Today as I scrolled through my Facebook feed I was saddened to read the headlines, Pastor outed on Ashley Madison commits suicide. Reading those words, my heart filled with grief. I cannot imagine what his wife and family are going through. I pray that God would surround them with His comfort and peace.
The words of the pastor’s wife echo the cry of my own heart:
These were real people with real families, real pain and real loss,” she says. But “don’t underestimate the power of love. Nothing is worth the loss of a father and a husband and a friend. It just didn’t merit it. It didn’t merit it at all.
I think sometimes as we read stories of another’s moral failure, we forget that real people are involved.
We forget how devastating the pain of this life can be and how desperately we need love.
We don’t see the kids that are suffering when their families suffer.
We throw our rocks, scream our opinions and feel good about ourselves that it wasn’t us.
When we allow this attitude to take over and don’t allow ourselves to think about what another may be going through, we are effective in numbing ourselves of compassion and the heartfelt need to pray.
Instead we embrace the pride of our own formulas that keep us from sin.
It’s hard to believe that a Christian who has been saved by grace alone could do this, but the truth is we all battle this tendency within ourselves.
But thank God He doesn’t leave us alone until we see the truth; that we are all sinners desperately in need of His grace.
After having my own story exposed, I find it difficult to pick up stones.
As a woman who got involved in an abusive relationship with my former pastor, I am still struggling with what others think about me. Every negative article written or comment posted about what needs to happens to a fallen minister is like a sucker punch to my own gut.
Even though my relationship was abusive, many in my former church did not see it that way. In the eyes of many, it was just considered an affair. After I confessed and repented before my church leaders, I lost my job and our family determined the best way to heal was to move to another town far away from the scandal.
It’s been the hardest thing we have ever faced.
The loneliness has been suffocating and even a year later we are still struggling to trust anyone in the church.
There are times I’ve felt my life wasn’t worth living anymore.
But I look at my family and know I have to keep going.
I know that this isn’t the way God wants things to be.
When I read last week about Tullian being hired by Willow Creek Presbyterian Church as their ministry director, it gave me such hope that there are actually people who believed that he wasn’t just supposed to live the rest of his life suffering the consequences of his actions. People who believed he could still serve and do the work of the ministry that he’d given his life to. People who wanted to give him a safe place to heal and be renewed. People who believe that repentance and humility are more important than perfection. People who aren’t afraid to love those who are messy.
I’m still looking for a place like the one Tullian has found.
My counselor says it could take another four years for us to recover from the spiritual abuse from my former pastor, so I need to be patient.
But honestly I am making more headway in healing from what my former pastor did than I am from the judgements of those in the church that I confessed to. I just can’t seem to get past the reality that the church wasn’t a safe place to repent.
The last couple of years of working at the church as an administrative assistant, when I began to break away from my dependency on my former pastor, I developed a sense of meaning in my life that I had never felt before. I started to enjoy my job more and healthy relationships began to develop with others in the church.
I was most encouraged by the relationship with my new pastor, because through it I learned that I could have healthy relationships and it not be about sex. This was a truth I desperately needed in my life, because as an sexual abuse victim so much of my thinking was filled with lies about who I was. And I believed deep down that I brought out the worst in others.
When this new pastor who didn’t have impure motives cared about me and took the time to listen to my story without judging me, I began to believe that I was actually capable of bringing out the good in others.
But everything changed when my new pastor told other leaders in our denomination about the abuse from my former pastor. The reputation of the church became more important than caring about the victim. I was reminded of my sins by my elders and forced to have my name revealed to the entire church and visitors. Mine and my counselors letter to the congregation that explained the abusive relationship was largely edited, and I became the woman who’d confessed to adultery.
As a result, I feel an enormous amount of compassion towards the millions exposed by the Ashley Madison hack.
Each person has a different story. We haven’t walked in their shoes and it’s not our job to judge. We all are fighting our own great battles, and the best thing we can do for one another is give love, prayers and compassion and not judgement.
One thing I’ve learned through all of this is just how important our relationships with one another are. When we have love and compassion for one another, forgive and pray for one another, there is such a powerful force manifested that the rest of the world can see. It also has the incredible ability to heal deep hurts in one another. How I thank God for those Christians who haven’t been afraid to love me.
It’s the power of the love of Jesus Christ that reveals to the world that we are His disciples.
So the next time you scroll through social media or hear about another pastor exposed, don’t forget there are real people involved. It’s okay if you don’t understand their choices, but it’s not okay to judge. Show compassion wherever you can and pray when you can’t, and see God’s love be revealed.