decisions on our own, with little prompting from the enemy and his principalities. We are capable of making decisions like entertaining the advances of a married man, and knowingly entering into an adulterous relationship with him. I know I had the will and responsibility to choose differently.
So why didn’t I choose differently? Why was I receptive to his blatantly inappropriate behavior? How was it that I so clearly knew adultery was wrong but walked into it anyway? How was it that I could even become friends with his wife and still betray her by becoming romantically involved with her husband? I can see the red flags now—in hindsight.
Not long before meeting him, I had moved into my own apartment, which I lived in alone. I had no built-in accountability mechanism in the form of a housemate. I also wasn’t at all involved in a church. I wasn’t part of a community and fellowship of believers, who could reinforce truth and provide added accountability. I wasn’t availing myself to God through regular quiet times, times of prayer and study of His Word. And I didn’t think I needed any of it.
I didn’t think I needed accountability or community. I didn’t think I needed God’s help and guidance to avoid the mines of sin in the field of life. I seemed to be doing just fine on my own, with my new apartment and a fabulous new job. So, I was complacent and proud—a double whammy that widened the bulls-eye on my back as the principalities at play took aim. Read and re-read these preceding and next paragraphs carefully: I know you may be where I was. I know you may be thinking you could never do what I did. I know you may be thinking you’re doing just fine—maybe even great—without God. Please prayerfully reconsider this attitude. You need not be scared, but I want you to be cautioned; I want you to remember that a prideful attitude is precisely what I had before I fell.
Most importantly, in the season in my life in which I met him, I wasn’t allowing or truly seeking God to meet my need for positive attention, love, and affirmation of my worth. Those three things are exactly what I was craving when I met him. Only, I was dangerously in denial of how starved I actually was. I could dismiss or joke away his flirting for only so long; inside, I started to like the feelings his attention evoked. I even liked the feelings of power and validation: there was something very powerful about feeling so desirable to someone as to be able to draw his eye and attention from his spouse. (I know now that real power is in self-control, and the self-confidence that comes from knowing our worth in God, not in man.)
Now, to help you better understand, we need to go back a little farther into my past, and dig a little deeper into the core of who I am. My hope is that if you recognize yourself in this, you’ll proactively seek God for help and transformation now, so as to avoid a similar path as the one I took. I see my red flags in hindsight; I hope sharing them here will provide you with foresight.
This wasn’t the first time I craved attention from someone other than God. Being a fairly self-aware person, I have a good idea why there’s been this pattern in my past. Like many of us women, I don’t think I got the positive affirmation at home that is so critical in helping a girl grow into a confident woman. If we don’t get it at home, from the males in our immediate environments and social circles, then we learn to look for it elsewhere. I don’t want this to be misinterpreted, though. I consider myself very blessed to have the parents I have. In many ways my parents have been exceptionally supportive; positive influences in my life God continues to use to shape the woman I am and am becoming.
I also want to be clear that I love my dad and three older brothers, but as male influences in the shaping of a young woman, they left some key things to be desired. My dad, a former Marine (of whom I am very proud), was deployed or working a lot while I was younger. He also tends to be more emotionally reserved, and didn’t always seem comfortable with communicating that I was beautiful, that he delighted in me, and that I was worth far more than what most guys my age would offer. His personality is different from mine in many ways, and in this way it wasn’t right or wrong, it was just different in a way that made it difficult to learn my own worth, or where to best look for it.
I don’t blame him, though; and as an adult I’ve learned that we can’t fault people for the choices we make. I’ve taken into account too, that the bulk of his parenting practice (prior to me) was on my brothers, whose levels and types of emotional needs have always been different from mine. So, when little ol’ me came along, it was a whole new ball game. And I don’t mean a ball of “sugar and spice and everything nice,” either. In fact, I’m pretty sure that at certain points in my life (especially my teenage years), I made U.S. Marine Corps training look like a cakewalk.
My brothers, on the other hand, seemed to delight in doing whatever they could to tease and torment me. To be fair, I cringe while watching myself in childhood home movies because of how I behaved or reacted towards them, too (the word “bratty” comes to mind).
A few years ago, I recall one of my brothers humorously telling me I should thank them for helping make me the woman I am today. I see their reasoning, however warped it is, but I think God would have done just fine without all of them being so “helpful.” And so, with either the absence of affirmation or the presence of negative criticism, I tended to take positive attention almost any time it came my way.
Once I started dating as a teenager, it usually came my way in the form of a noncommittal, immature guy, who understood lust more than love, and in some cases, was deceitful, unfaithful, and/or verbally abusive. I would usually start out guarded (bracing for the negative criticism), but the more positive attention and affection I received from a guy pursuing or dating me, the more I lowered my guard and latched onto that source of feel-good validation.
In time, though, the positive affirmation he initially offered would wilt; the lust would rust; the infatuation would fade; and I would be left wondering what had changed or gone wrong. Until a certain age, I thought I was what had changed (for the worse), or I was the thing in the relationship that had gone wrong. I often felt I was most at fault, and made excuses for them that usually involved me not being enough or doing enough to keep their affection.
All that said, I know that while I can’t change the past, or the people in my past, I can choose to ask God to change my heart, mind, and spirit now, and for the future. I know I am whole in Christ and Christ alone. And I know that God’s is the only affirmation I need.
This doesn’t mean I now “have it altogether,” (although I still try to sometimes). Being imperfect, I don’t always walk in the truth. One truth I do try to walk in is that the world’s affirmation is not always positive (or even good intentioned), but God’s affirmation is always positive. Even when it feels negative, the truth is it is still for the purpose of refining me and making me more like Jesus, which is the most positive affirmation of all.
And so my adulterous relationship with him began: first with “harmless” flirting, progressing to an “innocent” e-mail or phone call, before advancing to an invitation to “simply” hang out, just the two of us. (Seeing a pattern here?) Before I knew it, I was double-checking my hair before I left the apartment and would see him, making sure I smelled and looked especially attractive—all while lying to myself: we’re just friends. Honestly, I’m not sure I ever was just his friend considering how I felt that first time I saw him. Meanwhile, Satan and his spiritual thugs worked quickly, while I remained in denial that they were at work at all.
The First Kiss