Often I get notes from pastors who have fallen. They tell me of their odyssey and how they are doing now. This morning I received a note from Bill with his story. I asked his permission to share it here because he has done the difficult things, he has returned home to his church to find restoration. (On a personal note let me extend high praise to Bill’s church for how they have handled all of this.) Here is Bill’s story in his own words,
I have been reading your blog this morning as I sit at my new job as a teacher for a Junior High School. I feel like there is so much I would like to say but will save opinions until I am asked. I will give you a synopsis for what I have done and what I am doing and the path it took to get here….
My failure has been my entire life. I was taken as a child and put into foster care and orphanage at an extremely young age. I have no bad memories at all of my early childhood as I have no memories at all up to the age of 5, the day I moved in with a family that became my home. I had no idea that my biggest wound and hurt was neither my foster days nor the orphanage. My biggest wound was brokenness of Intimacy and trust that honestly I never even knew I had. All I knew was that everyone else was valuable and wanted and I wasn’t. So I worked very hard at everything I did, including my faith.
Ok, so here is my story…
This past December (2011) I called my wife and told her I needed to talk with her. We got in the car and drove to a nearby parking lot where I told her I answered an ad on Craigslist and the woman who responded was trying to embezzle me for money to keep silent. She told me everything about my life (she had researched me) and wanted money to keep quiet. I told my wife that I was not going to give her anything and that I wanted to come clean about my life. I did not confess much at all, I actually lied and made it seem like this was a porn issue. I told her I wanted to tell the leadership of our church, knowing I would be fired. She was very concerned about me doing this but I told her I really wanted to get some counseling about some deep seeded wounds from my childhood. She agreed and we told the leadership.
The leadership at first said they would let me resign and would give me a severance for time served (over 8 years) and would pay for counseling. I was so excited! What happen next rocked my world and my family’s world. The pastor asked if there was anything on my computer that was inappropriate, as he would be having it analyzed by professionals to make sure. I told him there should be nothing on it. I don’t know if it was denial or my mind blocked out what I had done on the computer but I wasn’t trying to lie I just really didn’t think there was anything on it. Three days later I was called to a meeting and they had opened all my personal emails that I had through yahoo. They knew everything…. completely! They then told me they had gotten my wife from work so I could tell her everything. I did this and fell apart! They took me to a hospital because I wanted to die. They admitted me to a mental hospital for 4 days to make sure I wasn’t going to kill myself. I really didn’t want to kill myself I just didn’t want to live anymore.
While in the hospital the leaders of the church and my wife discussed what to do about me. They sought council and decided it would be best to send me away to an inpatient program designed for addictions. This was a Christian based place just north of Atlanta, GA. I spent the next 3 months there.
While in Atlanta this is what I experienced…
– I hit rock bottom and truly repented and confessed fully my sins.
-20 plus hours of 1 on 1 counseling
-480 hours of instruction in a classroom setting
-No less than 100 hours of group counseling
-I discovered my woundedness and got professional help in understanding myself
-Read 12 books assigned me about sexual brokenness
-Did a full disclosure to my wife who flew in to see me
-Experienced a public confession of what I had done
-Did counseling with my children
-Had a touch from the creator of the universe
-Came to peace with trusting God about my family
-And so much more!
I say all that to say – I did the hard stuff to the best of my ability. I was there with 25 others who I can honestly say never reached brokenness – but I was broken fully!
When I left my church the pastor was angry and told me I could not set foot on church property again. He said this out of his anger and honestly felt like I had lied and deceived him about the computer and therefore was protecting the church. I understood this and agreed.
While I was away the church leadership was amazing. They demonstrated the love of Christ for my wife. They paid for her and my children to fly to see me and get the counseling we needed. They helped her with bills and truly loved my family while I was getting help.
While away, I felt God was telling me to quit hiding. I felt like God wanted me to return to my community, where I was very well known and my sin was public knowledge (a letter was sent to the congregation about my failure). I moved home to the town in which I failed. I went to the leadership team and apologized. I told them all that I had experienced. They welcomed me back to the church as a part of the body.
This is what I did…
-I got a job
-I attended a small group with my wife (they embraced and loved us)
-We attended Sunday Morning worship (very difficult)
-I met with different men every day for the first 2 months for accountability
-I met with a staff member 1-3 times a week for the first 3 months
-I went to counseling weekly
-My wife and I went to counseling together
-My wife went to counseling
-I lived with friends for the first 2 months I was back and spent the day at my home
-I continued my care with the program I left (weekly call and journaling)
-I continued reading and learning about myself
I have learned so much about who I am and about my wounds. It’s very sad to think that I was extremely successful as a pastor while all along being so wounded. I am now healing and free from some deep issues in my life. I believe God has so much more for me and I am excited to see what they are, BUT for now I am being obedient in living in my community where everyone knows what I’ve done and I’m working hard on my family, with my wife, and in my relationship with God.
I know its unusual for a pastor to come back to his hometown and walk it out in front of his congregation (by the way I was the youth pastor) but I feel like this is what God has called me to do. My desire is to walk out restoration fully – whatever that may mean!
I am willing to answer any questions. I share my story with any who desire to hear it.
In Christ and Living Free,