Challenges, Real Couples

Misplaced Identity & Adultery: How One Led to the Other

person walking on road between grasses

“What do you do for a living?” 

“Where did you go to school?” 

“Where are you from?” 

“Are you married? Do you have kids?” 

These are just a few of the questions that people typically ask each other when they meet. 

Why? Because they are trying to get to know who you are in a quick snapshot. These are questions everyone expects to hear and is ready to answer. 

While these might be okay questions to ask when getting to know someone, they’ll mislead you if you use them to construct your own identity. You are more than your job, your alma mater, your hometown, or relationship status. You’re more than the sum of all those things. You’re more than your thoughts, characteristics and feelings. You are more than what the world says about you. 

You are, most truly, who God says you are. 

And where you choose to get your sense of identity makes all the difference in the world. How you identify who you are can determine the direction you will go.

In 2011, I was unfaithful to my wife. And as I look back, I can see that the long road that led me to that terrible failure began miles before, when I began to build my identity on my accomplishments, rather than on God.

Turning a good thing into a god

In 2009, I really started to define myself by what I had accomplished in my career. 

As a first responder, I was doing what I loved and I was good at it. I decided to try out for a specialized unit and made it. I gave glory to God in that moment because I knew the odds had been stacked against me; the course was extremely difficult. I felt that I was exactly where He wanted me to be and that He had made a way for this great accomplishment to come to fruition. 

Being connected with this team gave me the opportunity to do something bigger than I could do on my own. I had the chance to be a part of something greater. That’s not inherently bad, but my life began to revolve around this change in my career. I started to take more pride in the accomplishment and stopped giving praise to God. 

Don’t misunderstand: being accomplished in any area isn’t sinful or wrong. On the contrary, Christians are supposed to pursue excellence in everything (1 Corinthians 10:31)! But to fallen sinners like you and me, achievements can quickly become dangerous idols we look to for identity. 

I began pushing everything else to the back burner— my wife, my children, and ultimately my relationship with God. The things I valued before— such as being a follower of Jesus, a husband, and a father— all faded into the background as I fully stepped into being a team guy. It became who I was. 

My moral compass was spinning

I grew up in church, following Jesus. I was a Christian and had been for years. During this season I took slow, subtle steps that rearranged my identity. I began to compromise in many areas. 

As I traveled for my job, I allowed myself to look at things I shouldn’t look at. Eventually, that wasn’t satisfying enough and I began going out in the evening, drinking, hanging out with people who were out to have a “good time,” which led to conversations and relationships I should never have had. 

These things opened a door for me to do things I never would have fathomed. Pride became my beacon instead of looking to God’s Word and the finished work of Christ for my identity. I looked to my accomplishments and to the earthly pleasures of this world to fill me and it left me even emptier.

The further I fell away from my faith, the more I compromised my integrity. My moral compass was spinning. I ignored all the signs that told me to stop and I just kept going. Once I began going in that direction, I didn’t want to stop. The attention I was getting fed my pride even more and it was like a drug I didn’t want to stop taking. 

Ultimately I ended up stepping out on my wife and my children. I went from “model” husband and father to a deserter of my faith and family. 

God met me at the bottom

I wish I could say that was the bottom, but I continued to reject God’s authority and build an identity for myself based on the world’s wisdom.

Spoiler alert: you’ll never feel like you’ve “found” yourself this way.

I didn’t and I continued to dig until I hit the bottom. I was living with friends, going through a divorce, barely saw my children, broke— and still trying to find fulfillment in all the wrong places. 

God met me at the bottom and gave me a road to Damascus (Acts 9:1-19) experience.

He revealed to me that I was broken, that I had to surrender, repent, and lay my pride down. He wanted me to be a better man because of who He was and not anything I could do on my own.

God gave me the strength to call my wife and begin the hard road of reconciliation. During that process I had to begin to see myself as God called me to be. I could never be enough on my own. No amount of accomplishments would ever fill the void that was within me. God had to rip out the old and rebuild something new— something better— from the ashes. 

As I walked through that painful process, I learned to build my home on a solid foundation, one that cannot be washed away by the storms of life. 

God granted me repentance (2 Timothy 2:25) and that repentance re-laid the foundation of my identity on Christ, allowing our family eventually to heal.

I realized that I was never meant to find my identity in anything other than Christ. He made us in His likeness (Gen. 1:27) and He made us for a purpose— a kingdom purpose. He has an ultimate plan for each of us, one that glorifies God and sets your life and priorities in alignment. 

Knowing who you are in Christ changes everything

Deeply knowing who you are in Christ changes everything. Your identity is not meant to be wrapped up in what you do, your relationships, education, or skills. 

God made all of you— he’s the one who decides your identity. He wants you to know who you are in Him. He wants you to use the gifts and talents He gave for a kingdom purpose (Ephesians 2:10.) 

Remember that you are chosen (1 Peter 1:9) and a new creation (2nd Cor. 5:17.) Meditate on God’s truth; drown out the lies of the enemy, the world, and yourself. 

I used to determine who I was by everything I did. Now I’m a man defined by what Jesus did for me. Jesus paid the price so that I don’t have to. He restored the brokenness that my decisions caused. He made something brand new in my heart and in my family’s life. 

Don’t lose sight of where your identity needs to be because how you identify who you are can determine the direction you will go. Receive your identity from God and let Him determine the direction of your life.

Have you heard of the The 31-Day Pursuit Challenge?

Every marriage begins with passion, purpose, and pursuit, but few stay that way. That’s why we wrote Husband in Pursuit and Wife in Pursuit Together, they make what we’re calling the 31-Day Pursuit Challenge. Couples are encouraged take the challenge together. We’re already starting to hear stories of transformed marriages! Are you up for the challenge?

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