Freedom Testimonies

Mike Long’s Testimony

I am the youngest of six kids born into a Catholic family. From an early age I believed in God but did not have any concept of having a personal intimate relationship with Him.  We went to church almost every Sunday and said “grace” before almost every family meal.  We were always told we had to give something up for Lent but usually didn’t stick to it for more than a week.  We were Catholic by “religion” but not by faith.  The first time I remember crying out to God was when I was 11 years old and my nanny (who was like a grandmother to me) passed away.  I was raised to believe God existed but I did not feel his presence or his comfort when I needed him.

Having all six of us kids within 7.5 years caused our house to be pretty chaotic. I always had the attention of my siblings but remember yearning for the attention of my parents.  In my family system I learned how to get my needs met through manipulation and persistence.  I learned how to charm those around me to ultimately get what I wanted.  To feel loved by my parents I learned to perform.  I always got good grades and participated in extracurricular activities that made me stand out amongst my peers.  Although everything I did never seemed enough.  I remember many times my dad saying I see you got all A’s and one B.  Why did you get a B?  I’m sure if you worked harder you would have gotten straight A’s.  My dad’s approval was my number one priority, so that response was very hurtful.  So I learned to work hard and make things happen.

My teenage years were very difficult. Entering high school I was 5’3, I weighed 92 lbs., I had not hit puberty and I wet the bed almost every night.  These things caused deep insecurity in me.  I learned to mask these insecurities through charm and acting like nothing bothered me.  Although I was a part of the “popular” crowd, I was the often teased and bullied.  I also began to develop serious crushes on girls in my school.  I became infatuated with them and the idea of being their boyfriend.  I was looking for love anywhere I could find it.

Towards the end of high school I finally grew taller, hit puberty, and stopped wetting the bed. I had my first serious girlfriend and became sexually active.  I thought this was the love I was looking for.  But it didn’t take long for me to realize my life was still missing something.  While in college I worked a summer job selling educational books door to door.  Several times over the summer families I met talked to me about Jesus.  I had the opportunity to live with a Christian family for three weeks.  The father of the family woke up early every morning and had a devotional time, which really intrigued me.  They shared the Gospel with me and explained that God wanted to have a personal relationship with me through Jesus Christ.  When I returned home to college I told my girlfriend at the time I wanted to start going to church together.  Although the seed was planted, the soil of my lifestyle back at college was not conducive for it to grow.

From the end of high school through my first few years of college I had several girlfriends. I would meet a girl, lay on the nice guy charm, “fall in love” and begin a relationship.  I would pressure her to become sexually active, get bored with the relationship and find a reason to break up.  When I moved to graduate school I decided I didn’t want the complications of relationships, I just wanted sex so I began to pursue the life of a “player”.  Over a period of less than a year I found out very quickly this lifestyle was very wrong.  I felt ill inside after taking advantage of woman after woman.  Something needed to change.  I remember a very specific conversation with my sister where I shared that I was not going to have sex again until it was with the woman I was going to marry.  I also wanted to pursue this “relationship with Christ”.

Within a few weeks of that conversation I met my future wife, Liz. Ironically I was very drunk when I met her and I convinced her to come with us to a bar where I proceeded to spill my guts about my life over the past few years and that I wanted to have a personal relationship with Jesus.  Unbeknownst to me she was a Christian.  There was something very unique about her that I had never experienced meeting any other woman.  She was the first woman I had ever met who seemed to be secure in who she was and in this relationship she had with God.  I pursued her with great fervor.  Within a month of dating we went to a Christian retreat together.  While at the retreat she recognized it was unwise for her to date me because I was not a Christian.  I was crushed and my response was to pray to God that I wanted to have this personal relationship with him.  I convinced Liz I was now a Christian and now everything was okay.

In hind sight it is very easy to see that nothing in me changed. I did not recognize that I was a sinner that needed a Savior.  I was a young man that wanted really badly to be with a particular young woman and would go to any length to get her, even if I had to fake my own salvation.  My heart did not change one bit and the only thing that changed in my lifestyle was that I added going to church and bible study to my sin filled life.  It didn’t take long for me to pull Liz into this lifestyle.  All of my friends partied so our influence was very strong.  At the same time I learned how to act like a good Christian.  I stopped cussing, acted like I knew something about the bible, and went to church almost every Sunday.

Liz and I were married 16 months after we started dating. I remember thinking, “Now that we can have sex without it being a sin, I won’t really have to struggle with sinning anymore.”  Soon after the “honeymoon phase”, real life set in.  The first time Liz said no to my sexual advances I was devastated.  My expectations of married life burst and it brought all of my insecurities to the surface.  I took the rejection as Liz was not attracted to me or I was not a good lover.  I turned to pornography to satisfy my “needs” and justified it because my wife refused to “fulfill her duty”.  After several months I did not like the guilt I felt looking at pornography produced or having to sneak around.  I continued to pressure and manipulate Liz by saying things like “if you aren’t going to satisfy my needs maybe I will have to look elsewhere”.

We moved from California after I graduated from college to Washington where I started working in my family’s business. We searched for a new church in the area and eventually came to Covenant Celebrations Church (now Champions Centre).  I immediately connected with the “relevant teaching” from the pastor and this churches mission statement to “inspire and equip people to live a successful Christian life”.  This pastor was well spoken, polished, financially successful, and ran the church like a CEO of a large company.  I can look back now and see how there was never any truth taught at this church that would confront my sin or lack of authenticity.  It’s no wonder I fit in so well.  Liz did not really like this church, but like always I bullied my way, giving her no choice but to go along with what I wanted.

It didn’t take long for the leadership to identify me as one to groom towards the goal of making the church successful. Several times my ego was fed through special attention from the pastor- introducing me in large settings as a successful young chiropractor in the area.  I was taught a concept of “priests” and “kings” that stated some Christians were called to preach and evangelize, the “priests”, and others were called to finance their work in the ministry, the “kings”.  I was a king, a kingdom builder.  In fact, this church had an elite club, called “Kingdom Builders” for members of the church that gave significantly above and beyond their tithes that would be invited to special breakfasts and overnight stays in downtown Seattle or Bellevue, that were paid for by the church.  I was right at home in this setting.

Several times through the ten years we attended, Liz complained to me about this church. She would say things like, there is no meat in the preaching, the people that go there pretend they don’t have any issues, the pastors teach us to just put on a happy face and just “faith it ‘til we make it”.  I dismissed every concern Liz had.  Trying to convince her she was the one with the issues, not the church or the pastor.  She just had a bad attitude and refused to really get involved and get to know people.  In this church a “Good Christian” was defined as one who volunteered on several teams, participated in a small group, gave above and beyond their tithes and never questioned the leadership.  Liz was preventing us from being “Good Christians”.

As our lives went on our relationship continued to erode. We argued about everything, I constantly controlled Liz in everything she did from cleaning the house, taking care of our children, and especially how she spent “my” hard earned money.   Around six years into our marriage Liz and I met some new neighbors.  They seemed like couples that would bring excitement to our lives.  Of course we had every intention in bringing them to church and winning them for the Lord.  But instead, we started to hang out all the time and party.  I started to notice changes in Liz that I didn’t like.  Her new best friend started to point out my controlling and abusive behaviors, causing her to “rebel” against me.  Our partying with our new group of friends became more frequent and intense.  We were not only drinking on the weekends but began to hang out during the week and drink as well.  Within a year of living this lifestyle our marriage came to a head.  I discovered Liz had started having an affair.  Never in a million years did I think this could happen to me.

All of my insecurities were thrust to the surface. I was hurt, but I was more so embarrassed.  The image I had worked my entire life to portray was demolished and now Liz was going to have to make it up to me.  If I was controlling before, I don’t know what you would call the way I treated her during this time.  I made her meet with our pastor and his wife and tell them what she did.  This opened the door for Liz to be directly abused by our pastor who basically told her she was to serve my sexual needs anytime I wanted her to, because she had now destroyed my manhood.  He stated that in his entire marriage of over 20+ years, his wife had never denied his sexual advances and nor should Liz deny mine.  Then he told us how he had had high hopes for us when we started to go to his church and that we had let him down.  My response was to tell Liz we were going to become “good Christians” no matter what.  We immediately jumped both feet in by joining multiple teams at church where we would serve, we gave more beyond our tithes, and started hanging out with the “right people” in the church.  We even started attending Wisdom for Life School of Ministry (now Champions College).  This was going to be the answer to all of our problems.

A year later nothing in either of us or our relationship had changed. Liz had heard of this counselor, Jodey, she thought might be able to help.  I was skeptical because we had been to a counselor that never really helped us.  I was even more skeptical when I spoke with Jodey and she informed me she did not do conventional counseling.  She said she does transformational counseling that would require each of us to have weekly sessions for an indefinite amount of time.  Out of sheer desperation I agreed to go.  Within a few months I was diagnosed with narcissism and told I was a sex and love addict.  I thought she was a crazy feminist man hater and tried to convince Liz we needed to find someone else, but it was too late.  I would either go to Jodey or lose my marriage.

Based on Jodey’s care plan I started going to Prodicals, a recovery group for sex and love addicts. Although I fought it in the beginning, thinking I had no business being in those meetings, I came to realize I was addicted to sex and masturbation.  I used it as a drug to numb my feelings.  If I was feeling stressed, lonely, bored, or insecure I used masturbation or sex to feel okay.  I continuously pressured Liz to “meet my needs”.  I had no concept of intimacy in marriage and especially what it meant to make love to Liz.  As part of my recovery in Prodicals, I began what the program called “scorched earth”.  For a period of 90 days I would not view any television, go on the internet, and no sexual intimacy with Liz.  Sobriety in this program was defined as no sex outside of marriage, no masturbation, no inappropriate forms of intimacy, and a progressive victory over lust.  Becoming sober and not having sex with Liz caused me to go into withdrawal.  I did not realize I had this addiction and now without this drug I was forced to feel things that I was used to numbing out to.

During this time, Jodey helped me to see that God was not my god, Liz was my god. My entire emotional state was determined by my view of how Liz felt about me at any given time.  I was on a roller coaster, up when I perceived Liz was being nice to me and down when she was mad at me.  I was so desperate to feel loved.  At this same time Liz started to understand that I had sexually used and abused her.  She was no longer going to be the object of my addiction.  For me sex was my major source of love and now I felt I was no longer receiving love from Liz.  I did not know what love really was because I didn’t know God, who is the only true source of love.

In counseling I also started to learn about narcissism. Jodey told me that the psychiatric community looks at narcissism as an incurable condition such as schizophrenia.  She believed, however, that God had the power to heal me and that part of her calling was to help people like me.  One of the major issues with being a narcissist is admitting I am one and then being able to see my own narcissistic behavior.  Because it is rooted in deep seeded insecurity, every time narcissistic behavior was pointed out to me, it would tap into my insecurity and make me want to deny or defend.  It grated on me to constantly have my controlling and manipulative behaviors pointed out.   Initially, rather than allowing God to change my heart, I refined my narcissism by learning to have more acceptable behavior.  I could now speak in recovery terms- convincing people I was getting to the root of my issues and really working on my side of the street.

As Liz became healthier she began to see clearly the dysfunction and abuse in our church. It became clear that the pastor was a narcissist and his “relevant” messages were really a manipulation of God’s word to get people to align with his purpose and plan, not God’s.  He communicated in subtle ways to make us believe if he said or did things that didn’t line up with God’s word, we had issues. Besides, who were we to question the “pastor”?  He also made derogatory comments about people who left his church, which ingrained in us never to leave so we wouldn’t be thought of like those people.  The associate pastors and leadership of the church were spellbound by this man saying things like, “… I just want to serve the vision of the house.”  It all sounded so honorable and godly, and I bought it hook, line, and sinker.  I wanted to be a part of this vision and highly esteemed by this man.  Liz was not buying it anymore, one day telling me she was done with this church.  I was not seeing these things Liz was pointing out to me, I was convinced her friends and Jodey were brainwashing her.  Part of my identity was caught up in this church, all of my friends were there, how could we leave this church?  I immediately started to align with the pastor and other leaders to stop Liz from leaving.  The pastor told me the process Liz and I were going through was “not of God”.  In essence, Liz was a rebellious woman and I needed to get control of her.  I got what I wanted, he saw things the way I saw them.  But the way he talked about Liz did not sit well.  I didn’t really believe what he said was true and all of the sudden there was a crack in the pedestal.  It didn’t take long before I could see clearly what Liz had been trying to point out to me about this church.  I agreed to leave.

Around the time we left the church Liz had put some boundaries in place to protect herself from my controlling and manipulative behaviors. Rather than view them as boundaries, I believed Liz was trying to control me.  I continually broke her boundaries to the point that she asked me to move into a separate bedroom.  I felt like my life was spinning out of control, I was losing everything I knew.  The more out of control I felt the harder I tried to control the things I felt I had control of.  This was especially true for my children and my employees.  I took out my frustration on them.

My response to this new lifestyle was to escape. I started to live like I wasn’t married anymore; doing all of the things I wanted to do when I wanted to do them.  Even to the point where I went on a hunting trip on our 10 year wedding anniversary.  It was like I was treading water believing eventually Liz and I would gradually work through our issues until we were eventually happily married.  I had convinced myself that Jodey was just really focused on my issues at the time and Liz was going to eventually get her time in the lime light.

Continuing on this path for over a year, trying to do things my way, refusing to surrender to God, I was asked to leave my home. I had never felt such pain.  I was so desperate and had absolutely no idea what to do.  I realized looking back at my entire life I had never been alone.  I had always lived with my parents, roommates in college or Liz and I had never completely fended for myself.  God had gotten my undivided attention.  Within a few weeks of being out of the house I heard God speak to me for the very first time.  He said, “I’ve got you”.  I felt like a little boy that was barely hanging on to the monkey bars so afraid to fall and God came along and grabbed me and told me to let go and fall into his loving arms.  I shared with Jodey that I didn’t really know if I was truly saved.  I had never recognized that I was a sinner and asked for God’s forgiveness.  I had never truly accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior.  She walked me through the sinner’s prayer and things from that day on began to change.  I was still a narcissist, a sex and love addict, an abusive and manipulative husband and father, and many other things that God needed to overcome in me, but my sins past, present, and future had been forgiven.  I was covered by the blood of Christ and showered with his love and grace.  I was now in right standing with my heavenly Father and I could begin a journey towards an intimate relationship with Him.

As part of this healing processes God showed Jodey it was best for me to live in a period of solitude, where all communication with friends or family would cease indefinitely. The only exception was with my children and Liz.  This caused me to have to seek God only.  My friends and family thought I had fallen off the deep end.  They wanted to coddle me during this difficult time.  In God’s infinite wisdom he knew exactly what I needed which was not to be coddled.  I surrendered to this period of solitude.  God also made it clear I was to continue my period of no media and my down time would consist of reading my bible or a devotional book.  I saturated myself with His word getting to know Him.  I started to feel and believe that God loved me.  This void I was trying to fill with sex and love was slowly being filled by him.  I felt chosen and approved of by my Heavenly Father, even in my imperfection.  I could now feel the promptings of the Holy Spirit and hear God speak to me.  Yet, I continued to make mistakes and struggle with insecurities and resentments.  But as I walked on His path my heart slowly started to change.

After a year out of the house, my intimate relationship to the Father had started to really grow. I loved going for hikes in the woods, surrounded by Gods creation.  One day while hiking I was talking to God and he stopped me with a feeling I had never experienced.  I can hardly describe it but I felt warm deep inside my chest.  I was standing in the middle of the trail with my eyes closed and God spoke to me so clearly.  He said, “Michael I love you and I cherish you.”  Then he said, “Go forth and multiply My Kingdom.”  I wept.  I felt like I could truly surrender everything I cared about in this life and trust that God would take care of me no matter what.  I had finally let go.

Over the next several weeks as I prayed and read my bible I kept hearing the words “it’s time”. I was hoping God was saying, “it’s time to move home” or when it was time to move home he would say the words, “it’s time”.  For several weeks, I didn’t have the nerve to share this with Jodey because I was afraid she would say I must be jumping to conclusions or something.  Finally at the end of my session one day I told Jodey what I was hearing.  She didn’t say much about it but that she thought it was interesting.  The next day as I was leaving work Liz called me in tears.  She said while she was at her session with Jodey she told her that she kept hearing the words “it’s time”.  Liz asked me to come home.

Our relationship and our family was not restored, it was completely transformed. The way we interact as a couple today is completely different.  We don’t argue about things because if we disagree on an issue we immediately seek God for the answer rather than get into a power struggle.  As parents we honor and respect each other so our children know they cannot divide us.  Liz and I started to become best friends learning to have a level of non-physical intimacy with each other neither of us had ever known.  After so many years of abuse and manipulation Liz needed time to begin to trust me with her heart.

On our thirteenth wedding anniversary, just nine months after moving home, Liz and I renewed our vows. That day was also Yom Kippur- the day of atonement- where the Israelites were cleansed of their sins.  God has cleansed us of our sins, wiped our slate clean, and transformed us into the family he intended us to be.  We are living a miracle and give all the praise and glory to our God.

Mike Long

Liz Long’s Testimony

My first memories in life are of being abused.   I was molested by the son of the only “Christians” I knew.  I was raised in an agnostic home.  I do not ever remember going to church other than sometimes working in the nursery at my grandma’s church.  I do not think we had a bible.  God’s name was never mentioned in our home and Jesus Christ was used as an exclamatory.   Yet despite all of this I knew there was a God and I knew He was good.  I think that sometimes for those of us that look like we have no chance of knowing Him he gives us an extra helping of grace and mercy.  Despite God’s love my dysfunction was great and I headed down a path of more abuse.  I started drinking doing drugs and became promiscuous young.  I was looking for love in all the wrong places.  At 17 I was introduced to Jesus.  I loved him and wanted to live my life for him.  But, yet again I had very little direction and no real mature Christians to glean from so I floundered with no direction.  I thought the bible was boring and confusing.  I didn’t get it at all. I would read it because I thought it was what “good Christians” did but I had no clue how to make it practical.  I judged the Israelites and the others I read about and didn’t see the point.

Three years after my conversion I met the man I would marry. He appeared to be genuinely searching for Jesus himself so I thought that was a sign that God would want me to be a part of his life.  I tried to keep some distance but I found him enticing and persistent and could not separate from him which led to compromise in my relationship with God.  I soon was back to the behaviors that the Lord delivered me from such as drinking, drug use, smoking and promiscuity.

When my now husband asked me to marry him I said yes because of insecurity not because I believed this was the man God wanted me to marry. I remember well on my wedding day God trying to get my attention and warning me this was not His plan.  I ignored Him because I truly believed Mike was the best man I was ever going to get.  Because of the abuse and neglect I went through my self-esteem was low and I didn’t have faith that God had a better plan.  The man I married was abusive, hurtful, demanding, controlling and very manipulative.  Soon after we were married he put sexual demands on me that were impossible to meet but I believed that as a woman it was my responsibility to make my husband happy.  Because of the abuse I went through as a child my brain was wired to be a co-dependent.  Everything was my responsibility.  If he wasn’t happy it was my fault and if he wasn’t happy he was going to make sure I wasn’t either.  In the first 14 months of our marriage I got pregnant, quit my job, Mike graduated from school, we moved to a new state and Mike started a career.  The control got worse with me being a stay at home mom.  I had very little input if any.  We did feel we needed to go to church so we set out “church shopping”.  We tried out a few and didn’t find anything we liked until we went to Covenant Celebration.  I didn’t like it as much as Mike but being the “good wife” I was more concerned that Mike be happy than me.  This started 10 years of abusive “preaching and teaching”.  The messages were “relevant to the times” instead of preached from the bible.  It didn’t seem to matter if I brought a bible.  It wasn’t used much.  If a scripture was pulled from the bible it would be posted on the big screen anyway. Always out of context. Why carry such a cumbersome book I thought.  I didn’t know much about what it said anyway.  I sure didn’t read it at home.  As the years went on the “preaching” became more sexualized.  Which Mike loved because “the pastor” was beating it into our heads that the bible made it very clear that a woman should “satisfy” her husband,   after all it’s my responsibility to make him happy.  At no point did this man mention the verses about Christ loving the church and that a husband should love his wife like Christ did. When the demands got too high I started drinking.  It wasn’t out of control at first but the greater the demands got the more I drank until the demands got to the point where I cracked and my drinking became everyday just to be around my husband.  I hated him so much.  I wished him dead but I had no idea why.   I was so lost.  I would think “if I could just figure this out” meaning be happy and satisfy my husband and be a good church girl that volunteers every extra minute I have then, I will be happy.  But, it didn’t work.  The harder I tried the more tired, frustrated and confused I was.  The drinking, co-dependency and desire to be loved had me have a nervous breakdown that resulted in me looking outside my marriage for the love I so desperately desired.  When I got caught soon after my affair started I thought my whole world had crumbled.  It some ways it had.  Very little I knew of my old life would stay the same.  Little did I know it was a huge blessing from God.  In a moment of sobriety I recommitted my life to Jesus and told him that I wanted to do His will no matter the cost.  The first thing I was to do was tell my husband the whole truth.  Tell him everything and let God take care of the consequences.  I knew this meant that he might leave which at that moment I was more scared about him dragging me through court and making my life as hard as he possibly could.  However, there was the inkling that I loved this man and that I would do whatever it took to make it work.  In the beginning it was terrible.  We were still at the same dysfunctional church and the striving got worse before it got better.  I knew we needed good counsel and The Lord lead us to Jodey.  At first I didn’t believe her when she said Mike was abusive.  I thought everything was my fault. Of course Mike was willing to let me take the fall for everything.  I was the adulteress woman. We continued to go to the church we had been going to and became closer to the Pastor and staff.  The closer we got the more dysfunction we saw.  As I got healthier I felt God leading me to no longer have obligatory sex with my husband.  The Holy Spirit was showing me that a physical intimacy between a husband and a wife was for the pleasure of both participants and that it was not for one to sacrificially satisfy the other.  When word got around that I was no longer going along with this dysfunctional belief I was talked about behind my back.  The Pastor had many words to say about me to my husband and I had women calling me telling me how wrong I was.  “You have to have sex with your husband, it’s your obligation, if you don’t do it he’ll find someone that will” or “he has ‘needs’ if you don’t meet them someone else will”.   I was attacked and God made it clear to leave that church.  We left and went to another.

Soon after it was evident that Mike was going to have to move out and deal with his own addiction and patterns of abuse. I went to the Pastor for support and I soon realized I was not going to get it. This Pastor was aggressive with me in his belief that I was doing the wrong thing.  This time I distanced myself and God protected me from more abuse. I did however leave this church too. God protected me over the next several months.  I prayed for the first time “Lord where do you want me to go to church”?  He answered me the way he does which seemed vague but time would show me that His words and His timing would be perfect.  He continuously brought up the word community.  I knew that I was to go somewhere close to my home but I was not sure where.  God also made it very clear I was not to find a church without Mike but that I was to wait for him and we would start going together.

Thirteen months after Mike moved out he moved back home. He had changed so much.  When I saw him he had a calmness about him that was peaceful.  He seemed to really care about my feelings and cared how I was doing.  He didn’t push me and gave me space to process my own feelings.  We did not touch for a long time but my trust grew that he was not going to abuse me anymore.  He was going to love me as best he could with the example of Christ.  He was going to be patient with me and kind.  These were all the things I had always wanted in my husband but never in my wildest dreams did I think were possible.  However the bible does say that “With God, all things are possible”.  We had both surrendered and this is the blessing God had given us.  A marriage centered in love and not the lusts of our hearts.

Ten months after Mike moved home we renewed our vows on our 13year anniversary.  We went with our Pastor (of the church where God lead us) to a cliff looking over The Sound. God showed us so many beautiful things that it brings me to tears as I write them out. We had not touched in four years (Gods timing not mine) on the day of our renewal and on that day September 25, 2012 (this year happened to be Yom Kipper.  The day of atonement .  The day that God washed away all the sins of the Israelites and the day that he washed away all the years of abuse and infidelity).  I kissed my husband at the altar. The way God had intended out marriage to start the first time. God has given me a marriage I could never have imagined.  The Holy Spirit has confirmed in me that the intimacy and love between a husband and wife is to be enjoyed by both.  It is not to be enjoyed by one and an obligation for the other.  It is a beautiful thing that only a husband and wife can share.  Satan has taken something that God gave us as a gift and made it perverted.  He has made a source of pain in so many of us and that was never God’s intention.   God is a good God that gives us good things.  I praise Him today that he can turn mourning into rejoicing.  I’m still in awe every time I think about how he turned my life around.  I believe He can turn anyone’s life around who earnestly seeks Him.  The Lord is the Lord of the universe and He deeply cares for each one of us.  Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to share my testimony. I share this because of the Love of Christ,

Liz Long

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