A book I cannot recommend highly enough: J. David Hawkins’ short memoir, The Useful Sinner. This was mentioned on the Mockingbird blog recently, and Mockingbird kindly sent me one of the free copies they were offering, despite the international postage. If Mockingbird still have any copies, do ask them for one; if they don’t, them try to hunt one down anyway (not easy, alas, as it’s out of print).
As the Mockingbird post explains, it’s the story of a corporate lawyer whose life was turned upside down: first by his exposure as an adulterer who had betrayed both his wife and his friend and employer (with whose wife Hawkins had committed adultery); second by his experience of the grace of God as his wife forgave him and they rebuilt their marriage.
Above all, though, it’s a moving and powerful account of maintaining faith in the all-forgiving grace of God while living through the worldly consequences of one’s actions – including the judicial vengeance of the cuckolded husband. As Hawkins writes:
My sin had ignited a fire of evil and before it was extinguished it spread in many ways. The evil flowed, like lava, in a glowing slithering path, engulfing and harming those it touched.
In all, it took six years for these consequences to be fully worked through. I won’t spoil Hawkins’ story by describing what these consequences were, or their final outcome. But the end result is described by Hawkins as follows:
Louisa and I have come to see God’s grace as a complex unfolding mystery of beauty and provision, wrought with loving care in the midst of circumstances which from our human perspective often seem hopeless.
Hawkins describes his book as being aimed at anyone “who is now in the midst of pain and trouble of his or her own making”, and I’m sure it will be of great help to those in that position. But it is just as big a help for all the rest of us who can identify with those words of Paul, which Louisa Hawkins read to her husband on the night he confessed his adultery to her:
I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate to do. For what I do is not the good I want to do: no, the evil I do not want to do – this I keep on doing. – Romans 7:15,19.