The review of this rediscovered gem, now available from Mockingbird, comes from Josh Sherman:
A friend put The Useful Sinner by David Hawkins in my hands last week, and the story of grace found within its modest 100 pages absolutely floored me. The book tells the author’s own powerful story – that of an accomplished corporate lawyer whose adulterous affair with his boss’ wife becomes public and the miracle that occurs when he eventually comes clean with his wife: She forgives him.
While the consequences of Hawkins’ transgression take a considerable toll on his marriage, children and career, the experience allows him to encounter God in a new and deeper way. He is converted. The first three pages of the opening chapter, reprinted below, are astounding:
On the last days of January, 1990, I spent the day hunting quail with a group of friends. It was a southern winter’s day – clear and more invigorating than cold. As we criss-crossed the pale broomstraw fields, I struggled to keep my sanity in the face of the unrelenting and building truth that I would shortly be exposed as an adulterer. Not a mere adulterer, but one who six months ago had left the employment of his wife’s family to work in a position of confidence for the other woman’s husband, who was a man of immense wealth. All four of us were friends and once he had taken refuge in our home when he had no place to go.
The layers of betrayal, deceit and stupidity covered a period of eighteen months and were so convoluted that I knew there was no escape. I carried my shotgun the entire day and as I sorted and resorted my courses of action, using the gun became an intellectual option. But this was contrary to the desire which I felt deep within. I wanted to live and I wanted to live a full and complete life. I craved light and happiness and escape from the smothering shroud of deceit which no covered nearly all of my important personal and business relationships. I felt guilty and dirty. I could not even begin to understand how I had started on this path to disaster and disgrace, much less how I could have thought for even a moment that everything would not be exposed eventually.
My fear of exposure was constant. Every time that Louisa called or I was with the husband my anxiety lurched to a higher level. My intellect knew it was a matter of time before the eruption of truth. The rest of me struggled furiously between the minute hope of escape and the growing knowledge that the pressure had reached the point where I was damaging my body and mind. I knew I could not go on.
Driving home from the hunt I prepared the words I would use to confess. Louisa was in our bedroom sitting by the fireplace. I told her about the relationship and said that I was no longer involved. I then asked her what she wanted me to do.
After a brief interrogation, Louisa said she did not want me to leave. She asked me to kneel and pray with her. I do not remember the words she spoke. I only recall a clear sensation that a long fall into blackness had been arrested.
Louisa’s faith has always been deep. I would, however, be a serious mistake to picture her as meek or mild. She is bold and outspoken and while her reaction to my damning admission was probably not out of character, it was not what I expected. It was my first taste of grace.
There were no excuses to be made, but I expressed my bewilderment at how I could have done such a deplorable thing. Louisa listened, found her Bible and searched around until she found these verses which she read to me:
I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I 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)
These two sentences expressed clearly the struggle I had lived for a year and a half. My response to these words was not spiritual, it was logical: this matches my experience and in my frame of reference it is therefore true. It was a starting point and a mere neutral truth which positioned me where I was nothing more than another human who had lost the struggle with his conscience.