In the wake of the meeting with the pastors, life went on without much change, other than the fact I experienced my own personal “Ichabod.” The Holy Spirit left me, only returning for brief moments when I preached or taught. I refer to this period of my life as my “brown out.” God actively hid from me.
I was incapable of enduring the void and my behaviors escalated. Still hampered by my sometimes-unbiblical systematic theology that I used to interpret the Scriptures. It was so bad that I told one of my staff that I wasn’t one of God’s elect. I explained that there was no fruit of the Spirit in my life and that my prayers bounced off the ceiling; returning to me in utter silence. I related my current prayer to my friend and fellow staff member:
“God, I know I’m not one of your elect. There is no fruit in my life. My sin is continually before my face and has defeated me, grinding me into the dust; but for whatever reason, when I preach people renew or find a relationship with You. So, though you will damn me, I will keep proclaiming You until I die, so long as you promise to save my kids.”
And so, life went on without the Spirit’s presence. I went through the motions of ministry with an empty soul, having lost contact with my Creator, and out of touch with my wife and myself. But when I preached, there was still power. So, I kept preaching, and people kept responding, and I kept climbing the evangelical church’s ladder of success.
In 2000, along with 10,000 other evangelists from around the world, I traveled to the Amsterdam 2000 conference. I roomed with a friend. As he slept, I snuck out to visit prostitutes in the red light district. Toward the end of the ten-day conference, I even began skipping break-out sessions to try to find a girl who could save me. No one could. And, still no one knew my secret.
The shame of my actions overwhelmed me, and for an extended period, I stopped my behaviors. Then on Easter 2001, I returned home from doing a radio call-in show. I thought my performance deserved sex as a reward. She disagreed, and then, for whatever reason, four years after my confession to the pastors, she asked if I had been unfaithful to her. I answered honestly. She hit me in the face, and neither of us slept.
The next day, she went to our Bishop’s house, revisiting my guilt with him; and my life necessarily changed forever…