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Christian Living

Family

Pastor’s Emotional Conversations Led to Three Year Affair

Shannon Woodland - 700 Club Producer
Danielle Thompson - 700 Club Producer

Washington, NC

“Clearly, I was receiving from her that which I felt needful of, whether that’s legitimate or not,” says Jay.

It started innocently enough...Jay Martin, a pastor, consoling a woman unhappy in her marriage.

“Then I wake up one morning, and she’s my first waking thought,” continues Jay.

The problem was...Jay was a married man.

It had been 18 years since Jay married Jeanne, the love of his life. In a story too often told, the busyness of life – his work as a pastor and in missions, her job as a nurse, and raising four boys – left little room for themselves.

“You had two working parents, you had four kids all involved in different activities,” says Jeanne. “Over the course of time that can just create a sense of disconnect.”

As for Jay...

“I was living in this puffed-up world of ‘Hey, I feel like I deserve more affection than I’m getting,’” says Jay.

Jay would find that on a missions trip. He and a woman he’d just met were co-leaders of a group of kids. She needed counsel, someone to talk to about problems in her marriage. Jay was more than willing to listen.

“Ego being fed, narcissism being fed, manhood being fed, intellect being fed, talking about spiritual things which allows one to feel justified,” says Jay.

While nothing happened physically, the attraction was mutual...and strong. Jeanne says she noticed something had changed during Jay’s first sermon after he came home.

“He was cotton mouthed, something was wrong,” says Jeanne. "And I-I kinda said something, ‘You seemed uncomfortable.’”

Jay just brushed it off. However, Jeanne’s instincts had been right. By now, Jay and the other woman – who lived hundreds of miles away – had started talking frequently on the phone.

After nearly two months of phone calls, Jay bought the first of many plane tickets to see her – telling Jeanne they were for work.

“I get weekends away without any of the distractions, attachments, or responsibilities of real life, to just live in this little, you know, fantasy island of reality,” says Jay. “And I was feeling stuff, I was feeling a rush. I was feeling romance.”

Jay would have dozens of rendezvous with her over the next two years. He never intended on leaving Jeanne or his family. But his mistress started pressuring him to leave. Afraid she might expose the affair if he didn’t, he made empty promises, becoming trapped in a circle of lies.

“I’m too big a coward to-to bring it out in the open,” says Jay. “Every time—every time I look in the mirror, ‘Who is this?’ I’m riddled with barnacles and-and guilt, but not guilt to the point of confession.”

Then, three years into the affair, someone brought up suspicions about Jay’s personal life to church leadership. They confronted Jay, and he confessed.

“There was a relief that this had come to light,” says Jay. "There’s clearly an end. I don’t know how it’s going to play out.”

Later that day, he told Jeanne. She was stunned.

“I always know what to do,” laughs Jeanne. “I’m very much ‘I know what to do’ kind of person. I didn’t know what to do.”

“And she had been faithful,” says Jay. “And to look her in the eye and, you know, to-to-to see her shattered in that moment.”

Within the hour, they were on the phone with a pastor, a mentor, for advice and counsel. It was then Jeanne brought up the possibility of divorce.

“And we cried and he said something along the lines of, ‘You know, Jeanne, God did not reject Israel when she was unfaithful,’" says Jeanne. “Don’t hold me there. I am not God! I’m just devastated.”

Jeanne agreed to try to work it out. Jay repented and severed ties with the woman and the couple started counseling. For the next three months, Jay slept on an air mattress in the den, listening every night as Jeanne went to bed crying.

“When I say my world collapsed beneath my feet, I mean it was a long time before I had any idea that our marriage was going to survive,” says Jeanne.

Through months of counseling, reading Scripture, and praying, Jeanne found the grace to forgive her husband.

“I’ve learned there is only one Person meant to carry the sin of somebody else, and I, because I had not forgiven, unwittingly was carrying Jay’s sin on me,” says Jeanne. "I gave it to Jesus. Forgiveness had a lot more to do with my relationship with Jesus than my relationship with Jay, and it was the most freeing and liberating thing,” says Jeanne.

She told Jay in a letter...

“There are many times I want my trust to catch up with my heart and my desires, but it is a stubbornly slow and methodical regrowth. I guess beauty from ashes does not happen overnight,” says Jeanne. “Jay Martin, the absolute love of my life. Wow, that’s amazing for me to say. It is in that heart of gratitude that I take this step of faith, [signed] Jeanne.”

That put the Martins on a journey to complete healing. In 2009, after three years away from the pulpit, Jay was reinstated as a pastor. The couple say it was God’s grace and mercy that brought them out of brokenness, to a place even better than before.

“And I am living with more joy, more freedom,” says Jay. There’s not a night that passes where Jeanne and I don’t say, ‘We love—we love our life.’”

“It was the power of the Lord to restore us, pure and simple,” says Jeanne. “And He’s given us everything we need for life and godliness by His divine power.” 

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