Last night while my children were busy at the Valentine's Party at church, I spent a long while talking to my grandfather. I decided to pick him up some supper (a chili dog from Sonic) and go visit him with my 2 hours of free time ... and I'm very glad I did.
The conversation ran from his great-grandson's birthday 1st party earlier that day to the preacher that recently left our church to friend of his that is dying ... and then finally on to Matt and why he left. It bothers my grandfather, like it bothers me. He wants to know why he was able to walk away and what would cause a man to leave his family behind. Both of us are the kind of people who want to do things "right" and to either of us walking away from a marriage is unfathomable. So last night, after the kids were in bed, I mulled over a lot of things in my head ... and one thought in particular sort of crystalized in my mind.
I have to say that I'm blessed to be a part of my family. Both my mother's family and my father's family are devout Christians who actively live out their faith. I was raised on Christian principles. Last night I realized that among the many Christian principles that I was taught was this one: doing what is right supercedes doing what you feel like doing. That's important and it bears repeating: Strive to do what is right according to God, not reacting based on what you feel.
I didn't realize until recently that this was something my parents purposefully taught me (and my extended family reinforced) all throughout my childhood. I can recall many situations from when I was growing up when my parents would instruct me to do what was right, or purposefully ask me what the Bible would have to say about my situation. The result of their efforts was that I learned that God wrote some specific instructions for us in the Bible so that we don't have to trust our feelings in order to do what is best. I've learned that my feelings will lead me wrong much of the time. After all, how many times have I reacted in a situation based on my feelings and then regretted those actions or words later? The Bible even tells us that our feelings change like the wind. (I need to look up that reference!)
Anyway, Matt didn't have this same background of faith. He wasn't taught to do the right thing. In fact, he was taught to go with your gut feeling or instinct ... not to seek out Godly wisdom. Matt's parents (who are also divorced, by the way) taught him by example that it is best to do what you feel like doing. Now I don't know if they ever said those words to him or not, but I do know that this is the way their family works in general. I've heard his father say a thousand times, "I should do _____, but I don't feel like it." I've heard his mother say, "My gut tells me to do this." Both Matt and his sister learned this lesson well, as they both live by this very principle. It makes me sad for them.
There are many reasons our marriage failed, but there is no doubt that this difference in the way we respond to life was a big issue for us. I can think of many instances in which Matt wanted to go with his "gut" and I wanted to do what was right. Typically, we were able to work through those issues. However, when Matt became emotionally involved with another woman (and later on physically), he was unable to force himself to do what was the right thing to do because all he knew to do was what he felt like doing. It didn't matter that he was going to hurt his wife of 14 years, his 3 wonderful children, and a whole host of extended family and friends with his actions. It didn't matter that ultimately he was going to lose his family. All that mattered was "following his heart" because surely it wouldn't lead him wrong.
Sadly, Satan convinced him to believe a very beautiful and tempting lie. Following your heart can be a very dangerous thing, and if it goes against the word of God then it is very, very wrong.
As I've examined and mulled over these thoughts in my head, I've determined that I need to be more purposeful about teaching my children (in both words and by example) to not trust our feelings, but rather to seek our Godly wisdom. Yes, sometimes our feelings will lead us right. I firmly believe that God has graciously given us a gut instinct that we can follow, especially in times when an urgent response is needed. But I also think that we need to constantly check ourselves according to His word and His ways, so that we most often respond in the right way instead of reacting to our ever changing emotions.