Over the past week, I haven’t been sure if or how I would respond to the publicized events surrounding Ted Haggard. In case you haven’t heard, Ted Haggard was a high profile pastor in Colorado and head of the National Association of Evangelicals. His private sin of immorality was exposed and he was removed from his positions of Christian leadership.
I have read countless reports and comments on the fall of this man. The comments that have been the most thought-provoking were provided by my old college buddy, Todd Littleton. My thoughts have been painful since I once was a pastor that fell into sexual sin and ended up losing my wife, my ministry, my livelihood and so much more. I’ve often thought that if Todd and I had been closer in proximity after college things might have been different. He has always been a brother to whom I could bare my soul. In return I would find strength to fight the battles ahead.
Like Haggard, I understand that inner battle that wages so hotly. I can relate to his comments about finding times of freedom only to come face to face with a very dark side. I would like to address the rest of my comments as pre-public fall and post-public fall.
Todd offers some perspective on honesty, confession and forgiveness that relate to times before the fall. Earlier in my ministry, I had guys like Todd, Dale, Duane, Tim, Harry and my ex-wife to confess and confide. Closer to the fall I found myself more isolated from these intimate relations. I would hear and read about accountability, but honestly much of the talk was superficial. I remember a guide that suggested asking questions of each other about morality and ending with the question, “Have you lied to me in any of your answers?” Now, if I just lied to you about impure thoughts or actions, I doubt that a simplistic disclaimer at the end would turn it all around.
I needed some guys to truly wrestle with me in a tag team match against the wickedness inside of me. I confess that I did fall – of my own accord and desire. I have nobody to blame but myself.
After the fall I finally had guys that wanted to probe that inner wickedness. The only problem was that they added to my wounds rather than healing the ones already there.
Remember the goofy commercial line, “I’ve fallen, and I can’t get up.” I felt that way. I also felt that my getting up was made more difficult because of the pile of dead weight on top of me. I also remembered my days as a football quarterback when I would be tackled. At times, guys would lay on top and gouge at parts of my body. Their actions gave me more urgency to get up, but also made it more difficult.
I do want to give credit to those that helped me regain my sanity and lose my anger with God and myself. Brian Vickers, who now teaches at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, was amazing. We would meet for coffee and I’d bare all of the junk in my soul and on my mind. What did I have to lose now? Brian would listen, encourage and keep coming back for more. Thank you, Brian.
Daniel Montgomery and Sojourn Church in Louisville also took all of my junk and walked with me toward the path of Christ. Thank you, Daniel and Sojourn. I even dated a girl for a couple of years with such a different philosophy of life. She helped in so many ways. My kids forgave me and we worked at restoring our relationships. Thanks, Kids, I love you so. Then I met Suzie and she has encouraged me to be a better man. Thanks, Babe.
Finally, God chose to record David’s fall, his confrontation, his prayer and his maturity. Psalm 51 never ceases to stir my soul. Thank you, Father and David.
I hope that others find the pre-fall intimacy that deals with inner wickedness and avoid the painful, painful scars of this kind of fall.