Finding Forgiveness and Restoration
About the Guest
Chris lived a life of deception. By day he was a music minister, but away from church he immersed himself in porn, and, eventually, chat rooms. Chris and Cindy Beall remember the day when Chris came home and confessed his sin to her. Hear them talk about the steps they took to save their marriage and restore their relationship with God and each other.
By day he was a music minister, but away from church he immersed himself in porn.
Finding Forgiveness and Restoration
Bob: Chris Beall had cultivated a pattern in his life, beginning at age eight, looking at pornography in magazines—later, on the internet. His descent down the slippery slope continued as he began interacting with people online.
Chris: The first day, I chatted with a girl; and we agreed to meet at her house. I went there, and I crossed the unthinkable line. Then, over the course of the next two years or so, maybe once a month, I would find myself stressed, bored, weak—spiritually; and I’d just given myself to it. Cindy had no idea.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Thursday, February 16th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. Chris and Cindy Beall join us today to talk about the pattern of sin in Chris’s life that would eventually cost him his job and almost cost him his marriage. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. We’re going to visit one of the darkest moments in a marriage today—one of those moments that every couple hopes will never happen. If it happens, when it happens, you better be prepared to know how you’re going to respond to it.
Dennis: Most of us know about forgiveness and about restoration, but we’re about to hear a story that is really a compelling story of how—well, it’s all about the cross of Jesus Christ. It’s why He went to the cross. He died for our sins, our mistakes, our failures that occur because we’re alienated from God; and He gives us the ability, when He forgives us, to forgive another broken person.
Chris and Cindy Beall join us again on FamilyLife Today. Cindy, Chris, welcome back.
Chris: Thanks for having us.
Cindy: Thank you.
Dennis: Cindy has written a book called Healing Your Marriage When Trust Is Broken. It’s subtitled Finding Forgiveness and Restoration. They’re in ministry in a church in Oklahoma City. It’s called LifeChurch.tv. They have three sons.
Cindy tells this story that, as we heard earlier, really goes back to you, Chris—getting hooked on pornography because you were exposed to it as an eight-year-old boy.
Dennis: As we mentioned earlier, that is the average age today when our sons are being exposed.
Bob: There was no indication, in the early years of your marriage, Cindy. I asked you if you had any hint that this was a part of Chris’s life before you got married. After you got married, anything that popped up that should have been a warning sign to you, looking back?
Cindy: Well, I remember this story that he told me about finding a magazine propped open when he was getting out of his car one day, at the school parking lot, when he was finishing his degree. He literally shut the door and went the other way. He came home and told me that. I think that was the first time I really realized it might have been an issue.
I thought, “Oh, my husband is so godly. He’s opening up to me. He’s sharing with me his struggles.” Then, I do remember as the internet became popular, we—it wasn’t around when we first got married. So, when it became popular, I do remember a couple of times walking in and seeing something on the screen, and he couldn’t click off the internet fast enough. There were definitely some things that happened in the course.
Dennis: Now, wait a second. Didn’t you confront him, at that point, when you saw that?
Cindy: Yes. Yes. “What are you doing?” “Oh, I don’t know how that got on my screen.” He became a really good liar. I believed him because, “He is my husband, and I should believe him.” That’s what I was thinking.
Chris: I think you wanted—
Cindy: I think I wanted to believe him.
Chris: —to believe that there wasn’t an issue there. I think one of the things that we have to be really aware of with guys or girls that struggle with the issue of pornography is that—A: Deception’s going to be a part of the deal because it’s not really the most socially-acceptable table conversation. There is going to be some level of lying to cover things up.
The other thing is—there’s telling of partial truths as a smoke screen. I had accountability partners the entire time that we were married, and I was struggling who I would tell 40 percent of the truth to.
Bob: So, you’d tell them for example, “I saw something online the other day”?
Chris: “I saw something on TV. Then, got my mind going and I went online; but then, I stopped.” The reality was I spent five hours online, binging on images. It would be a portion of the truth as kind of a smoke screen of, “Wow, look how honest Chris is;” so, they don’t dig any deeper.
Bob: I just got to stop—five hours?
Bob: This was—
Dennis: How often?
Chris: The early part of our marriage it was probably, maybe, once every week to ten days, when Cindy wasn’t home. It wasn’t like every day. It really didn’t get really, really, really bad until about 13 years ago or so. We had moved to Memphis to help plant a church, and—again, that’s the other kind of crazy thing is—I’m in full-time ministry.
Dennis: You’d been to seminary?
Chris: No, no—started master’s program—got into ministry quickly and just didn’t do the education thing. We had gone to this church to help start it, and I was a worship leader and youth pastor—crazy busy, genuinely loved it, genuinely felt God called us to lead worship and minister to these students; but I was very good at keeping this little part of my life completely compartmentalized and separate from the rest of my life.
It was there that I really feel like it just got out of control. Every day, oftentimes in my office—it was really bad.
Dennis: Did you ever pay for it?
Chris: No, never paid for it.
Dennis: All free.
Chris: All free.
Cindy: That’s how accessible it is. You don’t have to pay for porn. You can get it free.
Bob: There came a point where looking at images was losing its appeal, and you started to take steps beyond that.
Chris: Correct. There was a day that I stumbled into a chat room and recognized that there were people who live in my town who have the same issues that I have. The idea of somebody that was in my town had an appeal to it. It had an allure to it. Like any addiction, any struggle, it is not going to be static. It will always progress from one thing to another, left unchecked.
So, I would chat with these people for awhile. You’re getting dangerously close—I’m getting dangerously close to crossing the line. So, I kind of fought it for awhile. I kind of just—I teased it, but I never really went all the way there.
Dennis: Now, you’re talking about going and meeting someone?
Chris: I’m talking about going and meeting someone that I’m chatting with. About a year-and-a-half into this kind of struggle where I’ve really—what I’ve done is I’ve just given myself to this sin. I’m not really fighting it anymore. Really, the root of my struggle is that I forgot who I was in Christ.
The Bible says that all of these crazy, irrational things about who we are in the Lord—and when we allow ourselves to wander from the truth of who we are in Christ, then, we are going to look for affirmation from anything or anyone that we can find, even though the affirmation that we’re getting is a counterfeit.
Whether that is an image on a screen, whether it’s somebody you’re chatting with or somebody that you’re in an affair with, it’s not the real thing. It’s not coming from God. Truthfully, it’s going to leave you emptier on the other side; but for whatever reason, it still had that pull. I gave myself to it.
Bob: So, here’s the picture: You’re in ministry—
Bob: —youth leader, worship leader—daily looking at porn, chatting, flirting—and then, going and leading the youth group that night—
Bob: —and speaking about Christ and the Gospel—
Chris: —with passion.
Bob: Was there no voice speaking and saying, “Chris”—no conscience speaking to you in this?
Chris: I think there was; but I think I had gotten to the point where—because of my repeated sin and my ritual of, after a sin, I would just go to God in prayer and beg His forgiveness, promise I’d never do that again. There was always that promise that I would never look at that again, I’d never chat with that person again; but intimacy with God was very non-existent at that point.
The constant presence of that disobedience in my lifestyle and in my moral choices created a brick wall between my heart and the heart of God. So, I’m doing ministry out of a manufactured passion, if you will. There is no authenticity there because I’m so—my relationship with God has gotten very, very cold.
Dennis: You mentioned, this ultimately started—this kind of the new intensity—13 years ago.
Dennis: How long before you actually met another woman?
Chris: It was about a year-and-a-half. There was a two-and-a-half year period where—the first day, I chatted with a girl; and we agreed to meet at her house. I went there, and the drive home was excruciating—the self-hatred, the guilt, the thought of my wife and my son waiting to give me a kiss when I walked through the door and happy for their husband and father to be home.
I could never say, “I kept my vow;” I could never say, “I kept my promise as a husband.” I crossed the unthinkable line with the ritualistic prayer of, “God, I’ll never do that again. Please forgive me.” Then, over the course of the next two years or so, maybe once a month, I would find myself stressed, bored, weak—spiritually; and it was a rough time. I’d just given myself to it, and Cindy had no idea.
Dennis: I was going to ask you, Cindy, “Really? No idea?”
Cindy: Well, I knew our marriage was strained. There was definitely a lack in our emotional connection, but that going on?—no, no idea. I just remember that—I mean, our son was young; and so, for the first two-and-a-half years of his life, I just remember there was something going on. I just didn’t know what it was.
I spent hours upon hours just praying and saying, “God, show me what to do. Show me what to do because something is not right.” God would just say, “I need you to trust Me.” I mean, I heard that over, and over, and over again from the Father. “I need you to trust Me.” I’m thinking, “Something’s got to give.”
If I would bring anything up, he would get defensive. He would eventually turn it around on me and manipulate the situation. I got to the point where I kind of just threw my hands back and said, “Okay, God, I don’t know what to do.”
Bob: Chris, one of these women that you were with became pregnant?
Chris: I received a phone call in December. I was shopping—I remember to this day—I was shopping for a Christmas present for Cindy in a department store, and she called me. She said that she was pretty sure she was pregnant; and if she was, she was confident that it was mine.
I could almost pallet myself as an adulterer and just kind of live with that guilt; but the idea of being an abandoning father—like the idea that someday an 18-year-old kid is going to come knocking on my door—who, I haven’t been in his life and I have, out of my own convenience, ignored him or run away from the reality of his existence. That idea—I don’t think I could live with.
We moved to Oklahoma; and so, I’ve got this huge weight of, “What am I going to do?” That was married by what I call an exposure of God. We moved to this new church—amazing church, great leadership—and I felt completely exposed. The day we drove in—and I would start going to staff meetings and I felt like I was caught, even though nobody knew anything; you know?
It was a very challenging time for me because I really felt like God was bringing me to a point of getting honest. The one thing that I haven’t done my entire life is to be completely honest. I had never known a day since I was eight years old where I didn’t have a secret. I felt that God was bringing me to this point of confession.
Dennis: What brought you to the point of telling Cindy?
Chris: Our pastor was leading a staff meeting, and we had only been there for six weeks. We’re still in boxes, just bought a house. I mean, we just got there—didn’t know anyone—and he was talking about a friend of his that had morally fallen, had an affair.
Craig made a statement. He said, “You know what?” He said, “Your sin will find you out. It always will. It’s just a matter of time.” He said that we all struggle with things; and that if you confess—if there’s something you’re dealing with—if you confess it, you’ll find mercy; you’ll find grace. If you hide it and you get caught, it will probably be a different story. That was it. That’s all I could handle.
It was a Tuesday. I went home, and Cindy was unpacking boxes. I knew that this conversation would probably yield the loss of a marriage, the breaking of a family, and certainly the end of ministry; but I went in and just said, “Honey, we’ve got to talk.” That’s pretty much all I could take.
Dennis: As he came in—did you know something was up as soon as he walked in the door?
Cindy: Well, he—the door opened, and I thought, “What is that?” I came around the corner, and there he is. It was 9:30 in the morning; and he just looked at me and said those words, “We need to talk.” I knew right then, “Okay, something’s not right.” I wasn’t sure if someone died or if he’d lost his job, but something was clearly wrong.
So, we sit down on the sofa; and he proceeds to tell me, “I’ve been unfaithful to you with many women, many different times, many different places over the course of about this two-year period.” He said, “One of the women is pregnant, and I’m pretty sure that I’m the father.” I went probably into a place of just somewhere in outer space—just like shock—immediate like, “Is this really happening?”—almost out-of-body like experience.
I think I just kept looking at him, and he just kept staring at me. He didn’t touch me—I think he was afraid to touch me. He just kept looking at me like, “Okay, what are you going to say next?” I went straight into the pit of despair at that moment; and within a few—30 minutes or so—our Pastor Craig and another Pastor Jerry came over.
They’re sitting across from us, and we’re just kind of all four staring at each other. They’re not really looking at Chris because they’re pretty mad at him at this point. I never went to that anger place at this time. I just thought, “What do we do now? What’s the next step?” I lost my father when I was 19. I lost some other close family members in my life. There is nothing that took me to this level of despair like that confession that day. I literally asked God to just take me home. I just wanted to die.
Dennis: Because of the betrayal?
Cindy: Yes, absolutely, the betrayal, the baby. No one is supposed to be the mother of his children—just me. I’m the mother of his children. Just thinking back, things started to make sense to me; and I thought, “That’s what it was.”
I remember saying, “God, You told me to trust You. How in the world is this going to show that I can trust You?” That was really the only time I questioned God because I was very aware, even in the midst of that devastation—I was very aware that it wasn’t God Who let me down. It was my husband, and a lot of people blame God. I don’t blame God for those kinds of things. I knew it was my husband; but I kept saying, “Okay, God, I don’t understand why wasn’t this revealed somehow sooner before there was a baby?”
Dennis: What saved your life, and your marriage, and your family?
Cindy: Well, infidelity is grounds for divorce; but it is also, with the right mindsets and the right willingness to surrender—it is an opportunity for forgiveness and restoration. My encouragement to that woman or to that man, who is about to hear that or just heard it 20 minutes ago or two days ago, is you do not have to decide the rest of your life in the next two days, in the next two weeks. Do not make a rash decision—your emotions are heightened, and you don’t know which way is up and which way is down.
That was some advice that was given to me; and so, it gave the Holy Spirit time because I didn’t act on my flesh, which was, “Cut bait; hit the road; get out of here.” It gave the Holy Spirit time to massage my heart and say, “I’ve got a plan. Will you let Me work on it?”
Bob: Chris, what would you say to the guy who daily—
Bob: —is looking online; has his own three-, four-, five-hour binges; hasn’t crossed the line or has crossed the line—gotten together with somebody else—but he goes, “I pray like you do and say, ‘That’s the last time, and I mean it’”—
Bob: —“and I really think it is. I try hard, but I keep going back there. What can I do?”
Chris: I would say the first thing to that person is, “God loves you. God is crazy about you.” When we find ourselves in these dark, sinful patterns, we tend to really not like ourselves—we hate ourselves—but we have to remember that God’s love and His mercy through Christ—it supersedes everything. We have to first know that.
Secondly, the one thing—there’s not a Scripture in the Bible that says, “Confess your sins to God to be healed.” James says, “Confess your sins one to another and pray for each other that you may be healed.” The one thing I was unwilling to do is to tell another human being 100 percent of the truth.
I’m not saying you need to put it on your Facebook® or tell the whole world; but you need to find one person that you trust, who has your best interests at heart—may not need to be your spouse as the first person, and maybe—I would even say probably not your spouse as the first person—but find somebody that you trust, and tell them
100 percent of the truth, and pray.
Bob: Eventually, you’ve got to bring your spouse into it.
Chris: Absolutely; absolutely.
Bob: You can’t say, “Well, this is walled off; and she’s not my ally in this.”
Chris: Won’t work.
Chris: Won’t work.
Dennis: As you’re talking, I’m just thinking of Romans 8:1—and it’s going to sound a bit trite, but it is the hope of a situation like this—“There is, therefore, now, no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”
Cindy: That’s right.
Dennis: It doesn’t mean there are no consequences—
Dennis: —but we are forgiven. We are loved, as you said. God does pursue us. Ultimately, it was His love, expressed through Cindy to you, that ultimately saw, not only forgiveness occur in your relationship, but also restoration.
Bob: A marriage can be healed and trust can be restored, which is ultimately what happened in your marriage. It’s what’s at the heart of the book that you’ve written, Cindy, Healing Your Marriage When Trust Is Broken. You have seen how God is using your story to help other couples who have gotten to a similar place in their marriage and are wondering, “How do we rebuild from the ashes?” It can be done.
We have copies of Cindy’s book in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. Go online at FamilyLifeToday.com for more information about the book, Healing Your Marriage When Trust Is Broken. Again, the website is FamilyLifeToday.com; or call us to receive a copy of the book. Our toll-free number is 1-800-FL-TODAY, 1-800-358-6329, 1-800- “F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then, the word, “TODAY”.
As we’ve listened today to Chris and Cindy share their story, Dennis, I was thinking about our Weekend to Remember® marriage getaways, where the couples who are on our speaker team will often share from their own stories of challenges they’ve faced in their marriage relationship. There is power when we bring some of these patterns to light and let God work on us in the light, instead of trying to deal with it in the darkness—and let other people get involved in all of this. That’s one of the reasons why we try to feature programs like this here on FamilyLife Today because we know God uses these programs in folks’ lives.
In fact, I was looking at some of the comments on our website, below the transcripts on FamilyLifeToday.com. There is a place where people can leave comments about each day’s program; and God’s using this story, this week, in people’s lives. We are grateful for that.
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Now, tomorrow, we’re going to hear how Chris and Cindy Beall’s church got involved in their situation and how God used that to help restore their marriage. I hope you can be here for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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