By Samantha McClintock
It’s not often that I weep for humanity. In fact, it’s probably never happened that I’ve sat down and literally sobbed for the state of the world. Maybe that’s because I have tunnel vision for things that hurt; I’m one to pinpoint a perceived problem and attack it – through confrontation, structured conversation and prayer. I try not to let my heart wander to the giant, aching problems that I can’t solve.
But today, reading about the Ashley Madison security breach, I had to close my office door and cry. Not just a few tears, but big old chest-wracking sobs. I didn’t even realize that an infidelity service like Ashley Madison existed, especially one so large-scale. On top of that, discovering that more than 32 million people are registered cheaters, or potential cheaters (which is honestly just as bad), blew me away.
Almost exactly one year ago, I found out that my husband was cheating on me. His cheating was different in many ways (emotional and physical, rather than Ashley Madison’s hook-up only purposes,) but also the same.
I will never, never forget the feeling I had when I blindly came across the letter my husband wrote to his girlfriend.
You don’t need all the details. I often justify (or disclaim or expound or clarify) the situation by explaining how wonderful my husband was. I fiercely remind people that I didn’t see it coming, that he was led astray, that we dated for six years, that he is a Christian, that I swear we were happy. We were happy. We were happy. We were happy.
And these are the defenses 32 million spouses will have to spew over the next few months. They will build walls around their hearts and question their self-worth. In many cases, they will look for value from new people who can’t grant it, they’ll become bitter and broken and distrusting of everyone they love. They’ll struggle to sleep and eat and function in a way that used to come easily.
My heart is aching for the millions of men and women who will find out over the next few days that the person who promised fidelity and unconditional love has betrayed them in a very public, deceitful manner. But it’s also aching for the people who decided to cheat. Marriage can be such a beautiful thing. We choose it, for goodness’ sake. It’s a union blessed by God and in it we can experience life with another person, which is one of the greatest gifts.
Those who registered for Ashley Madison have turned their face from the promises they made on the altar – and have hardened their hearts to the people who they once loved most of all. Is anything sadder? Not to me. They are suffering on a heart-level, deep in their souls.
We’re all sinners. We’re all susceptible to temptation, and we pursue sin every day – whether that’s cheating, or lying or stealing, or any multitude of daily sins. But the best news is that God pursues us. If your soul is hurting like mine, if you’re troubled by the lack of sanctity remaining in relationships, if you’re doubtful that any person can stay faithful – take heart.
Just as God will pursue the hearts of the hurting men and women who will learn a painful truth this week, he will also pursue the cheaters. He’s running after them, waiting to welcome them back. He’s totally capable of restoration – not just of relationships, but of people.
In the past year, God has brought me closer to Him than ever before. He used the painful lessons of a broken marriage to hem me in and build me up. So, that’s what I’m praying for today.
Will you join me in praying? Pray for the men and women who will learn some of the hardest news of their lives – that they use this opportunity to hear God’s voice saying “come to me, and I will give you rest.” And that they will learn to guard their hearts from future hurt and dishonesty, (believe me, I’m not saying that any person should let their spouse cheat and look the other way), while still remaining open to the blessings that God can bestow.
[And I want to be clear that those blessings might not include a patched-up, squeaky clean marriage; they certainly didn’t for me. But they did include new friends, a new church, a new job, a bunch of new hobbies, two half-marathons, healthier relationships and a much deeper understanding of my own needs.]
Pray for the children of these broken marriages – that they learn to model their relationships from God instead of the chaos around them. Pray for the cheaters – know that their sins are seen equally bad as ours, and that those sins are wiped clean by the blood of Christ. Pray that they might turn around and face their transgressions, and that they might begin a process of personal restoration. And please pray for marriage, and our relationships with each other – that we, sinners of the highest variety, can glorify God in our love and interactions.