As a young preacher, pastoring a growing local church, 2014 could have not started better. I had multiple invitations to preach in different nations, and in my line of work, that’s feasting at the top of the food chain.
In January, my wife and I were on stage on the first day of a superb conference in Toronto. We were leading the meeting, looking picture-perfect and getting more and more recognition in our Charismatic-Christian world.
By April, I was releasing my first book, Designed for Inheritance and traveling back to Canada to be the keynote speaker at a major Youth Conference. Then it was off to Romania, England, Peru and Colombia with other smaller trips and invitations around the USA. I was preaching mostly to big crowds, selling tons of books and getting healthy offerings.
So yeah, I was killing it.
But the more I became an expert at God, the less I knew Him. Somehow, I stopped doing basic Christianity: talking to Jesus, loving others and dying to ambition.
Worst of all, I became violent at home. Punching holes through the wall, cursing at my wife, being a jerk to her in front of the kids.
The bigger my platform was, the bigger the blind spot. So I didn’t notice that my wife was super unhappy. That my heart was so tired. That my kids were desperate for my attention. That my friends were more distant than ever.
I was so blinded by my ego that I became angrier and more depressed.
And of course… everyone else was to blame!
“The devil is attacking me!”
“My childhood was so difficult!”
“Church is too demanding!”
“Catherine is so selfish!”
And on and on and on I believed, and sinned.
But when we are struggling with an ugly behavior, the only way forward is to take responsibility for our part and let God be responsible for everyone else.
And discovering the painful truth that,
“Who you are when no one is looking, is who you really are.”
So after a stagnant time of not seeing progress, my courageous wife spoke up. She asked for help. She demanded I made changes.
It took me months to realise there was a problem. And after years of teaching about God’s incredible identity and sonship over us, I would never imagine that the most liberating thing He would ever say to me was: “Carlos, you’re the problem.”
My leaders said the same.
As did the counsellor.
And my friends.
So yeah, I was the problem.
And so the process began. Marriage counselling, a break from preaching and pastoring, personal ministry, two retreats in the mountains (for more ministry and counselling) and a couple of months of feeling like the scum of the earth.
I was convinced that everyone was out to get me. I looked at my behaviour and thought that everyone was overreacting. “I’ve been so good”, “A lot of people struggle with anger”, “Compared to other husbands, I’m a saint!” and on and on I drowned in my excuses.
I told everyone “family is my priority” but I lived like full-time ministry was. I would feel so proud about the fact that I had never been unfaithful to my wife with another woman while completely missing the fact that I was being unfaithful to her with the church.
But the church is the bride of Christ.
And while Jesus takes care of his bride, I can take care of mine.
When I realized that Catherine was my ultimate calling, things truly began to change. Then, I began to understand that my boys are my main disciples and that my family is the most important congregation.
So through the fall (pun-intended) (autumn of 2014) I mostly stayed home. Quiet, bitter and thoughtful. Watching Breaking Bad, while “breaking bad” myself. The “expert in God” becoming an expert in pain; and immersed in that pain… I re-encountered the God I’ve been teaching the world about.
One evening I was crying hard. Repenting to my wife. Asking her to forgive my outbursts and my dishonor.
And there I had the strangest / strongest sense of Jesus saying to me, “I’m proud of you.”
That was the perfect moment for God to correct me, challenge me or speak more discipline (he has done all three in the past and as a father myself I understand how they are necessary). But in the lowest point of life, God reminded me about the height of His love.
His kindness led me to repentance. You know, the kind of repentance where you actually change your direction, you stop blaming others and you begin to properly heal.
Yeah, that (beautiful) kind.
Now the plan is to continue the transformation. To keep growing in the midst of change. To allow God to father me into everything He has for me. And even though my titles have changed, the opportunities have changed, and my priorities have changed, God’s love will always be the same.
For all of us.
“You can draw strength from the past and encouragement from the future but the only moment you can change is now.”
– Paul Manwaring in Kisses From a Good God.
I’m loving my family more and more. And Catherine and I are connecting like never before. We went from talking divorce to finishing our adoption. We have rekindled not just our love but our friendship, and I am so grateful for her courage, her kindness and her company.
My two gorgeous boys are getting more hilarious and more delicious every day. I get to really focus on being their dad and there is no greater joy than to pastor them and play with them.
I’m preaching again. Walking with a limp. And staying close to the one who’s always been faithful to me.
Two years ago I hit rock bottom.
I went from full-time ministry to full-time misery.
But my family (both in England and Puerto Rico) loved me through it. My leaders were patient during the restoration. And God was constant even when I wasn’t.
Can I encourage you to radically accept whatever you’re struggling with? You don’t have to embrace it as part of your identity, but the more you humble yourself and recognize your need for help, the closer you will be to your breakthrough.
A lot of us need saving from ourselves. Our patterns of sin and addiction have controlled our private lives. Our desire to be loved by others has made us unlovely to the ones who matter most. Our ambition for significance has blinded us from what is actually significant. And sometimes, the price of restoration and reconciliation is called “Swallowing your pride” and “Admitting you are wrong.”
This was true for me.
Maybe it’s true for you.
So it might be time to radically accept your weakness so you can radically embrace the grace of God. He love you as you are… but He loves you too much to leave you as you are.
The truth is that Jesus cares more about our hearts than our ministries. Our character matters more than our anointing. And if we are willing to face our worst, in the light of His best, the Savior is ready to do more saving.
+ Enjoy the Song that kept me going through it all. My Hope’s Anthem:
+ Read More of My Journey: