I used to be a pastor's wife. My husband was a successful soul winner and an excellent speaker. He had charisma that attracted people and won their friendship. For many years his commitment to serve people was genuine. Unfortunately, he let himself become too close to the women of the church.
For 25 years his warm personality and flirtatious manner won him many lady friends. I accepted this as part of his sanguine personality. Then some thing happened. He committed adultery.
Looking back, I now see that I had been living in denial. Considering my husband a godly man, I couldn't comprehend that he might even consider having an affair. In fact, I believed in him right up until the last week we lived together. Whatever his deceit and rejection, I kept trying to fix our relationship. I asked him if we could get away for a few days or go to a family life weekend, but his answer was always no. I couldn't understand why. Then my health began failing; I suffered migraine headaches and high blood pressure. After I learned what was going on behind my back, these symptoms disappeared.
The other woman
Who was the other woman? Some one my husband had studied with and baptized. As he showered her with attention and devotion, I saw many warning signs of emotional ties being formed. Several times I confronted him about it, but he convinced me I was mistaken. He made me feel foolish for even suggesting there could be a problem. After all, the other lady was my close friend, too. She sat beside me in church every week. With her husband and two children she shared holidays and special events with us. She bought me gifts and told me she loved me and valued our special friendship. We often prayed together.
I found out later that she "fell in love" with my husband the first time they met. The combination of her infatuation and his flirtatious personality proved combustible, and they found themselves playing with fire. When the truth finally came out, the affair already had been going on for two years.
My first reaction was disbelief. Then came devastation. I felt as though my heart had been ripped out and I was only half a person. My husband didn't acknowledge my hurt or seem to care at that point. Emotionally, I couldn't deal with the little things of life, much less the bigger things. Financially, I couldn't afford to stay in our house, and had to move. Mean while, having left all the responsibilities in my lap, my husband moved into a motel with our friend. Later he took up residence across the street from my workplace and regularly at tended my church.
Our children, though they are young adults, also felt devastated. They still call me and cry. They wonder whether anything they ever believed in was true. They question if God is real and want nothing to do with religion. Life will never be the same for them.
The other woman's children, who are younger, have problems in school and can't get along with their peers. Both are depressed. Her ex-husband thinks Seventh-day Adventism is a cult. He can't relate to a religion that breaks up homes.
It was hard for me to accept too. After learning about the affair, I prayed long and hard for the Lord to restore my husband to his senses. For a brief time it seemed as though we might reconcile. He came home on our twenty-ninth wedding anniversary to see if we could start over. But the other woman was relentless in calling him at my house, threatening suicide. She finally got what she wanted; I was left alone.
Not only innocent spouses and children suffer when the pastor has an affair. The credibility of the gospel, the ministry, and the church are tarnished. So many lives are hurt. People phoned and asked me to help them understand what was happening, but because of my own state of mind I was ill-equipped to help them.
Although time brings healing, I still hurt every day for my children. They love their dad and want him to be OK. They try to be supportive. To do this they must accept the other woman as something of a stepmother instead of a family friend, knowing that they will lose any hope of a relationship with their father unless they accept the situation on his terms. Nevertheless, for them the hurt just doesn't go away.
Recovery for wounded families
Adultery is not a matter between two people, since so many are hurt by it. It is as hurtful as murder, and the devastating effects never go away entirely. The offenders had the privilege of making the choice to engage in adultery, but families have no choice about the suffering inflicted upon them. I think the church should have a recovery program for the families of pastors who commit adultery. We seem to have recovery programs for everything else imaginable.
Essential to the recovery process from adultery is that those involved take responsibility for their actions and stop excusing sin. Expecting family and friends to accept immoral behavior is unreasonable. Those who commit adultery and try to fix it by writing a note of apology to the wounded parties have no idea of the injury done. Would an apology note fix the results of murder or stealing someone's home?
I'm tired of hearing how badly the church treats ex-pastors who have committed adultery. They have shown blatant disregard for the spiritual welfare of their flock. Love, acceptance, and forgiveness are biblical, but I have a problem with premeditated sin and planned repentance. True repentance brings humility and an attitude of restitution.
When Adam and Eve sinned, they deluded themselves that because of His love for them God would excuse their disobedience. They realized the consequences of their sin when God cursed the ground. From that point on, their lives were full of anxiety and constant toil. I'm thankful God has made provision through the blood of Jesus that forgiveness and salvation are available to all. But grace does not give license to sin, and the converted heart doesn't play cheap and loose with forgiveness.
Don't do it
My point in writing this story is to help pastors and other spiritual leaders realize that adultery is worse than death. Its effects are so far reaching that people never forget it or fully recover from it.
So if you are considering an affair, please don't do it. The excitement will soon wear off and is not worth the price you and your family will have to pay. Talk to someone you trust or get professional help. Most of all, pray. The demon of adultery is powerful, and you need God's strength. And beyond renewing your spiritual resources, rekindle the old feelings you once had for your spouse. Cherish each other and share the joy that marriage can bring. Slow down enough to make special time for each other.
For those who have already committed adultery, please make things right as much as is possible with your family. The hurts are deep; don't brash off what has happened. When Jesus comes, the only thing that will matter is whether you have made peace with your God and your family.
To the women of the church who see themselves as needy and demand the pastor's time to fill unmet emotional needs, let me warn you that you are treading on dangerous ground. If you steal attention from your pastor that belongs only to his wife, you are guilty before God. I appeal for you to renew your commitment to your marriage partner and to God. The marriage institution is sacred and ordained by the Creator of the universe.
My life today
It's been more than two years since my divorce, and I have remarried. When I was pleading with God to bring love back into my life, He had a plan I didn't know about. My new husband restored love to me, and we are enjoying life to the fullest. I praise God for him every day. Our relation ship is everything I've always longed for.
Finally, to all who are reading this, I urge you to be faithful. Jesus is coming soon. Don't exchange eternity with Him for a passing fancy.