Cindy said, "How has love changed your life?"
The Day Everything Changed
The day was Tuesday. February 19, 2002, to be exact. Although my husband, Chris, had completed six weeks as the new worship pastor at our church in Edmond, Oklahoma, we’d only spent three nights in our new home. Unexpectedly, he walked through the front door at 9 somethin’ in the morning. Attempting to inch my way through a plethora of boxes, I looked up and saw the face of the man I’d loved for nearly 10 years. And the man who was soon to break my heart. Chris walked toward me and asked if we could talk.� The look on his face said enough. Something was wrong.
After getting Noah settled watching a Blue’s Clues video, Chris motioned for me to sit on the newly purchased sofa that had arrived just 24 hours before as we were beginning our new life in a new town. My heart began to palpitate as the next several minutes consisted of him confessing to numerous affairs with numerous women from numerous places. I heard the cracking of my heart as he spoke and felt the devastation setting in almost immediately. As if that information was not enough to handle, he also informed me that one of the women was pregnant and he was pretty sure the baby was his child.
You have got to be kidding me. He was not.
Within thirty minutes, a couple of our pastors came over to our house. Their attempts to even speak were futile. I was crying, Chris was scared for his life and they sat across from us hoping they’d wake up soon. After learning the news, they left and I was alone with my husband. I hated him and I loved him and I didn’t want him near me and I wanted him to hold me. I wanted details and he reluctantly shared them. I wanted dates but he could not supply them. I wanted to know why he did this to me…to us. For that, he had an answer.
Seriously? I thought he struggled with looking at a few naked girls from time to time on the internet. I thought he wasn’t struggling with this very much anymore. I thought we were communicating fairly well on this subject. I thought that’s why he met with his accountability group on Fridays. I thought.
I was married to a full-blown porn addict. He explained that simply viewing images of naked women no longer appealed to him. He needed something more. His sickness grew and grew and gave birth to more repulsive desires. Eventually, after years of progression, this sin completely entangled him and he acted out.
As you can imagine, my husband’s resignation was forthcoming. Had he been employed in the corporate world, that wouldn’t have been necessary. But a pastor at a church? (You do the math.) His resignation brought even more death to my broken heart. Not only was our marriage deeply wounded and more than likely beyond repair, my ministry was lost, too. I would no longer be singing on the stage that had become my home in ministry for the past several years. No longer would I be pouring into mentoring relationships with women. Now, I was the one who needed to be ministered to. This role was not something I was accustomed to at all.
Next to our marriage being absolutely torn to shreds, the most devastating part was trying to go about some semblance of a life for the heart of our 3-year old. I tried to hide my tears from him but that was a feat far too difficult to perfect. One day he walked in on me when I was crying and said, “Why you so sad fo mommy?”
What in the world was I supposed to do.
My Word From God
I needed to hear from God. The state of confusion that I lived in at this point in my life was extremely overwhelming. Many wise people in my life were telling me that I didn’t have to make a decision right away, but I couldn’t live with that. Something was calling me to get some clarity.
Noah and I journeyed six hours down I-35 to my childhood home in Georgetown, Texas. I needed someone to take care of us. That someone was my mom. Not only did she play with Noah, which allowed me time to myself, but she cooked for us and cleaned up after us and rented movies for us and took us to eat Mexican food. She’s a terrific mom.
But, she also pestered me a little. She was insistent that I go meet with her pastor, Dan Wooldridge. Because I literally had no strength, I didn’t even put up a fight.
I was surprised how comfortable I was in Dan’s presence. A true shepherd, he listened to my story and watched as tears streamed down my face. I practically begged him to tell me what he thought I should do. He did something better. Here’s what he said:
“I would respect you if you felt that you needed to remove yourself from your marriage. What you’ve endured is very hard. But, you are not a fool to stay and be a part of the redemptive work in a man’s life.”
I was and still am absolutely certain that these were the words coming my Heavenly Daddy disguised in a middle-aged Baptist minister’s voice. I knew it immediately. Nearly six years later and I still remember this quote from him…word for word.
And I’m so glad my mother was a pest
Let the Healing Begin
The morning I woke up to head back to Oklahoma from Texas was the first morning in weeks that peace was upon me. Actually, peace covered me like a blanket and let me tell you, it was well received. While it was only a few weeks in the pit of despair, it felt like a lifetime.
Chris greeted us with open arms and a warm home. He’d spent that week grieving himself and hoping his wife would return to give it another shot. We were about to embark on the most difficult road ever…the road to healing and restoration.
While there were plenty who were skeptical of Chris’ heart, he proved to be the real deal. Many men in his situation might have waited to find a “better” job…one more comparable to his previous one. Chris, on the other hand, only wanted to provide for his family doing whatever was necessary. He began selling 2X4’s at a local home improvement store and did that successfully for 18 months.
It is not by accident that I landed a part-time position at LifeChurch.tv just six weeks after Chris’ resignation. I was around the lead pastors on a daily basis and I’m sure my face was a litmus test as to the condition of our marriage. Not only that, but these amazing men and our congregation, led by our senior pastor, Craig Groeschel, supported and loved us from day one. Many ministers who fall into this type of sin end up next to the curb. Even though it was difficult, my pastor and friend took the narrow road for which I am forever grateful.
Chris began to build back my trust in him. He was accountable to a few and never once got defensive when I needed to share how I felt. As we endured the pain and the consequences of his actions, I committed to God that I would not throw Chris’ sin back in his face. Frankly, I didn’t need to…the man lived in brokenness. And still, to this day, he has NEVER been defensive when I have asked questions or when I tell him I’m hurting. He will tell you that he is willing to spend the rest of his life working to rebuild my trust if that’s what it takes. Isn’t that amazing?
I mentioned that Chris only worked at the home improvement store for 18 months. His length of time there was only cut short by the new role that Craig offered him at LifeChurch.tv. And within a year of his new position there, he’d be leading the same campus where he fell some two and half years earlier. Talk about kicking Satan in the… I’m sorry, did I say that out loud?
We are not at the end. The restoration is progressing, but not over. We still have our days where it hurts. Days where we re-live it when others go through a similar situation. Days where we have to explain to our 8-year old why he has a brother who is not his mother’s child. And the fact that we have an amazing relationship with Chris’ son and his mom is nothing short of a modern-day miracle in itself.
Come back tomorrow. More good news is on the way.
Better Than New
I remember telling my husband many, many weeks after his confession something that he couldn’t believe. We had been walking out our new life the best we knew how. We had embraced our new surroundings and jobs. We had begun to heal. And I told him that if I had the choice to go back to our old life, that I wouldn’t do it. He was pretty surprised to hear me say that. I mean, after all the pain his actions caused me, here I am telling him that I’m thankful that I endured it so that we could have what we have now.
Our pastor, Craig, preached to our congregation at the Edmond Campus about Chris’ confession and told them “we are going to believe God that they will be better than new”. He wasn’t kidding. Neither were they. We are so better than new. We are better than we ever imagined. We are better than anybody thought we’d ever be.
Chris and I are best friends and our marriage is blessed with an increasing passion for each other. (Ahem) We have had countless opportunities to minister to couples and individuals who are walking through similar challenges. (I expect this to increase as I’ve recently finished writing a book of a more detailed account of our journey.) Chris’ son has become one of the greatest blessings to our family. My relationship with his mother is so extraordinary that many jaws hit the floor when I describe it. Chris’ influence and impact at LifeChurch.tv continues to humble him as he never thought he’d ever participate in ministry again. Most importantly, my heart is full. My cup runneth over. I have a man who adores me and isn’t afraid to show it. And my trust in him is growing daily.
There are many things I don’t know in life. I don’t understand algebra. Just don’t get all that abstract math. I don’t get how a heavy airplane can stay up in the sky and not fall to the ground. I know it’s about jets and thrust and stuff like that, but it still doesn’t make sense to me. I wish I knew why innocent people have to suffer. If I did, I’d bottle up the formula to fix their problems and give it away. Don’t know lots of things.
But, here’s what I do know.
According to the Bible, I serve a big God. He created the Universe in less than a week. He formed mountains and scooped out valleys with His hands. He is everywhere, all the time. He can change a heart with the snap of his fingers. He can bring sight to a blind man with some dirt and saliva. He can part a sea and allow his people to cross on dry land. He can make walls fall down with the blast of a trumpet. He can keep a man from being eaten by lions. He can bring forth a child through a virgin. He can turn a Pharisee into a martyr for Christ. He can transform a fisherman into a minister of the gospel. He brings peace that no one can explain. He is truly a remarkable God. My marriage is living proof.
I remember asking God one day how He was going to take this awful situation and use it for His good (Romans 8:28). Tears were streaming down my face and I had no idea how I would survive this. God spoke ever so gently to my heart and here is what He said:
God: Remember when you told me that you would go through anything in order to bring glory to my name?
Me: Uh-huh, sniff, sniff.
God: I’m taking you up on your offer.
He is faithful and loving and kind and tender and good and miraculous and amazing. He will carry you when you can walk no more and He will strengthen you when you need to make the journey. He is true to His word and will do what He says he is going to do. I promise because He promises and He does not disappoint.