For years I had lived my life for illicit sexual experiences. Sex had become a deeply rooted idol in my heart, a stronghold of the enemy. Although I was genuinely excited about Christianity, my newfound faith seemed to evaporate in the face of those temptations. They came with such force that my intentions to withstand them simply withered. This was so unexpected and happened so quickly that before I even knew it I was "being carried away" by my own lust. (James 1:14) I went down to the bookstore and gave over to sin.
After it was over, I left in total disgust, stunned by what I'd just done. It was unbelievable that I had walked right back into the old pigpen of perversion. "Lord, I never meant for this to happen," I wailed. I really wanted to live the Christian life. Because it had taken so much to even get me to the point of making that commitment, I had no intention of going back on it. So I couldn't understand how this had happened. I chalked up my failure to the fact that it came so unexpectedly and determined that it would never happen again. Yet, a few days later, the same scenario occurred. My complete inability to fight these urges left me terribly discouraged. Sexual sin became a looming mountain in my mind. I could not envision ever being able to scale that lofty peak but knew that going back was not an option either.
Fear of Kathy leaving me kept me from confessing my failures to her. Things were going well between us, but I knew her commitment to me was still fragile. Something like this could easily send her over the edge; so I dared not let her in on what was going on. This began a double life of secret sin and Christianity that would constitute my life for some time. I would white-knuckle it for a period and then fall flat on my face once again.
One day, a tall black inmate who had been working in our clean up crew told me the Lord had given him a "word" that he should share with me. "The Lord showed me that you will be quitting the Sheriff's Department and going into the ministry as a teacher," he said earnestly. I politely smiled but didn't take it seriously. I had "sweated blood" for that job and had no intention of leaving it. The whole conversation was forgotten within minutes.
The weeks evolved into months as I learned to adjust to being a Christian deputy. My relationship with some of my old friends became strained. They didn't care for the new Deputy Gallagher. They wanted me to be the aggressive officer they had come to admire. I began avoiding their company in favor of deputies who were more laid-back: men I had detested as wimps prior to my return to Christianity.
One evening, I tried sharing the Lord with the guy who had been my best friend. He became angry and told me to leave him alone. It really hurt me and I was upset all that evening. For the first time I entertained thoughts of leaving the department. The next day, I happened to listen to a Chuck Smith message on tape. The subject of his sermon was finding God's will. Since that was what I was contemplating, I became very attentive. During that talk he said, "If you feel God is telling you to do something, then do it and don't look back. Don't let others discourage you from obeying God's call."
Now God really had my attention. I spent the rest of that evening praying about it. That night, I came home and shared the whole story with Kathy. "Wow, that's exciting," she responded. We discussed it at length and decided that I should put in my two-week notice and we should plan to move back to Sacramento. My mom's Assembly of God church ran a Bible school I could attend.
I gave my two-week notice the next day. Word quickly got around that I was quitting and immediately several of my old friends confronted me.
"Gallagher, what's this we hear about you quitting?" one of them challenged.
"Yeah, it's true, I am," I responded.
"Because I feel the Lord is calling me into the ministry."
"Into the ministry!" They were laughing now. "How did He call you into the ministry?" they asked incredulously.
"I felt He was speaking to me," I responded lamely.
"Did you hear a voice from heaven or what?" they demanded.
"The Lord has different ways of showing His people what He wants them to do."
They were howling now. "Well, how did He show you?"
"Look, I can't explain it to you. Trust me, I'm doing what He wants."
It went on like this for some time. Finally I was able to break away from them. I went home that night feeling like a complete idiot. Kathy was sympathetic to what I had gone through. She tried to encourage me, "We both felt like God told us this is what we're supposed to do."
One of the things that really excited me about going to Bible school was the thought that I would overcome my sexual sin there. Unfortunately, this didn't prove to be the case. Less than a mile from the school were three adult bookstores I had frequented many times in the past. Before long, I began to visit the movie arcades there once again. So I brought this perverted mindset into class and often lusted over the female students.
It seemed that summer break couldn't arrive quickly enough. I was sick of the confines of Bible school. Kathy was having her own struggles as well. One night, she suggested we go to a bar. This was the beginnings of another horrible backslide for both of us.
Before long we bought another video recorder and a number of X-rated movies. It didn't take long for me to plumb the depths of sexual sin. Having walked away from my gracious Savior, nothing was now below my dignity. I picked up a swinger's newspaper at an adult bookstore and began scanning the ads about couples that were into swapping partners. I convinced Kathy to join me in the sordid world of swinging. As a result, she became addicted to methamphetamine in an attempt to escape the painful reality of what she was doing.
Victory was not going to be easily acquired for me, however. I had plunged far from God, and it would not be an easy return. When I backslid nine months earlier, I had made an enormously mistaken assumption. "It doesn't really matter what I do because one day I'll just repent and get right with God," I had thought to myself. But in reality every single act of sin had taken me further away from the Lord, and all of that ground would have to be reclaimed one painful step after another.
It truly was a long and arduous journey back to where I could sense God's presence in my life again. I knew when I repented of my despicable actions that the Lord had graciously extended His forgiveness. However, the consequences of having spent nine months in the grossest kind of sin were very extensive. Because of my wicked choices, I had been given over to "degrading passions" and "a depraved mind." (Romans 1:26, 28) I had entered a level of darkness that few come out of. Just because I made a new commitment to Christ did not nullify the powerful hold that the enemy had on my mind. My thinking had become extremely corrupted with a satanic perspective of sexuality and life. I had lived selfishly for so long that I had very little capacity to think about others, most notably Kathy. I was full of pride, exalting myself one moment and reacting defensively to others the next. My anger and frustration levels were higher than ever before. Words fail me to properly express the price that sin exacted on me and, in turn, on my wife.
Moving out to the country helped me to refocus my priorities. It also kept me further away from the areas of temptation. The Lord quietly helped me to see that I needed to institute certain disciplines into my life.
First of all, Kathy and I both began to spend time in prayer and Bible study every morning. This was very difficult at first, but I was becoming increasingly determined to get my life right with God. We would force ourselves to spend twenty minutes in prayer and a half an hour in Bible study. In addition to this, my outside sales position made it possible to listen to Christian radio for several hours every day.
Then one day in May of 1985, I was driving through town and got tempted to visit an adult bookstore. I foolishly gave in to the urge and viewed some movies. This sent me into another spiritual tailspin. I binged on sex for the next two weeks, culminating in a visit to a massage parlor. It was a very unsatisfying encounter, and I left the place absolutely disgusted with myself and fed up with paying the penalty for empty, unfulfilling experiences. "Sex with my wife is better than this!" I told myself. That was the last time I was ever unfaithful to my wife. Sexual sin had finally lost its grip on my life!