A General Scandal

In 2007, the New England Patriots had a nearly perfect season –
until the heartbreaking final moments of the Super Bowl game against the New York Giants.
Perfectly illustrating that no matter how brilliantly you run the race, if you stumble on the finish line, everyone just remembers that you lost.
When it’s about football, it’s a relatable life lesson, an anecdote, a story we use to inspire children to do their best.
When it happens in a career, a marriage, a man’s life – it’s a Greek tragedy, a horror story, a headline on Nightline, a 48-Hours special, a cautionary tale that makes everyone over fifty pause and reflect on how close we all live to that single bad decision that can undo a lifetime of good.
How, we ask, does a brilliant, disciplined, dedicated general with a storied career and a devoted wife wake up one morning an adulterous headline?
Well, the truth is, he doesn’t.
It’s an illusion to think that the decision to have sex with a married woman was the one moment that tipped the scales, just as it’s an illusion to think that it was a single pass into the end zone that lost the final game.
It’s not one single decision that brings a man to his knees, that sucker punches his loved ones, that smartbombs those who once held him in high esteem – not usually,
more likely, it’s a series of choices
with opportunities all along the way to stop the forward progression toward destruction,
opportunities that are ignored or wasted,
decision after destructive decision until that one decisive moment in the bedroom seems like the inevitable, foregone conclusion you convinced yourself it was
only, it’s not.
There’s nothing new under the sun. The same sun shines in Iraq that once shone in Israel.
The story of the downfall of another military leader began with this telling line:
“In the spring, at the time when kings go off to war, David sent Joab out with the king’s men and the whole Israelite army. They destroyed the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah. But David remained in Jerusalem.” 2 Samuel 11:1
King David, accomplished warrior, leader of men,  was getting older. It was time to go to war. To lead. To work.
He stayed home.
Something was going on in David’s head.
Maybe he felt he’d earned a break.
Maybe he lost a couple of pickup games on the royal basketball court to the younger warriors and he was feeling – well – creaky, past his prime, like yesterday’s news.
Maybe he was thinking he’d put in his time and God owed him – well, something. Maybe something he needed to find for himself since God seemed to be – well, slow to reward him.
I don’t know what David was thinking but I do know that the slide into murder and adultery began one spring when David sat out the game
and it started in his head, not in his bed.
I imagine General Petraeus’ story started in his head, too.
There are traps and temptations that are common to us in our youth –
they don’t go away when we pass mid-life, they just sneak up on us from behind.
The enemy changes tactics, mixes up the plays, tries to find us with our guard down
he whispers in midlife ears
lies
lies about – well – you’ve heard them.
The truth is, you need to continue to fight soldier – all the way to the end of the war, to the end of all wars.
There is no retirement from kingdom building. Ask Daniel. He was eighty-five when King Darius tossed him into the lion’s den – but his faith was in fighting shape and it kept him from becoming cat food.
Feed your mind on truth.
Keep God’s word at hand to combat the insidious falsehoods that disguise themselves as good ideas.
“The sins of some are obvious, reaching the place of judgment ahead of them; the sins of others trail behind them. In the same way, good deeds are obvious, and even those that are not obvious cannot remain hidden forever.” I Timothy 5:24-25
Your good deeds are not lost nor or are they unrewarded. Those moments when you made the right choice even when no one was looking? That moment will not remain hidden forever, soldier.
God took note. He sees. He knows.
Spiritual warfare is not a younger man’s game. This is one battlefield where years of experience and maturity are valued, utilized, in demand.
Don’t sit out the season staring out your window at the neighbor’s roof or taking long intimate morning jogs with that girl who’s hearing all your stories for the first time.
Take a lesson from the post perfect-season Patriots – now they play for every point to the bitter end of the game
because they know
it doesn’t matter how you started if you don’t end well.


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6 Comments

    The Conversation

  1. Anonymous says:

    I have always taught that sin always begins in the mind. When that sinful thought enters our mind, our first reaction needs to be “Get thee behind me, Satan” because that’s what Jesus said when Satan tempted him. Then it’s time for a conversation with God. It’s when we let sin linger in our thoughts, and we don’t talk to God about it, that we begin to make plans and soon our actions are involved in what we let build a nest in our minds. You’ve said it so well. Sin began in the head, not the bed. Kudos. MOMMA

  2. Jaime Carroll says:

    Thank you for sharing, I have this failure in my past constantly haunting me and I am so grateful for those who have forgotten and love me still. You are right, I felt safe with that person because he was married and I wasn’t at first attracted to him but we became friends and he confided in me and I confided in him, it was a two year emotional affair before anything physical happened. I am glad I wasn’t married at the time because I really felt like I got side swiped by the devil. My now husband and I have learned from that situation and we are very strict about any relationships for either of us of the opposite sex. I am most grateful for Gods loving kindness and his great love and forgiveness for He spoke to me so clearly during that time and only He stayed by my side and encouraged me to continue going to church.

    • Sounds like you and your husband have learned to apply wise principles to your marriage. I know the two of you are so blessed with this love. Thanks for what you shared, Jaime. We’ve all done things that require forgiveness and the shedding of Jesus’ blood.

      God bless.

  3. So, so, true. As the Casting Crowns song says, it’s the slow fade. We don’t crumble in a day.

  4. krex_1 says:

    this is a timely reminder, all the time. Perseverance and consistency can seem so boring and require so much energy, it is essential to keep the end in mind.