As a single man, I had ongoing struggles with hidden sin that I brought into the marriage. Though I had shared a bit of these previous struggles in my past with Aneta prior to our wedding day, it was communicated as a struggle in the rearview mirror, far behind me. However, I did not fully uproot the insidious roots of lust, greed, and self-idolatry during singlehood. Such roots unaddressed will defile the marriage bed.
To be quite candid, I thought I had dealt with these roots. The allurement of the promise of marriage seemed to provide just the right boost to overcome the previous hidden struggles for a season of courtship, engagement and even the first year of marriage. Though hidden, the roots were still there. I thought I had it all under control when in reality it still controlled me.
Remember Luke 4:13: And when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from [Jesus] until an opportune time.
Thanks to God’s relentless mercy, I was uncomfortably forced to deal with such sins in my life shortly thereafter. What felt like an opportune moment for the devil to destroy my fledging marriage, became a divinely orchestrated crucible. What the enemy intended for destruction, the Father used for good. It exposed all the hidden roots in my life as the heat intensified. Though downright unpleasant and extremely painful for all, it was absolutely necessary. It is one thing to deal with such issues as a single man, it is entirely a different matter when dealing with the delicate heart of a prized, cherish woman. I saw firsthand how my selfish choices were in fact affecting the life of another human being, a person I loved.
The lie that said, “This struggle isn’t affecting anyone else,” was blatantly exposed. Oftentimes as men we become calloused within, thinking that our little secret is just a little side indulgence. “It does not affect anyone,” we muse while gratifying ourselves, “this is just my little secret.” Make no mistake about it, when you degrade a woman (or anyone, for that matter) in the privacy of your secret thought life, you ultimately degrade yourself. Darkness settles in within the recess of your soul. Demons lurk for the opportune moment to fan the flame of illicit passions raging within your darkened soul.
But there is an antidote. There is a way out. His name is Jesus Christ. He offers forgiveness through the gift of repentance.
The process of repentance took years until the impurity of my heart bore the pure fruit of righteousness. It was one of the hardest seasons of my life. It will cost you everything. It wasn’t just about the absence of the struggle or the sin, it was laying hold of God’s own heart until Christlikeness was evident day in, day out, over an extended period of time. Remember the fierce, but life-giving words of John the Baptizer: “Produce fruit in keeping with repentance” (Luke 3:8). This simply means that repentance has not finished its work until it consistently demonstrates the opposite of whatever sin you are repenting of in your life.
Imagine you are a gardener. Your heart is the garden. As one cultivating a garden overgrown with weeds with no fence to protect it, it takes time to restore the beauty through intentional steps. The gardener must uproot the weeds. Then the hard work of plowing the soil of the heart until it is able to receive the seed of God’s Word. Time is required for that seed to die in the ground before it begins to sprout as it is watered. A fence must be erected to ensure proper boundary lines are established to protect that which is sown within the pliable heart as it grows to full maturity.
From start to end, it takes time until the victory of the finished work of the Cross is evident in the life of a fully surrendered man or woman.
Repentance is a gift from above. Through the mercy of God, it is bestowed upon the humble heart bowed before the throne of grace seeking to receive mercy and find grace in time of need (Hebrews 4:16).
As I grow older, my heart has become tenderized in the mercy of God as it pertains to His heart for women who have endured such pain at the hands of those blinded to the image of God they bear as a female. My heart also aches with a fatherly, but firm concern for men ensnared in such selfish acts. I understand the ruthlessness of such bondage. It is destructive for all involved. It is not harmless.
By God’s grace I am able to speak with authority to call all to purity through fresh consecration unto Christ. Until my last dying breath, I will proclaim the inexhaustible beauty, majesty, and splendor of Christ Jesus. Today is your day of salvation to turn to Christ for His forgiveness as you surrender your life to Him. Through Jesus Christ, receive the gift of repentance as the Father envelopes you in His love. Walk in the power of the Holy Spirit as you commune daily with Him. I pray 2 Corinthians 13:14 over you: “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you.”