Making Amends with Extended Family Hurt by Our Betrayal

The atomic bomb has been dropped. A blinding flash of light, the explosion, the mushroom cloud billowing, devastation everywhere you can see, horror on faces of survivors, lives destroyed. You pushed the button!

You dropped the bomb! You did not mean to, it was an accident. How could this have happened?

It was a normal day at work. Routine is so routine. You predict on your way home the events of the evening. Your wife will be preparing the evening meal. You try to slip in without making a fuss. Keep peace at all cost is your life motto. But peace is not on tonight’s menu. It has been weeks since she confronted you about your secret life with pornography.

You thought it was well hidden and there would be no way you would be caught. She did! And you were! She should be over this by now, you are thinking. The drive home in the falling snow did not prepare you for the ice storm you encountered when you slipped in your own back door.

Her rage had been seething all day, like the steam emitting from the release valve on a pressure cooker. Tears were salting the mashed potatoes she was preparing. You attempted to hug her. She stiffened and pulled away.

As you began to reason with her that you had things under control and together you could work this out. “Mom and Dad want me to move home for a while, she numbly inserts.”

What? Mom and Dad? Want you? You told them? Were there others, you wondered, but wouldn’t allow yourself to ask. Words became racing thoughts, fragments of splintered sentences. They know about? About the porn’? About my acting out? About me? I’m exposed, they know about me. A sick nauseating wave of fear surges through your stomach. Anger emerges.

The thoughts “They have no business” How could you have, when you hear your angry words burst through the silence. “What did you tell them?” “It is none of their business!” “Why did you tell them?”
Supper was left on the stove. You blew it once again. When will this ever end?

As days of winter crept by you knew sooner or later you would have to face those who know and have been hurt. Can there be hope for a future after such a catastrophic explosion? Where do you begin to restore relationships of those who have been hurt by your betrayal?

Restoration is possible:

Consider not yourself, but those who have been hurt by your betrayal. Make a list of those who you know have been affected or in some way have knowledge of your acting out. Remember what the Prodigal Son in Luke chapter 15 did when he decided to go back home to face his dad?

First, he faced his pride. It was a giant. He probably had been plotting and fantasizing just how great life could be if he did not have to be strapped down. If he didn’t have someone looking over his shoulder,  watching him. Why, he could live anyway he pleased. “Hey Dad, I want my inheritance now. I want to make it on my own. I can handle it.”

He didn’t handle it any better than we did, did he? He lost everything. Squandered it on “loose living,” v 13. That is a nice way to put it, isn’t it? “Loose living,” sounds nice enough. His older brother wasn’t sugar coating it in v. 30, “this son of yours (no brother of mine, implied) who has devoured your wealth with prostitutes

Pride wants to minimize and to cover up and hide the magnitude of what we have done. While he was longing to fill his stomach with the pods he was feeding the hogs, v. 16, he was actually swallowing his pride. I will go to my father and tell him what I have done.”

Second, he rehearsed what he would say. He probably ‘hearsed* and rehearsed until he was confident that he had down exactly what he would say. “Dad I sinned (v. 18-19). I am not worthy to be called your son. Would you let me go to work for you as one of your workers?” He identified what sin he had committed against God and his father and confessed it. Because of his betrayal he saw his unworthiness, the true picture of himself. This was no longer about him and what he wanted to get out of life. He was ready now to see the reality of his condition. “I am not worthy”

Third, though it is important to rehearse and rehearse what you will say, be prepared for their response. The younger son, I don’t think was prepared for what his father said and did. Right in the middle of his well rehearsed presentation, his father interrupted him v. 22.

Read for yourself this amazing fatherly response. One of the reasons for the favorable response from his dad was due to the sincerity of his son’s confession. It came from his brokenness not from his pride. If your confession to your family members or friends is in any way marked by insincerity, minimizing, hiding, weaseling, it will become evident. That kind of brokenness can only come from feeding the hogs and becoming aware that we have been living like them. Rooting and snorting for anything that will feed our appetite for pleasure.

Regardless of the relationship with your parents or in-laws, can you see their heart? Can you begin to touch their disappointment and anger? This is not intended to shame you any more than you feel shame now. Again, this is not about you, but those your betrayal has hurt. By realizing what their hurt is and the depth of their hurt, you will then be able to formulate what you will need to say to them.

Fourth, I would suggest you write a letter to each person on your list for the very reason that they may interrupt you and you will not be able to complete what needs to be said. By presenting a well thought out letter of confession, it will be up to them what they will do with it. It may be thrown in your face. You may get yelled or screamed at, or told never to return. You cannot control their response or reaction. Keep in mind you are responsible for your actions. In the event of their rage against you, remember your purpose for being there… it is about them not you. The prodigal son recognized he had squandered his right of sonship as we have also squandered our rights of acceptance.

I want to share a story from one of my clients. I will not give details of her betrayal, but suffice it to say over a number of years her actions destroyed not only her reputation, but relationships with her family, extended family and several other marriages. Upon a realization, not much unlike the prodigal son’s, she became aware of the wake of destruction she had left behind. She decided to change her life, come back to Christ and surrender her life to His lordship. She made a list of all she had harmed over the years. She then decided to physically face each one and confess what she had done and ask for their forgiveness.

This was a monumental task, one filled with fear and dread. As she recounted story after story of meeting the ones she had hurt, you could envision her walking up to the door and knocking. Taking a deep breath, she would say words like, “I am (__________). I am the one who destroyed your marriage. I may never know the extent of hurt I have caused you. I am so sorry for what I have done to you and your children and your family. I have given my life to Christ. He is my Savior and Lord. I want to ask you to forgive me for the pain I have caused you.”

The last time I saw this precious woman, she had personally faced everyone she knew that she had hurt. She told me not one person threw her off the porch or slammed the door in her face. Time and time again she was received with such grace she was shocked. She did it right!

Fifth, realize it takes time to heal. In the story above the hurts this woman had caused had happened several years prior for many of these people, some more recent. In the case of the prodigal son, we don’t know how long he was gone, but apparently it had taken him quite a while to go through his inheritance. Emotional healing takes time. While forgiveness can be granted, trust has to be earned over time. Restoration of relationships is a process not an act. Talk to those who you have hurt and let them know what you are doing to prevent future betrayals.
We have all pushed the button that has devastated the lives of family members and friends. What is left for you to say? How will you say it? When will you say it? May the Lord Jesus bless you as you seek to rebuild relationships!

* Yeah, I know, “hearsed” is not in spell check, it just seemed to fit at the time.

Craig Boden

For help, see Every Man’s Battle.
If you have already attended Every Man’s Battle, please honor your wife by joining us in our couples program at our next New Life Weekend.

Celebrating God’s Attributes: His Grace

Mark Verkler

Grace defined:

1. The free unmerited love and favor of God; the spring and source of all the benefits men receive from him. (Romans 11)

2. The application of Christ’s righteousness to the sinner. (Romans 5)

3. A state of reconciliation to God. (Romans 5:2)

Perhaps grace is the ultimate expression of God’s love to us and for us. …for God is love (1 John 4:8b). It is hard to describe and hard to grasp, partly because it’s so unnatural and so much against the flesh. I have such a tendency to either compare myself favorably to someone I suppose is a worse sinner than I am and unfavorably to someone I suppose is a better saint. Pride would keep me out of each group–humility would put me in.

Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 12:9: ‘The Lord said, ‘My grace is enough for you: my power is at it’s best in weakness.’ So I shall be very happy to make my weaknesses my special boast so that the power of Christ may stay over me.’

One of the most amazing parts of God’s grace is that He promises that it is enough. No matter the sin, no matter the failure, no matter the weakness, His grace is enough. I have learned that I AM NOT to ask for God’s grace. That is like asking for rain that is already falling, or asking for sunshine on a cloudless day. I am to accept by faith that God’s grace is extended to me and receive it moment by moment with thanksgiving. Of course it makes sense to give thanks for a gift as great as Grace. But I am afraid I all too often ignore it, or ask for it, instead of opening the gift of grace that is right in front of me and giving thanks and rejoicing.

In Luke 17: 3-4 we see another picture of grace. Jesus tells us that if our brother trespasses against us seven times in the same day, repents and seeks forgiveness, we are to give it to him. Would God ask us to do something he wasn’t willing to do? No. That is God’s grace’a well that is so deep it will never run out of water no matter how much we need or use. Though we are warned to not use grace as a license to sin (Romans 6), we are exhorted to embrace our weakness and need of it.

To truly know grace, it must go far beyond understanding and into experience. That means embracing my need for God. I am a Saint by God’s grace, and a Saint who sins and needs His grace every day. Dietrich Bonhoffer noted,

‘He who is alone with his sins is utterly alone. It may be that Christians, notwithstanding in corporate worship, common prayer , and all their fellowship in service, may still be left to their loneliness. The final breakthrough to fellowship does not occur because though they have fellowship with one another as believers and as devout people, they do not have fellowship as the undevout, as sinners.

The pious fellowship permits no one to be a sinner. So everyone must conceal his sin from himself and from their fellowship. We dare not be sinners. Many Christians are unthinkably horrified when a real sinner is suddenly discovered among the righteous. So we remain alone with our sin, living in lies and hypocrisy. The fact is that we are sinners!’

This is evidence of God’s grace working in me: I can admit my weakness and need for God’s grace to myself, my God and my brother’s in Christ. I don’t have to cover up so that I appear to have no need of His grace. On the contrary, I can ‘uncover’ and embrace my need of the gift of grace.

Someone said that God doesn’t clean his fish until AFTER He catches them. God is in the business of justifying the ungodly.

 Romans 4:5 says: ‘But to him not working, but believing on Him justifying the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.’ That is grace. I must not think that I have to justify myself. That is his job. Mine is to admit my need.

In closing, I am inspired by Henri Nouwen’s vision of grace in the story of the Prodigal. He writes:

‘In my minds eye, I see Rembrandt’s painting The Return of the Prodigal Son. The dim eyed old father holds his returned son close to his chest with an unconditional love. Both of his hands, one strong and masculine, the other gentle and feminine, rest on his son’s shoulders. He does not look at his son but feels his young, tired body and lets him rest in his embrace. His immense red cape is like the wings of a mother bird covering her fragile nestling. He seems to think only one thing: he is back home and I am so glad to have him with me again.’

May we all go ‘back home’ into the arms of grace.

The Struggle to Keep Going in Recovery

Pastor Ed Grant

The decision to make a significant life-style change is important, but not as important as the plan for change and the resolve to continue following the plan when it becomes a grind. The experience of Nehemiah is both insightful and encouraging for all who find themselves stuck in the recovery process.

Under the wise direction of Nehemiah the Israelites had organized a Herculean effort to rebuild the walls of their beloved city. The city wall, which was the primary defense against marauding bands of thieves, had lain in ruins for a generation. For our discussion, the city wall represents self discipline.

As Solomon said,28Like a city whose walls are broken down is a man who lacks self-control.’ (Proverbs 25:28).

Our story begins some time after the reconstruction efforts had begun. Nehemiah lists in detail the various sections of the wall with the names of the families who worked on them. The people worked hard and rejoiced as a new wall arose from the rubble: 6So we rebuilt the wall till all of it reached half its height, for the people worked with all their heart.’ (Nehemiah 4:6).

But suddenly a series of events threatened to frustrate their efforts. Local warlords were unhappy with the project and plotted to attack the city. There was also a serious problem that surfaced among the people: 10Meanwhile, the people in Judah said, “The strength of the laborers is giving out, and there is so much rubble that we cannot rebuild the wall.” (Nehemiah 4:10). So much of the rebuilding effort involved moving and removing the rubble and debris that littered the unprotected city. Unfortunately, the efforts to rebuild our lives resemble Jerusalem, a city knee-deep in rubble. Restoring the walls invariably involves the hard work of organizing and sifting through the rubble. Much of it will actually be used in re-building the walls of self control! Let’s see how Nehemiah helped the people address the threats from without and the struggles within.

1. Acknowledge your fears and your feelings. Don’t minimize or ignore the sense of being overwhelmed or the feelings of futility and hopelessness. The enemy will whisper his potent lies in the privacy of your thoughts. How you address these lies will determine if you will continue to build or give up. Listen to the members of your support group, your family and friends who express concerns about your emotional withdrawal, your anger, or about your return to harmful patterns. They speak with loving concern. However, I encourage you to regard your pre-occupation with the addictive behavior as a cry from your heart for help and refuse accept the debilitating messages of shame and guilt.

2. Take steps to address the threats. Nehemiah organized the people to address the danger posed by those who opposed his efforts. 12Then the Jews who lived near them came and told us ten times over, “Wherever you turn, they will attack us.” 13Therefore I stationed some of the people behind the lowest points of the wall at the exposed places, posting them by families, with their swords, spears and bows.’ (Nehemiah 4:12-13). Review your action plan in light of your current threat. What modifications are needed to ensure success? Do you need to speak with a pastor or a counselor? Do whatever it takes to meet the threat!

3. Don’t think success rests on your own strength. 14After I looked things over, I stood up and said to the nobles, the officials and the rest of the people, “Don’t be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome,’ (Nehemiah 4:14a). Through the prophet Zechariah God addressed the same situation in this manner: ‘Not by might, nor by power but by my Spirit’ says the Lord Almighty.’ (Zechariah 4:6b). God is awesome and almighty! Through our weakness He allows us to experience His faithfulness and His power. Prayer, worship, fellowship and meditation on God’s handbook for living are invaluable and irreplaceable power boosters for all of us in our times of trial! Remember and resolve to stand on His promise that no temptation will come upon us that we can’t meet with His help.

4. Remember your vision for sobriety and everyone who will benefit by your changes. ‘fight for your brothers, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your homes.” One of Satan’s deadliest lies is that our struggles and efforts don’t matter. God’s purpose for godliness (God-likeness) is that we reflect His character to a lost world, especially those who are closest to us and have been most affected by our actions.

Satan’s invitation to partake in old, destructive habits is powerful, but not as powerful as the One who lives within us and calls us His children. To the world your broken walls might appear as worthless rubble, undeserving of the efforts it will take to change. But God has called your heart ‘holy ground’. No one but Him can imagine the glory your life will reflect by the time He returns to bring you to heaven.