“Let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins.”—James 5:20
Growing up, I was a member of a small United Methodist Church. I got married at age 21. My husband and I soon had our first child and, two years later, a second child. When my mother spoke to me about the new pastor that everyone liked so much at our old church, I began to start thinking about bringing my kids up in a church. My husband and I had not been to church since before we got married. He was of the Catholic faith and wasn’t interested in going to my church, nor his, at the time. I decided to take my mother up on the offer. I carried my baby and my toddler into the church and immediately came face to face with the pastor who would soon make his way into my life in ways I never would have imagined. He shook my hand and welcomed me. His sermons were very good. I made sure that I was back every week to hear them.
I had broken the trust in my marriage. I felt it was my fault that we were having trouble. I didn’t know how to mend my marriage, so I decided to talk to the pastor.
During one of the Sunday services, the pastor’s sermon seemed to speak right to me. I found myself heading to the altar during an altar call. The pastor leaned down to me and asked me what I needed prayer for. I said “I have been unfaithful.” Through my shame, I finally thought I had taken my first step to recovery. Not long after that, my husband started to come to church. The pastor was quick to welcome him and soon became his close friend. We started doing things together with his family and my parents. I had begun to get more involved in the church activities, especially with the children’s ministry. The pastor knew I had an interest in graphic design, so he convinced me to create a church newsletter. Then soon I was working on the church web site. In all this, he continued to buy software for me and books to encourage me. Soon we were doing everything together. My husband was just in the background. My children were always with me when I was at the church working on these projects. I thought I had found a true friend—even though he was as old as my parents. I never had any idea that he wanted something else. I felt I could talk to him about anything. He was so understanding and he knew just what to say when I discussed my marital issues.
I finally was active in the church and was doing the things I thought God would be pleased with.
One day I managed to leave the children at home with my husband so I could go finish up some things at the church. I walked into the office and sat down, commenting on how nice it was to get some relief. That day the friendship began to turn around. He told me he thought we should paint the downstairs bathroom in the church. When we went downstairs to check it out, I noticed him looking at me in a way that made me uncomfortable. After returning to his office, he told me to sit in his chair, on his side of the desk, while he pulled another chair up beside me. He started talking to me about his marriage, and how his wife would not have sex with him, and how they didn’t get along. He told me how he felt happy with me because I was interested in the things he was interested in. Telling me he had known we would soon be together the moment he met me. He told me he loved me and kissed me. The signs had been there for a while, I just chose to ignore them. Our conversations had gotten more and more personal, and more and more intimate. I was convinced it was a good thing and that I needed to have a spiritual man in my life, unlike my husband.
I thought it was my fault. I thought I was cheap and a whore. To me, if anything, he was the victim, not me. Even with these thoughts, I kept coming back for more. When I would ask him if he thought this was adultery, his comment would be that God wanted us to be together. He said that God told him that. He gave me a cassette tape of the Song of Solomon to listen to in the car. He said it was about our love. I accepted it and assumed I must be in love with him, too.
He made it so easy for us to be together. He made sure there were plenty of things for me to help him with at church. He talked me into getting a computer at home and showed me how we could chat online while we were not together. It was all about keeping the secret. Throughout the relationship, he gave me and my family gift after gift. I would feel guilty if I didn’t show him affection for it, even when I never asked for the gifts or money. He would take my husband hunting and help my parents with things. He went fishing with my dad. He even came to my house on a regular basis to help my husband finish the deck in the back yard. It was as if I had two husbands. He took care of things that a husband normally would. He took the trash, repaired things around my house and more. My husband didn’t seem to mind. He once talked my husband into remodeling my walk-in closet for my birthday present. He became such good friends with my husband, that he talked him into converting to the Methodist faith. He baptized my children. He would come to my job and pick me up, or meet me somewhere, almost every day. If he wasn’t able to do that, he would call me on my lunch break. When I would tell him that I couldn’t meet him on any given day, he would get angry. His anger was him putting himself down and telling me how I must not love him if I had other things to do instead of having lunch with him. I would reluctantly give in to him and go to lunch with him anyway.
One of the most difficult things in all this was the fact that my friendship with his wife began to grow. He wanted me to be her friend, too, so she wouldn’t know about our relationship. It would give him more of an opportunity to see me if I came over to visit her. She and I walked in the mornings together before work and went to the movies together often. While walking, she would talk about her grandchildren and about her husband. She never shared any problems in her marriage with me. As far as I knew, she didn’t think there were any.
After a couple of years, I noticed him getting very jealous. When I looked at another man, including my husband, he would get very angry. He would tell me that he could read my mind. He said he was taught how to do that when he was in the military (he had been a prisoner of war). On many occasions, when we would be together, he would be very angry. I could see it in his face the moment he picked me up. He would tell me that he knew I had had sex with my husband the night before. It was as if every time I was around him, he could tell me what I had been thinking and what I had been doing. Eventually that meant that my husband and I could never have a relationship again in an intimate way. He wanted my marriage to be like his marriage in that way.
Once he decided that we needed to get another woman in on our physical relationship. He called a woman that was about 10 years older than me, and tried to set up a meeting with the three of us. She backed out. I am glad for that because it was to be a sexual encounter.
He had shown me a scar in his palm that he had gotten as a child. Somehow I was convinced that he had such a connection with God that he could even be Christ. He had the scars to prove it. There was some sort of divine connection there, so I thought…
After eating at a local fast food restaurant one day, we left to go to our vehicles, then I realized I had locked my keys in my car. He and I had different makes and model vehicles but somehow he had a key that fit mine. It opened right up. I asked him how he did that and he said he said a prayer before he tried the key. I soon realized he was full of malarkey and I needed out of the relationship. As hard as I tried, I felt trapped.
He talked about us moving away together and both of us getting a divorce. He said he wanted to move to another state and still be a pastor. He wanted me to be his wife. Over and over again, he said he was going to divorce his wife. He said she would want a divorce too. It wouldn’t be a big deal. Of course, my marriage was falling apart. My husband complained how I was never home and was always at the church and how, if I was at home, I was always on the phone or on the computer chatting. This went on for several years.
One of my desires in life had been to work in advertising, so the pastor encouraged me to go back to school. I did, and quit my job. I loved school. I found out so many things about my art abilities. He encouraged me through that, all the while making sure I knew how my husband was putting me down for it. It was an easy way for us to be together more because my husband was working and often I was able to stay at home and work on my projects.
In my last year of school, I got a job as an intern at a local ad agency. The pastor had gotten a new pastoral appointment in another church in a nearby county. I was relieved that I didn’t have to worry as much about people seeing us together and me being seen with him at church so often. I thought it would be easier for the relationship to end because of the distance. Unfortunately, that was not the case. It made it even easier for him. He made sure he was in town on my lunch hour daily. We would meet at the local park where he would drive me way back in a secluded area so we wouldn’t be seen. He would give me massages and tell me how I needed to have the stress relieved and that he could take care of it. It made me more tense as a matter of fact…knowing that I had to go back to work in less than an hour. The lunch dates were very physical. His truck began to be the meeting place. We did everything in it—from arguing to having sex. Eventually the relationship was nothing but physical. He gave me software for my work computer so he could chat with me all day long. Needless to say, the chatting was arguing or pornographic.
My life was a wreck, I was gaining weight, my children thought I was the wicked witch of the west. My husband had given up on our relationship. (I thank God he didn’t leave me though). There were arguments at home and again when I was with the pastor. I would lie awake at night wondering if the pastor knew what I was thinking at the time. When I would fall asleep at night before the time he told me to or if I didn’t make it to the computer to chat with him, he would be mad the next day when he saw me. He controlled my thoughts and my life. I would cry myself to sleep at night and beg God to get me out of the relationship. I started to have thoughts of suicide.
One day during a mixed up lunch break when I missed him at the park, I was so afraid he would be angry that I was frantic to find him. I remember driving all around town in tears, scared to death. My mind was playing tricks on me. He had me so confused and afraid that I realized I was going insane. When I made it back to work that day, a friend could see how emotionally unstable I was, she told me about a Christian counselor that she was seeing. She gave me her name. Reluctantly, I made the call and set up my first appointment. The pastor never knew about her. I decided that he would only talk me out of therapy since he could counsel me himself. This was the beginning of the healing process. I thank the Lord for that woman. It wasn’t until I met her, that I truly knew all that I had been through was abuse. She began to pray for me, and I began to feel the presence of God in my life. I continued seeing the pastor even while being counseled, but eventually, through her prayers and therapy, I was able to slowly end the relationship. I had been put on medicine for depression as well.
During this time, I got fired from my job because my boss found out about my illicit relationship on company time. Meanwhile the pastor had moved to another church that was over an hour away. The visitations were less frequent. Eventually, the therapist contacted the United Methodist District Superintendent about the case with my consent. I signed the papers of the charge against him. There had been several other sexual abuse cases against him as well. I heard that he was asked to retire from the ministry.
I was finally free. He called me several times after that, but I never answered the phone. I stopped reading his emails. Eventually he stopped trying to contact me.
Through all of this, I managed to get fired from my job and lose most of my friends. I lost more than six years of my life to this man…including the six years of my marriage and watching my children grow. To this day, I have hardly no memory of my children during that time. My whole being was focused on the abuse. My marriage still has its scars. It has been over seven years since the abusive relationship ended. My husband never truly knew the horror that I went through, although I know he had some idea of it. He doesn’t comment on it.
To anyone who is this sort of relationship: You must get out. Run as fast as you can away from it. Even though you may think your life is at stake, God will take care of you. Get sound Godly counsel from someone you can trust. Ask God to get you out of it and to show you a counselor that is on His side. Do what God tells you to do. I am a new creation now. God has taken my life and made me whole again. Though I still have thoughts about this horrible time, I know God was there with me. I remember feeling the tugging of the Holy Spirit through it all. I have such a wonderful relationship with God now, that I can’t imagine it being any other way. He loves you and wants that relationship with you. He has forgiven me. He will forgive you, too.
Recently, I felt that God had a plan for me in all of this, even though it had been seven years since the abuse. I still felt as though I was all alone. I searched the internet looking for something about women having affairs with their pastor and how they handled it. I found The Hope Of Survivors. It was just what I needed. I read the testimonies of the other women, and found that my situation was so very similar. I didn’t realize that Satan could have had such a hold on me and others in the same way. Thank you, Samantha and Steve, for sharing your testimony and encouragement.
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.”—2 Corinthians 5:17
[END OF STORY]
If you are a survivor of pastoral abuse, we would love to hear your story
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information that could be useful to you in your recovery. It helps to know
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by the grace of God, in their own time and way.