Welcome back to the Broken Crayons Still Color podcast! I’m your host, Shelley Hitz and today’s guest is Christy Neal.
When all was lost because of her own choices, when others looked down on her, Christy chose to look to God. Her story addresses the taboo topic of Christian women and adultery. Her journey to forgiveness of self and a new beginning transforms critical judgement into a compassionate connection. She will share her story on today’s podcast.
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SHELLEY. Welcome back to the Broken Crayons Still Color podcast. I’m Shelley Hitz, and today’s guest is Christy Neal. Welcome Christy!
CHRISTY. Thank you Shelley.
SHELLEY. I’m so glad that you are here today, and I’m just going to share a little bit about you before we dive into the interview.
SHELLEY. When all was lost, because of her own choices, and when others looked down on her, Christy chose to look to God. Her story addresses the taboo topic of Christian women and adultery, her journey to forgiveness of self, and a new beginning transformed critical judgment into compassionate connection. So she is going to share her story on today’s podcast. So, as we get started Christy, just share a little bit of what did the broken crayons in your life look like?
CHRISTY. I think that I was that typical Southern girl next door that tried to do everything just perfectly. So I did all the right things, all the time, and made sure not to do the wrong things. I was raised in the church. My parents were divorced, and so that was kind of my mission, to divorce proof my family. So, I feel like a lot of my broken crayons were people pleasing, codependency, and striving for perfection. Ultimately that created that perfect storm in my first marriage where I found myself in the very sin I swore I would not do, committing adultery.
SHELLEY. Wow. Now, I know a lot of people listening can relate, because some of those things that you mentioned, they’re not the big, big sins we think of, like, what you said, led you to adultery, but they can still really bring a lot of darkness into our hearts.
SHELLEY. What would you say was the lowest point in that part of your life?
CHRISTY. I would say that when I came out with my truth of being in an affair and living a double life, for a couple of years, I really felt that my church would provide help or support me and my family to try to heal the situation, and it just wasn’t that way. I think a lot of times, unfortunately, when the woman steps out in the marriage, especially in a church environment, the tools aren’t there to help the woman. So a lot of times there is a lot of silence, there is labeling, there is shunning, and sometimes the woman is even asked to leave the congregation. That was never spoken directly to us, but it was kind of a known fact that we weren’t welcome back.
So, amidst all of my already brokenness and the fact that my marriage had been suffering for a long time for this to even occur or be a temptation for me, was just the rude awakening that there is just no help. I am now tainted, I am labeled as home-wrecker, I lost not just my family, but my reputation, everything I had strived so hard to reach. I think, us women, we want so bad to be the perfect daughter, the perfect student, the perfect girlfriend, the perfect wife, and then when we miss those marks, whether it be small or large, we just continually beat ourselves up and carry that guilt and shame. So I already had all of that in me from just having the affair, and then the response just kind of drove me even deeper into that shame, that guilt, that darkness, to a point where I just felt worthless. When a sinner feels worthless they don’t feel worthy to work on whatever it is they need to work on. For me it was my marriage, I didn’t feel worthy of my husband and my marriage and my family anymore.
So then it becomes this down spiral into just despair, total despair. I ended up losing my family, lost my stay at home job, I couldn’t be a stay at home mom anymore, had to go back to work. So there were many, many things, unfortunately, that unfolded out of trying to be perfect my entire life.
SHELLEY. We live in a social media society where everything is like, “put your perfect foot forward,” your Pinterest, your Style Life, your Instagram photos. It’s like we have so much pressure to be perfect. So I know people are relating to this. And yet, my heart grieves when I hear your story because I had a friend tell me almost a similar story when she had an affair in the church. She had a similar experience, and my heart grieves because the church is meant to be a hospital to the hurting, we’re to come around each other, and sometimes I don’t think we know even how to respond.
CHRISTY. I agree.
SHELLEY. Thankfully our Father in heaven has, He has love, compassion, grace, and forgiveness for us. Sometimes people just don’t respond in the ways that we need.
CHRISTY. I really believe Shelley that that is part of my mission. God called me specifically to write my story, to write my book. He spoke to me, spoke to my in my spirit, and told me there were thousands upon thousands suffering. He’s like, “how can I forget about the thousands?” I agreed to step out, this isn’t a fun thing to talk about, I don’t enjoy talking about it, I regret those choices, this isn’t something I’m proud of. The main message is, we have got to do better, as Christian brothers and sisters, at loving our fellow Christians when they fail. Anyone in the world can love me when I’m perfect, anyone. I have good friends that do not believe in God that are great at loving me. But, how do you love me when I’m broken? So, unfortunately, what I realized was just about any bar in Nashville would have opened their arms to me.
CHRISTY. Would have said, “come on girl, we understand. Hey, get yourself a drink, we’ve all been there, life is tough.” Then I found that my own church didn’t have a place for me. So I had to struggle so hard to cling to my faith, to cling to my belief, because what happens in the spiritual warfare side, the devil was mocking me, he was mocking my faith, he was mocking my God, he was saying, “I told you so, these hypocrites, these Pharisees, they don’t care about you, they only care about you when you look a certain way.”
What the church body needs to understand is, this is a spiritual war on our families. I don’t care, Shelley, if it’s the man that steps out or if it’s the woman, it’s a hurting family, there are children involved. My daughter did not get to have siblings, my daughter had to share time between me and her father from age 5 on. Me and her father are still good friends, and we have had discussion around had there been tools, had our church responded differently, or even plugged us into another congregation that knew what to do with us, we could have saved our family. So we could have had more children, my daughter could have had siblings.
So this is something that is affecting families, generations, and our children, and we’ve got to have a plan, just like a 911 emergency call to a hospital. If there is a cardiac arrest patient that walks in, or calls 911, they have a team that they deploy for cardiac arrest. We must, as the spiritual hospitals, have a plan to deploy when adultery arises, and it does. The congregation I was at, I knew of four to five instances where adultery had arisen in the past history of that church. The same pattern of not knowing what to do occurred again and again. It’s like, when will we learn that we’ve got to start talking about this taboo topic, and we’ve got to deploy our spiritual 911 team?
SHELLEY. I want you to talk about that in just a minute, but for you personally, you’re in this really, really dark, dark place, what was the turning point for you personally?
CHRISTY. I would say there was an evening where I was on my knees in my daughter’s bedroom, kneeled beside her bed, crying out to the Lord, wailing truly, over what I had done, missing her just terribly, feeling about as low as I ever knew; I never even knew you could feel that low. I cried out to God for help, I wanted so desperately for a woman who had walked where I’d walked, been where I had been, and done what I had done—my affair was inside the church so it was extra ugly—and I wanted to sit across from her and have her tell me I was going to be OK. I just needed someone who understood my pain, my despair, my shame, and my guilt to tell me it was going to be OK. I remember God just whispering to me, “you are her.”
SHELLEY. Oh wow.
CHRISTY. I was so angry at that moment, because I was like, “no, no I’m not! I’m a hot mess, I’m the worst, I’m jacked up. I want a woman.” So at that point I believe something inside me turned and I knew, it’s almost like I became mission driven to heal. I could not continue to wallow in self pity, I could not continue to “why me” and over analyze every decision I made, and I could not continue to feel bad for myself that I was now working again, and all the things I was missing out on. I had to bounce back, I had to find my joy again, I had to become this bounce back ability testimony, because I believed that verse in Romans that talks about “all things work to the good for those that love God and are called according to His purpose.”
Romans 8:28 And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.
I knew one thing Shelley, I knew I loved the Lord, and I knew I loved my family. That’s what’s so funny, people are so quick to judge when it’s adultery, because it hits so close to home. I do understand that, but just because someone steps out please don’t believe the lies that that individual does not love their family, their children, their spouse with their whole heart. They had pain long before, probably from their family dynamics, their upbringing, that they don’t even understand yet, that they have carried into their marriage.
I don’t know why, but for some reason—I mentor women now—and time and time again something about your 30s hitting and you start trying to process all of this hurt from your family dynamics. Some people do well with that and know to go seek counseling or seek counsel from friends, church members, or family, but some of us, that are stubborn and independent, try to do it all ourselves, “well I can handle this,” and we make a complete mess of things. That doesn’t mean we don’t love our family with our whole heart. I just beg people, please have more compassion. Just because you don’t understand a sin doesn’t give you the right to judge someone’s heart.
SHELLEY. Right. Now, as far as going back to the plan of the 911, and those that are listening, most of them are probably in some sort of church body, congregation, may even be leaders, what kind of advice or encouragement do you have to give? I know you’ve written a book, so you can also share about your book, but what advice and encouragement would you give?
CHRISTY. I’m currently working on something that I’m going to call the 90 Day 911. So anyone, any church, any organization that’s listening to this and is interested in seeing what that’s going to look like, I’m hoping to finish that in end of summer. My belief is you have about 90 days from the point that someone confesses that they are struggling with adultery, this could also be any kind of addiction to be honest, or they are caught—you know, some people are caught. The church, or organization, has 90 days to love on this person. So the whole theory of the 90 Day 911 is separating the sin from the sinner. So you love the sinner, you love them and you bring them to a point of being worthy enough to want to work on their family, or to want to go to that rehab center, whatever the sin. You separate clearly that the sin does not define them and that you, as their church family, are not going to label them, and define them, as their sin. Because, just like Romans 3:23, “we all fall short.”
Romans 3:23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
We all have a sin or crutch of choice, some of us are forthright with that, and some of us keep that to ourselves. The idea is that you have 90 days. I break it into 30 day phases, and my belief is, depending on the sin, there should already be orchestrated certain 911 teams. So, in my instance of adultery, ideally when I came out with my truth I would have loved for my church to have had a 911 team to deploy for adultery. I would have loved to have seen a married couple who had survived it, they had walked through it maybe a decade or two ago and survived it, maybe a divorced individual who was in the church who had themselves stepped out, or their spouse had stepped out and they were now divorced, and then maybe a couple that had helped a friend or family member. So they would all have a connection and understand the weight of the sin, and they understand the full circle that it can be healed. So there is compassion and empathy around that sin, if that makes sense.
SHELLEY. Yeah, I’ve struggled with sexual sin and pornography addiction, which was more than a decade ago when I struggled. That was taboo at that moment, no women even talked about it, but now people still don’t talk about it. So I understand, and I have compassion for those that are struggling, probably in a different way than someone who has never been tempted or struggled in that area. Yet, God can give everyone of us the grace to minister love. Love is not, we don’t have to have a degree, that comes from God. I love what you’re doing, our family walked through a situation, not the same as what you’re talking about, but it was very similar. It’s very painful, and when it happens in the church there is a lot of pain and brokenness, even in the other people in the congregation in the church, because they’re friends and they’re connected to you. So, not only does that couple need ministered to, but the church itself.
SHELLEY. We walk through something like that and it’s just like someone in our family was just ripped apart. It hurts, it’s hard, it’s painful, and sometimes we just want to ignore it because we don’t know what to do with the pain, it hurts too deeply. So, I’ve walked through this, I know a little bit about it just with my own family situation, and I am so thankful that you’re doing this.
CHRISTY. Thank you so much. One thing that I did notice, and I’ve noticed in mentoring other women that have walked through this, is people take it personally. We have got to strive as the congregation, and as fellow brothers and sisters, that when one of us comes forth with a struggle that we don’t take it personally. When we take it personally we’re making it about us. When someone is hurting it’s now about them and they need your positive energy, love, your blessing, your prayers for healing, and they need you to believe that they can be healed, they need your faith. They don’t need your fear around how this is now affecting you. There needs to be that pivot of our thinking in our congregations.
SHELLEY. It takes really getting honest and real in everyone who’s involved, just saying, “this is my stuff, and I need to deal with this between God, this fear I’m feeling, this hurt, this betrayal, or whatever it is.” I think with other people it feels like they feel betrayed.
CHRISTY. Yes, I agree.
SHELLEY. So there’s emotions and feelings that I think everyone has to deal with between them and God, but I think as a church, having some sort of plan or 911 90 Day Plan to help everyone through the processes, because everyone is hurting; not everyone, but most people are dealing with something as you walk through that process.
CHRISTY. That’s true.
SHELLEY. Where can our listeners find you if they want to connect with you or learn more about what you’re offering, and the different resources you have?
CHRISTY. The book that I wrote is called Don’t Ever Tell, so you can get that at my website ChooseDifferent.org My ministry is Chose Different Ministries. You can also find me on Facebook at Choose Different Ministries, or you can look me up on my personal Facebook, Christy Pittman Neal. I do a Transparent Tuesday video every week, I felt called by God to just share my wisdom nuggets that he’s giving me, it’s definitely not my wisdom it’s the Lord’s wisdom and his messages through me. The book itself, the whole reason I titled it Don’t Ever Tell was because that was the advice that I was given by another woman.
SHELLEY. Oh really?
CHRISTY. Yes. She had committed adultery in a congregation over a decade ago.
SHELLEY. Oh my goodness.
CHRISTY. Her story just baffled me because she had her affair over a decade ago and God put it on her heart that she needed to confess that sin to her congregation, even though it was long past, long past and over, dealt with, and she was still with her husband. She decided to get up in front of the congregation and repent this sin of hers from over a decade ago. She was treated as if it had just happened. She told me, “don’t ever tell, it will ruin your life.” These are the words of another Christian woman, and that just struck me. I’m like, “this is how taboo this is.”
SHELLEY. In James it says, “confess your sins to one another so you may be healed.”
James 5:16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.
CHRISTY. Yes, and free.
SHELLEY. “So you may be healed”, and many times when we’re in bondage we don’t want to tell because we’re afraid of how everyone is going to respond. So, yes, that sounds like an amazing book. So definitely connect with Christy.
CHRISTY. My website is ChooseDifferent.org and you can email me directly at Christy@ChooseDifferent.org. I mentor women over the phone, doesn’t matter where you live, and I just try to be that voice that I so desperately needed myself over a decade ago. I tell people, “you’re going to be OK. You’re going to be better than OK., you’re going to be stronger.” Shelley, I’m a better mom, I’m a better friend, I’m a better wife—I’m remarried—I’m a better daughter. I have new eyes, and if I had never told my truth I would still be hiding, I would still be shameful, I would not be walking out my purpose. So I just challenge people, confess, whether that be to you and God, you know who you need to confess it to, so you can be free, so the healing can begin.
SHELLEY. This podcast is all about how God can turn our messes into masterpieces. You’re such a great example of that, how God is using your mess and all that you walked through now to just bring so much hope and healing, and freedom. I just pray that God multiplies your ministry and your influence, and that many people find that help that they need. So thank you so much for being here today Christy.
CHRISTY. I appreciate it, thank you so much for having me. Here is my final words of wisdom for everyone listening, God has a plan no matter where you land, it’s going to be OK.
SHELLEY. There you go, that’s a Tweetable.
CHRISTY. Yes, there you go.
SHELLEY. Thank you all for joining us today, for listening in. I pray that you were impacted and that God spoke to your heart in some way.
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