For those wanting to know where my wife stands during all of this, she too has been blogging (seriously, it’s how we roll). Just as fair warning, her blogs are pretty raw (and she does name names), but she writes for herself.
How much is too much and when should I give up?
Sometimes “I’m Sorry” doesn’t always cut it

The most painful episode of Homicide: Life on the Streets (my second favorite show of all time, right under The Wire), is the finale for Season four. Frank Pembleton, the character I most identified with, has a stroke (which, also happens to be my greatest fear). I have only seen the scene once. Every time I come across the show in re-run or in a DVD marathon like I’m in the middle of right now, I fast forward through it.

Season Five opens with him returning to work, the job he loves, the job he had so much of his identity in. Humbled, not quite the man he once was, perceived differently by those around him (or he defensively projects/anticipates being seen differently by his colleagues). Part of him is lost, struggling with pride as he tries to find himself and his footing in life.

I still haven’t gotten back into my usual routine, but life goes on. I have good days and bad days. The good days find me clinging to family and friends, limping through life like the walking wounded. The bad days find me treading water in the grips of despair. Being lost, not knowing who I am, not knowing how to move forward, realizing just how many people I’ve hurt. And how deeply. You may think you know the consequences to the deeds you do in secret, but you don’t know. You’re too busy being caught up in the selfishness of the moment and doing what you want. Thus an older brother becomes the specter of things you hated in your father. A friend becomes every woman who intruded on your parents’ marriage. Or any relationship. And you realize how forgiveness will be slow in coming. If ever. Trying to figure out what relationships to trust in.

There is an alienation that accompanies sin that can lead to the sort of intellectual (and emotional) anguish that can drag us into the pits of despair. To feel alone or abandoned to an uncaring environment. Where we feel unloved and unknown (even if we’re unknown because we refused to let anyone truly see us … for fear of being rejected and abandoned). The kind of spiritual loneliness which has us feeling alienated from God and those around us. Even for those of us who are long used to wrestling with our demons, it’s easy to spiral into depression. You just want the knot to untie in your gut. You just want the darkness to recede a little. You slip into a dark place. It becomes easier to give up. Why bother to go on when it all seems so hopeless. You think, if ever so briefly, about hurting yourself.

[Despite my reassurances that I’m far too self-involved to ever kill myself, there have been some friends who check in regularly to make that I don’t. One going so far as to remind me that I have a two year waiver on my life insurance (Hey, sometimes gallows humor is what gets you through).]

The most difficult part of the shame/despair cycle is not letting your sin define you, to let your mistakes become your identity. It’s easy to hate yourself for your sin, or rather, the consequences for your sin. Part of the process is simply sifting through feelings of shame versus feelings of true repentance. Shame for how long things went on for. How comfortable and easy things became. It’s easy to retreat into the “safe place” of “there’s something wrong with me.” That there’s something worthless and twisted about me which causes me to make the sort of decisions that places my marriage, friendships, and other relationships in jeopardy. A place where I can wallow or find my identity or try to fix myself. Yet, this kind of “redemptive wallowing” is a counterfeit conviction of guilt. This is more a reaction to doing something unacceptable.

Repentance offers the opportunity for a fresh start. But it is a process. Wallowing in your guilt is just as stifling as not facing your sin. Godly sorrow, realizing just how much you’ve sinned, missed the mark of being the person you were meant to be, and how much you deserve to be separated (yet aren’t), is the beginning. Without this hope we wouldn’t be able to escape our mistakes or history of hurts. We could only rightly despair of our past and live in regret. But, with repentance, our failures do not have to be final.

[Part of me feels like I’m trying to talk myself into believing what I already know.]

We were created in God’s image. Yes, we’re sinful, but that can be redeemed. We have to face what we’ve done and repent, then realize that at some point we bear the consequences, whatever they may be, and move on. Repentance is an internal matter, between the “sinner” and God. Those on the outside aren’t in a position to judge the nature of the repentant one’s heart. As much as we may want to see them “act” repentant, it’s a fine line between wanting a demonstration of contrition and the appearance of people wanting to keep making the person who disappointed them pay/remind them about their sin.

Still, probably the most difficult thing to deal with is being loved and forgiven (however tentatively) amidst all of the disappointing, hurting, and breaking of trust.

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Full Disclosure:

Secret Lives, Secret Shame

Walking Through My Failings

Double Lives

For the Record …

On the Idea of Confessing

Emotional Affairs (aka No Longer “Just Friends”)

Good Days, Bad Days (On Despair)

Prayer of Repentance

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