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His ‘mess’ became his message

GLEN ALLEN, Va. (BP) — It was on Saturday morning, Jan. 3, 2004, when I confessed to my dear wife Betty that I had committed adultery — a seven-month affair with one of her best friends. She fell to her knees in disbelief. It was as if I had reached inside her heart and ripped it out. The pain was almost unbearable. Life had reached its darkest day for me — it was truly the worst day of my life. Immediately, life had changed, and everything began to take a different direction for us as we tried to somehow deal with this dreadful situation I had caused.

For almost 26 years, I had been the senior pastor of a Tidewater, Va., church. We loved our people, and most all of our friends and a lot of our family members were in some way connected to that ministry. On that same evening I called a special deacons meeting and confessed to them my affair. Most of them wept in disbelief. I told them that the next day I would go before my congregation and come clean with them also. I did and also resigned. The news spread like lightening throughout the city and surrounding areas. The guilt and shame was overwhelming for me. The thought crossed my mind that death would have been a welcomed event. I had disappointed and broken trust with so many people.

Within seven days of my confession, at the invitation of pastor Johnny Hunt, Betty and I pulled into the parking lot of First Baptist Church, Woodstock, Ga., to enter the City of Refuge, a ministry for pastors and full-time Christian workers who have been burnt out, forced out, or have struggled with some addiction or immorality. For 17 months, Betty and I received intense counseling and encouragement, which started a new journey of trust, transparency and vulnerability in our lives. In addition to that, the sweet people at First Baptist loved on us and offered us grace, safety and love like we had never experienced in our entire lives. We were loved unconditionally. It was during that time that my dear wife offered me unconditional grace, forgiveness, love and renewed trust. Our marriage and our home environment slowly became truly a place of genuine love, openness and transparency.

The above is only a thumbnail of my 12-year journey, and I share it openly because pastors and church leaders (as well as laymen) are struggling with addictions and sexual sins. The fallout is at epidemic levels. We hear about it almost weekly, and there is very little help offered for pastors and churches who are experiencing such adversities.

I am a blessed and grateful man who realizes that God has strategically placed people and circumstances in my journey to help me understand what biblical grace is all about. My mess has become my message. I never want to forget the pain and disillusionment that I caused my wife, my family, my church and my friends; however, my past no longer defines me. My vision and desire are to see the entire body of Christ understand grace, spiritual freedom, and healthy living out of our identity in Jesus Christ as mature Christ followers.

EDITOR’S NOTE: For more information about City of Refuge go to http://www.fbcw.org/community/city-of-refuge/.

    About the Author

  • T. A. Powell

    T.A. Powell is assistant professor at Liberty University Online, School of Divinity. This article first appeared in the Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia’s missions magazine, Proclaimer (www.sbcv.org/proclaimer).

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