I’ve often heard the admonition to “build a hedge” around your marriage as a protection from temptation. That hedge may consist of setting boundaries for if, when, where, and how you will be with someone of the opposite sex. It can include talking to your spouse about who you’ve spend time with throughout the day and even any struggles with lust you may have experienced.
But I think I’m done with the word “hedge.” In the last month, I have learned of two Christian couples whose marriages have been struck by adultery. I ache for them and what the adulterer’s actions will do to their families. Considering them and what the Bible says about adultery, we need to forget the hedge and build a wall.
A hedge intimates that you can see over to the other side — how good it looks over there. You can wave at people or shake hands. Good gracious, I could even kiss someone over a hedge. I can crawl under a hedge, jump a hedge, squeeze through a hedge, etc. No, I want a wall for my marriage — a sturdy, rock-hewn boundary that keeps my marriage safe inside and invaders outside. If some guy wants to hang out with me, he can ring the doorbell and come in through the front door that my husband opens. Then our friendship is all on the up-and-up.
Yes, definitely a wall. Remember Nehemiah in the Bible? God sends him back to Jerusalem to rebuild the city’s wall as the time of Babylonian captivity is ending. Why did the City of David need a wall? Walls were constructed to secure and protect the people within the city limits. Marriages need the same thing: a WALL to secure and protect the relationship that you have committed to and that God will bless.
We need to be marriage Nehemiahs erecting thick walls to provide security for our relationships. We will also likely experience pushback from those who believe that building walls is a foolish task. You may have friends that suggest that if you loved each other, such walls would be unnecessary or proclaim that they can have opposite-sex friendships and wonder why you can’t. Nehemiah faced opposition, anger, and ridicule when he and his fellow Israelites built the wall. But he encouraged the Jews by saying, “Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your families, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your homes” (Nehemiah 4:14). We are fighting for the same thing when we make the effort to protect our marriages from the temptations and opposition that may come from outside.
Given my premarital history of promiscuity, I have a rule that I do not spend time alone with a male who is not my husband or a relative. I don’t care if you are my co-worker, a family friend, a church elder, or my literary agent, we are not chatting it up over lunch somewhere alone. Does this make logistics difficult at times? Yes. However, it makes my marriage a lot easier. And my marriage takes precedence over inconvenience.
Some married couples assert that they can maintain friendships with opposite sex people because their marriage is strong enough. Perhaps it is…now. But in many situations I’ve seen and heard about, the marriage hits a rocky spot (which happens in just about every marriage) and suddenly an innocuous friendship becomes a temptation because it seems better and easier than the relationship at home with the spouse. If you want to maintain friendships with opposite sex people, include your spouse. Do double dates; invite your hubby to get to know your male best friend from high school or college; host a group event. But be very cautious about having alone time with a man who isn’t your hubby.
If someone of the opposite sex is flirting with you and won’t take no for an answer, get firm. Be frank. Push them back. Get away.
Is that clear enough?
Why am I adamant about this? Because in the worst years of my marriage — when I was about 80% sure we wouldn’t make it — I was ripe for an affair. Had there been another man in my life who was attentive, kind, responsive, attractive, etc., at that moment he would have looked much better than the painful prospect of working on my failing marriage. Thank goodness — no, thank GOD — that I had set up that rule for myself and did not have such a guy on the horizon. Because I was committed to my marriage, and because I didn’t have another option, I stuck it out. My husband and I worked on our relationship, and we are happier now than ever before. I love and adore my husband, and he feels the same for me.
Also, consider the children. When a parent leaves the home to take up with another woman or another man, the child does not see that the marriage wasn’t working, the parent fell in love, sometimes things happen, they will still see their parent, and all of the other rationalizations the adulterer gives. They see that the adulterous parent chose someone else over them. It is not the same as divorcing and then remarrying someone else. Breaking up a marriage over adultery has a more profound effect.
If you are unhappy in your marriage right now, you are even more susceptible. Get help for your relationship! Things can get better. God desires you to have a quality marriage.
If you have already engaged in inappropriate activity, break off contact with the other person. Ask for a transfer to another work department or shift if needed. Build a wall around your marriage and get help. Tell your pastor or a counselor what has happened, and figure out together whether/how to inform your spouse.
Forget the hedge, build a wall. Remember your vows to keep yourself only unto your spouse.
“They were all trying to frighten us, thinking, ‘Their hands will get too weak for the work, and it will not be completed.’ But I prayed, ‘Now strengthen my hands.'” Nehemiah 6:9