Location: Emergent Leader's Conference
I wanted to take a little bit of time and share a few things with you, and the first
thing that I wanted to say is you guys know that I was involved in an affair with
a woman in the Netherlands where I was living, in Amsterdam and I resigned my position
as a pastor because of that and before I say anything today.. I wanted to say how
sorry I am for what I did and that I am completely responsible for my behavior and
what I did was so wrong and I betrayed myself. I betrayed my values and everything
I believe in. I betrayed God. I betrayed the people in Amsterdam that we had built
relationships with. I betrayed all the people that had helped support the Amsterdam
project, and I betrayed all of you in a very real way and there is no excuse for
what I did, it was so shameful, and I wanted to say that before I said anything
else, that I am very sorry for what I did and I am trying the best that I can to
make amends for what I did.
Some of you know some- a little bit of what happened but I thought today, anything that I saw is purely just from my own life. I'm still very confused about a lot of thing but I thought I could just talk a little bit of what happened, my impressions of how it happened or how I got there, what I'm doing today to get better, and if there is any kind of warning in my life that can be helpful to you that would mean a lot to me.
I don't really know what happened but it appears to me that over the last 2-1/2 years or so that I have sunk deeper and deeper into a depression that was so deep and so pervasive and so painful, but I never really understood what it was. I never understood it. I never really took responsibility for it and the emotional pain of that depression just got so deep, and yet, if you know me, I just never quit. I just suck it up and keep going and I just kept thinking I'll feel better, this is gonna get better but I never understood it and my- at the same time that my depression was getting deeper and deeper, my level of responsibility and pressure and influence was growing greater and greater, and I simply got way beyond my ability to be responsible with my mental health or the responsibility that God had given me, and what happened to me was not about one huge mistake. It was about a lot of little mistakes.
People were worried about me and I was just trying to feel better and I went away on a personal retreat which was always been a part of my spiritual life and journey and in fact while I was in Amsterdam I had gone on 2 retreats so I went in the spring. I went to a retreat to a monastery out in the country. The monastery was full because it was a holiday weekend and so they put me in the overflow guest house down the street where there were a number of people that were taking a little retreats or sabbaticals or anniversaries. They were all Dutch except me. It was there that I met a young woman.
She was married. She was a Christian. She read her bible and had quiet times, which for the Netherlands is very unusual. I had very little contact with her. I just had a few conversations at that time and I felt all my behavior was appropriate. Now I am understanding there is a whole another level that I'm unconscious about. A whole other level of my behavior that is subconscious that is seductive or flirtatious but I do it and I'm not aware of it. But on the conscious level I felt like all my behavior was appropriate.
We talked the whole time about our spouses, about the fact that I was a pastor, about the new church in Amsterdam, about Great Commission Ministries, you know the topics of our conversation were all appropriate, and, of course, I was interested in seeing this woman and her husband come and visit because I was always recruiting young Dutch people to be part of the project. So we traded phone numbers at that time to make arrangements for her and her husband to come visit. She was very excited about that.
She was there for a personal retreat too. So she left, my first day there was her last day there and she left and I spent the next 2 days, 3 days doing what I had come there for. I had come there to pray and to read the bible and to get my head together and to be alone and that's why you go to a monastery. That why I go on a personal retreat. I did not go looking for trouble. I went there to try to get some connection with God and on the day that I left, which was several days later, on the train going back to Amsterdam.
I typed her a text message on my cellphone and typed, "it was nice to meet you. I look forward to meeting your husband," and she typed back, "yeah it was nice meeting you, we look forward to visiting the church" and then I typed something back that was something like, "yeah I have to contact you, we can find a weekend that works with your schedule to come," and at that moment I was over. And at that moment I thought it was over because from that point on I was completely powerless to stop and instantly I developed an obsession. I sent about 400 text messages over the next 40 days and I called her and emailed her hundreds of times and.. it was the first thing I thought of in the morning. It was the last thing I thought of at night and for the next 3 months.. I was not married. I didn't have any kids. I wasn't a pastor, there was no church. I wasn't a missionary. I was in college again and I felt no pain, no emotional pain at all, no suffering, no depression. I felt no guilt and no shame, all I felt was euphoria for the next 3 months.
After about 3 weeks it became sexual and it stayed sexual for the rest of the time and I did everything deceptive and manipulative to cover it up. I felt immortal, and after 3 months I got caught. I moved out of the house. I was completely irrational. I called Jeff and within 24 hours, Jeff was in Amsterdam and several days later, I went through an intervention where I came back to the house to meet Jeff under the pretense of just hanging out and talking and I walked into my house and there was about 15 people, my wife, my kids, my staff, some friend and they went around the room and said, "you are really sick, and you are not thinking straight and there is a place in Arizona, and you either agree to go there right now or none of us are gonna have anything to do with you," and I was angry and I felt trapped and I felt like these people don't understand, but I had no choice. So Jeff escorted me from Amsterdam all the way to this place in Wickenburg, Arizona and I spent about the next 2-1/2 months in inpatient psychiatric care in a rehab center, two different places, that's what happened.
And how I got there I'm not completely sure about. I think its probably real quite early to be talking about it but I just want to share with you the things that I know now. I kept a journal while I was in those places. In fact I've filled up about 4 journals which is everything raw that I was feeling and thinking but maybe this would be helpful. I wrote on August 1st:
One year ago today, I arrived in Amsterdam. One year ago today, and one year later I'm a patient in a psychiatric facility. I have no job and my marriage is in crisis. How did I get here? And then I just thought of everything I was learning and I wrote this:
One, I did not take my depression seriously. Two, I didn't take my medicine. It got bad enough, I actually went to see a doctor and said I just feel terrible and they gave me some medication, but I didn't take it. I'm a pastor of a church, I don't need medicine. It was medicine that was supposed to make me feel better and I took some but not very much. Three, I lost my spiritual connection. I mean did I become depressed because I lost my spiritual connection or the other way around? As I grew deeper and deeper into depression I just could not feel connected to God and it was terrible and I was doing everything to try to get that back, I mean taking retreats and doing everything I could to try to feel spiritual, to try to feel connected to God..
I lost my spiritual disciplines, somewhere along the line, reading the bible and praying I just felt like God wasn't there, he wasn't hearing me. I just felt like it was a brick wall and I lost and stopped my spiritual disciplines. I created excessive stress and pressure in my life. I've always accomplished a lot of things whether it was in sports or academics or extracurricular things, I've always accomplished a lot of things and I've never encountered like a huge failure, something that I could not do, at least respectable at, and so I just got way beyond my ability to be responsive with the stress and pressure of life and ministry. I stopped exercising.
This was a huge one, I began isolating myself from my friends and family. I more and more and more just needed time alone to thing or I needed time alone to get my head together and more and more I could not enjoy being with people I could not connect with them. I couldn't have a conversation with them and people that- out of care for me were giving me space which was actually the opposite of what I really needed. People would give me space because they could see I was really miserable and I just kept isolating more and more and more.
My accountability structure broke down for a number of reasons but I from the time I was very young, I struggled with moral things, with sexual things, like a number of your guys from our past, but my life had been changed tremendously and what God had done to my life through GCM and the church, my involvement in the church, and.. I had developed a very strong accountability structure but I began tampering with it, cutting corners, you know keeping some secrets, not being rigorously honest which is something I had done for years and people would complement me on how rigorous and just kind of, raw, I was in my honesty, and I started letting that slip.. and I think my accountability structure in Colorado was very tight you know because I had been there for years. I had very strong relationships, but as I came into conflict with some of my fellow leaders there and as I transitioned out of Colorado and went to a new place, everything changed.
My relationship changed and the whole set up changed and I was working with people that I hadn't worked with before and so I just started cutting corners and my accountability structure broke down. I maintained a seduction role which means I really didn't know I was doing this but I think all along I've had a baseline behavior of flirting and seduction which I never really understood until I got into treatment, which put me in a very vulnerable situation. Of course for me, I was flirting and seductive on a level that I didn't even know that I was doing it consciously, and that behavior is never done.. For me, it was not done to be sexual. It's just a small little hit, a small little fix of somebody notices you. You get somebody to notice you and then it's over. That's all you needed, you just needed that fix, and I never really knew that I did that even in the context of the church. I did it so subtly people would not even know that I did it, and for me its even not about women, it's just uh, in line in a store to get preferential treatment or in a restaurant to get the waiter to wait on you first. It's just using charm and magnetism to get special treatment, and that's seduction and that's one of my behaviors and so I was getting fixes all along the way by people paying attention to me.. is something I'd, I've learned that I desperately need.
I contributed to a toxic marriage. We would both say we had a really solid marriage but as pressure built, I played my part in adding to conflict and adding to it becoming toxic, and as the marriage became more and more full of conflict, then I became more and more frustrated. I didn't see a therapist when I could. I had a chance, a doctor gave me, in Amsterdam, a list of doctors, like a whole Xerox page, like 26 counselors, cause I knew I was really struggling and you know a bunch of strange doctors, counselors, on a sheet of a Xerox copy, I thought I need to get one, but I just didn't want to wade through it and so I put it on my desk and it sat there for weeks and I procrastinated and I didn't go get help.
I gave warning signs. I gave calls for help, but I did not take responsibility for my own mental health and take action.. and last I started harboring little resentments and little hurts. I started harboring those and that created more and more of an environment where I was full of hidden anger and resentment.
What's my life like today and what am I doing to get better? I went to a place, that's probably the premier place in the whole country for sex addiction and love addiction and I realized that I have a number of different addictions that have been interacting since before I was adolescent, and sex addiction is definitely one of them but a larger addiction that is definitely addiction in my life is romance addiction or love addiction. I was somebody who always had a girlfriend, always had a girlfriend. I've had huge crushes on teachers. All of my relationships were very intense. I didn't have casual dating relationships. They were all intense. I always broke up with the person. I always immediately had another relationship or kind of two-timed, or sometimes cheated, that was always my habit and so even as a married person I've always had a belief or an obsession with the idea of love at first sight or like, intrigue, or some kind of emotional connection and that was a huge part of what I learned about.
I spent 5 weeks there and learned some amazing things and then I spent another 4 weeks at a place in Philadelphia that's one of the premier places in the country for sex offenders and even though I don't have any legal issues.. I spent all that time living in a house with a number of guys, most of them had legal issues, issues with children, issues with intrusive sexual behavior, people that were going to leave and go to jail and those became some of my closest friends and so it was a very confrontational place which is what I needed, because I was not thinking straight. And so I spent 2-1/2 months in inpatient treatment to work on depression, codependency, sex addiction.
And then since getting out, I have joined a number of 12 steps support groups for sex addiction, kind of like alcohol anonymous or gamblers anonymous or overeaters anonymous and I have found that to be one of the most important things that's happened because all my life, even in the context of the church, I would talk to other guys openly about moral struggles and there was a certain camaraderie, you know when people get together in the context of the church and they talk about their moral struggles. But there was another part of me that never, that just knew it was never quite the same thing because when I would get together and I would talk to other guys and we would talk about masturbation or we'd talk about pornography or something like that on one level we were talking about the same thing, but for me since I was a teenager it was a whole other degree of magnitude.
So some guy may struggle with masturbation but I can't masturbate at all because if I do once I will do it multiple times a day every single day and I cannot stop. I can't look at pornography because for other guys it makes them feel guilty but for me if I look at it once I'll stay up all night long. I'll stay up til breakfast time. I'll go for days I cannot quit and there was a degree of dependency or compulsion that- I had never met anybody that really understood that and when I told people that it was a little bit weird. Well in treatment and in 12-step groups I walked in and met people that for the first time in my life, really, really understood. People that spent tens of thousands of dollars on their addiction. People that lose a lot of time, destroyed their lives, and so that's another big part of what I'm doing.
Elly and I are separated. We are living in different places but we are going to marriage counselor. I'm going to a psychiatrist who helps monitor the medication for- I have bipolar, manic depression which- gee, who'd ever thought.. but it makes so many things in my life make sense, both in my relationship with my dad and my dad's behavior growing up, and it makes a ton of sense out of my teens and my 20s and my 30s. It just makes a lot of things fit into place. So I'm on some pretty strong medication for that and I have decided for the rest of my life, I am not screwing around with my medication ever again cause I never ever, ever want to go back in the pain that I was in, that I could not get away from.
And I'm going to therapist who is also recovering addict and there is something about addicts that, they.. uh.. yeah. There's something about an addict when you are in therapy with them because they understand all the games. They understand all the levels of deception. It is like levels of an onion and they understand it, and so they can really, really get in there and that's kind of what I need.
I don't think I'm doing better. I think it gets worse before it gets better. Maintaining sobriety is something I am not able to do, but I am not gonna quit. And they say early in recovery, you just keep coming to meetings, you keep coming to meetings and even if you don't feel like it, even if your behavior is not on track, you just keep coming to the meetings and after awhile it starts to take.
If I have a warning it would be to take this time that you have at this conference very, very seriously. What I was doing, was my dream. From the time I was a teenager, all I wanted to do was serve God, and I love GCM, and a lot of you guys in this room are people I respect and admire so much, even though we don't see each other very much. I just, I love this group of people. And what I was doing was living my dream, I was living my passion of what I wanted to do. I was in ministry, serving God, getting paid to help build the kingdom of God. I was helping planting, helping plant churches which is what I believe so much. I was living in another country, in another culture. I had studied the language, I have poured my life into it. It was my idea. It was something that I knew was something God was doing that I got to be part of.
I gave everything I could to help raise the money and recruit the team and go over there and things were happening.. within 6 months we had a lot of people coming and people, that were coming to Christ, and people were getting ready to get baptized, and from the ministry standpoint I should have just been delighted.. it was awful.. and I was getting to live my passion and my dream and I have disqualified myself. I can't do it.
I am separated from my wife and there is a very real chance that we will not be married after this. I'm unemployed and I haven't worked in 4 months. I have my mental health I still do not think straight. I really don't. I never thought, never worried about something like losing my mental health. This has cost us our entire life savings. I mean treatment alone cost us $40,000. We've lost so much money moving to another country only to then one year later move everything back, and lose money all over the place both directions. So we've both been unemployed. Our kids have been traumatized by all of this. I've had to sit in a room and look my kids in the eye and say, "kids, I cheated on your mom," you know, "been having sex with another woman."
My kids are so upset because they knew something was coming and we asked them later, what did you think dad was going to say? And they said, "well, we thought either mom is pregnant or dad has cancer." It never entered their mind that it could be this and that broke my heart. Cause I just, I want my kids to respect me. I want my friends to respect me, and I've lost my integrity and I've lost my self respect. I've lost everything, this has cost me everything.
So the things that you hear in this conference, please take it seriously. I mean, who wakes up in the morning and says, you know what I think I'll go out today and destroy my entire life and ruin everything that I've worked so hard for? Who does that? Nobody does that. Nobody does that, and that's why this is not about some one big mistake. It was a hundred little tiny things I did wrong and did not know that I was doing. I mean well all just do the best we can but, you just don't ever think it is really gonna happen to you, and I think this is my caution.
If I have a question, the question for you is, is there anything in your private life that is slowly growing in the background, that could ultimately destroy you? If there is, this is the time to really get serious about it. And the last thing that I want to share is, I just want to say, again, that I'm very, very sorry, and that I am totally responsible for what happened and um.. the people that I work with that counsel with me felt this was early, really pretty early to try to make a public statement, but because there are so many things I don't understand.. But I want to say that with the caveat that I just wanted to say I'm really sorry, and I really want to make amends, and some of you will have a lot of different reactions to this..
Please don't think that your job here is to just come up and just show compassion and pat me on the back, some of you guys that may be.. really angry and it is okay to be angry because my behavior was so wrong. And some of you may not want to talk to me right now, that is okay. This whole thing is a process for me and a process for you. It's okay to feel however you feel. I just want to try to make amends for what I've done, and there'll be more later as I understand more. So thank you for giving me the chance to share a little bit about what's been happening with me with you guys today and I'm gonna miss these meetings, and I'm gonna miss seeing you guys as much as I have in the past. Thank you.
Audio of Teaching (mp3)