Interview with Ben Wilson, part 2

This is part two of my interview with Ben Wilson. Also check out part one and part three.


Most Christians believe divorce is a sin, except in certain cases.
Adultery is often cited (and supported with Matthew
5:31–32
) as one of those
cases in
which
divorce is allowed. Do you think an affair is an acceptable reason for the
offended party to ask for a divorce?

It can be but that usually isn’t the best
question to ask. I think with Jesus’ words we often want to make it into a
final list when I just don’t think he
did that much. He was speaking to men who were treating women in horrible ways
through
often divorcing for no significant reason. So the core of his teaching to me
is directed at each man in something like, "Husbands love your wife intentionally
with tenderness and respect." Often times the passage is used the exact
opposite of what he intended. By that I mean pastors sometimes guilt women
to staying in a marriage with a man who is being a total buffoon or even evil
in
beating her. To me he was seeking to protect women and that is often missed.

The
better question to ask is, "What are the possibilities for our relationship
in this marriage?" At times, some Christians pray for their spouse to
have an affair so they’ll have a ‘legal’ way out. That is a coward’s prayer.
Humility,
suffering, perseverance, character are all words that are neglected in that
prayer.

To sum up, I would say that it is generally worth putting all you have
into rebuilding your marriage and seeking to move through the pain and trauma
of
an affair to
restore it even after an affair. A divorce should still be sought in light
of the question, "What does it mean to love my spouse well?" A divorce
could be sought at some level as a last ditch effort to help the spouse have
an encounter with God. The Greek word for adultery doesn’t usually mean just
one affair but sexual betrayal over and over. So I don’t think one affair is
a good reason to divorce. But to be fair, every situation is different and
I am sure there are some situations where it is the best way to love the other.

If
a married couple who had been through an affair told you they wanted to divorce,
would you encourage them to stay together?

I encourage a couple to make a decision
to work through the process of the betrayal and to worry about making a final
decision about the marriage down
the road.
There is so much pain, trauma and upheaval just after the revelation that neither
will be thinking and feeling clearly enough to make that decision. I do believe
that if two people commit to being honest, place a high value on their relationship
and a high value on God that going through the process will lead them to a
better marriage than they had before the affair.

Why did you and your wife decide
to stay together after the infidelities were brought to light?

For me there
were two main reasons. The first was that I couldn’t stand the thought of another
man tucking my kids into bed at night. If we divorced Ann
would remarry
and I didn’t know who that man would be in relationship with my kids. I hated
that thought. My kids and I rubbed noses like Eskimos and it was great. They
are teens now and don’t do that. :)

The second was out of gratitude to God for entering my life and literally saving
me from suicidal thoughts. I called out one day and said, "God this can’t
be what you intended for my life. Either take me back or show me the way." The
Spirit came in me that day and I began to listen and make different choices
in my life.

I read that it took about as long to get over the affair as it went
on. It went on sporadically for three years. So I gave God three years to
save my
marriage.
In the meantime I committed to face all of the pain I could each day. I didn’t
commit to the marriage but I did commit to the process of rebuilding. Our
biggest leap of forgiveness came after fourteen months.
Ann says part of it was she didn’t want to fail at marriage. All of our siblings
but one has been divorced and she didn’t want to join them. Also Ann is a
very loyal person (yeah we see the paradox). She knew at her core that she
really
loved me. Kids were also a reason for her too. That’s it in a nutshell.

We
both also have a certain degree of pertinacity. I was a state champion at
golf and she was an all-district basketball player in high school. We
both
knew what it was to work hard with a goal in mind. Short term suffering
for long term
gain so to speak.

It has been ten years since the infidelity in your marriage,
and you appear to have come a long way since then. Do you feel that your
marriage is fully
restored?
Are the wounds all healed and trust regained?

Yes I feel our marriage
is fully restored and waaaaaaayyyyyy beyond what it was before the affair.
We talked the other day and we have both grown
so much
the
last ten years. We were 30 year old adolescents (I was 33. I can’t
tell you how many people I see whose lives are turned upside down at 33) then
and
really are
adults now.

We read, reflect, seek to discern, challenge each other
and ourselves and offer grace to one another. We want to be ‘on the grow’
(Charlie Tremendous
Jones
phrase) the rest of our lives.

Yes, the wounds are healed. We touch
our scars a little more often than the average couple because of this strange
calling we have.
We want to
be present
with the
emotions we felt ten years ago when we share our story so it doesn’t
feel like we are talking in a third person manner.

I trust Ann and
vice versa. We are also both much more aware of our fallen nature and don’t
pretend it doesn’t exist. She is capable
of heinous
sin and me too.
Oswald Chambers said an unguarded strength is a double weakness.
Being aware of our capacity for sin helps to keep us ‘on the
grow’ and moving
closer
to one another. That is the best guarantee against another affair
occurring.

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