Do you have any idea what it’s like to have your life turned completely upside down? I’m not talking about that morning you’re trying to get to work on time, and your car won’t start. No, in that case, you’ve been let off far too easy. I’m thinking more along the lines of a crisis whose magnitude unravels everything you thought you would be in this world and shatters any expectations you had of a “normal” life.
If this is you, a stranded sojourner surrounded by a culture of “perfect” lives and perpetually happy people, I have news for you: as cliché as it sounds, you are not alone. Some of the most influential men and women in the Bible share your story. I share your story. And my prayer is that I can offer you some measure of comfort by taking you along on my journey that began in the depths of sin, but a journey that has no end because God rescued me and raised me up and seated me in the heavenly places with Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2.6). Here’s how God wrecked and renewed me…
Just an Ordinary Life Until One Day…
Life is normal until it isn’t. Most people, myself included, don’t realize just how normal life is until that shattering moment hits. A thirty-two-year-old man is getting a routine physical for a softball league when he finds out he has cancer. A mother is grabbing a cup of coffee when she gets a phone call informing her that her teenage daughter died in a car accident. A middle-aged husband and father who has shown integrity in the workplace his entire life suddenly finds himself unemployed due to budget cuts. These people weren’t looking for suffering and yet suffering found them.
And then there are people like me who had a big moment that’s no less harsh but came as a result of my own bad choices. In my case, I was on my way to seminary when a series of poor decisions from my past came back to bite me severely. But I am glad they did. Let me explain…
Katie (my wife) and I met at Southeastern Theological College in Wake Forest (now called The College at Southeastern), and married at very young ages—I was twenty going on thirteen, and she was twenty-one going on thirty. I understand some of what she sees in me today, but back then I don’t know what she was thinking. She was so far out of my league I may as well have been Tim Tebow trying to play quarterback in the NFL.
I shouldn’t have been at Southeastern, to begin with. I was a believing unbeliever in that I was full of head knowledge about the Bible and theology but had no idea how to apply it to my life. I could readily put a free-will believing Armenian in his place, and yet I was still waiting on God’s sovereign call to my own heart. How’s that for irony?
Soon after Katie and I married, I began down a path riddled with poor and immature decisions that culminated with me leaving my wife after three years of marriage. Katie and I eventually reconciled about six months later, but during my time away I fell completely off the rails and engaged in a lifestyle that Paul no-doubt spoke of in 1 Corinthians 6.9-10. At this point there was no denying my lost soul, and yet I continued to fight it.
Even after going through a time of catastrophic sin, I was still a relatively smart guy “stuck” with a Biblical Studies degree and nowhere to go with it but seminary. So to continue the facade, I applied to The Master’s Seminary to pursue teaching higher academics. Why not swing for the fences, right?
Apparently, the deception was strong in me because in just a few weeks I was accepted to their Masters of Divinity program without ever submitting an endorsement from my pastor. Technology back then wasn’t what it is now, and I’m sure there was an oversight somewhere, and I must have slipped through the cracks.
Within a week of finding out we were accepted to The Master’s Seminary and headed to California, Katie and I also found out she was pregnant with our first child, Kara. Seemingly, life was normal, and a bright future awaited us.
And then God said, “Not so fast…” (not verbally or literally)
About two weeks following all of this terrific news, I got a call from the New Hanover County Sheriff’s Department (here in Wilmington). They wanted to talk to me about a report they received from a mother.
It turns out that a girl I had a one-time sexual encounter with during my time away from Katie (two years prior) was only 15 years old at the time, and I was 24. Not good at all. She had lied to me about her age, and everything about her appearance and demeanor corroborated with her claim. I had no reason to believe otherwise. But what I thought to be true did not matter where the law was concerned.
I was under investigation for about eight months, and nine months later and a week after our daughter was born, I was asked to turn myself in on indecent liberties charges. My parents posted bail immediately, so I never spent any time in a cell or even handcuffs.
When the news hit the television networks and newspapers the following morning, it spread like wildfire across my ministry circles and in a matter of hours I went from being a friend…to a sermon illustration.
Katie made one of the most challenging decisions a wife ever has to make and decided to stand by me through all of this. There is so much to say here on this topic, and I hope Katie will one day write and speak out on this but know that she is an amazing godly woman who I painfully challenged to love me unconditionally, her husband, and yet she still held firm.
However, outside of Katie, my immediate family, and a tiny handful of friends, no one wanted to associate with me. In 2006 it was too risky to be associated with a sex offender, and on top of that, I had let a lot of men down, and no one knew quite how to react. Though I didn’t see it this way at the time, I had no one to blame but myself.
I found a later that a lot of people who knew me on a personal level were expecting something like this to happen to me eventually. Not necessarily that I would fall into a trap laid by a woman younger than the legal limit, but they suspected I was a fraud and would eventually be exposed for who I really was. And what a scam I turned out to be.
Six months of humiliation and isolation went by, accompanied by a lot of back and forth with the district attorney. Finally, we decided to accept a plea offer that consisted of five years of probation and a minimum of ten years as a registered sex offender, but no jail time. I was a lawbreaker of both man’s law and God’s law and carried a felon’s standing in both realms.
Post Conviction / Pre Regeneration
People who have never been on the sex-offender registry cannot comprehend how difficult it makes life on a day-to-day basis—especially when you have children. I’m not saying you should pity the sex-offenders, but the general public does need to understand that life on the registry will make any man, saved or unsaved, regret his error and quite possibly even his life. So the next time you think about making light of a sex-offender or parading his picture and address through social media, please consider that you’re more or less beating a man while he’s already broken on the ground, and that is no action for a child of God.
A person shows who they really are when tragedy hits. If there were ever a question about my salvation before my life fell apart, there would be no guessing following my conviction.
Anger consumed my thoughts, and not righteous anger. I hated everyone that turned on me. I hated the justice system, and I hated God if He even existed. And most of all, I hated myself, but that revelation didn’t come until much later.
I couldn’t understand how a God who loved me could set my life up to be so successful and then tear it all down in a matter of months. It was on this premise that I declared for years God could not exist—because His actions were not rational.
I adopted all kinds of strange new age philosophies, primarily those of Eckhart Tolle who had me convinced that no truth could be absolute and that man should never find an identity in beliefs or faiths because they differ for all people.
My thinking went on like this for four years, and then we found out Katie was pregnant with spontaneous triplets (another story for another time). Katie’s pregnancy was permeated with complications that ultimately landed her on bed rest for several months.
During this time, she begged me to take our oldest daughter, Kara, to church (during my plea agreement the judge and ADA agreed to a leniency clause that allowed me to attend church, among other things). I could not find the strength to refuse, given her condition, so I agreed to start taking her to a big mega-church here in town (by Wilmington standards anyway). I initially picked this large church because I wanted a place where I could blend in and not be bothered by anyone.
My time back in the church began with me sitting on the back row playing games on my phone while I listened to familiar words and concepts from the pulpit. As the weeks rolled by I found myself listening more and more, and the philosophies in my mind would wage war on God’s Word being taught through the sermons.
Two years went by, and the more I held on to man’s knowledge, the more my life continued to fall apart. I was so consumed with what the world had to offer, and yet the world wouldn’t deliver on any of its promises. Our kids were healthy, but our finances were a mess, we were broke, and we lost our first home and had to move in with my parents. The harder I pursued the world, the faster it ran from me.
And Then One Day…
Living with my parents, in some ways, turned out to be a beautiful thing. It gave us a chance to rest, reboot, and get our finances together. It also gave me plenty of exposure to my dad, who is one of the godliest men I know. He never let me off the hook. He never allowed me to be comfortable with my worldly thinking, always challenging me with Scripture.
At the time, I loved reading self-help books. One day I was sitting out in the front yard while my kids played in one of those small plastic pools you buy at Walmart, and I was reading The Millionaire Fastlane by MJ DeMarc. DeMarc has what he calls “The Weighted Average Decision Matrix” which basically tells you what’s important to you and what you should do to pursue your dreams and get rich while doing it! Life is easy, right?!
Well, I was so thrilled at this concept that I called Katie at work and proudly went down this list of what was important to me and told her how this was going to change my life finally. It went something like this: 1) House, 2) Car, 3) Education, 4) Vacations, etc…all the way down to 13) spiritual reward.
My rationale was that if heaven even existed, just being there would be fine with me and I wouldn’t need all the bells and whistles that came with it. Why not enjoy this life while I have it and worry about the after-life later?
Ladies and gentlemen, my wife, lit into me. I’m pretty sure her tone came through the phone and parted the waters in the pool before me. Not only was she disappointed in me but she was infuriated that I had read this list to her in front of our children.
I still remember her words to this day, “Is this what you really want? Is this what you want your kids to believe? Because they’re going to follow right after you. Do you want to be responsible for standing in the way of your children as they seek God? Kevin, you think God is done with you but have you ever stopped to consider that maybe He’s longing to begin with you?”
At that moment a disconnected wire within me was fused together. It made sense. It clicked. I sat there in that lawn chair, in front of my four little girls, and began to weep. For lack of better words, I felt inadequate and helpless. I finally recognized the filthiness of my situation and my helplessness to do anything about it on my volition. And I knew Jesus Christ was the only solution to my problem.
I remember going inside, grabbing one of my dad’s Bibles off the shelf and finding Jesus’ words in Matthew 11.28-30, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” I needed this, and I needed it right then.
For eleven years I had carried the cumbersome burden of pretending to be a Christian. Then I went straight from that burden to nearly being crushed for six years under the weight of the sex-offender registry. I was so relieved to finally lay those burdens on Jesus and accept His easy yoke instead.
I had carried a head knowledge of God and theology for over a decade and for the first time ever, I began to discern that knowledge spiritually (1 Corinthians 2.14). And what a difference it made. Formerly, I could have cared less for the application of Scripture—the very thought of it bored me. But after, the knowledge only mattered if I could somehow use it to change my life or someone else’s.
I spent the next few weeks connecting dots that were so unclear to me before, beginning with the existence of God and that He rewards those who seek Him (Hebrews 11.6).
And one of the most significant differences I noticed was a conviction over sin. I used to be able to sin and sin and sin some more and never hear a word from my conscious. That changed in a very substantial way. I couldn’t engage in old habits and feel indifferent about them afterward. Slowly, but persistently, the Holy Spirit, through God’s Word and these convictions, began reconstructing my lifestyle.
Post Salvation Life to the Present
About a year after being saved I reconnected with a professor friend of mine, Dr. Greg Harris, who at the time of this writing is the Chair of Bible of Exposition at The Master’s Seminary. Together, we transformed his website at glorybooks.org into a writing ministry for pastors. Through that process, I met some fantastic shepherds who were markedly influential in my discipleship as a new Christian. I am so thankful that those men were there to work with and guide me.
In March of 2016, we were able to purchase a house again. And in June of 2017 based on multiple recommendations from pastors and friends, along with an evaluation from an independent psychologist, a judge agreed that I should be released from the sex-offender registry!!! So, I no longer carry that title or any of its restrictions. Thank you, Lord!!!
Sometimes people get offended or perplexed when I tell them I wouldn’t change a thing about my life. But how could I change anything that brought me into the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ? Well, what about all the people you hurt through the process, they ask? First, I would say that to the best of my knowledge, I’ve reconciled and made amends with everyone I hurt because of my actions. And second, I can only hope that they also value the Gospel to such a degree that they are happy to be cut if it means seeing a man come to the Savior.
I said earlier that I was convinced God could not exist because no rational God would have handled my life so whimsically. Oh, was I wrong. Instead, it was because of His existence, and His love, that he did what was necessary to break me and call me to Himself. Any less jarring event wouldn’t have shaken me from my self-deception and unbelieving state.
Thank you, Jesus, for not leaving me blind in my sin. Thank you, Father, for tearing me apart so that I could be remade. You have given me a gift. You have made me one of the “such were some of you” from 1 Corinthians 6.11, and you have shown me that you came to justify the ungodly (Romans 4.5). Please use this testimony to break down the barriers and deceptions of other believing unbelievers. I hope that my testimony will spark self-examination in anyone who is living a deceived life before it is too late for them. Thank you, Lord.
I Left Out Huge Gaps
If I were to try and put my entire story in a single post, I may as well write a book. There’s just too much to go on one page so I have purposefully left parts of the story out. I plan on going back and filling in these sections with future articles and I will add links to this bio as said gaps are filled. If you have any questions regarding the continuity of my story, feel free to email me: email@example.com.