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Prayer saves marriage

By John W. Kennedy

Steve Gallagher repeatedly told his girlfriend Kathy about her need to have Jesus Christ in her life. Steve had been raised in church, and he knew the right words to speak when evangelizing. But Steve hadn’t really made a commitment to Jesus in his own heart. Steve, 26, and Kathy, 18, lived together.

Yet Steve’s words brought tremendous conviction upon Kathy in August 1979. So much so that she made a profession of faith and decided to move out. Her decision resulted in an immediate end to her smoking, drinking and partying lifestyle.

Soon, Kathy wanted Steve to truly know the Lord, too. Steve started attending church with her and suggested the Lord wanted them to marry. Kathy agreed in January 1980. But right after the ceremony, Steve not only stopped going to church, he began mistreating Kathy. He turned into an angry, disgruntled, critical husband. He verbally abused Kathy, telling her she was too skinny and not pretty enough.

Kathy learned Steve had a pornography addiction and realized why she didn’t measure up to his expectations of what a woman’s appearance should be. Although devastated, Kathy determined to make the marriage work. She tried to bring her husband to repentance; instead, he convinced her that she needed to participate in his evil lifestyle as a way to keep their marriage together.

“I was needy and weak, so I stuffed my feelings of guilt,” Kathy recalls. “I agreed to do anything because I wanted him to love me.”

Kathy eventually figured out her husband had been visiting prostitutes, going to massage parlors and engaging in an adulterous relationship.

“Sin is never satisfied,” Kathy says. “Long term, pornography only increases the danger of hollowing out the souls of both partners.”

Kathy left Steve, stopped listening to God, became involved in an adulterous relationship of her own and filed for divorce. At that point, Steve finally repented and asked God for forgiveness. He pleaded with Kathy to talk to her parents about coming back to him.

Kathy’s Christian parents knew all about Steve’s tribulations, yet her father advised Kathy to return to her estranged husband.

“I couldn’t fathom why God would tell me to go back to that perverted mess,” Kathy says. “But it was no longer just about my marriage; it was about obeying Jesus Christ.”

The return didn’t mean instant bliss. The emotional pain took an excruciating toll for months. Although Steve truly had turned to God, he still occasionally fell to pornography temptations. Yet when he did, it really devastated him. Kathy saw him repenting on his knees, crying out to God for forgiveness.

Slowly, God enabled Kathy to respect, then love, her husband again.

Steve resigned as a deputy in Los Angeles, and the couple moved to Sacramento, Calif., where Steve started attending Bible school. The Gallaghers opened up their home to others struggling with sexual addiction. That developed into a support group at Capital Christian Center, an Assemblies of God church in Sacramento. Steve wrote a book, Sexual Idolatry, which resulted in television, radio and speaking appearances around the country.

In 1990, the Gallaghers moved to Dry Ridge, Ky., where they started Pure Life Ministries. Today, the 55-bed facility located on 45 acres admits addicts who have lost their jobs — and sometimes their families — for a minimum of six months of residential treatment. The 35 staff members include 10 biblical counselors. Beyond sexual integrity issues, the ministry teaches an intense discipleship program.

The Gallaghers find that, just as happened to them, many enrollees have been involved in church but aren’t really committed to living for Jesus. Stepping into the world of porn is an easy line to cross for those who have no boundaries about what they watch on TV or look at on the Web every night.

“There is a great deal of spiritual leakage in the lives of Christians who aren’t consecrated to God,” Kathy says. “There is the carnal attitude of ‘Sin now, repent later, everything will be OK.’ ”

The Gallaghers say the Pure Life Ministries live-in program helps men break sexual addiction habits.

“But the deeper work is what God is doing inside them as they go through this intense discipleship program,” Kathy says. “Those who truly respond to the Lord leave with a stronger walk and fresh passion for Christ.”

Pure Life Ministries also offers counseling to wives whose lives have been shattered by their husbands’ sexual sin.

“It’s really difficult for a woman to stay in a marriage with a man enamored with other women, even if it’s a magazine or Internet porn,” Kathy says.

On the other hand, more and more women are calling for help for their own porn addictions, although usually not for the same reasons as men. While male addicts are drawn by visual stimulation, women tend to be drawn by the hope of an emotional connection, even if it is a shallow one.

After getting over the initial shocking graphics, in many respects women have been desensitized by the warped ideals of porn. The accessibility and anonymity of the Internet has played a key role in keeping women hooked.

In a culture overrun with sexual images, many women caught up in porn tend to suppress innate feelings that it is wrong. Yet a woman inevitably finds, as Kathy did, that she will never measure up to glossy images in magazines or on celluloid.

Lonely women, both single and married, are hungry for affection, and they often consider Internet porn a substitute, Kathy believes.

“For many women, once they have been introduced to a certain level of soft-core pornography — whether it’s soap operas, romance novels or fashion magazines — the heart is open to wanting more,” Kathy says. “Once they’ve crossed what had been the cutoff point it’s a quick jump into chat rooms and X-rated sites.”

Although women traditionally haven’t been as visually stimulated as men, Kathy thinks the nudity barriers that formerly kept women disinterested have dissolved.

“The women struggling now wouldn’t be involved if they had to go out and buy it at a porn shop,” Kathy says. Because of the shame involved, most women won’t seek help unless the addiction escalates into a life-controlling problem, she says.

As she learned herself, Kathy believes a more active prayer life is key for those wanting to break free from the lure.

“I’m not just talking about going to church on Sunday morning,” Kathy says. “People need a daily, vibrant relationship with the Lord to have the strength to withstand it.”


JOHN W. KENNEDY is news editor of Today’s Pentecostal Evangel and blogs at Midlife Musings (jkennedy.agblogger.org).

E-mail your comments to tpe@ag.org.

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