The Start of the Extraordinary
About the Guest
After 10 years of marriage Justin and Trish Davis felt like virtual strangers living under one roof. A slow drift became a great divide, and an extramarital affair threatened to end their marriage for good. But God had other plans. Justin and Trish Davis talk honestly about the marital problems that almost sunk their relationship and their ministry until God’s truth and healing brought their marriage back on solid ground.
Justin and Trish Davis talk frankly about the problems that almost sunk their marriage and ministry until God’s truth and healing brought them back to solid ground.
The Start of the Extraordinary
Bob: Trisha Davis learned, in her marriage, that sometimes things have to hit the bottom before you find a rock you can stand on.
Trisha: Even though I’ve been wounded so much—you know, we’ve been married ten years now. He’s had an affair. I’ve lost my husband, I’ve lost my church family, I’ve lost my friends, I’m losing my home. I mean, you lose everything. The gift in that is that God is still enough. If God is still enough when you are there, He has to be enough to help me to understand my own issues so that, then, I can love in the extraordinary.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Wednesday, January 16th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine. When your marriage seems like it is hopeless, there is still hope—as we’ll hear today. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. I feel like we need to back up a little bit from where we are this week. We’ve been hearing a story from our guests, Justin and Trish Davis—and by the way, welcome back guys.
Justin: Thank you very much.
Bob: Nice to have you here. It’s a story, Dennis, of a couple who met in college, fell in love, got married, found themselves in ministry, and found themselves starting to drift—which is a course that a lot of marriages take—whether you are in ministry or not. Marriages drift away. You drift toward isolation. We talk about that at the Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway, regularly.
And I should mention, here, that this week and next week, we are offering FamilyLife Today listeners an opportunity to attend one of those getaways this spring at a special rate. When you register for yourself, your spouse comes for free. It’s a buy one/get one free registration offer. It’s good this week and next week. It’s for FamilyLife Today listeners. If you want to take advantage of it, go online at FamilyLifeToday.com. Fill out the registration form, and type my name—type “BOB”—in the promotional code box that you find on the registration form. Or call 1-800-FL-TODAY and mention that you’d like to attend a conference—that you listen to FamilyLife Today and that you want to take advantage of the special offer. Again, it’s a buy one/get one free offer.
You can register for any of the dozens of events that we’re going to be hosting in cities, all across the country, this spring. Dennis is going to be at the event in Washington, DC, coming up right before Valentine’s Day. I’m going to be at the Hershey Lodge in Pennsylvania, right after Valentine’s Day. You can come to one of those two events or any of these events that we’re going to be putting on throughout the spring. Again, go to FamilyLifeToday.com for more information about the Weekend to Remember and to take advantage of the special offer that we’re making for FamilyLife Today listeners this week.
But back to the story that we’re hearing this week from Justin and Trisha Davis—you guys had started to drift toward isolation in your marriage. You were strangers to the point that, at the ten-year mark in your marriage, Justin, you walked into the bedroom, one Sunday afternoon, as Trisha was taking a nap. You woke her up and you said, “I don’t want to be in this marriage anymore. I don’t love you, and I’m having an affair with one of your friends.”
Dennis: And as I was thinking about their story and reading through their book, I thought of Proverbs, Chapter 6. I’ve written a little book for dads and moms to prepare their sons for the enticing woman. It’s called Aggressive Girls, Clueless Boys. It’s actually Solomon’s conversations with his son about what he was going to face—not only as a young man—but all throughout his life.
As God would have it, a friend of mine, who sends me a Proverb every day, sent me this Proverb today.
Justin: Oh, wow.
Dennis: Proverbs, Chapter 6, verse 27: “Can a man carry fire next to his chest and his clothes not be burned?” I’m going to read the next few verses. “Or can one walk on hot coals, and his feet not be scorched? So is he who goes into his neighbor’s wife. None who touches her will go unpunished.”
This passage—and what Solomon was saying to his son—he was warning him that there are consequences when you break your covenant—no matter how you arrive at that point—whether it’s—as you’ve mentioned, Bob, a ten-year marriage that has drifted into isolation—where two people are now enemies and strangers with each other. Regardless, the temptations of the world are out there; and they can lure us outside the marriage relationship.
Bob: And let me ask you to go back because we got to the point where you had announced to your wife what was happening. You tell your story in the book you’ve written called Beyond Ordinary. You’d been back, for three months, from a ten-year anniversary cruise.
Bob: Your relationship with another woman—Tell us how that started. Had that already started before the cruise, or did it start after the cruise? Do you remember?
Justin: The inappropriateness of the relationship did not start until after the cruise. There had been—and I share this in the book—but there had been—not just a ten-year drifting in our marriage, I had carried a ten-year addiction to pornography. I had been sexually abused when I was a kid and never received help for that—never gone to counseling for that. I had accumulated all this baggage that I’d never talked about with Trish—never gotten help for, never talked about with anyone.
I thought—in a broken person’s mind—I’m not saying this is a rational thought or even a godly thought—but I convinced myself that I was protecting our marriage by keeping this a secret because, “She couldn’t handle it.” There were already so many issues in our marriage—or already so many complications of our marriage—“If I bring this into it, it’s over. It can’t be over because I’m in ministry.” There was just—it was a lot of rationalizing and a lot of—I just felt trapped. I felt like I was, literally, behind an eight ball; and I couldn’t win.
Bob: I just have to know about how you did the rationalization part in your own mind—first, with the pornography—then, with the attraction to somebody outside of your marriage and then carrying through on that. What were you saying to yourself?
Justin: Well, I think there was this belief, especially in the area of pornography, that, “This is the last time. I promise I’ll never do that again. So, I don’t have to confess it.”
Bob: Ten years of that?
Justin: Right, right. It was—“I’m strong enough.” It wasn’t—this wasn’t a daily addiction for me. It was a compulsive addiction for me. You know, going through counseling, I learned that there were triggers that occurred in my life—stress, marital conflict, uncertainty, feeling pressure, too, that the ministry brings along, or that even a career brings along. I turned to that to relieve that stress rather than turning to the Lord.
I think that’s why we wrote the book is because what we’ve come to realize is that the divorce rate for people in the church is no different than people outside the church. So, the people who are divorcing—they are going to church. They’re singing the songs. They’re praying the prayers. They’re just not transforming. That was me. I was a pastor, for goodness’ sake; but yet, I wasn’t transforming. It was because I was asking God to change my behavior rather than change my heart.
Bob: What prompted you, on that afternoon, when you walked in and your wife’s taking a nap—what prompted you to confess that day?
Justin: The relationship had been going on for about three weeks. We’d been friends with this couple for seven years. We had a long-standing relationship with them; but as far as the sinful part of that relationship was concerned, it had been going on for just a short time.
I just couldn’t hide the lie anymore. I couldn’t—I had spoken that morning on the importance of godly relationships and literally just felt sick that I was living this double life. So, “I just need to confess it all.” It wasn’t a confession of remorse. It wasn’t a confession of repentance. It was a confession of resignation. I was done. I was done with ministry. I was done with my marriage. I felt like I had failed in all of it. So, “If I could just leave all of it behind and start over, then, maybe I could put my life back together.”
Dennis: So, Trish, what was your response after he had admitted the affair?
Trisha: I mean, obviously, I completely freaked out. I was just in shock. I knew, but I didn’t know. I knew we were bad. I guess I just didn’t want to face how bad we were. I ended up leaving the house, and went to a close friend, and called the elders. You know, it kind of progressed from there.
I’ll be honest. I think I was more mad at God because I didn’t understand why God didn’t step in. I didn’t understand why God didn’t protect me when, in my mind, I was faithful. Now, do I have issues? Yes, but I have always—and even to this today—have a deep love for Justin—like, “There is something wrong with me,” and, “Maybe You aren’t trustworthy, God.” I was angry. I was so angry. It took that next year of the restoration process of really dying to all the preconceived ideas of who I thought Jesus was supposed to be in my life, and how much of our married life I had made Justin Jesus—like Justin was my Messiah. He was the one who was supposed to have us have a great marriage because he was a pastor. He was all these things; and I held him to a standard that God had never intended for our relationship.
It was a lot of redefining—a lot of me saying to myself, “If I’m going to”—beyondordinary, obviously—“me looking at Justin’s sin and trying to help him figure it out is not working. I need to figure out my own stuff.” I was at a crossroads that I wanted to choose something different. In those first days, I wasn’t choosing something different for Justin. I really was choosing something different for the sake of our boys. I would do whatever it would take for, at least, for me to stay sane and for me to be a good mom. I had no idea that God could truly, not redeem our relationship, but allow that old relationship to die and give us the relationship we have today.
That relationship is extraordinary because we live in full intimacy—where we are fully-known—even in our awful side, our dark side, our struggles—even to this day—that we are still fully-known, and we’re not looking to each other to heal it. We are looking to Jesus; but we get to be with each other, along the journey. That makes me love Justin deeper, on a daily basis.
Dennis: Justin, you mentioned earlier you were not repentant. You were resigned.
Bob: You were done!
Dennis: You were done in the marriage. What moved you to repentance? And how did you repent?
Justin: Well, the night of the confession, I had nowhere to go. I had kind of strategized my first couple of moves. My first strategy was to confess to Trish. Then, I was going to need to resign from the church that we had started. I did that. Then, I didn’t have a plan. So, I just went to a hotel. When I got there, a lady from our church called. She said, “If you have any desire to reconcile your marriage, you need to go to this counseling appointment we made for you tomorrow.”
I show up to the counselor’s office, and I’m kind of in a defiant disposition. I sat down with the counselor. She said, “What do hope to accomplish with this?” I said, “Here’s what I want you to help me figure out. I’ve lived my entire life for God, and I’m still in this place. I want you to help me figure out how God is going to bless my life, no matter who I choose. That’s what I want.” She made some small talk for a few more minutes but basically said, “I can’t help you.”
I left that counseling appointment and felt like, “Okay, I’m going the direction I want to go.” I went to my parents’ house that night to share with my siblings and my parents the choices that I had made. My brother, who was not close with God at the time, just went off on me like, “What kind of legacy are you leaving for your kids? I looked up to you. You’re the only picture of God I’ve ever had in my life; and now, you’ve crushed it!”
That was the first time I felt like an arrow penetrated the barrier that I had put around my heart because, when you are in a dark place, you almost have to divorce yourself from the emotional carnage you are causing the people that love you the most and that you love the most. I had to shut myself off to what I was doing to my boys. I had to shut myself off to what I was doing to Trish, and to my extended family, and to the church, and all these people who had loved me and supported me, unconditionally. The emotion finally came back. The next day, I woke up feeling like I had just had the most intense spiritual battle of my life. I felt like there was a battle for my heart that had gone on, and I wanted to choose Jesus. So, I went back to the counselor’s office that I went to the day before. I just said, “I want a fresh start. I want to heal. I want to get better.”
At the same time that that was taking place, Trish was packing up my stuff. She had been advised, because I wasn’t repentant, to kick me out. That the best way to allow me to experience brokenness was not to have her enable me. There was a couple that had agreed to allow me to stay at their house until either Trish and I got divorced or until we put our marriage back together. I left the counseling appointment. He picked me up and drove me to his house. I remember walking in. As we walked into his house, he said, “I just want you to know it’s going to feel like it’s over, but I don’t think it is over.”
I started going to counseling and started trying to put the pieces together of, “How could I be a Christian? There has to be something below the surface,” because what we came to realize later on, and what we know today, is that the affair was just a symptom of much deeper issues that I carried in my heart—that we allowed to grow in our marriage. So, rather than just change the circumstances, rather than change our behavior, rather than just talking nicer to each other or say, “You’re sorry,” at the end of an argument—“How can we truly allow God to change our heart?” That’s what I wanted to know. That’s what I was begging the counselor to teach me, “Teach me how to experience heart transformation.” That’s kind of the process that I went on.
Bob: You said that during the time you were a pastor in those ten years, you’d had people in your congregation who had come to you guys and said, “Hey, we’ll pay for you to go to a Weekend to Remember marriage getaway.”
Justin: Yes. We had a couple in our church—they’re dear friend of ours today—and their marriage was saved. They were literally on the brink of divorce. They went to a Weekend to Remember marriage conference. Halfway through the weekend, God just gave them a breakthrough. It was a story they had probably told us three or four times.
They would stand in our core group meetings and hand out FamilyLife brochures to all of our core group, when we were starting the church—just being an evangelist for FamilyLife.
In my mind, Bob, honestly, this is more arrogant than this story I tell in the first chapter of the book. I thought, “I’m a pastor. I do counseling. I don’t go to counseling.” There was this resistance that I had to receiving help because I viewed help as a sign of weakness rather than a sign of strength and humility—like it truly is. So, they’d come to Trish and I—and I don’t know if it was just because of their belief in FamilyLife, or if they saw the cracks in the foundation of our relationship, or probably a combination of both—but they said, “You guys need to get away. You guys need to go to this. All expenses paid. We’ll fly you. Pick one. We’ll fly you anywhere in the country. You don’t have to go to the one in Indianapolis.” In my mind, I thought, “I can’t take off a Sunday to go do that. I’ve got better things to do. Our marriage is fine.” Obviously, it wasn’t fine. And who wants a fine marriage, anyway?
Dennis: Yes, really?
Bob: Let me just remind our listeners, if I can, right here. This week and next week, we are offering a special offer for FamilyLife Today listeners. You want to attend one of the upcoming Weekend to Remember marriage getaways? The conference season starts in about a month. You’re going to be at the Washington National Hotel, the Gaylord Hotel, in Washington, D C, that opening weekend, right before Valentine’s Day. I’m going to be at the Hershey Lodge, the next weekend, out in Pennsylvania. Then, there are dozens of these events happening, throughout the country, throughout the spring.
If you’d like to attend, now is the time to sign up because if you sign up this week or next week, and you register for yourself, your spouse comes for no additional charge. It’s a buy one/get one free registration offer. You do have to identify yourself as a FamilyLife Today listener. Go online at FamilyLifeToday.com. Fill out the registration form online. Type my name—type “BOB”—in the promotional code box that you find on the registration form. Or simply call 1-800-FL-TODAY. Say that you listen to FamilyLife Today, and you’d like to register and take advantage of this special offer. We’ll get you signed up for one of these events.
Come do some preventive maintenance on your marriage at a Weekend to Remember. Don’t let your marriage get to the point that the Davis’s marriage got to. Take care of it. Maintain it. Do something special for it. It’s a fun weekend getaway for the two of you. We hope you’ll take advantage of the special offer and come join us at one of these Weekend to Remember marriage getaways this spring.
Dennis: Trish, I have to ask you. You didn’t go to the Weekend to Remember. Instead, you found yourself at this spot—where, ultimately, your husband did come home—truly, truly come home—his heart to your heart. How did he confess and how did you forgive him?
Trisha: I think it was a process—even when we started going to counseling, I would leave those counseling visits and that grieving was still there. It was exhausting. I was just frustrated that I felt like we were doing—again, reverting back to my old ways—or doing the right things; but, “I’m not seeing the fruits of my labor.”
It wasn’t until Justin decided to confess everything to me—he confessed about the pornography. He confessed about being abused as a child, not once, but by two different people. He even confessed that he was never recruited to the University of Evansville— which seemed so small in all that he had just told me—but in his mind, it meant so much for him to be truth-filled, even about that.
Dennis: You’re talking being recruited as a basketball player?
Justin: Right and that was a lie that I had been telling since I was 18. I’d come to convince myself that it was true.
Bob: You told people you had been recruited.
Justin: Yes, yes. So, I come to her and I say, “I have all these things I need to confess to you.” I start with pornography. I say, “I was sexually abused. I’ve never received help for it.” I said, “I’m not using it as an excuse. I’m just telling you I’ve been advised to share that with you, and that’s relevant information for our situation.” She was very shocked but very receptive to that.
Then, I said, “I have one more thing.” I could tell—just a look of defeat on her face. She said, “What?” I said, “I was never recruited to play basketball at the University of Evansville.” Then, the sense of relief—but for me, what I have come to realize is that when you don’t have the ability to tell yourself the truth, it’s impossible for you to tell the truth to others. When you are lying to yourself, there is an inability you have to be completely honest with someone else. That was kind of the final piece for me—
Justin: —just to be able to surrender that to her and to the Lord.
Trisha: With that confession, that feeling—that grieving—was gone. We had finally hit rock bottom. It was painful, but we finally had solid ground to stand on. We had never had that before. I had no idea what the future held; but I knew, for the first time in our marriage relationship, we were fully-known. There’s something that’s attractive to that.
People ask me all the time, “Well, don’t you fear that he’ll fall into pornography addiction?” or, “As you get older,”—I’m not going to look young, and I’ve had three kids, gained 30 pounds, three different times, and lost it—“how do you compete with that?”
There is a passage in The Message translation that says that we live in a sexually- deviant world—like that’s just obvious. That’s the truth of it. That’s our reality, but that the marriage bed is stronger because the marriage bed is beyond just a physical act—it’s both emotional, and physical, and spiritual. Although pornography provided something for him in the moment, it’s not sustainable. But we had never been able to experience that because there was always that breaking. That’s what has become attractive.
I’m not saying that Justin will never struggle; but I know that the more that we continue to be honest with each other—that when we mutually offer ourselves to each other physically—that will outshine any image that you’re going to see on the internet. I think that that is the hope that I want women and I want married couples to know because I think they feel defeated. I think they feel like, “We can’t compete in this sexually-deviant world;” and we can’t. That’s why God created something that’s even better and even more beautiful.
Bob: That’s right.
Dennis: It’s interesting, Trish, you didn’t ever really use the word forgive—
Trisha: Oh, I didn’t!
Dennis: —but you just described what forgiveness looks like. It’s moving beyond punishing someone, and giving up the right to punish them and hurt them back for hurting us, and move on with a vision toward the future of intimacy. You just described it beautifully.
Bob: It’s more than just saying the words.
Dennis: It is.
Bob: A lot of folks think, “Well, I said the words,” but nothing really happened in their heart. You described what real forgiveness looks like.
Dennis: Yes, and I just want you both to know—first of all, I appreciate you being transparent and sharing your story in your book and, here on FamilyLife Today.
I can’t help but wonder what would have happened if you would have taken your friends up—who offered to send you to the Weekend to Remember on three different occasions—but you didn’t go. Your marriage today is a great statement of redemption—a trophy of grace—of two people who are still broken, still exhibiting a covenant love for one another. I just appreciate your courage—appreciate your openness about that.
And I’m glad to be on the team with you. You know, you are on the Kingdom team; we are, too. It’s a privilege to serve the King of kings and Lord of lords with you.
Justin: Well, we are so honored to just be invited into this space and to partner with people who share our passion to help people have marriages and families that reflect God, and His love, and His forgiveness, and His grace. So, it’s truly a privilege for us.
Bob: I hope folks will get copies of your book, Beyond Ordinary. We’ve got it in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. Listeners are welcome to go to FamilyLifeToday.com for more information about the book. Again, it’s titled Beyond Ordinary. You can order from us, here at FamilyLife Today. Go to FamilyLifeToday.com or call 1-800- “F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then, the word, “TODAY”. We’ll get a copy of Justin and Trish’s book sent out to you.
Now, tomorrow, we’re going to hear from a pastor with some wise counsel—this time, for pre-marrieds—about what to look for as you consider someone as a potential spouse. We’ll hear from Pastor Tommy Nelson tomorrow with some guidelines for a successful marriage. I hope you can tune in for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.
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