Rebuilding a Marriage Broken
by Pornography: A Conversation with Clay and Renee Crosse
By Belinda Elliott
CBN.com Daily Life Producer
Dove Award-winning artist Clay Crosse burst onto the contemporary
Christian music scene in 1994 with his hit “I Surrender
All.” He continued to climb the charts through the next
few years producing more number one hits and selling out concerts
around the country. No one would have known that behind the engaging
voice and star status Clay was hiding a dark secret – his
addiction to pornography.
In their book, I Surrender All: Rebuilding a Marriage
Broken by Pornography, Clay and his wife Renee talk about
the impact his addiction had on their marriage and their journey
to forgiveness and healing.
CBN.com producer Belinda Elliott recently had the opportunity
to talk with Clay and Renee about their book as well as HolyHomes
Ministries, a ministry they have created to help couples deepen
their relationship with Christ and develop God-honoring households.
BELINDA ELLIOTT: In your book, I Surrender
All, you are very transparent about your addiction to pornography
and how it affected your marriage. How difficult was that for
you, and why did you feel it was so important?
CLAY CROSSE: It was difficult at first. It really
was. But after a while we are finding that people are attracted
to honesty and attracted to someone who is being real and vulnerable
with them. We’ve seen God use this testimony over and over
to impact other people. So we are to a place now where it is more
comfortable to say, “Yes, I used to be involved in pornography.
That was a temptation in my life that was drawing me away, but
God did a great work in my life, and I want to tell you about
that.” The first time I uttered those words it was with
tears streaming down my face and it was hard to even tell anyone
that. This is a killer in our society. It was killing me and it
was killing us.
RENEE CROSSE: I think something that has made
it easier to speak about is that it is so prevalent in today’s
society. We would share this testimony in churches across America
and people would come up afterwards with tears coming down their
faces and they would say, “You are telling our story. We
are struggling with this.” Or they would say, “I’m
divorced because of this.” So we realized that people need
to talk about this. This is God’s message through us to
the church, and it’s been powerful.
ELLIOTT: You say in the book that your descent
into pornography was subtle and it was a slow progression.
CLAY: Yes, it is.
ELLIOTT: What should Christians be doing to
guard themselves from that?
CLAY: They need to be aware of those subtleties.
Pornography is a form of entertainment. There are many forms of
entertainment. Another one is network television shows that so
many people in the world watch, and I watch a lot of them, but
thankfully over the years Renee and I are trying to walk in wisdom
and be choosier about what we are watching.
We encourage Christians to take stock of their entertainment
choices. If a man is not into pornography, but he is into television
shows like the making of Sports Illustrated swimsuit
edition, something like that which would not be considered pornography,
he is slipping toward pornography if he is watching that. And
it can be more subtle than that. It can be television shows that
condone sex outside of marriage, which most of them do. The more
people watch that, the more people begin to entertain the thought,
“Hey, I can do that as well.”
RENEE: And so many of the movies today push
it so far with the way they speak about sex, the way they portray
sex on the screen -- and these are just rated-R movies, not even
pornographic movies -- but they are so close to crossing that
line into pornography that you are on a very dangerous slope to
let yourself watch that kind of material. I think a good question
that Clay has posed many times is, “As a Christian, do my
entertainment choices line up with what I believe?” That’s
what you have to ask yourself.
CLAY: So many believers, me included, will find
themselves in places or watching something that at the end of
the day you realize that’s not what I’m about. I shouldn’t
be laughing at that or be entertained by that kind of thing. It
begins that subtle slide that you referred to that can lead who
ELLIOTT: Do you think that as a culture we have
simply become desensitized to that?
CLAY: No doubt about it, and we play the comparing
game. We will watch a movie and tell ourselves, well it’s
not as bad as that movie. We can always find a movie
that is worse to tell ourselves, "This movie is
actually clean compared to that." But really when
you analyze what this was, maybe it was something that
you shouldn’t have in your life either. We don’t tell
people to stop watching movies or to stop watching television.
We tell people to monitor what they are watching. It’s not
being legalistic. It’s just saying let’s walk in wisdom.
Let’s realize that some of this stuff is not about what
we are about and it is going to drag us down.
ELLIOTT : In the book you discuss the idea of
accountability and how important that is. Why is that so important
and can that accountability come from your spouse? Or should you
find a friend to be an accountability partner with you?
CLAY: You know, I don’t have a definitive
answer on whether it can be from your spouse or not. Certainly,
there should be accountability among spouses. I’ve heard
it suggested that it should not be your spouse, but I can’t
say that for sure because I’m sure there are some husbands
and wives who could do that. But there are many who could not,
because if a man is really going to be honest, a lot of it is
going to affect the wife negatively.
RENEE: For us, after the general confession
-- when Clay confessed those things to me, about the pornography
and the problem that he had with lust – in the days that
followed there were things that he would bring up again, and a
month down the road it just became like pouring salt into a wound
every time he would mention something else. I said, “You
know, I appreciate you being honest, but let’s move forward.”
So maybe there is an older, wiser, man in the church that you
can go to and talk to about those types of things, and who can
ask you tough questions. How is the lust factor in your life?
How are you doing? Have you viewed internet pornography? Are you
slipping back into that? There are those questions that we need
to be asked. And even women because we are finding – and
this was a shocker to me – that the percentages are around
37 percent of women who admit to internet activity with pornography
or romantic chat rooms, that type of emotional affair. So this
is something that women need to be holding each other accountable
ELLIOTT: If a couple is dealing with this, how
do they begin to heal?
CLAY: They need to know that it can go in a
new direction now and things can change. Lives can change. Even
deep down desires can change. They don’t have to stay where
they are. They just need to realize that there is hope. Renee
and I are proof of that. We are still together. I believe we are
stronger than we ever were; and it’s only because we have
invited Christ into our lives in a deeper way and have a closer
walk with Him.
RENEE: Both of us were believers, but up until
that point we were not having a walk with God. I think it is so
important that we stress being in God’s Word. I would run
to God’s Word and say, “God, forgive me. Heal our
home. Heal us. Teach me forgiveness.” It helped me reading
Prayer was also an amazing thing. Clay and I would pray at a
meal, or if someone was in the hospital. We’d say a 911
prayer, you know, “Hey, so-and-so is having surgery, be
with him God.” But I’m talking about really coming
together as a married couple praying and seeking the Lord together,
asking God to heal them, and praying in front of each other. It
was one of the hardest things that we ever did -- being open,
honest, and vulnerable in front of each other -- but God has brought
so much intimacy and healing to our marriage through those prayers
and through His Word. You’ve got to have those two things.
CLAY: The things that Renee is describing are
what we like to call God’s best for our lives. He wants
His best for our lives and a struggling couple needs to realize
that. They can have the best. God will always deliver if you ask
Him to give you more of Him. Say to God, “I want more of
You. Our marriage wants more of You in it.” He is going
to bring it, and couples need to realize that.
RENEE: God will never say no to that prayer.
ELLIOTT: You touched on the issue of forgiveness
earlier, how do you forgive someone who has hurt you so badly?
I think that is often a struggle for many Christians.
RENEE: We speak at a lot of conferences and
marriage events, and I talk to a lot of women who “catch”
their husband in this secret sin. It is a lot harder to deal with
that, but God says to forgive. Clay came to me confessing. I didn’t
catch him. He confessed and really repented. He had such a sweet
spirit, and he was really just crying out to God and asking me
to forgive him.
It wasn’t something that happened overnight. It was a process,
but as I began to pray and say, “God how do I forgive my
husband?” then He began showing me scriptures. I wanted
to blame Clay for this problem in our lives and in our marriage
-- how dare he do such a horrible thing and bring that into our
home -- but then God would show me the scripture about the plank
and the speck. It was like God said, “If you are going to
look at the speck in his eye, check out the plank in yours, Renee.”
I began to see how far from God I truly was, how all the choices
I was making in my life were not God-honoring choices. I was not
having a close relationship with Him; I was not hearing Him speak
to me and tell me those things were wrong. This was all coming
around to me and I was hearing God say, “There are some
changes you need to make too. I want to walk close with you, but
you need to release some things that are in your life too.”
And those were not pornography, but they were magazines, movies,
soap operas, and things that I held so dear. It was crazy. I was
taping these shows with the VCR everyday and I realized what was
I watching? It was like soft-core pornography, but it was on in
the middle of the day so I reasoned it was okay. God dealt with
me and showed me there were issues in my life too.
I also prayed for him. I knew that it was a problem, and I could
either nag him about it or I could pray for him. With God’s
grace I chose to pray for my husband and to pray scriptures for
him. When you start praying for someone God starts healing and
the forgiveness begins flowing. You can harbor it, and it will
eat you up. So I just encourage people to pray.
CLAY: Our pastor said the same thing this week.
He said, “You cannot pray for someone, continually pray
for them, and be mad at them.”
RENEE: God just changes your heart. Even if
that situation never changes, God is still going to work in your
life. There are many men who don’t view this as a problem,
and the wives are hurting and crying out, asking how they can
change their husbands. Nothing but prayer and the power of God
can change that man. It has to be that you are praying for that
spouse in that situation.
ELLIOTT: For married couples who maybe have
not faced anything like this in their marriage yet, what preventive
measures can they take to protect their marriage?
RENEE: “Holy Homes.”
CLAY: That’s right. Holy Homes is something
that we encourage Christian homes to be. So many times they are
not. We talked about television choices and entertainment choices,
but it goes so far beyond that. We encourage Christian homes to
be set apart for God’s glory and to be different than other
homes in their neighborhood that are not following Christ. We
shouldn’t resemble those homes. We should be set apart.
There are so many things that we could talk about that would
describe a holy home, but it is really the basic things that as
a Christian you’ve known your whole Christian life. I know
that when I get out of God’s Word my life goes in the wrong
direction. That’s just a simple thing that I would challenge
men to do, to be in His Word and to keep their families in His
Word. Whether it is keeping his wife accountable by asking her
what she is reading, or teaching the truth to his children, God’s
Word needs to be our guide. And prayer should resonate throughout
the home, not only before meals, but dropping everything just
to pray. Kids need to see that and know that is where you run
RENEE: It really changes the environment too.
Clay and I both grew up in Christian homes and we would go to
church. I used to go “do church” and then I would
go home and I was “at home.” When you walk with God
on a daily basis you are bringing God into every aspect of your
life and that permeates your home. There is this sense of His
presence in your life where it is not just something you do when
you go to church. I think as Christians, we fall into that trap
of we do that on Sundays or Wednesday nights, but the rest of
the week I’ll live the way I want to.
And these things -- walking with the Lord, staying in His Word,
being accountable, teaching your children God’s Word, teaching
them to pray, and praying openly in front of them -- these are
sometimes uncomfortable things to do. Satan doesn’t want
us doing those things as Christian families. He wants us afraid
to pray and afraid to speak God’s truth, but we have to
CLAY: Satan wants us camped out in front of
the television just soaking in what the world wants to tell us.
RENEE: Yes, and he wants us not communicating
with our children. It is totally opposite of what God wants for
our homes. Clay and I look at our home and we think our home is
still so far from being a holy home, but we are on a path now.
We want it to be set apart and different, not being legalistic
about it, but we want it to be a place where others see Jesus
in our home and in our lives.
ELLIOTT: Clay, you also recently worked on a
CD that addresses the topic of pornography. Tell me a little about
CLAY: It is an issue-specific CD titled Somebody’s
Daughter: Confronting the Lies of Pornography. I
was really honored to be asked to sing the title cut on that.
There are a lot of different artists included and Renee has a
testimony on it. It is a great resource for recovery groups, for
men’s accountability groups, general Christian men’s
groups, or women – as Renee has mentioned there are women
also who fall into pornography. The album is all about that battle
and what God wants for our lives.
That title cut that I sing, “Somebody’s Daughter,”
is saying that as men have viewed pornography, they need to realize
something about these women that have fallen into acting in those
films. Men need to realize these women are not disposable. God
loves them so much, and they are somebody’s daughter. When
they were born they had a mother and father who loved them, whether
that is the case now or not, they are God’s daughter. God
loves them and wants the best for them. We as Christians should
not be enjoying watching them.
RENEE: That is something too, I can remember
being angry at that whole industry. I thought those people were
“trash” and God really did a work in my heart before
that CD even came out. Just in those years that followed He showed
me they are God’s creation too. Something happened in their
lives that pushed them in that direction, and we need to pray
for those men and women in that industry. It is such a dangerous
trap that they are caught in, and they are God’s daughters
CLAY: It really is a beautiful song. I look
forward to people hearing it. It really has a punch to it. (Read
an interview about the CD.)
ELLIOTT: And the book has a great message as
well. Thanks for taking the time to speak with me today.
CLAY: You’re welcome. Thank you.
Got comments? Drop me a line.
by Belinda Elliott on CBN.com.
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