Thursday, August 7, 2008

Myself - My Deadliest Foe

Note to younger readers: This blog post contains some sensitive topics – please ask your parents to check it out before reading. Thank you!

This post has been in the works for several days. I’m still reeling from the news of the fall of a “good” man.

I don't know why I'm surprised when I hear than any human being has failed miserably. But I am, every time that a friend stumbles into grave and ugly sin. Adultery, divorce, abuse, anger, bitterness, rebellion…. now child rape.

"How could they?!" I ask myself over and over again.

And then I remember that it could have been me.

This time it was somebody from the Capitol who I respected as a Christian man who was purposing to live a life of integrity and love his family. Sure, I knew he wasn’t perfect – far from it. Sometimes I saw him make decisions that were politically motivated more than they were completely about justice. I didn’t know him that well, but several of my really dear friends at the Capitol considered him one of their best friends and respected him as a man of integrity, morality, and character.

I have a hunch that Representative M. went to the Capitol, originally purposing to do some good in the world. I think he loved his wife and boys. I think he was a "good" man (by our human standards) who never would have dreamed of doing what he has been charged with.

I'm sure that as he was logged into the Cole County Jail the other day, he wondered what on earth had become of him and the man he planned to be. I sure he asked himself a hundred times why he had been so stupid; why he had ever thought that his sin wouldn't find him out.

*** *** ***

I still remember the day four years ago when I met Representative M.

I was totally new to the Capitol, trying with a friend to find my way around to the twelve offices of the committee members who would be hearing our bill in the morning.

I don't remember much of our exchange except that he took my information and listened. As we were getting ready to leave, he asked us where we were from and somehow seemed to assume we were Christians. He smiled pleasantly and said, "It's so nice to meet people like you up here. I was raised in a good Christian home with wonderful parents, and now that I have two little boys back at home I realize what a big responsibility I have to raise them up with Christian values in world like we live in today. It's a lot of work, but my wife and I love them to death, and I'd do anything for them. You know, it's really hard to kiss your family goodbye and leave them every week. But the reason I first decided to run for office was to make a better world for my boys when they grow up. So, it's worth the sacrifice to my wife and I when we remember that we're doing this for them."

I liked him there on the spot. Most of the politicians I had met were very business-like, but Representative M. seemed transparent, like you could glimpse a bit of his soul when he talked.

The next week, I was talking to the Committee Chairwoman about our bill, which Representative M. was not supportive of at the time. She had nothing but good things to say about him. I remember her looking up from her desk over the top of her glasses and saying, "Representative M. is one of our very best and brightest in the entire Missouri legislature. We all go to him for advice and I'm sorry to say that if he has a problem with a bill, then I have a problem with a bill. He's just of the caliber that makes you take his opinion seriously... and I listen to him on any bill that comes through my committee. He’s really a good man, with a tender conscience and a principled set of values."

That was four years ago.

*** *** ***

The years passed, and I saw Representative M. frequently. He wasn't supportive of our bill most of the time (he had a strong constituency who opposed it), but I still liked him and respected him in many ways, even when he refused to vote with us.

He was one of those guys who, unlike many politicians, seemed to exercise self-control and realize that life was about more than just living for today.

He always ran up the three flights of stairs, instead of taking the elevator that was just down the hall from his office. He was pleasant to people he didn't like or agree with, and he seemed to avoid some of the ethical breaches that many legislators found themselves falling into. He was willing to work hard and smart and earned himself an influential place - including hanging out with the Governor on private excursions. The moral conservative lobbyists made him one of their go-to guys because of his firm commitment to family values issues. Some legislators were known for their partying and wheeling-and-dealing. Representative M. was known for his strong conservative principles, his willingness to stand firm on his beliefs, and his ability to communicate effectively.

He seemed wise – one of the rare people who realized that every decision he made today would effect his tomorrow.

He was considered one of the rising stars of the conservative Republican Party - he was young, bright, articulate, personable, handsome, rich, and had impeccable credentials. A few people called him "The rich kid from St. Louis," but most people seemed to envy and admire the way he had everything and had it all "together."

On the House Floor, during debate, Representative M. was brilliant, witty, and nearly always on target with his comments. Even the Democrats found themselves smiling at the analogies he thought up on the spot. Whenever I saw him rise to a microphone, I would tell myself, "This is going to be good..." And it always was. I was either in stitches, or saying to myself, "Wow! Some people in government still use a lot of common sense!"

Since he was friends with several of the legislators who I was closest with, we frequently ended up in the same offices and the same conversations.

*** *** ***

Three nights before the legislative session ended this year (May), I was watching a legislator's children in a Capitol office, when Representative M. strolled in and asked what was up. The little girls began chattering away eagerly and Representative M., as usual, obliged them with funny stories and tales about his boys. I asked him how his family was, and he happily told me all the details of what his wife and boys were doing these days and how glad he would be to be back home and take a vacation with them over summer. Once again, I found myself impressed with him – he really seemed to love and miss his family, unlike many of the other guys at the Capitol.

Session ended a couple of days later. I went home. Some of the legislators stayed over and partied late into the night. According to police reports, sometime during the wee hours of the morning, Representative M. raped a 14 year old girl while her mother witnessed the incident. The girl's mother was a former legislative staffer who Representative M. had been having a secret affair with over the past year.

When the news was first reported a couple of days ago, as Representative M. was booked at the Cole County Jail, I found myself feeling disbelief.

Him? I could see other people at the Capitol doing that, but not him!

I texted a couple of my friends at the Capitol, “What?!”

They all replied, “Shocking… we can’t believe it either. He was a man who would have never dreamed of doing that to a girl. How? Why? We don’t know what happened to him either.”

The political blogs have been filled with comments about how Representative M. should be shot, beheaded, stoned, or locked in prison with the key thrown away. There has been an outpouring of angst against him, with many people saying, "These 'family values voters' Republicans that supposedly care about morality go around doing this?! We knew they were hypocrites all along! They don't approve of homosexuality, yet they do worse things!" and on and on...

Beyond the disbelief, rage, and calls for him to resign, I have to hope that Representative M.’s sad legacy will imprint itself deeply in the minds of not only the sleazy politicians, but the “best and brightest and most principled.”

As one of my lobbyist friends remarked yesterday, “It goes to show that no one is immune to sin, anywhere, and especially not in the Capitol world…”

I’m only speculating here, but I can only imagine that most likely this awful situation started out so innocently. The devil rarely appears with horns and a pitchfork in any of our lives.

I’m sure that it wasn’t an affair at first, just a pleasant staffer who he enjoyed being around..

Then it was adultery, but I guess he (and she) had some way of justifying it, and feeling certain that it would just be something between the two of them that would never be found out and would never hurt anybody.

He got used to living a double life – coming home to his wife as though he had been faithful throughout the week.

…Continuing his friendships with people who would have been appalled if they had any idea that he was living in adultery.

He had started out with the reputation of a “good man” – he had to maintain that front, and maintain it he did.

The final day of session, when Representative M. got up and headed back to the Capitol for his final day of work this year, I’m sure he would have been appalled if anyone would have suggested that he would rape a child before his day was over.

After all, he had been busy pushing legislation to allow the death penalty for child rapists.

I don’t know what happened or how it happened (other than that alcohol was involved, according to the police report), but I’m sure that when Representative M. headed back home to St. Louis the next morning, he had to wonder what kind of a person he had become.

He abruptly announced three days later that he would not seek re-election, and said that he and his wife had actually decided such “back in January, but didn’t want to tell anyone till the session ended…” What a load of guilt he must have been carrying. The girl hadn’t even reported the incident to the police yet, nor had her mother.

*** *** ***

I don’t know what will eventually happen to him. It looks like he may be facing up to 7 years in prison, if convicted (he’s already been indicted by a grand jury).

Whatever the case, I hope that Representative M.’s story will remind all of us “good people” who would never think of doing something like that, that we are all prone to fall in the most awful ways. We may shudder at what he did. I can assure you that a couple of years ago, he, too, would have shuddered at the thought of anyone doing such a thing.

I think of the story of David and Bathsheba… and Nathan the Prophet’s story of the poor man with the one little lamb. As David’s indignation rose in him, Nathan pointed the finger and said, “Thou art the man!” So, often we are doing the same things we condemn others for, but until God points the finger back at us, we don't see the deceitful, self-righteousness of our own hearts.

We have no idea of the depths of depravity lurking within each of our hearts. Especially if we’ve been raised in a “good” family, and never done anything “terrible.”

Representative M. was also raised in a "good Christian family" and lived a clean life and wanted his boys to grow up to do the same.

Martin Luther’s famous quote came to my mind: “I am more afraid of my own heart than of the pope and all of his cardinals.”

I am more afraid of my own heart than I am of the devil, of worldliness, of wrong influences, of humanism, or anything else. The battle for sin is won or lost there. It is I who chooses day by day if I will flee from sin or if I will embrace it little by little.

I would like to think that I would never succumb to unthinkable evil like Representative M, but I know myself a little too well. I know that “little” sin leads to big sin. That my mind can justify anything, a little bit at a time. That I can convince myself that something is necessary or acceptable in my circumstances. That my conscience can become dulled to the gentle promptings of God’s Holy Spirit, saying, “That isn’t holy like I am.”

I think the first step towards preventing us from finding ourselves in place like Representative M., is to realize the deceitfulness of our own hearts, and live wisely according to that knowledge.

That means confessing and repenting while things are “small.”

It means being accountable.

It means accepting God’s authorities and their wishes in my life, regardless of how uncomfortable I may find them at times. Rebellion starts when I think that I know what is good for me, better than my authorities do.

It means never allowing myself to become comfortable with a little “pet sin” in some back corner of my heart that I think will never hurt anyone.

It means knowing that my freedom in Christ will allow me to go places, to do things, to participate in activities, but that those things are not expedient for me and could lead my heart to places it should not go, and therefore I will not do those things.

It means living life humbly, realizing that “If not for the grace of God, there go I…

Myself, arch-traitor to myself;

My hollowest friend, my deadliest foe,

My clog whatever road I go.

-- Christina Rossetti


Drebbel said...

One thing is a word of caution, indicted is not convicted and we should presume innocence. However, I am amazed by the evil that lurks in my heart. Really, I am so polluted by sin, it is hard to really know what righteous is. Everyday I try to drown the old Adam, but unfortunately the old Adam is an excellent swimmer.

Anonymous said...

Oh Mary. I am sorry. How disheartening and sad. Please excuse me and forgive me for saying this, but can't you get away from politics? Oh poo. I guess it's not as simple as that, but politics and acting are a lot alike. You can also learn the same skills in any college -learning to make the right presentation. Use the right words, etc. Lots of us learn to present things well. It's a skill. And many of us can learn it at church, too.

An acquaintance of ours told my husband that she was invited to visit a nice professional couple who had children. She went for a visit and after dinner, they decided to watch a movie. The movie they suggested was pornography. Our friend had been surprised. We would have been too, but I really think this stuff is becoming rampant. We have read in the news that the kidnapping, buying and selling of people for use in pornographic films is a rapidly growing black market. People are being abused on film and then murdered. It is horrible. But "regular" people are buying these films. It turns my stomache.

Honey, as soon as anyone seems as wonderful as the way you described Representative M, look out. Be careful. Satan himeself wasn't an ugly horrible demon. He was beautiful.

The truly rare skill is the skill of being honest. I am still learning it myself. Many of us don't even know where to start since we lie to ourselves. We can't even admit to our own selves the many failings we have. When we see our mistakes and evils, we say it's not so bad. We say it wasn't important....

If you want to find a man of God, look for someone humble, and much less impressive. If we are honest, none of us are so impressive. Not one. If we lead people to believe that we are, it is a lie. Jesus said "Only one is good..." Remember? Moses was called the humblest man on earth. Not the smartest, far from the most eloquent, not the most handsome, not the richest... I can't remember where it was written, but speaking of Jesus it was said "He hath no form nor comeliness" and it went on to say there was nothing about Him that we should desire Him. HIM! Jesus himself!

My prayer is that I might be more like Moses and Jesus and resist the temptation to try to appear more righteous and good than I am.


Mary said...

Drebbel -
You are right. He hasn't been convicted and we should presume innocence (although there is much more than mere allegations already), which is why I didn't name the person I'm talking about.

Krista -
Thank you for you comments. You are absolutely right - "If we are honest, none of us are so impressive."

I knew all along that the man mentioned in my story had his problems (for example pride). I wasn't impressed by the fact that he was rich, or smart, or popular (although many of his colleagues were).

I just presumed him to be what I thought was a better man than many of his colleagues. Maybe he was. There are some legislators who it wouldn't have even surprised me to hear something like this about them.

But "better" is still more than ugly, when the heart is allowed to follow sinful desires!

Not only are none of us impressive when we are honest ourselves, but we are downright disgusting. A good look at the human race brings me to my knees in thankfulness that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners... like Representative M. ... and like ME!

"Full of self and sin am I;
Thou art full of truth and grace..."

Anonymous said...

Hi Mary! Thanks for responding. And I see I can catch myself again. I said "My prayer is that I might be more like Moses and Jesus and resist the temptation to try to appear more righteous and good than I am." Aren't I implying that I AM righteous and good? (just not so much as I sometimes let on!) So there I go again. It is humbling. It is true, and I have at times felt and seen it so so poignantly and clearly –that there is NO good in me. Without the Lord, there is NO good at all.

I hope that the Representative and the woman he was involved with both come to real repentance through this experience and that, if nothing else, the fear of God keeps them far from coming near these kinds of sins again. I really feel for the girl involved and the Representative’s family, and hope for their healing as well.