Tullian Tchividjian, a grandson of evangelist Billy Graham, who resigned from his position as lead pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Florida in June after admitting to an extramarital affair, recently opened up about the controversy and how the despair he experienced as a result enabled him to understand why some people commit suicide.
During a recent interview with William Vanderbloemen for a new podcast series recently launched by Vanderbloemen Search Group, the 43-year old pastor, who has been married to his wife, Kim, since 1994, first revealed he never expected to commit adultery.
"It's one thing not to be shocked at other people's sins. That was the one thing I was convinced I would never do. I knew that I could be lured by this or that or the other, but I always had my guard up. I knew that that (adultery) was a career killer, at least in my experience with pastors and church leaders," he said.
While the affair was brief, Tchividjian said the long-term effects were beyond devastating to him and his family.
"It was a short lived thing. It wasn't a long thing, but it was the worst external decision I have ever made in my life up to this point and I'm wrestling with the aftermath of that. I'm trying to figure out what does life look like from this point forward. I'm trying to evaluate ..." he said.
"I've struggled with anger, with frustration, anger with God, anger with my wife, anger with the church, trying in some way shape or form to allocate blame for my bad decision on something or someone outside of me. And one of the things God is forcing me to face, I knew I was bad [but] I didn't know I was this bad," the Jesus + Nothing = Everything author said.
The pastor explained that he believes his marriage first began crumbling after he became popular for preaching a message of grace and began believing his "own press."
"I think when I went through the transition at Coral Ridge, it was obviously rough but we rebounded from that. God opened up a lot of doors, gave me a significant platform, writing books, television stuff, traveling, conferences, I became a different person. Not consciously. I don't think anyone who knew me well, would have thought .... but very, very subtle and tempting to believe your own press," he said.
"To believe that you are more important than you think you are and that this whole thing is riding on you. And for me, this is an embarrassing admission as I'm reflecting right now. For me, after the transition at Coral Ridge, the message became the most important thing for me because it was the message that was saving me every single day," he explained.
Tchividjian revealed that his arrogance grew along with his popularity, making it all the more devastating when he discovered his wife was being unfaithful.
"When I came home and discovered what my wife had been doing [I] was blown away, shocked, I go 'what kind of a person have I become?'" he said. "I'm not blaming me necessarily, we are all responsible for the decisions we make," he contended.
Because of his difficult experience, the Surprised by Grace author said he now can empathize with those who commit suicide.
"I experienced dark nights of the soul that I have never experienced before - despair, wondering if there is a future. I never could fully understand why people could take their own life. And while I have not been - thankfully, by God's grace - tempted to do so, I for the first time understand why. I get the desperation, in a way that I never have," he said.
As previously reported by the Gospel Herald, Tchividjian's former church announced in June that in light of the scandal, the annual LIBERATE conference which he normally led would be canceled and those who had signed up for it already would be refunded registration fees. The LIBERATE website is also closed temporarily.
Earlier this week, the pastor took to Facebook to explain that he decided to allow the public to watch him in his "broken and weakened condition" so that they can better understand that Christianity is "good news for bad people coping with their failure to be good."
"The message of the Christian faith is that because Jesus was strong for us we are free to be weak," he explains. "The gospel of grace, in other words, frees us to let people see us at our worst so that they can see God at his most gracious best. After all, this whole thing is not about us and our reputation and status and strength and competence. It's about Jesus, what he's done, and who he continues to be for broken down ragamuffins like me."