Two years after he lost his church and wife to an adultery scandal, Tullian Tchividjian, the grandson of well-renown evangelist Billy Graham, admitted he's still "haunted" by the fact that he deeply hurt his children with his past transgressions -- even though they have forgiven him.
"I will never forget every detail of when I had to sit down two and half years ago to tell my three children that I had been unfaithful to their mother," Tchividjian wrote in a recent blog post. "Those details are deeply etched in my memory as if it happened twenty minutes ago. The looks on their faces, their words, their tears. To this day, every particular of that Friday afternoon haunts me."
The former pastor said his daughter, Gemma, responded to him with a look of utter sadness, shock, and disappointment.
"She said, 'Dad, why? Why? Why did you do this? I trusted you. You're my dad. We are supposed to be best friends.'"
His son, Nate didn't say a word: "He looked down with his lip quivering, and then got up and walked out the front door," the Jesus + Nothing = Everything author said.
"Then Gabe, my oldest, spoke," Tchividjian said. "He gazed at me with a look of anger and deep sadness and said, 'I've always looked up to you. You are my dad. You are my mentor. I tell everybody that you are my mentor. Dad, I can't believe you did this. Dad.'"
Tchividjian said his children had "grown up in a tight-knit, fun-loving home," and he and his former wife, Kim, had "loved them as best as we could" and "persistently pointed them to Jesus."
"The fact that I had now failed them, crushed them, and forever altered their lives is a guilt-ridden ache I will never outlive," he said. "Since then, we've had a lot to work through-we've had the hard conversations and cried the hard tears. Thankfully, through it all, we have remained close and deeply connected. I deserved to lose the love and affection of my kids forever, but their love for me has never blinked. I have begged for their forgiveness a hundred times, and they have tenderly reminded me over and over and over again that they forgive me."
Tchividjian stepped down in June of 2015 from his position as pastor at Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, after admitting to an extramarital affair. He and his wife later divorced. The South Florida Presbytery subsequently stripped him of his pastoral credentials, and Tchividjian remarried his wife Stacie last year.
The One Way Love author said that while he delivered pain into the lives of his children, they delivered pardon into his.
"They all know how much I love them," he said. "And I know how much they love me. And yet, despite how many times they remind me that they love me and forgive me, I will struggle with guilt and shame and regret for the rest of my life for how I hurt them."
He added that regardless of how many "happy days" he will have with his children, "THAT day" will always haunt him.
"It will always be a thorn in my side reminding me of the pain I caused three precious lives that were entrusted into my care. I've accepted that. It's not going away."
While he knows that both God and his children have forgiven him for his mistakes, Tchividjian said he "can't shake my insufferable sense of blameworthiness."
"Maybe you can relate," he said. "Perhaps you too have failed miserably, and people that you dearly love have been deeply damaged. Maybe you committed adultery, like me. Maybe you're an addict (alcohol, porn, drugs, shopping, food, etc). Maybe your kids have gone off the deep end, and you blame yourself for leaving their father years ago and breaking up your home."
Thankfully, Tchividjian emphasized, the "hope of the Christian faith is NOT that we will (in this life) get past our guilt, shame, and regret. Rather, it is that God promises to be with us when we struggle with our guilt, shame, and regret."
"So when you find yourself plagued and paralyzed by the pain you've caused, the gospel is there to remind you (seventy times seven) that there is a 'deeper magic' (C.S. Lewis) behind the curtain of your faults," he said. "Behind that accusing internal voice that whispers, "Look at what you have done!" is the absolving external voice that shouts, 'Look at what-I-have done!'
"The cross of Jesus is always and forever there to repeat over and over to our forgetful and unbelieving hearts that God meets our guilt with his grace, our shame with his salvation, and our regret with his redemption," he said.
Jesus is the "friend of sinners, the Savior of those in need of one," which is all of us, all of the time, Tchividjian said.
"And while he may not deliver us from our struggle here and now, he'll walk with us through it. That is simply who he is."