Dear Russell & Friends,
I’m writing in response to a recent post by a family friend J, Russell’s wife. She also goes by CC, the Counterfeit Christian, to reflect her journey through the desert of doubt concurrent with her husband’s loss of faith. In this post she mentions the cliff of infidelity and how it shocked and disappointed her that she could even let it come into view. I found her admission to be mature, honest, and much more healthy than most of us can manage. In light of Josh Duggar’s recent revelations I felt an obligation to speak.
Mrs. Pascal and I met at the age of 19. She actually baked my 20th birthday cake in a dorm microwave one step up from an easy bake oven. We jogged together (she later confessed that she didn’t like to run), played racquetball, shared meals, and grew in friendship. We wrote a series of pre-internet letters on paper with pen in envelopes requiring a stamp. We both still have every one. We decided to marry after an intense argument. I asked her for 48 hours space. I was either going to marry her or never talk to her again. What a wonderful decision. We celebrated 21 years of marriage last month.
In a life driven by priorities, following Christ is first. The second priority is loving others. These two priorities are why I’m here. But there is a rank to my others. My bride deserves to be first in my esteem and affections. My children know that I love them but that they must play a secondary role in my heart. Other people – – our community here falls into the third tier. So if one person is my first priority, how can I guard my heart and hers? I consider infidelity to be one of my deepest fears. I would likely feel less guilt with other crimes that might be objectively considered more serious. Why? I promised her. I gave my word. I said that I wouldn’t leave and wouldn’t destroy what we worked so hard to build.
The photo above is beautiful. Mrs. Pascal just walked by and said so herself. I explained the metaphor of the post and she wholeheartedly agreed. We have tried to draw our stopping line one mile from the cliff. I am not a young sports car. I’m not fast, shiny, or sexy. I am a middle aged locomotive. I can carry much over great distances. I am defined by momentum, not acceleration. A train can take a mile to stop.
Here are my principles for guarding a faithful marriage. I have built them with the lessons learned from my weaknesses and from the failures of those I consider friends. In the last twenty years I have sat across the breakfast table from 7 different men who were leaving their wives and children. Only one turned back. All of these men had picnics by the beautiful cliff. For what it is worth – – here is the advice that I give myself. I ask you all to hold me accountable.
- Tell the truth. Tell the truth to yourself. You can become attracted to another. None of the 7 men thought they could ever stray – – that was the one commonality.
- Friendship is more dangerous than physical attraction. You’re not 19 anymore. Finding someone who appreciates you and laughs at your jokes – – danger.
- Avoid pornography. It is corrosive and encourages to ask, what if? It honors neither women nor men. How many human traffic victims?
- Tell the truth. Tell the truth to your true friends. Some men (most men) have less than 5 friends. Find one. Please.
- Do not meet privately with someone from work. Have your meetings out in the open. Do not go to lunch one on one. Take a colleague.
- Know yourself. I am more vulnerable to words than plunging necklines. For me, to exchange letters with a woman who is not my wife is a crossing of the one mile boundary. I did that one time. I thought I had built accountability into the system. The letters were for a noble cause. They were openly exchanged. I was wrong. My bride asked me to stop and I did immediately. She knew my heart better than I did and I’m so glad that she loved me enough to guard it.
- Be kind, but not familiar. I hope that I am never rude, but I would rather be considered rude than over familiar.
- Do not flirt. It is jet fuel on a camp fire.
This list is less important than the spirit behind it. Please – – guard your own heart and the heart of the one you promised it to. What do you think? Have I drawn my lines to extremely? Does this make sense, or not? Have you successes or failures that may help us?
Pascal – – 1:16
photo credit: By Dinkum (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons