Leaving Sin Behind

I don’t usually linger in the shower, but that Friday evening I did. Tears gushed out from my innermost places, as I let the hot water wash over every part of me. It felt like a cleansing of sorts. Just a few hours before, I admitted to myself and God that I had been an adulterous wife. Now, I couldn’t stop weeping as the filth of my sin came off with each rinsing.

Two days later, I walked into church filled with shame and regret. I longed to hear God’s voice tell me, all is well. That he forgives me. And He still loves me.

As we stood to sing, God addressed my shame.

“Are you hurting and broken within? Overwhelmed by the weight of your sin? Jesus is calling. Have you come to the end of yourself? Jesus is calling. Come to the altar. The Father’s arms are open wide. Forgiveness was bought with the precious blood of Jesus Christ. Leave behind your regrets and mistakes. Come today there’s no reason to wait. Jesus is calling.”

I walked to the altar, fell on my knees and wept. It felt as though God was stooping down to put his loving arms around me and whispering, “Leave your regrets and mistakes with me. Forgiveness is yours.”

The next song echoed more of His love for me.

“But, I heard the tender whisper of love in the dead of night. And You tell me that You’re pleased and that I’m never alone. You’re a good, good Father. It’s who You are. And I’m loved by You.”

I wept again, humbled by God’s mercy.

To be sure I got his message of love and forgiveness, God gave me one more encouragement. The husband of a couple who sits across the aisle from us every Sunday morning stopped over after the service to say, “It’s so good to see you two together. All is right in the world when I see you both each week.”

This couple greets us often, but neither one was aware of our marital struggles. I knew then, that those words came directly from God, to me. Because I needed to hear them.

I went home later that afternoon with a glimmer of hope. Knowing God was rooting for me made all the difference. It gave me the courage and motivation to begin the hard work of repairing my marriage. I didn’t know what to do or where to start, but I trusted God would show me. And he did.

About a month later, on Valentine’s Day 2016, our marriage hit a turning point in the healing direction when Scott and I attended a marriage event at our church. The counsel and encouragement we received was exactly what we needed in the time we needed it. Only our God could have arranged it so perfectly. For He knew the kind of help his children, Scott and Phuong, were seeking.

February 14, 2016 became another anniversary date for Scott and me, as we renewed our marriage vows before God and his church. I recommitted to my husband with my whole heart for my whole life. Hard work lies ahead of us, but I knew our God would not let us fail. The first and hardest thing I had to do was, to come clean with my husband. For he had no clue about where and how my heart had wandered.

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By now you’re either on the edge of your seat, wanting to know how my reveal went down with my husband, or you think I’m vain for dragging out this story. I assure you, the reveal will come in the next writing and I promise you, this writing isn’t about me.

I’m intentionally sharing this story in bite size chunks to help you, who are in the midst of your own heart wandering or whatever sin you may be struggling with. God wants you to see the process by which sin can be overcome. He wants you to know there are benefits and rewards for not continuing in your sin. You can make the decision to stop polluting yourself and the people close to you, with sin’s poison.

It’s never too late to turn away from doing wrong and to start doing right. You can leave your regrets and mistakes in the open arms of the Heavenly Father. God is not down on you because of your mistakes. He offers you forgiveness if you will accept it. He is a good Father who will not leave you alone, but will be with you as you turn to him and away from sin.

“Come today there’s no reason to wait. Jesus is calling. Forgiveness is waiting for you. Bring your sorrows and trade them for joy. From the ashes a new life is born.”

Posted in Emotional Affair, Forgiveness, Marriage, Repentance, Sin | Leave a comment

The Break-Up of an Emotional Affair

Proverbs 28:13 says, “Anyone who hides their sins doesn’t succeed. But anyone who admits their sins and gives them up finds mercy.”

These were God’s words to me during my time of wandering. Over and over God brought them to the forefront of my mind. He was trying to get me to do the right thing. He wanted me to give up my sin. But I ignored him. Until he exposed my sin and I made a fool of myself.

In the end, God had his way. He moved my temptation into a different zip code altogether and sin found me out as my admirer confronted me about my marital status.

My heart sank. My hope for happiness was squashed to bits and pieces in what would be our final conversation together. It was the last time I saw him.

I had been certain God would somehow work this guy into my future. Surely he wants me to be happy. My feelings deceived me into believing God would give me what my flesh wanted because everything felt good and right. What a fool I was!

Yet God is full of mercy. He offered me a way out of sin because he loves me and my family, although it didn’t feel like love at the time. His correction felt like punishment. I questioned God’s goodness and believed he was withholding happiness from me. So I writhed in agony.

I wept hard that night and scribbled in my journal through swollen, sorrowful eyes.

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The next morning, I had a chance to see him one last time. But I didn’t take it. Not because I didn’t want to.

The flesh part of me desperately wanted to look into his eyes and hear his voice a final time. To have the memory of him edged in my mind. But the Spirit of God living in my heart wouldn’t let me go. He knew exposing myself to temptation again would lead me further into sin against Him, my husband, and the young man my heart had wandered towards.

I fought through the pain of my emotional break-up in the following weeks and months. I questioned whether I should have gone back to say my goodbyes.

Maybe things would have turned out differently if I hadn’t stayed away. Maybe not. I’ll never know.

But I’m thankful God steered me onto the right path. I don’t regret the decision to give up my sin. In doing so, I found God’s mercy and received a renewed love for my husband and my family.

 

 

 

 

 

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An Emotional Affair – Part II

IMG_20151021_080007742No one is exempt from temptation and sin. Not even Christians. Even if we’ve accepted God’s forgiveness and are trying to live by his standards, we can still fall because we are imperfect beings. Just when we think we are standing strong, we must be careful not to fall.

This was me. I thought I was strong because I love and fear God. But I was not careful and fell into temptation. The flesh part of me was fascinated by the charm and magnetism of a man who is not my husband. So I pushed aside all moral reasoning and acted on my desires.

I didn’t run from temptation like God warns. I ran towards it because it made me feel good. Being around this guy made me feel young and desirable. So I fanned the flame of temptation and left my heart wide open for sin to come and settle in.

But God wouldn’t leave me alone. He kept replaying these words of 1 Corinthians 13:10 in my mind like a broken record.

“This temptation is no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. He will offer a way out so you can endure it.”

God was doing preventive adultery counseling while I tried to rationalize my sin. I’m just being friendly with the guy God. I haven’t acted inappropriately around him. We’re only talking. What is the harm in conversing with another man?

Well, the potential for harm was real because my motives weren’t pure. I wanted more than a friendship. I was enamored with the guy. But it was more than a physical attraction. I was drawn to his personality and character. He was present. He was interested. So was I.

Deep in my heart, I knew I was sinning. But I tried to convince myself that God sent this man because he wanted me to have him. Why else would He move us to Georgia? Maybe, God will set him aside for me in case Scott and I are no longer together.

It’s ridiculous. I know. But I did really have these irrational thoughts. I was trying to make sense of my crazy. To bring order into my chaotic thinking. Of course I couldn’t because sin is crazy and disorderly. My feelings and thoughts held me captive for I was too ashamed to tell anyone about my sin. Yet, I knew we needed help because our marriage was on the verge of breaking.

In the fall of 2015, I went searching for help. Out of desperation, I tearfully asked a pastor and his wife to be our marriage mentors as we were having lunch together. Well, I must have scared them because we never heard from them again.

But God didn’t leave us on our own. He offered me a way out by removing my temptation out of plain view, but not completely out of the picture. We still bumped into each other and my feelings for him intensified. I thought about him often and imagined what life would be like with him instead of Scott.

I was in a dangerous place and it scared me. How did I get in so deep? Should I leave my husband and my boys? I know God hates divorce. I can’t get a divorce. I won’t. But what do I do with these feelings I have for this man? Maybe God will save him for me in the future. Until then, I will exist in my marriage. I’ll stay married but my heart won’t be in it. Or maybe I can keep this fling on the side. We’ll keep talking and he doesn’t have to know I’m married.

Oh, this is crazy! How long can I live in hiding? My husband has no idea I have committed adultery in my heart against him. For God says when I look at another man to lust after him, I have already committed adultery with him my heart (Matthew 5:28).

What am I to do God? I need your help more than ever! If you don’t show up, I don’t know what will happen to this marriage. We are in trouble! Please show me a way out! I have never been so conflicted. I’ve never compromised my marriage in this way. I am so confused about how and what I feel. I need you to help me see things clearly God!

God was faithful. He did offer me another way out of my temptation. And this time, I had no choice but to take His way out. It was painful and humbling. But God was a good and merciful Father to me through it all.

Just as he is to all who admit their sin and turn from it.

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An Emotional Affair – Part I

IMG_20150410_150306133I never thought it would happen to me. I was careful about not having guy friends because I had witnessed my share of platonic relationships turning into unintentional affairs. I vowed not to fall into the same trap.

Then it happened. I was attracted to another man.

I remember the first time our eyes met over a mere thirty seconds. My boys were with me in the crowded room. He had me with his southern drawl and hospitality. His hello came with a lingering gaze to let me know of his interest in me. I strutted past him, feeling good about my 40 something self.

And that’s how my emotional fling began. In the beginning, we had chance meetings. As time went on, our rendezvous became more frequent. Our conversations were brief, cordial and always in public. Yet, there was an undeniable attraction between us.  He didn’t inquire about my marital status and I didn’t volunteer any information.

At the time, my family and I were settling into our new home and community. My husband poured himself into his new job while I busied myself with our boys and work at the house. We were focused on our individual work. Inadvertently, we turned into roommates who shared the same space but lived separate lives. Scott and I were absent from each other. We worked hard to build our home and family, but neglected our marriage.

I’ve heard it said that absence makes the heart fonder. But for me, absence made my heart wander. The more time Scott and I spent apart, the further I drifted from him and our marriage. My heart did not grow fonder towards my husband. My heart wandered towards another man.

I became the woman God speaks of in Proverbs chapter 7. The brash and rebellious woman who is never content to stay at home. I frequented temptation’s doorway and was lured into sin. I enticed a single man onto a wayward path.

To be clear, we never acted on our desires. The physical affair didn’t take place. But the emotional affair was real. At least for me. I was duped by my intense feelings for someone I hardly knew. Absence from my husband caused my heart to wander and I became emotionally attached to a stranger.

It would take an act of God’s mercy to bring me back from my wandering.

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Sweet Sixteen!

June 30th is a sweet sixteen celebration in the Schuetz family. Not a birthday celebration, but a wedding anniversary for S&P (my mother-in-law’s nickname for us, aka her Salt & Pepper kids).

It is Sweet Sixteen because of how the Lord has made our sixteenth year together special. He gave us not one, but two getaways as a family in the last month. This is something we’ve put off doing for way too long. Our time together has helped us grow closer as a couple and a family. It is truly a sweet blessing from our Father, God!

smooches s&pScott and I have finally found our sweet spot after sixteen years of marriage. We have learned to bear with one another out of love, not just tolerate each other out of obligation. We put each other’s needs first rather than insisting on our own way. We forgive more readily and aren’t afraid to be real with each other about our struggles.

To be clear, not all sixteen years have been sweet! Marriage is harder than I’d imagine. I wish I had been better prepared to share myself, my space, and my life with another person. We thought we were ready to take on marriage because we had been dating for seven plus years. Surely, we knew everything about each other!

Well, we were wrong :(. The past sixteen years has seen us happy, hopeful, and loving, but also disappointed, failing, frustrated, pained and challenged. I could tell you that things have been smooth and awesome because we are following Christ, but I’d be lying. The truth is, Scott and I have gone through a few rough patches in our years together. And for the record, it feels like we’ve been married much longer than sixteen years!

I’m grateful we did make it to our sweet sixteen. But let me assure you, there are days when I still ask God why I married this man who is so different from me! What was I thinking? Sometimes, I’m so frustrated with him I just want to be single again! His patience, the thing I most loved about him while we were dating, drives me crazy when I just want to get things done my way, right away! We aggravate each other from time to time and don’t always agree on everything. But with God’s help, we keep working hard for a strong and lasting marriage!

One thing I’m certain of, without God at the center of our individual lives and marriage, there would be no sweet sixteen celebration. And you’ll understand why as I uncover the veil from our marriage in the following weeks’ posts. You’ll see how the Lord carried us through real struggles, how he strengthened our bond with him and one another, and what he did for our faith in the midst of marriage-threatening challenges.

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Changing My Obsession

“People my age are obsessed with being popular. They are obsessed with how many likes they get on a post. But where does popularity get you? It doesn’t help you succeed in life.”  – Naysa, 7th grade student.

Naysa is wise beyond her middle school years. She shared this one Sunday at my church when we were talking about being obsessed with someone or something. I assured her that adults have this obsession problem too, myself included.

I don’t know about you, but I have obsessive tendencies. I can and have obsessed over anything that grabs my attention. It can be food, fitness, beauty, or the desire to be in control.

Ashamedly, I do obsess over the number of likes and follows. I let it drag me down to the point of feeling awkward and inadequate in my own body. It’s an emotional roller coaster I ride over and over as I wait, wondering what people will do with what I’m posting.

Likes and follows gives me an instant good feeling. But its impact is temporary. I always need more of both to get the same good feeling. Except, I will never receive enough to feel worthy because acknowledgment from others is external. People’s affirmation can’t ever touch the deepest place in my heart that needs to feel valued and accepted. Only God can give me the assurance of my worth because he made me. He alone knows how to make me feel loved and valued like no one else can.

If I must obsess, let me obsess over Jesus, the giver of my value.

So if I must obsess, let me obsess over Jesus, my God. May I obsess over the truth of what He says about me; that I am wonderfully made. Let me obsess about the amazing reality that God thought of me when the world was created. That all the days of my life and the work he made me to do has been established long before I was conceived. May I obsess over God’s indescribable love. For none has considered me a special treasure, valuable enough to take on the punishment for my sins. And no one has loved me to the point of dying for me.

When I am tempted to obsess over likes and follows, may I consider the words of Naysa. What will the likes of people do for me and where will it take me? May it remind me to obsess over Jesus. Let me remember that my worth is not determined by how many people like and follow me. Rather, mworth is decided by the One God who created me and gives my life value.

 

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We All Need Forever Friends

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Sometimes, I wonder if there is something seriously wrong with me. I don’t have any close friends. Sure, I have plenty of friends online. But it is hard to find a “real life”, forever friend.

One who understands my heart, knows my uglies, and still thinks I’m beautiful. A friend who wants more than the casual online connection, but seeks a deep heart to heart bonding. She isn’t afraid to talk about her issues because she knows I have have them too. She is honest about her fears and disappointments. So I know I’m not alone with mine.

A forever friend listens to hear my heart, not necessarily to offer advice. She encourages me with gentleness and isn’t easily offended because she trusts my heart towards her. She forgives much because she has been forgiven much. She means what she says and says what she means.
We all need at least one forever friend. I have a few across the miles, but they are a rare find. Like the most precious jewels in all the earth, except they can’t be bought. At any price.

Proverbs 20:8 says, “As iron sharpens iron, so friends sharpen one another.”

I am always looking for a forever friend to sharpen me. So I can be a useful tool in the hands of God and do life changing work in his world.

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