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The Harder Climb
by James R Fulton
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In twenty years of married life, I have never cheated on my Judy. I donít plan to either. I have never been tempted nor have I ever been in a situation where the thought has occurred to even stray from my lovely wife. And I am rather proud of this fact. I attribute this important fact of life from my Dad; he always showed respect towards my Mom and never stopped loving her till the day he died. I plan on do that with Judy.

Anyway, even if I were presented with such a notion as to wonder away from the bed I share with Judy, two things would happen: 1) the onslaught of tremendous guilt would be so oppressive; that it would be like wearing a heavy overcoat on the hottest day in August, in the middle of the Mojave Desert, and 2) I would feel lower than a pregnant snakeís belly because I would realize that I just trashed my family and Iíd destroyed a woman that truly loves me. Besides, I wouldnít even know how to approach another female to make such a suggestion to begin with. Itís like the entire pick up lines that I used; all two of them, to get women to notice me became unplugged when Judy and I got hitched. (Thatís what supposed to happen, right?) And let me add this to the list: Judy has never given me a reason to ever want to leave our bed or the life weíve carved out for ourselves.

OK, so Iím not a philander and I love my wife; whatís the big deal here? To some degree, I still struggle with guilt over things from my past that often creeps into my thought process and I find myself deeply regretting what I did. And by today standards, itís really nothing Ė but thatís nothing more than rationalization; because as a child of God, I am to be in the world and not of it. Iím to avoid things that can be destructive to life in general, but thereíre times, I welcome these thoughts like an old friend.

Iíve seen some images of people engaged in sexual activity before and after marriage (a reference to pornography) and because of some of my own personal experiences with some old girlfriends before I met Judy, these impressions that were once a pleasant discovery of my youth, now I see as shame. For these images that come by for a visit conjure feelings that have been longed dealt with and put away. But they still show up and when they finally leave, I feel as though Iíve been robbed of part of my soul and I actually feel as though I cheated on my wife, even though these things have happened so long ago. It should be said that in twenty years of marriage, Judy and I have built some great memories of our own and the experiences that we have had together as lovers I can only say that how I cherish those escapades. But it comes down to this; how I wish Judy could have been my first.

If Iím living before the throne of grace, my life should be an open book before my God as well as the one I share a heartbeat with that is, my Judy. If truth is the goal in any relationship, and I believe it is, then the value place on truth should be reflected in how it is treated. If it is the cornerstone of my life, then my actions and words better be square with it. If it isnít, then I need to adjust myself to its standards and not lower the expectations of truth to where I currently am. This means if Iím trying to hide something from a love one, such as an affair or some type of addiction, or anything else that is detrimental to the relationship this is only going to cause mistrust between the husband and wife, and the marriage will soon end (in most cases.) The best thing to do then if a relationship is worth saving is to settle the issue, resolved it, and get on with living; cause life is just too short to carry around unnecessary garbage.

And Iím not trying to be holier than thou here for the simple reason that my morality is faulty too. Iím not immune to a scantly clad woman poised in a provocative position or even if she is doing something that is sexually desirable. Thatís the way men are hard wire; we like frilly things that have long legs or whatever our sexual taste might be. And if thereís a hint of sex to what is in our plane of sight, it doesnít matter how old you are, the juices get flowing and youíre ready for anything. This doesnít excuse it, I mainly pointing out what happens when our wires get plugged in. And let me add: we as a people are so much more than just a bunch of chemicals reacting to the occasion. Contrary to popular belief, we do have control over these urges.

So the challenge becomes what to do with my past? How do I deal with the guilt of these exploits of my younger day if Iím living before the throne of Godís Love? Itís been my experience that when someone speaks words of authority over your life, such as a parent, or teacher or someone that you deem worthy, they can either kill you with those words or make you want to die with those words or give you enough strength to overcome adversity with those words. But when the Lord speaks words to oneís actions, thereís usually conviction of oneís heart. And this conviction is always awash in love. He doesnít accuse, but simply goes to the core of the problem; he gets to the heart of the matter - typically itíll be a spiritual problem.

Like I said before, Iíve never committed adultery, but imagine my conviction when thoughts and ideas from my past come by for a visit and Jesus words from Matthew 5:28 echoes in my head - ďbut I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.Ē I donít lust after these images but sometimes these fantasizes donít match up with the reality I live and thereís the problem. I entertain ideas that I shouldnít. The spiritual problem is about obedience Ė do I want to be obedient to my will or the Lordsí? Often, ok all the time, when I choose my will over the Lordís, the baser self of me comes back and runs amuck and before I know it my house that was once in orderly mess is now in shambles.

But there is still hope. I live before the throne of grace so thereís forgiveness the moment these thoughts invade a normal day. But thereís also another lifeline found in Philippians - ďwhatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things.Ē

My character means so much to me and yet it is so fragile as the smallest thing can destroy it in the wink of an eye. I have built a life with the one I love and I donít want to destroy it by a careless act. I want to dwell on what is right, noble, lovely and pure. I want my life to reflect anything that is excellent and praiseworthy. I want to walk in the shadow of Godís mercy and grace and reflect His love often to all. And when I start to deliberate on passing thoughts from days gone by, I will hold on to the ones that build up and not tear down and let the others pass by.

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