Image: Courtesy of Kay Warren

Through God’s work in our lives, we’ve beaten the odds that divorce would be the outcome of our ill-advised union.

I’ve always been a church girl. Most of my earliest memories are tied to the people and the small churches my dad pastored in San Diego, California. I remember feeling the pressure to be the perfect pastor’s kid who knew all the right answers to Bible trivia questions. I recall the heavy pressure to be a model for other people and especially the pressure not to embarrass or cause shame to my parents by exposing our family flaws.

Many of my experiences are probably common to others who grew up in a pastor’s home, but a few incidents weren’t related to my dad’s job, and they marked me in ways that have taken me years to overcome. I was molested by the son of the church janitor when I was four or five. I remember not telling my parents because it was “bad” and because as a young child I didn’t have the language to express what had happened.

The deepest place of confusion and internal struggle for me as a teenager was finding pornography at the home of neighbors where I babysat. I was both fascinated and repelled by this forbidden material. It was clearly taboo for a Christian young woman who sincerely wanted to live a pure and holy life for Jesus, but somehow one night I picked it up and looked at it. Instant self-loathing, guilt, and remorse. How can I look at pornography? I love Jesus! I want to be a missionary! I’ll never look at it again, I told myself. And I didn’t. Until the next time I babysat. And the time after that. And the time after that. And before long, I was hooked. The good girl who loved Jesus with all her heart had a secret fascination with pornography, and the shame about killed me. I couldn’t reconcile my temptations and my faith; I was torn apart on the inside. Worst of all, I couldn’t tell anyone about it.

Love and marriage

I continued in this state of internal conflict and failure, all the while knowing I was in deep trouble. I wanted out but didn’t have a clue how to change. Then I met Rick Warren when I was 17 at a training to be part of a summer youth evangelism team that would travel to Baptist churches in the cities and towns of California. We reconnected a year later as freshmen at California Baptist College, a small liberal arts college in Riverside, California, and became casual friends.

He asked me out to Farrell’s Ice Cream Parlour in the fall of 1973, and I grudgingly went. A week later—eight days to be precise—he accompanied me to a revival. When we got back to campus, we prayed together to close out the evening. Sitting in the dark, I heard him say, “Will you marry me?” I recall instantly praying and asking the Lord what I should do. I heard God respond, Say yes. I’ll bring the feelings. And so with my 19-year-old understanding of life, romance, God, his will, faith, and my desire to be obedient to him, I said yes. Kay Lewis and Rick Warren got engaged.

Not “the perfect couple”

As I walked down the aisle and stared into the shining eyes of the earnest, kind young man who had asked me to marry him, I knew I was loved. The way he looked at me on our wedding day became an anchor I would hold on to during the darker times when I wasn’t sure we were going to survive the mess our marriage had become.

Our brand-new marriage took an instant nosedive. We didn’t even make it to the end of our two-week honeymoon to British Columbia before we knew our relationship was in serious trouble. We had been warned about five areas of potential conflict all couples have to deal with, and we immediately jumped into all five of them: sex, communication, money, children, and in-laws. We were so young—barely 21—and inexperienced, and when sex didn’t work and we argued about sex, and then argued about our arguments and began to layer resentment on top of resentment, it was a perfect setup for misery and disenchantment.

What made it worse was that everyone considered us the perfect couple. When we returned from the honeymoon, already miserable and shocked at the depth of our unhappiness, we felt like we had nowhere to go with our wretched pain and marital failures. I had told Rick about being molested as a little girl—he was the first person I ever told—but because I was so unemotional about it, he figured it wasn’t that significant an incident to me and basically forgot about it. I kept my occasional ventures into pornography a complete secret. Between the effects of the unaddressed molestation, the resulting brokenness in my sexuality, and the off-and-on pornography fascination, it shouldn’t have been a surprise that sex didn’t work.

The weight of misery

Rick and I managed to limp our way through our first year of marriage, all the while he was a youth pastor to a vibrant group of kids who filled our small apartment at all hours of the day and night. We were young enough and naïve enough—and thoroughly conditioned by our strict upbringing—to not recognize the damage we were causing to ourselves by hiding and pretending everything was okay.

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SOURCE: Christianity Today – Kay Warren
Kay Warren is the cofounder of Saddleback Church with her husband Rick Warren and the author of Sacred Privilege: Your Life and Ministry as a Pastor’s Wife. She is a Bible teacher and an advocate for those infected and affected by HIV and AIDS, as well as orphaned and vulnerable children. Adapted from Sacred Privilege © Kay Warren, 2017. Published by Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group. Used by permission.