the Hope of Survivors

Love That Lasts by Forever Beloved

Much of my teen years and adult life was spent seeking the God of love that I read about in the Bible but had not experienced in Church or the church schools I had attended for my entire life. My heart ached to be loved and accepted as I felt that I fell so far short of being worthy of God’s love. I approached pastors and elders in the churches I attended and asked them, “If God is love, where is that love manifested in the life of our church?” Most often I would receive a blank stare and “You just need to pray more.” I saw Christians of other faiths that seemed to me to be full of love and I could not reconcile that with what my faith base had to offer.

I continued to search as my life went on. I married, had children and endured a violent and abusive marriage. After twenty-two years, I escaped from that marriage and in my solitude, the desire to connect with the God of love that I innately knew existed intensified. I began to seek Him with all my heart. I awoke early to read my Bible and pray. I cried out to God to find me worthy of His love. I pled with Him to be my Husband and to not leave me alone and unloved.

During this time, I joined a Christian singles site, not to find a mate, but to connect with other single Christian women who loved the Lord and with whom I could fellowship. This site had a prayer board and a board to discuss spiritual topics. I spent most of my time on one or the other of these two message boards. I devoured the encouragement and spiritual insight. In my readings, I kept coming back to posts by one particular woman who spoke with authority and great love. She talked about how she was a daughter of the King and how Christ would have died on the cross, if only for her. She talked about righteousness by faith and KNOWING we are saved. I wanted this assurance, something my heart had been longing for all my life.

I contacted her personally and we struck up a friendship. This lady pointed me to study materials and scripture that thrilled me and made my heart swell with love for God, His Son Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. I had finally found the love I had been looking for and I had found my worth: my worth in Christ.

The lady and I had been friends for probably a year and a half; and in all that time, I had not made one contact with a man on the singles site. I had no desire to date or marry again. I believed I had been led to join the site to meet and make friends with this particular woman. But one weekend, I received an email from her. She asked if I would be willing to get to know a certain gentleman from the site; a pastor that I was familiar with from the prayer and spiritual message boards. I was taken back. I had not considered the possibility of connecting with a man. I began to talk to the Lord about this new development and discussing the possibilities with Him. I wrote a list of pros and cons (there were a lot of cons on my list!) detailing each one to the Lord as I sought His word. About half way through the list, I heard a voice in my spirit say, “Who are you to say what I want?”

I believed I had received a word from the Lord and was humbled. I dropped to my knees declaring my willingness to do whatever He wanted me to do. If He wanted me be become acquainted with this pastor as friends, if he was to be a mentor to me, or whatever the Lord wanted, I would do as He asked. Immediately I emailed my lady friend back and told her I would get to know this man. . .this pastor. . . and agreed that she could share my email address. I received his first email that evening.

Determined to take it slow and to not move ahead of the Lord, I explained that I was not comfortable with sharing my phone number until I had gotten to know him a bit better via email. We corresponded for several months that way. Then nearly simultaneously, we agreed to exchange phone numbers. We made an appointment for him to call one evening, and, as the time approached, I prayed that the Lord would allow me to be open and transparent and to just be myself. I didn’t want any games or pretenses, only honesty and openness.

Phone calls became a regular morning and evening event. He would call and pray with me before I went to work and call again in the evening after I got off work. Many times, he would call once more to pray with me before I went to bed. I had never had someone who had done that with me and for me.

There was one incident, a few months into our phone conversations, where I had plans to do something with one of my boys in the evening and texted him to say that I would not be available for our usual call. His message back seemed a bit sharp and he said that I needed to choose, because God was calling me to a bigger work than what I had ever done before. I asked if he was saying that I should not spend time with my son. He replied that, no, he just wanted me to be aware of God’s calling on my life and that I should enjoy my evening with my son. I was bothered by the incident, but I dismissed it as a misunderstanding. We had yet to meet in person, so I assumed that the barrier of not having face-to-face communication had skewed his intended message. I let it go.

Months went by and the calls became more irregular. He always had a reason why he was unavailable if I called: He had someone from the church that had called; He was working on his sermon; He was in his prayer time. Things that had never been a barrier previously were now interfering with our usual time to spend together on the phone. But, I knew he was a busy pastor and I would need to get used to sharing his time with the congregation and be mindful of his time with the Lord.

At one point, he asked that we have a conference call with a couple that was good friends of his from another state whose opinion he highly regarded. He wanted to get their opinion of me.  I agreed and we made the call. Not too long into the conversation, he shocked me by stating to the woman, “I’m just not sure I can be attracted to her. You know that I have always been with ‘model quality’ women.” The woman replied, “And how has that worked out for you so far? You need to get over yourself. If this is God’s choice, then that won’t be an issue.” I was so sure that God had everything under control that even though his words hurt, I believed it would be alright in the end.

He began insisting that I fly out to where he was, so we could meet in person. He explained that he had not been in this pastorate for very long and he was unable to leave. I needed to come to him. He would arrange for me to stay with one of the church members and we would see how we got along in person. We agreed if we hit it off, we would take it to the “next level.”  I had never done something like this and didn’t realize that it was customary for the man to at least help with transportation costs, so I paid for the trip myself. I wasn’t nervous except for his comment about “model quality women.” I was praying about it on the plane and believed that God impressed me that He would take care of everything, even the attraction.

When I arrived, he was waiting at the end of the concourse leaning over the railing with his hands folded. I found out later he was “praying” out loud, “God, don’t let her be ugly.” When I walked up to him, he seemed relieved and, once we got my bags, he was exuberant and actually missed the exit from the airport. . .twice!

It was late and he took me directly to the head deaconess’s house which was 45 minutes from the airport. She graciously gave me her master suite. I collapsed from exhaustion and the next morning prepared to spend the day with him. He arrived about 10:00 AM and we drove to the local zoo. We spent a lot of time talking, and not a lot of time looking at the animals. He was very attentive and more amorous than I was comfortable with. At the end of the day, he took me back to where I was staying and we spent the evening visiting with the host and hostess. At the end of the evening, they asked him to stay the night and we all retired.

The next morning as I came into the living room, he was sitting on the sofa. He looked at me across the room with almost a look of panic on his face. All at once he blurted, “Will you marry me?” I was taken back and hesitated. Then I remembered that I believed that God was leading and I shouldn’t be afraid (I should have stopped to pray before answering) and I said, “Yes.” That was it. No romantic gestures. No declarations of love. No emotional plea for my hand. It was more like a business arrangement that was mutually beneficial, where we each were to receive something for our trouble. I was disappointed, but again, if God is in it. . .

I went home and in four months had sold my house, quit my job and moved across the country. We had agreed to spend some time before the wedding getting to know each other, so one of the church members had an apartment that she graciously let me live in for free. But he was in a hurry to marry. He said if we didn’t know what we wanted by this age, we never would. So we set the date for three months after I arrived.

The wedding was beautiful. I spent my own money providing for all the things he wanted, including caterers, flying friends across the country, renting furniture for his house to put up guests, providing food for the guests for the weekend, helping him pay his bills. I didn’t see at the time how he held his own money close to the vest, yet he was not afraid to spend mine.

Our wedding night was uneventful. He said he was too tired to spend any time with me and promptly went to sleep. He was exhausted after the long day, after all. The next morning, we took our eight kids out to breakfast. We didn’t have a honeymoon. Almost immediately the affection and attention dropped off. Devotions that we began on a daily basis when I first moved to the area before we were married dwindled and stopped. In the months that followed, he regulated what I could eat, withheld affection if I had somehow offended him, and refused to give me any money, even for necessities. When we bought a house, he insisted on buying a king sized bed as he “didn’t like to sleep too close together.” He never held me, snuggled, or reached out to me at night. It was very lonely. There were many days with no communication at all. But I was in ministry and loving it. I could take a little disappointment to be serving the Lord.

We worked together as a pastoral team like a well-oiled clock. But as a married couple, it was difficult. I began to question God about His declaration that He would take care of everything, including the attraction. Around six months in, I was depressed and begging for affection, human contact and love. My husband told me, "You cannot ask for what I am unable to give.” I was crushed. Within the first year, I found porn on his computer. He brushed if off as being “curious” and a “one-time thing,” although the history showed there were many days and many websites. I began to notice that all of his “spiritual advisors” were women. When I mentioned one woman in particular in the church that he spent a lot of time on the phone with and conferring with at church, he chastised me for questioning the integrity of a “godly woman.” But she was getting the attention I should have been receiving.

Also during the first year, he received a large inheritance which he spent lavishly on friends, on church members, on his kids and on himself. Some of the gifts to himself were twenty new suits and a brand new car that he ordered from the factory. He bought a rare breed dog that he flew to upstate New York to pick up that, all told, cost about $5,000. When I asked for something small, he told me that it was his money, and he wasn’t willing to share it with me.

He had promised that I would not have to work outside of the home, but could work alongside him in ministry; yet when I needed anything—food, oil change for my car, medical attention, household items—he said he couldn’t afford it. When his daughter went to college, he chose to pay all of her expenses, including sending her mother money during the summer to support her. He then said I would need to go to work to make up the difference. From that point on, I supported myself financially, as well as contributing to the household expenses, and to things he wanted but said he didn’t have enough money for.

When I told him that I missed my family and wanted to visit them, he quoted the Bible about leaving your mother, father, sister, brother, (and he added “kids”) for Christ’s sake. There was always a reason why his word was law.

We pastored in that district for six years. He became more and more resistant to instruction from the administration. They would ask him to change the way he did something and he would deliberately do it his own way. He antagonized key members in the church and defied his direct superior. I tried to mediate and help him see where he could change things to help defuse the tension between him and the administration. He flatly told me I didn’t know what I was taking about, because I didn’t have the knowledge or experience to know anything about it.

Eventually his arrogance and defiance led to an edict by his superiors to “find another call.” They gave us four months, and we were to “not make any more trouble” during that time. My husband was past retirement age and had a history of being difficult. A call was not forthcoming. A ministry friend suggested that he retire instead, so he chose that alternative. That choice effectively ended my ministry as well. I was devastated. He insisted on leaving our beautiful home in an area of the country that was moderately priced economically, where I had a very good job and good friends. He moved us to a very high-priced economic area where it took me six months to find an adequate job. We had to settle for a mediocre home (that I had to spend tens of thousands of dollars on, to remodel in order to make it comfortable enough to live in) in a less than desirable neighborhood, and an hour’s commute from my job.

By this time there was nothing left that he needed me for, except my income. He began distancing himself from me even more. At one point, I noticed that I was the one who initiated most conversations and all forms of physical contact, like holding hands. So I decided to try an experiment. I quit reaching out to hold his hand. He never noticed and he never reached for my hand again. Eventually he stopped talking to me except for necessities and casual conversation. All affection ceased. I was the roommate who paid the bills. Not the helpmeet who he had committed to love and cherish for life. During this time, I was diagnosed with cancer. He did not want me to seek medical attention. He thought that if he didn’t “pray me through” then people wouldn’t see him as an effective minister. He told me that if I chose to have treatment and surgery, he wouldn’t support me. I chose to accept treatment and started chemo and radiation. He adamantly expressed his concern that I not take any time off work while going through treatment, as he was afraid we would fall behind in our financial obligations. I was on oral chemo and I would go to work at 6:30am, work eight hours, go to radiation treatment and go home and collapse. He would often complain that I didn’t do much around the house and I wasn’t cooking meals very often.  I asked several times if I could please work less because I was so worn out, but each time he was so worried about keeping up financially. I was hurt that the finances were more important than my health, but I couldn’t break out of the pattern of doing as he said.

I eventually had to go out of state for surgery so I would have a support system during recovery. He did show up at the hospital for my surgery, but I felt like it was so he looked good. When the doctor came in afterwards to discuss the outcome, he stayed on the phone the entire time. My friend spent nights with me while my husband was elsewhere, visiting his friends. He only showed up again when I was discharged and took me to my friend’s house. Then he left.

During the four months of my recovery, there was a lot of communication about how I felt he had not treated me as a godly husband should have. I explained in detail the things that I did not agree with and where I thought things needed to change. I told him how isolating me from my parents and my children had been devastating. That how he had treated my sons when they had visited had been horrendous and had caused them to never come back. How his selfishness and self-centeredness had been unbearable. He promised to seek counseling and to change. I was torn between being free of the tyranny and my duty to give him another chance. I eventually felt I had to go back and give him the chance to change.

When I got home, we discussed counseling. He stated that he wanted to pick the counselor and had several criteria that he expected them to meet. My job provided free counseling for the first few sessions and I printed a list of available counselors with their qualifications. He refused to choose. He said since they were connected to my job, they would be biased. They were certified counselors connected with my medical insurance, not my job, but there was no convincing him. Then I did a Google search of all the counselors in the area with the criteria he demanded, printed it and put it on his desk, requesting that he call each one and interview them. He never did.  Every couple of months I would remind him of his commitment to choose a counselor. He would mumble some excuse and that would be it.

A year after my first surgery for cancer, I had a reoccurrence. I was scheduled for surgery again. This time I chose to stay at home. He took me to the hospital because they would not admit me unless someone was with me. He asked if he could go home once he dropped me off. The nurse said no, they needed someone there in case of an emergency. It was supposed to be a day surgery, but when I woke up, they wheeled me to a room. Once I was settled, he left and didn’t come back. He called the next morning to see if I was being discharged. I was in the hospital four days. When I got out, I realized I had been in critical care. Evidently there had been a complication during surgery that required close monitoring. He came back when I was discharged. . . Late.

That was August. The following January, my youngest son came to live with us to start a new life and go to college. He had been involved in drugs where he had been and needed a fresh start. I had talked it over with my husband, who agreed at the time that we should have my son come. But once my son came, things went downhill fast. My husband resented any attention I gave my son. He made snide remarks about any affection I showed my son, or he toward me. My husband ridiculed me for being concerned about my son and helping him get started in college. He began to complain about my son eating anything. I finally started buying two of everything and labeling them, one for my husband and one for my son. He would snarl at my son when he would enter the common areas of the house, grumbling under his breath. Overall, he made my son very uncomfortable and very unwelcome. My son told me at one point that he could feel my husband’s disdain from across the room. I had hoped that my son would experience Christ’s love by coming to our home, but I should have known better. I should have known that he wouldn’t have been treated any better than I had been, and in fact, he was treated worse because he was taking attention my husband believed belonged to him. His obligation as a Christian and a pastor was to try and nurture my son and to show him Christ’s love. Instead, he solidified my son’s belief that most people who claim to be “Christians” are hypocrites.

Seven months after my son came to live with us, I came home from work late. I asked about my son and my husband shrugged and mumbled that my son had come home from school at the regular time and had gone to his room. I knocked on my son’s door and there was no answer. I went back a bit later with the same result the second time, trying the doorknob and it was locked. When I decided to go to bed, I knocked again. When there was no answer this time, I was determined to get in and see what was going on. I jimmied the door and found my son dead on his bed. He had overdosed. The coroner said he had probably died shortly after he got home. My boy had lain there for many hours before I got home and no one had checked on him. No one cared. Had my husband cultivated even a friendly relationship with him, perhaps he would have checked on him, or maybe my son would not have felt it necessary to be isolated in his room. I just know that my son didn’t experience Jesus in our home and now he’s gone.

I was nearly hysterical after I found my boy. I screamed for my husband to come to the room. When he came, he just stared. I frantically asked him what I should do, and he shrugged and said he didn’t know. I gathered what little sense I had left and called 911. The police and EMT’s came and pronounced him DOA. The police interviewed us and I had to repeat what I had discovered. During this whole time my husband didn’t comfort me. He never once said he was sorry my son was gone. We had a friend at the house that had compassion on me when I was crying and asked if he could hug me. That was the only comfort I had that night. I had to call all of my other boys and my parents and tell them what happened. This was the last straw for me. My husband’s cruelty and indifference to my son, as well as his refusal to fulfill his Christian duty, was more than I could overlook.
We were in the process of selling our house because we were in a lot of debt from the cost of the initial remodeling and other things that had accumulated in the high-cost area where we lived. I knew once the house sold, I would not be staying there with him any longer. I began to make plans to transfer with my job to another location across the country. Once there was a contract on the house, I told him I was leaving as soon as the house closed and would be getting a divorce. I explained that I had given him three years to make good on his promises to go to counseling and to make changes in the way he treated me. He was disturbed at first, but after a few days he was resigned and seemed OK with it. I had already made a plan which included a budget for him that he could live on after I was gone and an amicable split of the remainder of the profit from the house after the bills were all paid. We lived together like nothing was different for the three months it took for the house to close, other than I took more time for myself outside of the house and I kept to myself when I was at home.
During this time an interesting fact came to light. One morning I walked into his office to find him on the phone praying with someone. I could hear the voice on the other end and it was a woman. When he hung up, I asked who it was. He told me that it was the woman from our former pastorate that I had confronted him about spending a lot of time with years before. Apparently they had been having morning worship over the phone for a long time. He didn’t have time (or the desire) to have worship with me, but he could spend time on the phone with a woman from our former church. Unbelievable.

As the time grew close for me to move, he decided that he was going to move to the area that I was going to as well. He would live with an old friend and try to “win me back.” I told him I really wasn’t in favor of that; but, of course, I couldn’t stop him from moving if he really wanted to. Within the week, he had changed his mind again and had decided to stay where we had been living after all. I was relieved.

After I moved, there was a small amount of communication necessary between us, like getting the year-end income taxes taken care of and other small concerns. But for the most part, I kept it to a minimum. Down deep, I hoped that the shock of me leaving would make him see that he needed to make some changes and seek counseling. I had hoped that he would want to do that, so at some point, perhaps we could reconcile. But I wanted HIM to make the decision and the effort to do all of that, not me. But by mid-February when the taxes were complete, he quit communicating with me at all.

Even though I was the one who left; even though I had been lonely and mistreated in many ways; I was devastated that my ex could so easily let me go. That he cared so little about me that he could move on without a thought for what we had. I hit bottom. I was extremely depressed and despondent. I would go to work out of need and responsibility, but on the weekends I would fall apart and spend the whole time in bed crying. I couldn’t understand how he could do this. This went on for over six months.

I had been reading about spiritual and emotional abuse and could see many of the signs I had experienced in the way he had acted and reacted. During this time of deep darkness—at the very darkest point—I cried out to God to set me free and, Praise His Name, He did. I finally realized that I had to let go of my ex-husband and any hopes and dreams I had of a life together. I had to decide that even though I had believed that God had called me into this marriage that unless we had both been totally surrendered to God’s plan, that it could, as it did, fail. I was then able to give my hurts and feelings over to God. I accepted Him as my Husband, gave my ex up into His hands, and now I rest in the knowledge that I am loved with an everlasting love by the Creator of all. And my worth is not based on my performance, or what I can do for another person or for God; it is based on God’s love for me.

Even as I write, I am able to see where I mistook human manipulation and deceit for God's leading, and I am now better able to understand what really happened to me. Writing my story was a great healing and unburdening exercise and I'm glad I took the time to do it. I know there will still be difficult times in the future. Satan doesn’t give up just because we have a breakthrough. But I will continue to place my trust in the only One who will truly “never leave me nor forsake me.”

In His Love,
Forever Beloved

[END OF STORY]

If your pastor husband has been unfaithful (including through porn!) and/or otherwise abusive or ensnared by sin, we would be grateful to hear your story and possibly make it available on this website for others to read and renew their hope. We recommend that stories be under a pseudonym or anonymous, and constructed to avoid openly identifying any specific pastor/pastor family. You may rest assured that all personal information will be kept private and strictly confidential. Please contact us.

Please note: We do not necessarily agree with or endorse all the information contained in the survivor’s stories. We do, however, feel they have some valuable information that could be useful to you in your recovery. It helps to know you’re not alone, that others have shared your pain and have healed, by the grace of God, in their own time and way.

The LORD is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart...Psalms 34:18