An interview with Clay & Renee Crosse, co-authors of I Surrender All, Rebuilding a Marriage Broken by Pornography…

For Clay and Renee:

Why did you decide to share this very personal and brave story? 

We have come to realize that many, many homes are going through the very same problems that we were.  It’s an epidemic and God is calling us to speak out.   It’s simply too big a problem for the church, us, to remain silent.  We love our brothers and sisters too much to not say anything.

What has been the reaction from friends and family?

We have gotten full support from our loved ones.  They know that God is doing a big thing in our life and in this ministry.  We are blessed to have solid people praying for and supporting us.

Were there warning signs that you ignored that revealed you were wandering in your commitment to each other and to God?

Oh sure.  These thing were not subtle, but we were calloused and didn’t always see them.   We are confident that God was knocking and knocking but we had our selfish hands over our ears.  Finally, through my singing struggles, God was calling me back to Him in a way that I just couldn’t ignore.   I’m thankful that He loved me that much to draw me back to Himself in that way.

You were both virgins when you married each other – what were some areas that you struggled with while you were abstinent? 

Basically, we were leading a very casual Christian life.  Just having fun and keeping it light.  Never pursuing that deeper walk that we all should be seeking.  I suppose we were “good kids” but I look back and fail to see a real and serious passion for Christ.   We knew the truth,  we had been taught the truth and we were Christians.   The problem was that we were still babies and having a hard time letting go of that “me first” mentality.

Was it difficult to take your story on the speaking circuit?   The first few times, it felt uncomfortable sharing our story with people.  Quickly though, God blessed us with a peace and comfort level that allowed us to speak boldly about His grace and our need for His grace in our life.    Now, we feel His hand on us each and every time we have the opportunity to share about this.  It’s awesome to have that kind of strength provided from Him!

For Clay:

Your struggle did not lead to an extra-marital affair, strip clubs or regular viewing of pornography so when did you realize you had a problem? 

It became apparent to me that there was a problem when I started to desire those things that I had not yet done.    The things I was entertaining in my mind crossed every line imaginable and God showed me that I was headed towards destruction.

What were some hesitations you had when you decided to reveal your struggle with your wife? 

I thought, “Is this really worth it?  Why can’t I just clean up my life and never say anything about it.”  I realized that it would hurt Renee.  I knew that it might hurt my public image if and when word got out.       In the end honesty won out.   Truthfully, Renee and I are just too close.  She knew I was struggling with something, it was just a matter of me telling her what that was.

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What is your advice to men who are struggling with pornography? What are some first steps to getting help? 

Well…like any addiction or stronghold, they must first admit that there is a problem.  The thing is,  so many men are into porn and fail to see the problem that it is.  Eventually though, every man with this problem wishes they had never seen porn.  It gets them in it’s clutches.  It’s empty.  It stops satisfying like it once did.  It’s a lie. Once they realize this, they must turn from this habit.  They must seek help.  They must confess, to someone, that they need to change.   This other person should be able to serve as an accountability partner for them.

You practically became an overnight success – what were some lessons you learned along the way about the music business, your own values and standing strong on morals? 

It took me longer than I’d like to admit to learn some important things.    For a few years I was just caught up in becoming a star and really didn’t think about much else.    Over time, that pursuit dulled a bit.  I began to ask God deeper questions like, “Why do You have me on this stage tonight?  Why are my songs on the radio?  Why do people seem to care about my music and what I have to say?”  He lovingly began to show me that He had me in the public eye for one reason, so shine the glory on Him.  Pretty simple huh?   It should be a “no brainer” for any Christian but it took me a few years to finally get that.

Any advice for young people pursuing a music career?

I would start be encouraging them to be very thankful for the talents that God has given them.  I would tell them to not look at their skill as anything that they themselves had produced, but that it is straight from God’s hand.  Basically, I would be trying to move them from a place of arrogance.  It’s so anti-Christ to be into yourself like that, but it’s a battle every human struggles with, ( being self-centered).

I might inform them of the sheer odds of “making it” in music.   It’s astronomical.   Still, I would encourage them to seek every open door that might come there way to serve.  Oh no!  I said the word “serve.”

It’s funny.  This term can be a new idea for some seeking fame in Christian music, but it’s exactly how God wants us to operate.  As servants.    Too many times, young people hoping to make it get too caught up in performance and what might be in it for them instead of asking, “How can I serve here?”

How has your music changed since sharing your story? 

It all comes back to honesty.  I’ve got to “keep it real” bro!  With God’s grace that will be my standard M.O.

Tell us about your new CD?  “Eternity With You” is a live worship CD and DVD. 

As worship pastor at TLC Church here in Memphis I have grown to love and appreciate worship through music.    This new project captures what I hope to see take place in a worship service.    The songs are some of my very favorite worship songs.  I’m so thankful for this project and I pray that it is a blessing to those who experience it.

For Renee:

Were there any warning signs that your husband struggled with sexual temptation?

Looking back, I could say yes. At the time though I just thought that is the way men were made…I wrongly lived by the saying “you can look all you want, just don’t touch”.

You and Clay began dating at a young age, what were some relationships challenges you have faced through the years?

The classic insecurities, jealousy and maturity issues. We both lived pretty self-serving lives which led to “me” focused existances.

Share the story of when Clay confessed his struggle to you? Were all your troubles behind you after that?

He told me that morning at church that “we need to talk”. I knew that wasn’t a good thing so I braced for the worse case scenario. I was amazed when he began to share what had been going on in his life. He took me back to the first time he saw porn in the 4th grade. He was so broken. He was crying and confessing and asking God to forgive him and asking me to forgive him. He said he wanted to be the spiritual leader of our home. I was of course hurt by his confession but I also felt hope. I wanted to run to Jesus and fall in his lap. I just couldn’t believe how far away from Him I felt.  I wanted Clay to be the spiritual leader of our home and I wanted to get things right with God. As for the troubles being behind us…I knew we had a huge issue to deal with. Unlike other addictions like alcohol and drugs where you have to go and make a purchase to indulge, lust is an eye battle far more difficult to control. I was commited to helping Clay any way I could.

As a woman, what did you deal with after he shared his struggle with you?

I dealt with the emotional baggage of thinking I failed Clay as a wife and lover if he had to look at porn. I also questioned my body and my appearance. I wanted to know was he thinking of someone else when he was with me. Satan had a field day with planting mistrust and lies into my mind.

Has this strengthened your trust in each other and your faith?

Without a doubt this has strengthened our trust in each other and our faith. The level of honesty and openness that Clay and I have is amazing. We began to pray together and ask God for wisdom and strength in our marriage. We asked, He gave. The level of intimacy that this has created is from God above.

How did you overcome your apprehension on sharing your story?

I knew God had a plan for this. While reading the Bible I came across a scripture that said “Those who look to the Lord are radiant, they are not covered in shame.”Psalm 34:5. I recognize that some of our subject matter may make some uncomfortable but we have come to realize that this is a huge problem affecting many men and women today, including pastors. I have said over and over it would be much more fun if we were the poster couple for “got milk” but we aren’t. God had something else in mind for us to stand up against.

You admit that you had wandered in your spiritual walk and not without fault in the situation – explain?

This is true and something I hear a lot. I grew up in the church and was taught the Bible from an early age. I had the head knowledge I just didn’t apply it to my life. I really believe my lazy approach to my own Christian life contributed to Clay’s problem. I was so relaxed in my beliefs and wanted to be a cool, open-minded Christian and I didn’t have many standards when it came to movies and t.v.shows that I watched.  As a Christian I am created to worship. If I am not worshipping God, what am I worshipping? During those early years of my walk prior to 1998 the answer to that question would have been — myself.

Any advice for other women struggling with their husband’s attraction to pornography?

Pray! All the nagging in the world won’t cause this problem to go away. God showed me during those days after, and for that matter to this day,  that I must lift my husband in prayer. I would read scripture over Clay while he slept that dealt with issues of lust and ask God to give him wisdom. Proverbs 22:3 “A prudent man forsees evil and hides himself, but the simple pass on and are punished.” I would ask God to make Clay prudent and wise. Everytime satan tempted me to doubt Clay I used that as an opportunity to pray and ask for God’s covering on our marriage.

Did this situation strengthen your parenting skills? Yes, it strengthened every aspect of our lives. We are very open with our children about what we speak and write about. We encourage them to live the faith that they profess. We are both active in their spiritual walks and growth. We pray often as a family and encourage each other. Our girls are great girls. They both have accepted Christ and we look forward to leading them and growing with them in the Lord. As in our testimony we believe that open and honest communication is key to strong relationships. God uses that openness and vulnerability.

Copyright © 2005 by Ben Laurro, used with permission.

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