I love to talk to pastors who need help. I get about two emails a week from pastors who are in dire need of help. They have fallen or are about to fall. Most are drawn here because I’ve shared my own story of how I fell from ministry.
For some reason when I blog about my personal story, I feel like I have to add the statement: “Adultery: Don’t try this at home.” It’s like those shows where guys jump 20 buses or drink hot lava. We know we shouldn’t. We know we aren’t going to. But the station has to list a disclaimer. “Don’t try this at home.” But for some reason, pastors across the country think that adultery is something they can handle.
I get all kinds of emails each month from people. But the thing that hurts me most is when I hear, “Hey, you committed adultery and you stayed with the woman you had an affair with. So that’s an inspiration for me. That can work for me too. You sinned, you fell, so I should be able to leave my wife and be happy with another woman.”
That statement makes my soul cringe.
Over the past two and a half years, I have borne my soul on the internet. I have told my story in blog and book fashion. I was a pastor, fell very hard then left my marriage for another woman. It’s all out there. I have told you about my mistakes, my passions and my hurt. And here I am for you to see. Warts and all.
But I want to be very, very clear. I am not a pattern to be followed.
Yes, I committed adultery. I did not work things out with my wife. I married Allison, the woman I had an affair with. I love her with all my heart and soul. She is my best friend and we have had a great marriage.
I will also tell you this – it has been difficult. I left everything to be with her. I see my kids every other weekend. I am broken financially. It is not a tropical paradise. But I do love Allison. We are perfect together. But pain, suffering, struggle and difficulty has been a regular part of our marriage, just as any other marriage.
Every time you have an affair with anybody, I don’t care who you are, in a sense, you’re having an affair with a fantasy and not a real person. Because the person you’ve got to pay the mortgage with, deal with the kids’ soccer schedule with, the one whose vomit you wipe up when they’re sick, that’s the real person you live with. Twenty minutes in the sack on a Tuesday afternoon is really not love. You’ve got to tell yourself that. You’ve got to awaken yourself to the fact that it’s fantasy. If you end up with the person you had an affair with, I guarantee you once you get married you have to face the same issues and same struggles. You cannot take two totally depraved human beings, stick them in the same house and not have friction.
When anyone has an affair, the first few months seem like an escape – a departure from reality. It’s an awesome feeling. But after a while, reality sets in. Life with them is just like marriage. Thankfully, life with Allison is beyond great.
But I am telling you this – statistics show that only 2% of marriages to someone you have an affair with ever work out.
To anyone who thinks that my story is a story they can build on for success – you are wrong. Dead wrong. My story worked out and I am thankful for that. But it has been one of pain, grace and mercy. God has brought me to where I am and has worked it out for His good. It is not a pattern to be followed.
God’s plan is laid out in Scripture. I tell my story over and over so that pastors will remain true to God’s calling. So that they will get help when they need it. So that they will find shelter and a mentor. So that they will not falter. I don’t tell my story so that they will feel the need to escape from their marriage. That’s not why I share my story.
I am very thankful for my beautiful wife, Allison. For some reason, God has blessed us despite the sin. I have been forgiven. But that does not mean any of us should throw ourselves headlong into sin because we know God will forgive us. To the contrary – we should hold fast to the salvation we have been given.
I take my current ministry duties seriously. When pastors who have fallen contact me, I urge them to work things out with their wives. Despite what they choose, I still love them, because I know that’s what Christ would do.
But pastors, don’t think that if you call me I will condone sin. I won’t. Don’t think that just because things worked out for me that they will work out for you. Listen – Allison and I have endured tremendous amounts of pain, suffering and hurt. Did we deserve it? Yes. Much of it. It has been a long road, but God has been gracious.
There are plenty of people in Scripture we can look to as examples – or maybe not. Should we look to David? A man who was king, but fell when we committed murder and adultery. Moses? A man who became angry and disobeyed God and was not allowed into the promised land. Peter? A man who denied Christ three times. The Bible is full of people who let God down. Did he restore them? Absolutely. But ultimately, we are not to follow the example of men, but of God. Don’t choose men as your model, but choose Christ first.
I know how it is – to see the sin before you. To see its deliciousness. To want to satisfy your own need. To put behind you the people you will hurt, the congregation you will harm, the family you will destroy. Our selfish pleasures overwhelm us when we are seeking our own desires.
Before you sin, before you lust, before you give yourself to the passions of this world, think about three things: Your family who loves you unconditionally, the church who follows you, and most of all, the God who desires to make all things right for you.
Let Him heal you, let Him stand by you, let Him love you and turn to Him. Don’t use a broken, feeble pastor as your example for what you should do. Use your Savior as an example.
Ray Carroll is the author of “Fallen Pastor: Finding Restoration in a Broken World,” which answers many of the questions I get asked on a weekly basis.
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