In the new drama television series, “The Good Wife,” Juliana Margulies plays the wife of an elected official who is caught in a sex and money scandal. The official, played by Chris Noth, is sent to prison and “the good wife” returns to work as a lawyer, raising her two children on her own.
Take a look at the profiles of many of your Christian friends and you’ll discover that listed among their favorite programs are TV series like “Desperate Housewives,” and “Gray’s Anatomy,” both of which frequently glamorize sexual relations outside marriage. Other TV series are busy normalizing homosexuality, and Christians are laughing along.
“The Good Wife,” a new CBS series, takes sharp aim at recent and ongoing public scandals that have projected the unfortunate wife into the limelight, namely former presidential candidate Sen. John Edwards, South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, former President Bill Clinton, Sen. David Vitter of Louisiana, former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer and Sen. John Ensign of Nevada. There are others, of course, but they begin to fade into history as cases are resolved and home issues reconciled.
It doesn’t just happen to the powerful among us. And it doesn’t just happen outside the church, as we’ve frequently seen men who fall sexually publicly appeal to God for forgiveness, as well as to their Christian brothers and sisters.
And it doesn’t just happen when men wander off in mid-life with a prostitute or a staffer. It happens in communities large and small. It sometimes happens when men find themselves acting on a long-suppressed attraction to other men. It happens. And when it happens, the question always presents itself, though usually not amid flashbulbs and the shouts of reporters: “do I stand or walk?” The question is posed to wives — and occasionally husbands — who must relive in their minds the vows and make a decision based on an earlier decision by the other spouse to dishonor those vows, for whatever misguided and unjustified reason.
Why stay with a man struggling with attraction to men?
Why would a wife continue to walk with her husband when he has admitted – and it has been publicly-revealed – that he struggles with and has acted out on same-sex attraction? In other words, though married, he still is tempted to act-out sexually with men. How can a marriage survive this revelation? Can they walk through it, knowing that many who know them both will be naysayers?
I am that man; we are that couple. These are the words of my wife. For the sake of the naysayers, she tells in her words why she’s still walking with me, despite all the pain, despite the length, despite the treacherous path we’ve been on. She has so much to say, that I’ll only be able to touch on it.
This has been a long and arduous journey for us both. We’ve shed many a tear, said many a hurtful thing, spent many a silent night, pondered many an action in our 33-year marriage.
A same-sex struggler does not walk alone. If he does, he usually ceases to struggle at all. I have credited my wife with saving my life. She won’t take credit for that because she has matured to the point now where credit for all things good goes to God. And I know, as she does, that the power to heal comes only from God. However, the patience of those around us — especially our spouses — is often what allows us to keep the door open long enough for God to do His redeeming work.
“For behold, the winter has past, the rain is over and gone. The flowers have already appeared in the land; the time has arrived for pruning the vines, and the voice of the turtledove has been heard in our land.” — Song of Solomon 2:11-12.
This verse expresses the hope my wife has that her endurance through faith has at last brought us into a lasting season of growth. Let’s just not talk too much about pruning. There have been times in the past when she probably would not have been safe with shears.
We met in college. She told me today, as she has told me before, that she fell in love with me there. She was one of those people who knew what love was and I was one of those people who wanted to know, a searcher before I became a struggler. She did not pursue me; I pursued her. I had a nagging inside me for a life I knew was wrong for me — the homosexual lifestyle — and yet I found myself seeing in her what I always believed God really wanted for me. And, lo and behold, she thought she saw the same in me.
“I knew who you were; I liked the way you thought. I knew you were the person I wanted to spend my life with,” she said.
It is not her fault that she did not know all of who I was. I did not reveal it; I stifled it and hoped to strangle it. Would she have spent her life with me anyway? Today, I believe she would. Back then, I was afraid to risk it.
My wife tells me that within weeks of our marriage — nearly 33 years ago — she sensed something was wrong. Part of it was sexual; part of it was a sad distraction I had, an emptiness that I couldn’t share because I did not trust her enough to bear it. So, there was unevenness from the beginning because she was completely honest and I was not. She had nothing to hide and I was just beginning to construct the hiding places. I was fearful of revealing myself to the one person who really and truly wanted to know me.
Life happens, as every couple knows. Five children, the ups and downs of career changes, relocations, health issues, financial pressures. We confronted and worked through and managed all of these things together, some well, others not so. But the most destructive thing — my inner confusion and wavering commitment — we each carried separately as something to deal with someday.
Someday does get here. Truth reveals itself. Having passed through that revelation, we both now advise couples in our situation to hasten that day because the force with which it arrives is only magnified by the passage of time.
Looking back over the past three decades, my wife describes to me the maturing of her undertaking.
“Off and on there were concerns,” she said. “I would stuff them down. There were times you tried to share things with me, even when our first son was a baby. You were trying to share, trying to get help. Then, with all the other pressures of life, you would try to reassure me. Just like you, I wanted to believe that all would be well. We really wanted all to be well.”
If wanting something could make it so . . .
“As time passed, things happened that increased my concern. Our relationship changed. Your personality at home changed and I knew we had a real problem. Still, even at the point where I knew it was serious, I did not feel like I should leave you. I didn’t even know if you seriously wanted to change or if you even believed you could change . . . but I believed God was telling me to stay with you.”
Stand by your man . . . or walk with God in faith?
“As things began to spiral down, I felt like God was saying ‘we have a major problem here.’ But, at that point, I felt I was strong enough, that my years of crying out to God had deepened my relationship with Him enough that even though I did not know what to do to ‘fix it,’ I still did not believe God wanted me to leave.”
My wife was angry . . . sad . . . disappointed . . . dejected . . . and neglected . . . but not depleted.
“I believed God was still saying ‘trust Me.’ So I did. I believed God was saying ‘quit crying,’ so I did. I believed God was saying ‘keep living, keep loving, keep studying your Bible, keep praying, carry on and be who I created you to be, despite what your husband is doing and expressing. I believed God was saying ‘leave him to Me.’ So I did . . . but I stayed close. That’s what you do when you love someone, no matter what they are going through.”
My wife rejoiced when she began to see some hope, this time within me and not just within herself.
“There was a tiny bit of hope in you and you asked me to hope too . . . and something began to change.”
Hope, of course, is not enough. Since the expression of that hope, through personal and joint counseling and through support groups, with the cost staring me straight in the face, I still stumbled.
“If you weren’t seeking God, there would have been no reason for me to walk this out with you in our marriage relationship. I would have had to walk somewhere else.”
Why is my wife still with me, though our children are away from both of us because of my pattern of falling and their fear of taking further risks?
“I understand now what your struggle is. I understand that the change that will set you free from it has to come from God, not from me or anyone else. But I can see the incredible work that God is doing and I am getting the reward of the walk. The man I fell in love with has, in a sense, been ‘resurrected,’ but with the benefits of the maturity of life. All the things I lost have been restored and other things have been added. I know what God has promised and I want every bit of it. I feel incredibly blessed, despite the failings of the past. These blessings are not based on children . . . finances . . . position. I just know in my spirit that I am right with God and He is changing my husband as a person and will continue to do so.”
My wife may fear I’ll stumble again. Those are fears I put there. But, she has faith — not in me, but in the God who loves me –and she is in my life because He allowed it.
“God has plans and purposes for you,” she said to me. “I see God chasing you like a hound. God has to get His people to a certain point and to do so, sometimes He needs someone to be ‘God with skin on’ to really love someone. Maybe God chose me to be the one with skin on to help you walk out of this lifestyle forever.”
So, is my wife just “standing by her man?”
“Standing by your man is selfish. It may look like your supporting him, but you may be just trying to do what is right and good to make things better and keep things working . . . and that doesn’t work at all. Walking with someone means you’re dependent on God. You can’t really walk with a struggler if you’re focused on the struggler alone; you have to be God-focused. I began the walk with you before I could even see any evidence you intended to walk it with me.”
Now you see why I wanted to let my wife tell you in her own words. She is proof you can stand by your man and walk with your God.
Couples facing this long and difficult road can walk it together, focused on God. For some maybe it won’t take as long as it has me and there’ll be far less kicking and screaming.
But don’t try to walk alone. No one is that good or that strong. Contact SBC’s Task Force on Ministry to Homosexuals, called “The Way Out.”
Thom Hunter — http://thom-signsofastruggle.blogspot.com/