Shamed Ministry Leader Finds Forgiveness
By Tom Buehring
The 700 Club
CBN.com -It was a hot summer day and 12-year old Jonathan Daugherty was playing outside with a friend. The boy wanted to show him a secret. “Now, you have to understand, in my 12-year-old mind, I was thinking, ‘We’re going to see something dead.’ But when we got out in this field there was this tree stump. He reached his arm down into this hollowed out portion and I’m still thinking, ‘He’s grabbing the raccoon or whatever’, and he pulled out this rolled-up magazine. And then he opened it up and everything changed. It was porn. I’d never seen pornography. I didn’t know why there were pictures of naked people and what they were doing. I didn’t do anything about it.”
Pornography became Jonathan’s secret too. At first he was confused by what he felt, but his awakened appetite wanted to be satisfied. “It was almost immediate that I started searching for more material. (It was) sheer curiosity. I still didn’t know what sex was. All I knew was there was something that reacted in me when I initially saw that porn.”
His obsession with pornography grew. Jonathan eagerly searched for magazines and images to feed his craving. “All through junior high and high school I was developing this secret addiction. The foundation of my ultimate addiction was learning to have a fantasy life that placed me in the center and had everything in my life revolve around me. All these women are wanting to do whatever I want them to do.”
Despite fueling his fantasies through porn and promiscuity, Jonathan struggled privately with shame and self-worth. “Especially for a kid like me who grew up in the church there’s an additional sense of shame. Every time I’d want to really try to go deeper in an authentic way with God, it’s like my lust would take me on a detour. If you’ve failed for years and years and years in managing your sexuality, it’s not a long trip to then think you are a despicable, horrible, perverted person and you have no value.”
Jonathan met Elaine while attending college. They began dating and eventually married. “What I saw in her was just this authentic person.” Jonathan remembers, “I wanted more of that. I wanted more of her in my life because I thought, ‘This is a good thing to have somebody with that much faith and purity and authenticity can be good.’ Marriage cured me - for about five weeks. It really wasn’t until I was married and had this other person that sort of acted as a mirror to me, that I saw just the depths to which I was really trapped in this.”
Online porn no longer satisfied Jonathan. He wanted more. He discovered cyber sex and spent his late nights in chat rooms with women who became online sexual partners.
Elaine began to wonder if she’d made a mistake. “Jonathan would withdraw a lot and spend a lot of time on the computer and any time that we were together he would be saying things like, ‘You married the wrong person.’ - Hurtful things like that. I would spend my time trying to think about, ‘Was I so bad to live with?’ I started to catch him in lies, but not necessarily about big things, but about little things. I did find websites. I did find girls’ phone numbers. But I was unprepared for the truth. I didn’t know how serious things were even though red flags were blowing.”
Jonathan continued to submit to his addiction. “I had gone beyond pornography. I had started to have affairs that I would set up online. One day, I was in a chat room and a woman put two little words on the screen. ‘Wanna meet?’ And that was the first time, in my marriage, that I’d been challenged to cross a line out of the realm of fantasy, into the realm of really real acting out. And I said, ‘Yes.’ And I went and had sex with the woman. My downward spiral was fast and furious.”
So was his guilt. He confessed to Elaine what he’d done. “I told her everything. I told her about the prostitutes. I told her about the affairs. I told her about the internet - all those kind of things.”
Elaine was devastated. “I was just like a puddle on the floor. And that night I did not think that the sun would even come up because I just thought I would just die because it hurt, hurt so bad.”
Although Jonathan confessed everything to Elaine he wasn’t ready to give up his obsession. “Less than a week after that confession, I was in bed with another woman. And when I came home from that encounter, that’s where I saw my wife with her bags packed.”
Elaine took action. “I knew. I knew where he had gone. So, I packed up my bags and I left. I never, never, never wanted to talk to him again. I never wanted to see him again. I never wanted to be around him again. I drove to my parents and I cried the whole way. I just felt very broken.”
Jonathan was forced to examine his own actions. “When I walked in and shut the door, the only way I can describe it was deafening silence. That was actually the catalyst that God used to shake me enough to kinda bring me to my senses to where I started realizing, ‘I have destroyed my life and the life of another person. If I don’t get help now, I will end up taking my life.’”
Jonathan continues, “I just started sobbing, I felt as if Jesus Himself came right up next to me on the floor and just put His arm around me and said, ‘You know what? I know. I know. I care about you. I knew this was coming. But this is right where I want you to be.’ And it was like the first moment in my life where it felt like, ‘Wow, that’s what grace is. That’s the God who loves me. That’s the God who knows everything that’s going to happen in my life before it happens and still says, ‘I’m going to walk with you every step of the way.’”
Jonathan sought Elaine’s forgiveness. He went into counseling and joined accountability groups. Elaine saw honesty and humility in Jonathan’s change. “God began to work on my heart about forgiveness. ‘Remember? You started a relationship with Me when you were five. I’m your first love.’ He began to say, ‘How many times have you been unfaithful to me? Look how much I had forgiven you, Elaine.’”
Elaine forgave Jonathan. After 7 months of soul-searching and counseling, the two got back together. She can attest that, “God doesn’t give up on a marriage. When we first got back together I caught him being right. I caught him being pure. I caught him doing the right thing. And that went a long way for building trust.”
Jonathan is a new person. “I believe God unleashes His power for transformation in the life of somebody who’s struggling with sexual addiction.”
Jonathan turns to Elaine and says, “I’ve always appreciated the fact that you have truly shown me forgiveness because, you know, you have never, ever brought up my past against me since we’ve gotten back together. And I think that’s a testament to your faith and to God’s grace in our lives. And I just so appreciate that in you.”
Jonathan and Elaine renewed their vows in front of family. They became parents to three children. And the Daugherty’s now have a ministry helping men overcome sexual addiction.
“It’s God’s story of redemption, and then be able to see that He actually wants to take our brokenness – mine – my brokenness and then be able to help others with that. Just having my wife back in my life was way beyond any expectation I ever had.”
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