Saturday, November 10, 2012

The Searing Ruination of Stolen Water

 “Once the toothpaste is out of the tube, it’s hard to get it back in.”- H. R. Haldeman

   "CIA Chief Resigns Over Extra-Marital Affair" [1] were the startling, yet matter-of-fact words that populated one news site as it displayed. But I doubt if any sentence summarizes the gravity and tragedy of this episode, and every other like it, as the opening words of a similar article on another news site [2]:

"Only two people know how the affair started, 
but the world knows now about its inglorious end."

Image: AP Reuters
   I cannot help but feel sad as the words of Proverbs 5:14 come to mind and I look at the photograph of the man at the centre of this unfolding story, the latest in a long line of such tragedies. He wears his neatly starched and pressed uniform so well, the olive of his uniform complementing the green of his piercing eyes, his hair parted neatly to match. Smart, capable, handsome, distinguished, accomplished, decorated, recognized, respected, powerful, admired, saluted. The stars of rank on his shoulders and the decorations on his chest speak for themselves of his excellence in his profession, a man of discipline and action in war and peacetime. Credited with saving the military campaign on the frontlines and potential presidential material, yet it seems he has tragically failed at home.

   The director of the nation's foremost intelligence agency discovered in his marital unfaithfulness by the nation's foremost investigative agency. I don't know whether to interpret it as irony or comedy. What happened to you?, I find myself wondering. How did you get here? Perhaps he too is wondering the same right now.

   It seems only to add to the sorriness of the whole affair that this is no lackey, but a man brilliant in his capability and accomplishments, and acknowledged by his peers:

"...renowned for taking charge of the military campaigns..."

"...the best-known general of the post 9/11 wars..."

"...considered the nation's most well-known and popular military leader since Colin Powell"

" ordinary government official. He was the top man in the intelligence agency."

" of the outstanding general officers of his generation."

"...a shrewd thinker and hard-charging competitor."

" of our nation's most respected public servants....redefined what it means to serve and sacrifice for one's country."

It is sobering to be reminded of the emptiness of brilliant victories abroad, 
if we lose the battle to "forsake all others, to have and hold" at home

    This perhaps is the most important reminder for us as Christian men and women to take sober and careful heed of, for we fool ourselves if we imagine that we are mightier and stronger than those who have fallen and now regret. Lest we believe in our naivete that this plague afflicts only the apostate and unbeliever, we need only lift our eyes and take a cursory look at the landscape of Christendom. The carnage is open for all to see, inflicted upon marriages across churches and ministries, leadership and laity, by husbands and wives who forgot the severe warning of Scripture and let their guard down against the merciless onslaught upon themselves and their marriages:

"You have not yet resisted to bloodshed, striving against sin." - Hebrews 12:4, NKJV

    Lest we also delude ourselves that this is a solitary episode of the few and far between variety, one need only look at the sad parade of public figures who have been engulfed and brought to personal and public ruination within the last few years alone. The Governors of South Carolina and New York [4-5], one of the most recognized faces of professional golf [7], a political candidate for the Republican presidential nomination [8-9] are but a few of those whose personal lives have been ransacked and their professional standing brought low.

   But in the end, it was the very last line at the end of one article that captured my attention and thoughts:

"Petraeus and his wife, Holly, live in Virginia. They have two grown children."

   This rather inconspicuous and bland sentence is where the true tragedy lies. In the end, it is the family that bears the brunt and pays the price of marital infidelity. I think of the many that I know who carry those scars, and of one woman in particular. Though married and with a family of her own, to this day is unable to speak about her father's infidelity toward her mother and the pain and heartbreak that it brought upon her during her growing years.

   Without fail, human beings prove over and over again that in attempting to break the law of God, we prove rather than disprove that it is right, and we bring heartbreak and ruination upon ourselves and those whom we have pledged to love. It was Cecil B. DeMille, producer of the movie The Ten Commandments who said: 

  "If man will not be ruled by God, he will certainly be ruled by tyrants - and there is no tyranny more imperious or more devastating than man's own selfishness, without law. We cannot break the Ten Commandments. We can only break ourselves against them..."

    I doubt if I could conclude this sobering post better than the words of a father instructing his children in the book of Proverbs, words that are a grim reminder both to me and all men and women who would be faitful husbands and wives one day:

"Lest you give your honour to others, and your years to the cruel one;
Lest aliens be filled with your wealth, and your labours go to the house of a foreigner;
And you mourn at last, when your flesh and your body are consumed,
And say:
"How I have hated instruction,
And my heart despised correction!
I have not obeyed the voice of my teachers,
Nor inclined my ear to those who instructed me!
I was on the verge of total ruin,
In the midst of the assembly and congregation....

Do not lust after her beauty in your heart,
Nor let her allure you with her eyelids.
For by means of a harlot a man is reduced to a crust of bread;
And an adulteress will prey upon his precious life.
Can a man take fire to his bosom, and his clothes not be burned?
Can one walk on hot coals, and his feet not be seared?

Whoever commits adultery with a woman lacks understanding ;
He who does so destroys his own soul.
Wounds and dishonour he will get, 
And his reproach will not be wiped away....

He did not know it would cost his life.
Now therefore, listen to me, my children;
Pay attention to the words of my mouth:
Do not let your heart turn aside to her ways,
Do not stray into her paths;
For she has cast down many wounded,
And all who were slain by her were strong men.
Her house is the way to hell, descending to the chambers of death."

- Proverbs 5:9-14, 6:28, 32-33, 7:24-26, NKJV

[1] CIA Chief Resigns Over Extra-Marital Affair
[2] CIA Chief Petraeus Resigns Over Affair
[3] Profile: General David Petraeus
[4] The Strange Persistence of Moral Sanity
[5] A Governor, A King and The Tragedy of Adultery
[6] The Age of Indiscretions: Moral Credibility and Political Leadership
[7] The Travail of Tiger Woods: Lessons Not To Be Missed
[8] For Christian Men: The Lessons of Herman Cain
[9] The Cain Mutiny: Character Doesn't End At The Bedroom Door
[10] Adultery Incorporated: The Infidelity Industry

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