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.
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.