While living in Texas, I developed a deep respect for, and quite frankly a fear of, tornados. There is something terrifying about a storm that comes up so quickly, lashes out so violently, and is so thoroughly destructive—mangling homes and trees, leaving nothing but debris in its path. In 2001 a different kind of tornado hit my world. It came rolling in, the sky turned dark, things began to twist, and thankfully God was there by my side holding me. The storm that rocked my world was pornography.
The revelation was an accident. I stumbled upon a website that my husband, Bernie, had forgotten to erase from the computer history. Shocked and sickened, hoping and praying that it was a mistake, I confronted him a few days later with what I had found. I was stunned when he revealed that he had been struggling with pornography for a long time, even before we had met. My world was spinning. The marriage I thought I had, the man that I thought I knew, the life that I thought we had created together, no longer existed in the same way for me.
At that point, I had no idea of the ways in which pornography entangles itself in one’s mind. I assumed that after we talked, cried, and prayed together that it would be over and that would be the end of it. Boy, was I wrong! The two stormy years that followed made the initial revelation of my husband’s addiction seem like a gentle spring rain shower. Two years of on-again, off-again struggles. Two years of Bernie trying to break free from the grip of pornography on his heart and mind. For every step forward, it seemed that we took two or three steps back, with Bernie going for weeks without pornography and then falling right back into it. While he was battling to stay pure in his heart, my world was out of control. I was anxious over every minute he spent on the computer, and I was checking the website history filled with worry and doubt. Instead of a home filled with love, ours had become a home of fear and sadness.
I wish I could say that I reached out to someone or shared our struggles with even another pastor’s wife, but I remained silent. What would people say? How would people react? After all, my husband is a pastor. The fear that held me back and kept me silent did far more harm than good. It served as my personal shame factor; each time I thought about reaching out to someone, fear of judgment would rush right in.
In retrospect, both Bernie and I see that pornography has strength in the dark. Anonymity makes it stronger, but sharing the struggle with other Christ-followers helps to break its crushing stronghold.
Finally I’d had enough. Away at camp meeting with my parents and our daughters, I decided that I was going to ask Bernie to leave. As heart-wrenching as that decision was, I knew that living this way was not what God had intended. Instead of being a godly wife and mother, I had become obsessed with being my husband’s porn police. Things simply had to change.
I returned to our home in Texas ready to ask Bernie to leave, but in my absence, something had changed. While I was away, God had been working on Bernie’s heart. He had finally made the decision to ask for help from a friend. That action changed things. God had been waiting for Bernie to be open and vulnerable to others, and finally he was willing. Light was breaking through in our marriage and our home. I chose to stay, praying that God would keep moving in our lives.
In October 2003 Bernie attended a Christian conference about sexual purity called Every Man’s Battle.1 There he learned principles and tools to help him gain victory. It was like a rebirth in many ways, for both Bernie and our marriage
Women often ask me how we got back to the healthy, happy place where we are now. The answer? Simply God’s love and grace. I am always amazed by it and overwhelmed by it, but most of all I am a recipient of it. God’s love and grace changed my husband; it freed him from an evil that had enslaved his heart for years. I watched with amazement as the man I’d been married to for nine years became a different person, a better person.
I cannot say it was an easy process; it took years to undo the havoc that Bernie’s addiction had wreaked on my self-esteem and trust. Thankfully, God allowed us to be in a location where healing could occur, and He placed people in my life whom I could lean on.
This year my husband celebrates 10 years of being pornography-free. His life is forever changed, our lives are forever changed, and God has cleared away the debris.
Pornography is the enemy of intimacy. Satan uses it to destroy lives, especially the lives of pastors. A 2011 poll by a major Christian magazine indicates that about 40 percent of pastors struggle with porn. That is a staggering number! We cannot be silent on this issue. We must battle for our families, for our marriages, for our homes.
God is waiting for us to allow Him to help us survive the storm. If you (or someone you love) is caught in the tornado of sexual sin, please seek help because there is hope.
1 A book is available by the same title.