Porn-torn home called to holiness
Rebecca Grace
AFA Journal staff writer

October 2006 – He saw them for the first time when he was in the fourth grade, and couldn’t believe his eyes. Years later, he saw them again, and by the time he was in high school, he had a few tucked away in his bedroom. 

“No one ever told me those images would burn themselves into my mind and come back to haunt me,” wrote Christian music artist Clay Crosse in I Surrender All: Rebuilding a Marriage Broken by Pornography. Clay co-authored the book with his wife Renee and author Mark Tabb. 

Little did he know that his boyhood fascination with pictures of naked women would resurface in his dating life and later in his marriage when he was at the pinnacle of his Christian music career. 

Sowing the sin
Clay and Renee began dating at a young age and knew early on that they were meant to be together. They both grew up in Christian homes and made public commitments to sexual purity, although Clay admits that Renee’s commitment was much stronger than his. Growing impatient, Clay began viewing pornography as a “safe” release for his lust.

“I always equated purity with not having sex, and since I’d not had sex, I thought I was doing okay,” Clay wrote. “I liked the feeling lust built up inside me, and I could get it quickly with porn. All the while I told myself, Well, at least Renee and I aren’t sleeping together.” 

Clay and Renee made it to their wedding day without having sex. Clay saw this day as a fresh start and assumed his struggle with lust and pornography was over since he no longer “needed” pornographic images for sexual release. 

“I threw out any traces of pornography and vowed to walk away from it, never to return,” Clay wrote. “But the damage of pornography doesn’t end when the video stops or the magazine is thrown away.”

The couple learned this the hard way.

Fanning the flame
During their early years of marriage, Clay’s music career started to soar. It took hard work, but in time his first CD became the contemporary Christian music top-selling debut album of 1994 and his song “I Surrender All” climbed the charts to number one. His dream was coming true, but money, fame, self-centeredness and pride claimed the Crosse household.

Clay got to a point where he was doing 150 to 200 concerts annually, so he looked forward to the downtime when he could relax in front of the TV. He and Renee spent their free time watching movies – sometimes eight in one weekend. They were oblivious to movie ratings and watched anything that amused them, including movies with sexually graphic content and nudity. These movies ignited the old feelings Clay experienced while viewing pornography before marriage. He liked what he felt and craved more of it.

“Pornography fed this hunger, and I knew where I could find it,” Clay wrote. 

And so began a downward spiral that started with crude jokes among friends and led to watching pornographic videos – again. He kept a few tapes hidden in his closet. Renee never knew until one day when Clay’s world crumbled as God chose to get his attention in a mighty way. 

Confessing the crime
It came at the time when Clay Crosse was a star – an icon in the Christian music world. But his stellar performances came to a screeching halt when he lost his voice. There was no physical or medical reason to explain his loss, and his career and family were at stake.

The Lord used a renowned vocal coach to open Clay’s eyes to the lie he was living and to a life infected with sexual sin. It was clear that the Lord took Clay’s voice from him, and now Clay, in a state of brokenness, pled for forgiveness for the grief he caused God by viewing pornography. 

“[H]ad it not been my voice, had it been through something else, He would have drawn me to Himself because that’s just how He operates,” Clay told AFA Journal

The Lord changed Clay that day in 1998 when he repented and recommitted his life to Christ, but Clay still faced a major hurdle in his life. He had to confess his sexual sin to his wife. 

It is an understatement to say Renee was crushed by Clay’s confession. She felt used and betrayed as well as hurt, angry, inadequate and guilty. She wrestled with her self-esteem and her body image, but she knew she had a choice to make. She could stay angry with Clay and end their relationship, or she could remain committed to him and allow God to work in and through her. She chose the latter. 

“That confession sparked a rededication in both of our lives,” Renee told AFA Journal. “A lot of times people say, ‘That wasn’t your problem. Why did you rededicate your life?’

“But in that time of really seeking God harder than I had ever sought in my whole life, I realized that I wasn’t where I needed to be with God either,” she admitted. “He had given me an amazing gift and responsibility as a mother and a wife, and I was neglecting that. … [I]’m talking about a spiritual neglect that was going on in our home.”

Messing with media
While Renee was not to blame for the pornography in Clay’s life, she realized how she had inadvertently fed his lustful cravings. By not setting and upholding any kind of media standard in their home, Renee, just like Clay, was accepting and affirming the way of the world as it invaded their lives.

“There is worldliness in terms of what so many Christian homes are applauding and letting in via the television and through movie choices and through Internet choices, through the magazines that we’re reading – all these things are very telling as to what we enjoy and what we will allow into our homes,” Clay explained. 

“What I’m describing here is what Renee and I were for a long time until our rededication to Christ in 1998, …” he added. 

“I want to encourage moms and wives out there not to buy into the lie that the enemy is wanting us to believe that this is all just entertainment and no one gets hurt by this,” Renee said. It is so important to set a media standard in the home.

“Christ is the standard, so you have to … get very comfortable with Him sitting next to you as you’re watching TV, as you’re going to buy a movie ticket,” Clay explained. “So we’re still in this world, … but … God is calling us to something special and something set apart.”

Continuing the call
It took God’s forgiveness and Clay’s confession for the couple to realize this, and their quest to be in the world and not of the world is a continual journey in the process of sanctification.

Clay admits in his book that even now he is not immune to the temptation of the world. Therefore, Renee encourages wives to prayer for their husbands, particularly in regards to sexual sin, because the battle is raging for their hearts, minds and eyes. 

One particular Scripture she prayed over Clay as he slept was Proverbs 22:3, “A prudent man foresees evil and hides himself, but the simple pass on and are punished.”

“I would say, ‘God, help Clay to be a prudent man and see the danger coming.’ … It’s been amazing to see just the impact of that prayer – what it’s done in my husband’s life,” she said. 

 “I can definitely look back since the year 1998 and see amazing construction that God has done [in my life], and I certainly realize He hasn’t brought me to a place of perfection,” Clay said. “We’re not in heaven yet. … [But] we’re getting closer every day. [And] I want every new season of my life on this earth to be growing in Him. …” 

Honoring holy homes
For Clay and Renee, this particular season of life involves Holy Homes, a ministry they began in 2002. Holy Homes is a discipleship ministry in which the couple travels around the country and speaks about the importance of having a Christ-centered home.

“It really started with our home and with our life being changed and us realizing that God wanted us to have a holy home and a home that’s special and different,” Clay explained. “And pretty soon I found myself sharing this on stages, and Renee was there with me.”

As parents of three daughters, Clay and Renee are very passionate about sharing their story because they realize that there are many Christian homes in the same mess their home was in several years ago. 

 “[T]here are a lot of people out there that they go to church, worship the Lord and hear a great message and then turn around and go home that night and turn on Desperate Housewives and just love it,” Clay said. 

Clay speaks from experience when he explains that these people are comfortable with Christ at a distance and only as a Sunday activity. 

 “To a lot of people, they look squeaky clean,” Clay explained. “They comb their children’s hair right, and they pay their taxes, but the Bible call us to something much higher than just looking the part.” 

It’s about a call to holiness. 

“We’re about being a reminder to families out there that … it all goes back to the word holy,” Clay said. “That’s what He wants us to be. … God restored our marriage, and not only that, He made it better … when we humbled ourselves and rededicated our lives to Him.”

In addition to restoring their marriage, God also gave Clay his voice back, which he now uses as part of the Holy Homes ministry. 

“Pretty much every event that we’re apart of, I’m singing in some way – either leading worship or doing a few solos,” he explained, or even a full concert.

But now God is the focus of his music, rather than the applause, status and fame. Plus, a passion for holiness is the pervading message of their lives and their home. 

“And just to think what the enemy wanted to destroy us with, …” Renee said, “God is restoring lives and marriages and homes to His glory.”  undefined

 

Clay’s “Life of Maintenance” plan for overcoming sexual sin
Know there is a worldly lure out there.
Take actions to be accountable.
Stay in God’s Word.
Lean hard on the Lord for daily strength.

Some signs of a porn addiction, according to Clay
Unhappiness
Depression
Frustration
Neglect