I rushed from the exam room to the nurses' station. Female laughter bubbled up from a semicircle of chairs that surrounded a newcomer. The office manager called me over.
"Jan," she said, "meet Greg. He'll be updating our computer system over the next few months." Greg* stood and offered his hand. His eyes were cappuccino brown, his smile warm and welcoming. We exchanged polite chitchat before I hurried to see the next patient. Nice looking, nice manners, I thought. Good thing I'm married. Before the day was over, he was joking with the staff like he'd known us for years.
Greg came to the clinic nearly every day. Lights danced in his eyes whenever he saw me; smiles came easily when I saw him. At a farewell party for one of the staff, he wandered in and scanned the room, then sat directly across from me. Our eyes met and held each other in silence as heat filled my face and my pulse quickened. When the guest of honor entered the room and the gang yelled, "Surprise!" I finally looked away. When Greg mingled with the staff, I watched from the corner of my eye, straining to hear every word, curious to know more about him.
I attempted nonchalance a few days later when I asked if Greg was working. "He's at the administrative office today." I was disappointed, but minutes before quitting time, his deep voice filled the hallway. I pretended to look for a brochure filed in the hall closet so we'd run into each other.
His smile was the reward I was looking for. His eyes spoke admiration and warmed me. Later, he stopped me near the break room.
"You're a beautiful woman, you know that?"
"I'm serious. You do know that you're beautiful, don't you?"
"You have good taste. Thank you," I joked, but inside I was melting. I floated back to my office.
A Slippery Slope
Hoping to see Greg between patients, I lingered in the hallways more now. Meanwhile, at home, my husband of 20 years, Bud, and I were still recovering from the constant demands of graduate school. We'd divided the household tasks to keep things running smoothly, but in the process we drifted apart emotionally.
One day, after the clinic closed, Greg waited in the parking lot for me. As we talked, his attention was intoxicating. He complimented my face, my clothes, and my hair. I thought about him often, looking forward to our next brief meeting. I daydreamed about having long, intimate conversations with him. I didn't let myself imagine kissing him, but the excitement up to that point was enticing enough. I kept telling myself that as long as I didn't do anything, I'd be okay.
When time allowed, I often ate lunch outside at a nearby park. One day as I watched some preschoolers at play, Greg sauntered up to the table. "Mind if I join you?" I didn't. He slid in next to me and we talked. I wished the time would never end.
By now I thought about Greg all the time and struggled to remain faithful to Bud. Many days I woke up famished for more of this excitement. I savored the appreciation and admiration Greg gave me. Part of me was greedy for more, but another part was frightened by the intensity of the desires that had overtaken me. What had begun as a fantasy had become stronger than I was. I didn't know how to make it stop.
For years I'd prayed daily on the phone with my friend Pauline. Several months after I met Greg, I finally told her about him. Over the next eight months, I called her regularly to pray, confessing whenever I'd initiated another contact with Greg. She was never shocked or disgusted with me. Instead, she demonstrated God's unfailing love. Through her persistent, specific prayers, God began to dismantle the deception that held me captive. My inability to change my desires became clearer to me with each subsequent encounter. I confessed that left to my own strength, I'd fall before the day was over. One day I'd resolve to run away from Greg, the next day I'd fantasize about what it would be like to run away with him.
The Bible revealed the way of escape from this torment. It describes our Savior as "him who is able to keep you from falling" (Jude 24). This truth challenged the excuse that I wasn't strong enough to do the right thing. I couldn't keep myself from falling, but God could. In truth, I wasn't really sure I wanted to be kept from falling. This deadly mind game brought intense emotional pleasure with the promise of even more. But Jesus said, "My power is made perfect in weakness" (2 Corinthians 12:9). So as I learned to lean on his strength, my resolve to make the right decisions grew.
Then the Spirit led me to the next step—and the most difficult: I had to tell my husband. When we first met, Bud and I built our friendship on honesty. We told each other just about everything. The burden of hiding my attraction to Greg was heavy. When I finally confessed, Bud listened and tried to understand. By God's grace, he didn't get angry. His loving support surrounded me, and I no longer felt alone. His prayer for my release during the most difficult times demonstrated the depth of his love.
On the 4th of July, Bud and I watched the town fireworks explode over a moonlit river. I realized my relationship with Greg was like those fireworks; it sizzled and sparkled and vanished in smoke. My relationship with Bud was more like the moon, quietly changing but enduring. Finally, I decided to invest the time and energy I'd spent on Greg into my marriage. At the time my emotions argued with the decision, but I trusted God to bring them into line with his will.
Now when I heard Greg's voice in the hallway, I waited in my office or walked in the opposite direction. Gradually, the days I avoided him began to outnumber the days I sought him out. Before long, his project was over and we gathered for his farewell party. I sat near the back of the room and slipped out without saying good-bye.
The Fantasy Isn't Harmless
Looking back, I can see several factors that left me susceptible to the enticement of adultery—depression, exhaustion, unmet needs, and sinful desires.
As a nurse, I'd been trained to identify and meet people's needs, but had ignored my need for appreciation and attention. The marathon of trying to balance family, work, and graduate school had left Bud and me depleted. While I focused on my studies, he assumed the burden of childcare and household responsibilities. After three years of grueling schedules, we'd forgotten how to appreciate each other.
Although I'd prayed daily and still attended church, I'd been so busy that my emotional "cup" was nearly empty. So when Greg showed concern about my needs, I responded. The thrill of a near-affair was an addicting antidote to my emotional numbness. But what seemed wonderful at first really was a trap designed for my destruction. The warning in Proverbs 14:12 strengthened me: "There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death." Meeting with a trained Christian counselor helped me to regain a sense of God's unconditional love for me and to be honest about my needs.
From childhood, I'd escaped the dullness and difficulties of life in daydreams. As a woman, I imagined a man who put me on a pedestal and desired me with deep passion. I thought if I kept this fantasy deeply buried, it would be harmless. But this dormant desire to be worshiped made Greg's admiration so intoxicating. Eventually, through prayer, deep soul searching, and the godly counsel of my friend, I saw the proud nature of my thoughts and the sin of not confessing them. As the Lord brought about a gradual change in my heart, I repented. First he forgave me, and then he delivered me from emotional entrapment. I learned firsthand that God is able to keep me from sin.
Although the enemy tried to divide Bud and me, God used this experience to strengthen our relationship with him and with each other. Instead of fighting the temptation alone, I learned to ask God for his strength. It came to me through my husband. When I faltered in my resolve to remain faithful, I didn't hide my weakness anymore or pretend everything was alright. I told Bud about it. It wasn't just my problem now, it was our problem.
We're both more honest about our vulnerability to temptation now, and we take special care to focus on each other during those times. I warn Bud when I think a woman is trying to tempt him, and I depend on him for similar warnings. Our level of trust and honesty has deepened because of what we've been through together.
It's a deadly deception to believe the sinful thoughts we tuck away are innocent until we act upon them. Even if we only take them out when no one is looking, they're dangerous. When unconfessed, these thoughts shape our lives, bear fruit, and eventually bring death (James 1:15).
With God's help, my husband's love, and the support of my faithful friend, I finally put aside my mind games. And I thank God I did.
Jan Wilson is a freelance writer who lives in Massachusetts.
*Some names and details have been changed.
Copyright © 2005 by the author or Christianity Today/Today's Christian Woman magazine.