Sunday, October 21, 2007

Rescued!

I never thought anything like this could...or would...ever happen to me. I was at the top; everything had been going my way. I had the job I wanted. We had just passed our school levy, which in a way was the acceptance of my leadership by the community. Paula was falling back in love with me, and our life together seemed to be getting better...that we were going to make it over the steep mountain that I had created in our lives a few years before. It's not that I had really changed much...I had just gotten sneakier, and more deceitful. I was careful in ways that I hadn't been before. Surely, I would never get caught this time.

It was a date I will never forget. February 23, 2004. I had known from the Friday before that it might be coming. I prayed over that weekend like I hadn't prayed in years. But, it didn't seem like God was listening much, not that I would have blamed Him. When I returned from Rotary on that Friday afternoon, I had a message to call the high school principal. I got a hold of him and he said he just thought I should know that he had been contacted by the FBI and that they would be in the district on Monday. Apparently, they were investigating a report that someone in our district (probably one of his students, he guessed) had downloaded some child pornography on a school computer. My heart stopped. Fortunately, we were talking on the phone or he surely would have seen me blanch...to see all the color disappear from my face. I managed to tell him to keep me informed on Monday and to have a good weekend.

I spent the remainder of the afternoon trying to get rid of any evidence that I might have on my computer. I knew there was a chance that it was me they were after, but I hoped that it was some poor schmuck at the high school. Better him than me, I thought. I searched all over for my software that would cover over everything on my computer that I had put in the trash, but couldn't find it. I nearly tore my office apart, but to no avail. I had some images stored on CD and I broke them to pieces and threw them in the trash on my way home.

The weekend was spent looking over my shoulder whenever I was out driving. "Was the white Bronco the FBI?" "Was I being followed?" "What would I do on Monday if they really were after me?" Needless to say, it was not a comfortable weekend. But amazingly, Paula and I spent the entire two days together, enjoying each other in ways we hadn't in months. We attended church for the first time in our new community. I continued to pray that God would show me mercy. "Just let it be someone else, God", I prayed. I made deals with Him, promising never to go to one of those chat rooms ever again. I quit looking at any kind of pornography. After all, I'd broken those CD's with all the pictures, didn't I? Even as I went to work on Monday morning, I bypassed my usual check of my email accounts to see if any new pictures had come in. And, I didn't check any of my chat names to see if anyone had written me over the weekend. Boy, I was doing so good...certainly God would see how hard I was trying and save this time.

I was down at the elementary school when my cell phone went off. I knew even before I took it out of my pocket that it was going to be about the FBI. And it was. My secretary told me that the FBI and a deputy sheriff was in my office and would like to talk with me. For the briefest of moments, my brain asked if I should just run. But, I knew I could never do that. I drove back to my office and greeted the agent as I walked into my office. I explained that I knew they were in the district to investigate a child pornography report and asked if they had any luck at the high school. Instead of answering, the FBI agent started to ask me personal information about myself. My age. My social security number. How long I had worked in the office. I paused, knowing in my heart I was busted. I asked why the personal questions, and if I needed an attorney (not that I had one, or had the foggiest idea where to get one.) He said I could get one if I wanted to, but that he had some questions and he wasn't leaving my office without my computer.

In that one moment, my entire life changed. Not only mine, but so many other people as well. People that I loved and people who had trusted me. My life would never be the same. The agent pulled some pictures out of his folder and asked if I'd ever seen them before. I almost threw up on the spot. They were copies of some of the pornography pictures that I had in some of my files. I recognized every one of them. It was over. I admitted that I had seen them and that I had them in my computer. I asked him if I could make a phone call. It was the hardest call I would ever make in my life.

I went into the outer office and phoned the numbers I knew by heart. Paula picked up on the second or third ring. She knew immediately that something was wrong by the tone of my voice. She thought perhaps I'd been in a car accident or that I was hurt seriously in some way. It was so much worse. I told her that the FBI was in my office and that my past had caught up with me. She knew immediately what it was. Paula asked what she could do and I simply asked her to pray. She said she would and wanted my permission to call some friends who were in the ministry to pray as well. After saying yes, I told her that the FBI was going to want to talk with her as well, and that they would be out sometime that afternoon.

The rest of the day is a blur. The agent went to my computer and spent several hours going into many of me email accounts and downloading pictures that had been emailed to me. At one point, I asked to use the rest room and was given permission. I noticed that the deputy remained out in the hall way as I did my business. When I returned to my office, the FBI agent apologized, but told me it was for my own protection. He had been a part of a similar investigation the year before and the judge they were investigating asked to use the restroom and went into the bathroom and killed himself with a gun he had hidden in his coat. The agent didn't want me to make the same kind of decision.

Later that evening, I met with my board of directors and informed them what had happened. They shock and disappointment was written all over their faces. Their anger boiled just below the surface. I told them that I needed to resign my position and told them how sorry I was for my poor judgement. Words couldn't express my shame and guilt. But I will never forget an act of mercy and grace that one of the members showed me. He asked me to come into a separate office with me and told me the board accepted my resignation and would conduct the meeting without me. Then he asked if he could pray with me. There was no judgement. No anger. Just compassion and grace.

I drove the 20 miles back up to our condo, nestled in the mountains. The golf course blanketed in fresh, white snow. As I walked into the living room, Paula waited quietly on the couch. Asking how I was doing, she invited me to sit next to her. My body and mind were numb, still not fully grasping what had just happened. She drew me to her, pulling my head onto her lap, and slowly and gently rubbed my back and shoulders. She was quiet...there were no words. Her own mind must have been trying to understand...to fathom how I could have done this. How I could have lied to her again. How I could have continued to deceive her for two and half years. I think at that moment, she understood better than I did how much different life would be, for both of us.

As I look back on that day, at the time I was so disappointed that God hadn't saved me. Why hadn't He rescued me again? If not for, certainly He could have done it for Paula and our family. But in hindsight, that is exactly what He did do that day. In His wisdom, He knew (and knows) the weaknesses that I have. He knew I would never be able to keep my promises to Him. After all, I hadn't been faithful in my previous promises. Instead, in His love, He allowed me to reach the bottom. I found the bottom of the miry pit. I was in a place I would never be able to get out of without the help of One much greater and more powerful than I. God knew what I needed. At that moment, I could never have fathomed what that rescue would entail. But like all rescues, the one being rescued has to be willing to reach out his hand and receive it. I was soon to find out what that would mean in my own life.

2 comments:

Deb said...

What great testament to your faith and relationship to God that you could title this piece Rescued!

I could feel your fear and shame - the cold deadness and not knowing what will happen next. It's amazing to me how quickly God's mercy appeared for you - Paula's reaction, the board member wanting to pray with you.

I'm so proud of you, and hope that you'll find a way to share this story with others who need to know it's possible to be Rescued from the life of hell that you found yourself in

Keep going! I love you so much.

Jacob said...

thanks for sharing this with me. It must be hard to write this, but I am glad that you are able to explore your past. Better things are to come!