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If you recall, in the last post that I wrote about motivations and affairs, I mentioned that I had worked with a couple that had been impacted because of infidelity. In this situation, sadly this affair had great consequence for this woman and her husband. After confessing to her husband what had happened, they both sought help for their marriage. Just as they were making some significant progress in counseling, they learned that she had become pregnant through that extra-marital relationship. As you can imagine, this became a daunting obstacle to face for them as a couple. When God directs, “You shall not commit adultery” (Exodus 20:14), He does so for good reasons. There are significant social, psychological, physical and spiritual consequences to having an affair. We will look at a few of these.

Perhaps the greatest cost to having an affair is a divorce. An affair that is discovered does not have to lead to a divorce, but often it does. Listen to this statistic: About two-thirds of couples in which an affair occurred usually divorce. That is a sobering statistic and when you consider the costs of divorce to individuals, families and children, there is great damage left in the wake of an affair.

With this aspect of divorce, a sad fact is that too often once an affair occurs, with one of the spouses, there is a slow erosion with their relationship with their children. Whether or not there has been infidelity, when children experience divorce, they often feel like they have to choose between their two parents. If the child knows about the infidelity, this is exacerbated concerning the relationship with their parents. Over time, children in these circumstances often begin to distance themselves from the parent who had the affair and if older, may break with the relationship entirely.

Often the impulse for a person pursing an affair is that they believe that the grass is greener on the other side. However, a recent study found that the divorce rate among those who married those with whom they were unfaithful was 75 percent! When an affair occurs, you are founding a relationship in which both individuals are in unhealthy places in their lives. This, of course, is not how you want to begin a committed relationship.

Also for those who think affairs are going to be “fun and exciting,” here are some of the stories I have heard:

  • One man who left his wife got involved with a woman who was very violent. She would sometimes go into rages and one time, broke a beer bottle over his head. On many occasions, she threatened violence toward his wife and daughters. When he initially met this woman, he recalled to me that she seemed “very kind and sweet.”
  • This has been a common story I have heard: a woman becomes involved with another man. After she leaves her husband, and moves in with him, he becomes physically abusive on a regular basis.
  • Here is the most recent one that I heard: a man had an affair and after a certain point wanted to break things off and work on his marriage. After this, the woman would often contact him saying that she was going to commit suicide if he didn’t return to her. Confused, he sought advice from her counselor. The counselor proceeded to tell him that he should stay in relationship with her for her safety. Thankfully, he was not swayed by both of their manipulations and pursued restoring his relationship with his wife and family.

The psychological consequences are significant to having an affair and we often don’t think of this cost. People who pursue an affair, whether married or not, often do so for self-esteem needs, and often these people come from broken places in their lives. Here is a truth I have seen time and time again in my work with those who got caught up in an affair: If you pursue another person, you never really know who they are, but overtime you realize that this new person you are in relationship with has some significant psychological problems. Again, I cannot tell you how many times I have met with a man or woman and the person they had an affair with will not leave them alone even though they want to save their marriage. This extra person in the mix is often the one who brings the marriage to a breaking point. Too often we can forget the truth that having an affair is never a “fun and exciting” relationship in the end.

To end, there are, of course, spiritual consequences to affairs. We grieve God by our actions when we are unfaithful. On some level just as we might need to restore trust with a spouse, the same may need to happen with God. Just as he is faithful to us; he desires that we learn what it means to be committed as well.  One of God’s greatest directives to us is that we be faithful in our sacred commitment of marriage. Marriage, in a certain sense, is a microcosm of our relationship to him. He says, As I am faithful to you in every circumstance, be faithful to the one you have made that pledge. By doing this, in our pursuit to be faithful, we learn through experience just how committed he is to us.

In: Marriage

Of course, there are many reasons why people have affairs. By looking at some of the motivations of having an affair, some couples might be able to see the tell-tale signs and therefore, be able to get help before it is too late.

First, sometimes in the conversations that couples have with one another, you can hear the hints of someone who is thinking of “someone else.” Often the words such as these below are hints that something might not be right:

  • Please, will you go to counseling with me.
  • Something needs to change with our sex life.
  • I really enjoy hanging out with Kathryn.
  • You never talk to me anymore.
  • I don’t love you anymore.
  • I am not happy at all with my life.

Usually men and women have affairs for very different reasons. Women seek an affair most often for friendship and to feel emotionally needed. For men, it is fairly simplistic in that they are looking for something sexual and what they think will be a spontaneous and fun relationship.

So when men and women have an affair what do they think they are going to get out of it Women desire the feeling of being thrilled by their lover’s interest in them physically, emotionally, and intellectually. They are hoping for an emotional connection, and feeling loved is a deep motivation for a woman in having an affair.

As said before, a man is seeking sexual variety when he pursues someone. What is it like to be with another woman sexually—this is a core motivation. However, unlike a woman, typically a man tries to control his feelings in the relationship, and will not try to form a deep emotional bond with the other woman.

Here is a major difference in the motivation of men versus women in seeking an affair—when women have affairs, it almost invariably means that they are deeply dissatisfied with their marriage. This is not a typical motivation for a man. Nearly 60% of men who have an affair respond that they are happy in their marriages.

However, sometimes people end up in an affair and there is little motivation behind it. Sometimes people just fall into an affair because they did not protect their marriage and guard their relationships. Some years ago, I worked with a doctor who had an affair with a co-worker and when she retold the story of how the affair happened, the relationship evolved almost like clockwork. I have heard this story countless times.

  • She began having personal conversations with him on the same floor that they worked.
  • The conversations moved to having lunch regularly at the hospital.
  • Eventually, they began to meet for lunch or coffee off-site. More and more, a sexual theme covered their conversation.
  • She ultimately ended up at his apartment continuing these “conversations.”

No matter what motivates a person to be unfaithful, an affair in every case reveals a brokenness in the unfaithful person, and a brokenness in their marriage. Sometimes affairs are founded on secret motivations and other times, they seemingly occur out of thin air because the unfaithful person did not protect their marriage in concrete ways.  Motivated or not, affairs often have dire consequences. Next time, we will look at the costs of having an affair.


In: Marriage

Often in my work, I hear stories of those who have fallen to unfaithfulness. In a four part series, I will be writing about some different aspects of infidelity: the statistics, the motivations behind an affair, the consequences of having an affair, and finally, ways to protect your marriage. I would love to hear your stories in how you have helped someone, how you have protected your marriage, or how you have been impacted because of unfaithfulness.

Some of the Statistics

First, in a recent Barna study, 4 out of 10 Americans believe that infidelity is morally acceptable. For Christians, that number was 1 out of 10. Perhaps this is the reason unfaithfulness is on the rise.

When reading research about those who have affairs, the statistics can vary greatly. Most researchers come to this general conclusion:

That over a third of married men will cheat on their wives;

That nearly a quarter of all married women will cheat on their husbands;

And that more than 50% of all marriages will be impacted by one of the spouses being unfaithful. Grim statistics if you think about them.

Here are some other interesting facts that we know:

Back in the 1960’s, it was usually the husband who was unfaithful. Today, researchers are finding that women are just as likely as men to have an affair.

Here is some more interesting data (Lampe, 2000):

  • 10% – “One night stands”
  • 10% – The affair lasts no more than a month
  • 50% – The affair lasts more than a month, less than a year
  • 40% – The affair lasts two or more years

Perhaps you are thinking, “This can’t be a problem in the church. Certainly the moral standards of Christians are higher.” There is growing evidence that infidelity is also a tremendous problem in Christian circles. While the research was done almost twenty years ago, one of the latest viable studies showed that 45 percent of Christians indicate having done something sexually inappropriate, and 23 percent were unfaithful (Anderson, 2000). These older numbers are not encouraging and are most likely higher now.

Here is maybe the most important statistic—a recent University of Chicago study discovered that a third of all marriages end in divorce because of an affair. A summary of this study: if you have an affair, it is likely you will lose your marriage.

It is vital that we understand how infidelity happens and effects individuals, marriages and families. Countless times I have sat with couples or individuals who been swayed into being unfaithful to their spouse and then have to face the ramifications of those choices.

And I am not immune; in my own life, I have experienced this same struggle and temptation. I too am bombarded by the message of my culture, “You are your own. You don’t have to answer to anyone. Go ahead…No one will know.” While I have been faithful up to this point in my marriage, I know that without being intentional in protecting my marriage, I also could just become another statistic.

In: Culture, Faith

This is my rendition of Caravaggio’s The Supper at Emmaus which I completed in 2015.

A painter should begin every canvas with a wash of black, because all things in nature are dark except where exposed by the light.

Leonardo da Vinci 

I have read in Plato and Cicero sayings that are wise and very beautiful; but I have never read in either of them: Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden.

St. Augustine

Almost twenty-five years ago, shortly after becoming a Christian, I came across a remarkable painting. I was at my school’s library in downtown Chicago—Grant Park was right outside the window from where I sat. As I turned the page of a book, the 15th century Italian painter Michelangelo Caravaggio’s The Supper at Emmaus caught my eye.  I was flipping through a bunch of books that I had grabbed off the shelves. I was just wasting time, waiting for a class to begin.  Immediately, this painting caught my eye, because it wasn’t your typical “religious” artwork. In fact, it was almost too non-descript, and at first I didn’t realize that it was a painting depicting anything sacred or religious—it just looked like a painting of a few guys eating lunch together. I’ve only seen this painting in art books, and one day, I hope to venture to the National Gallery in London and see it up close.

That day when I caught sight of this painting, it began for me a new way of seeing Jesus. Something was special about this painting, made up of nothing more than oils placed with some thought and skill on the canvas. As I sat and stared at it, I realized why it held my attention, and I recognized its uniqueness. It was how the characters looked. When I open up an art book now and flip to the painting, I realize that it depicts the friendship of God in an astonishing manner. Back then, you know what caught my eye? Simply this: Jesus looks real. Gone is the blond hair and blue eyes. He looks like a real Hebrew guy, olive skin and all. Caravaggio did something earth-shattering in his time as an artist—he painted Jesus like a real person; amazingly, he looked human and real to life. In fact, very uncommon for his time, most of Caravaggio’s models were peasants from local villages. Instead of painting the noble and the wealthy as his models for John the Baptist, Jesus or any other biblical character, he was painting the cobblers, fishermen and maidens of his day, and therefore, when it came to religious art, for the first time ever, his paintings took on a look that was authentic and true.

In this painting of Caravaggio’s, Jesus looks like a person, someone you could know, the guy next door. He seems approachable. This is the operative word—Jesus in this painting looks like a person. Before this, in the art world—for the artist, Jesus was never a person—he was just “God.” Most of the artists in this period were painting the “majestic Christ”—the unapproachable Jesus, the one on the throne, the one you needed to schedule by appointment. But none of this actually captured the biblical narrative, because as we know, Jesus really is a person, a friend, someone who is very approachable. With Caravaggio’s interpretation, you see this “friend” aspect come out onto the canvas. Jesus is just hanging out, eating a meal and shootin’ the breeze. When I saw this painting in my early years of being a Christian, this was the Jesus I wanted to get to know. You could get close to him, and this was what I wanted. Unlike other religious art I had seen up to that point, it captured Jesus as someone you would want to get to know. As a contrast, look at some of the artwork from this period or earlier, and you will notice that the characterizations of Jesus are oblong and uncomfortable. Let me illustrate some examples; you might have seen some paintings depicting Jesus like this:

  • Painting No. 1: Baby Jesus is pure white, and his face looks like he’s 59 years old—wrinkled and balding. He wears a smirk, a baptismal gown and a bratty look.
  • Painting No. 2: Jesus has his kingly pose, no smile, and wearied look. It looks as if he might want to think about getting a prescription for some Prozac.

Again, these portrayals of Jesus aren’t realistic. They don’t tell the story that the Bible tells. These works of art do not depict Jesus as he really is. However, Caravaggio was getting into it, painting as if he was there, sitting at the very table, and showing you something sacred and important. This is the Jesus we are going to try to encounter in this blog. The real one.

In: Spiritual Formation

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In: Christian Faith

Over the summer, I had a conversation with a friend who has 3 sons all under the age of eight. I told him about a type of poetry which actually can be fun to write – haiku. I asked him to have his sons to try it out and write a few. Since then I have been addicted to writing haiku (I haven’t written hardly any since I was in my twenties).

What is haiku?

  • The essence of haiku is “cutting” (kiru). This is often represented by the juxtaposition of two images in the poetry.
  • Traditional haiku consists of at total of 17 syllables using only three lines of poetry – strictly using 5, 7, and 5 syllables on each line.
  • It often incorporates a nature motif or a kigo (a seasonal reference).

I don’t always use nature themes, but I keep to the syllable restriction. Here is one of my favorites from this summer. It is a triad haiku – incorporating one poem from three haiku. It is called The Sea is Mine.


dark pages, its dark

pages turning leisurely

invoking powers


4000 miles long

beyond the end which begins

turning and withdrawn


the language silent

wind, wonder –  I can’t describe

this grief and mercy


In: Poetry
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I’ve been reading Solo: An Uncommon Devotional for quite a while. It puts things succinctly and simply. It gets at the heart of what it might look like to follow Jesus.

In a recent one I read – Walk with Me – there was a phrase that I   spent some time thinking about. It came in the midst of Matthew 11:28-30. Jesus is sharing some good stuff about following him and he says it is an easy journey (I have often thought – it’s easy to follow Jesus? I must be doing it wrong). But then there are periods of my life when it is actually easy. And this is where I listened to these words, meditated on these words, Watch how I do it.

How does Jesus do it? I wondered.

In this period of my life, I have come up with this phrase which I use every now and then when I am counseling someone, be it a leader in our church or a client. The phrase is simply Jesus most often leads with grace.

As I was thinking about that phrase, how does Jesus do it – that’s when it came to me. Jesus does it by leading with grace.

More to come next time about that word grace.

In: Christian Faith


it is this
this morning
somewhere beneath sudden
with first words
like stealth
strung by its
smooth-stilled legs

venet­ian silence
a blink
and undressed open
beside over under
fur­rowed whis­per
choir cer­tain
a vest­ment kiss
piece by piece

savor of coral
of autumn reach
and another
gath­ered or beheld
side­step into twist
arisen touch
woven and

In: Poetry
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I assume every atom invites our soul. It knows things we do not.

I lean observing a spear of the same grass blade and now hoping to cease from inadequate creeds and nature. Houses and rooms, the shelves honor and unaware—the atmosphere is wooden and naked.

The full noon rising from bed, so proud that it knows the meaning of its origin.

We shall no longer take things nor always look through books.

We shall not look to ourselves.

I have heard of the beginning and there was never any youth or perfection, out of the dimness always increase and identity, always distinction, always elaborate.

Here we are lacking not a thing, proven with each turn.

We think we are satisfied.

People we meet, we live with them—authors who invite us to dinner—these nights bend certain rest, come backward through the fog and spread limitless like a child laying outstretched in the grass.

Now it seems to us, here we are uttering in faint tongues that we wish we could with ease translate. How could we answer, I do not know.

I guess it means we give the same—understanding that somewhere, the moment life appeared we knew it, but somehow have much of it forgotten.

In: Poetry
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The sky seems so uncertain

and on paper, the mountain is flat

or often when walking

I wonder how cities are named or why.


And I walk miles like circles or clusters

and applause goes everywhere

–drawings in the dust–

nearby music is playing,

it is the skin sane click of cars hobbling by,

the recusant water rinsing a basin

and a breath, a learning breath.


The Pharisees had come down from Jerusalem

the sweet kill and a pick-pocket

and I walk miles or I am leaning against this music

that is playing in the next room.


I have a forwarding address

the sky seems so uncertain

and on paper, the mountain is flat

or often when walking

I wonder how cities are named or why

In: Poetry
Tags: ,