Ed: What was your initial response when Darrin's sin was revealed?
Amie: In short, I was completely shocked, furious, and absolutely devastated. It's difficult to describe the trauma that occurs when life as you know it instantly ceases to exist in a very public way.
I sobbed, yelled, prayed desperate prayers, and asked Darrin many painful questions. I barely ate or slept, stumbled through my daily life in a daze, and experienced crippling anxiety attacks and related physical symptoms.
It wasn't so much that I thought this could never happen to me, as most pastors' wives I know do fearfully consider this possibility. But I did hold some assumptions and expectations regarding what I thought it would look like if Darrin were to ever implode, and virtually none of those things held true when he actually did. I was blind-sided.
Ed: How have you seen Darrin change over the past two years?
Amie: The biggest changes that I've seen in Darrin have to do with him understanding and owning brokenness from his past, as well as the devastating effect of those unhealed wounds on his life, relationships, and leadership. I've seen him work incredibly hard to understand not just how he sinned against God and people, but why he did so, and to fully take responsibility for not just sinful behavior, but the broken patterns of thinking, feeling, and believing behind them.
The fruit I've seen as a result of this repentance is a much greater awareness of himself and his brokenness, significantly greater emotional attunement, both to himself and others, and a willingness to understand his sin and the pain he's caused without defensiveness or justification.
He weeps a lot more than he used to. He's much more patient with broken and messy people. He's less cynical and critical. He seems to be experiencing God's love for him in ways that are deeply transformative.
I understand that many will be deeply suspicious and skeptical of the genuineness of Darrin's repentance for a long time. But I will say that being a daily, front-row witness to the deep, painful, and ongoing work of God in Darrin has profoundly changed me. My self-righteousness and self-protective critical spirit were busted up in some ways that I didn't know I needed.
I have a different perspective now on what it can look like to hold a biblical, realistic, and serious view of sin, while also staying hopeful and optimistic with regard to how God transforms people.
Ed: What is different in your marriage?
Amie: We have definitely grown in our understanding of what it looks like to love each other, sacrificially and humbly, in long seasons of being at our ugliest and worst.
There were many days when there was nothing to do but hold each other and hang on when at times we would have rather run away and never come back. These were pivotal moments when I was forced to examine what I really believed about the gospel and the covenant of marriage.
The past two years have been the most challenging and disappointing time of our 25-year marriage; and yet, I believe we've developed a different kind of personal and relational resilience by surviving and growing through a terrible season together. We now have a much more holistic and realistic understanding of one another, as well as better language and tools for living with and loving one another well for the long haul.
Ed: What has been the most helpful and healing parts of the last two years for you?
Amie: It's hard for me to put into words how much we have been helped by Rich Plass and Jim Cofield of Crosspoint Ministry. They have embodied compassionate and challenging fatherly, pastoral care for us in a way that we desperately needed. Their ongoing care, as well as their significant experience with and profound biblical understanding of spiritual formation and transformation has been life-altering and deeply restorative for me. No one has challenged me in more equally painful and healing ways than these two men.
Greg Surratt and the pastors and staff of Seacoast Church have treated us like family and loved us faithfully and well for a long time. My personal counselor was incredibly helpful and insightful. Steve Lanter, as both a friend and a boss, has been a rock for us as we’ve dipped our toes into the business world.
And I am deeply grateful for the small group of friends, both near and far, who have consistently and faithfully checked in, showed up, met practical needs, prayed, listened, cried with me, and pressed through the awkwardness and messiness to truly be my friends.
They were lighthouses for me in a sea of painful relational silence. I now understand what a rare gift this kind of friendship is, and have been challenged and inspired to meet people in their pain and brokenness like these friends have met me in mine.
Ed: What kind of care do you think wives need in these situations?
Amie: Unfortunately, I've learned that pastors' wives and children usually end up as overlooked collateral damage in these scenarios. I truly don't think this is intentional, but that doesn't make it any less devastating for those who have experienced it.
What pastors’ wives need the most in this situation are safe people who are willing to press through awkwardness and messiness and simply show up in one way or another. Many things have broken my heart over the past few years, but the ongoing silence from many people I have loved, respected, and trusted for years has been one of the most deeply painful wounds.
Other key factors for wives in a restoration process are clear communication and consistent care from those leading the plan. When everything in your life is turned upside down, it’s a big deal to be able to depend on trustworthy leadership. A solid biblical and theological foundation for the plan is a must, but so is the objectivity and expertise provided by a leader with extensive clinical training and experience.
My biggest hope, though, for every pastor’s wife in every church, is that she has a mature, wise and emotionally healthy community around her. Every pastor’s wife vitally needs people who value her and her children enough to intentionally and courageously bring her into discussions about her husband’s emotional and spiritual health long before it becomes a personal or corporate crisis. This is my most frequent prayer for every pastor’s wife that I know.
Tomorrow, I will interiew Darrin’s spiritual mentor, Greg.