Alex: Thanks everybody, my name is Alex Lesko and this is my beautiful, intelligent, lovely, amazing wife, Jen. We’re just blessed to be here to share God’s story in our life. If you look up at the slides, that’s our wedding day. And the next one is our three, beautiful teenage girls, my lovely wife, and me 30 pounds ago.
Jeremiah 32:27, “Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh. Is anything too hard for me?”
We sat right where you are for the very first time in September 2016 (I was an agnostic and Jen an atheist). Jen was terrified and felt as though her heart had been ripped violently out of her chest and stomped on only a few weeks before. She was extremely uncomfortable in my presence as we sat awkwardly together. She had discovered pictures on my phone, which eventually led to the discovery of an affair I’d been having with a woman at work.
Jen: The deceit and new knowledge of Alex’s unfaithfulness was unbearable. My heart was totally at war with itself – part of me wanted to move as far away as possible and forget Alex ever existed, part of me wanted to end my life to make the pain stop, and some strange part of me wanted to stay in our marriage. I was so numb that I agreed to follow the advice of Alex’s brother to try re|engage.
But let’s go a lot farther back to see how we arrived here and what happened when we invited Christ into our lives.
Alex: My biological mother introduced me to Christ when I was very young. She and my father separated and later divorced when I was three. Four years later, she told my sister and I that her dad who lived in Japan had become ill, and she needed to go care for him. I would never see her again. God was not a part of our family from that point on.
I was first introduced to pornographic magazines at age 11 which was the first step toward a life marked by sexual immorality. Throughout high school, college, and into medical school I was desperately lonely. I was viewed by girls as “friend material” and became depressed, lamenting that I would never find anybody who loved me. My longest relationship only lasted a few months until I met my first wife, who was in a relationship at the time. We married and then subsequently divorced 11 short months later, when I left her for another woman.
And that basically, that little story encapsulated my method of operation with women. I would find a girl who was unhappy in her relationship, become her “friend”, flirt with her, console her and offer her something better. I learned to be the “good guy” by taking an interest in each woman and her pain. This led me to become an “expert” at grooming women. By doing this, I could avoid rejection. I pushed the envelope as far as I could, seduced women, and led them down the path into an emotional, then physical relationship. I did this with anybody I found attractive regardless of their marital status.
After I left my first marriage, I started seeing multiple women at the same time and was sleeping with as many as I could. I was completely out of control, but I: 1) didn’t seem to realize it, and 2) still had this insatiable craving to be loved, but loved perfectly. I bounced from one relationship to another, from one marriage to the next. With one divorce under my belt, I married my second wife, we had a daughter but I continued pursuing other women. This second marriage was soon in turmoil as several of my affairs were discovered. Toward the end of this second marriage, I met Jen.
Jen: I grew up in California with my mom, dad, and one younger brother. We were an atheist family. I was raised lumping God into the same category with the Tooth Fairy, Santa Clause, and the Easter Bunny.
Though my parents were married and still are to this day, I have very few memories of my mom from my childhood – my dad and our nanny were our primary caretakers. Booze and women were my dad’s fuel in life – I remember him talking inappropriately about the women on TV as well as my friends and their moms. Going anywhere with him - the grocery store, school, running errands was sure to evoke provocative comments with any attractive woman who crossed our paths. We really didn’t talk about anything other than sports, other people’s shortcomings, and women, so this became the lens through which I viewed life. I learned three things very quickly as a young girl:
To get any attention from my dad, I needed to adopt his activities and excel in sports.
I gained attention when I could fit in with my dad's friends. I learned very quickly how to communicate with men and more importantly, what they liked in life and in women.
To get attention I had to look the part. I cared tremendously about my outward appearance.
Armed with this knowledge from a young age, I set out to “conquer” life, boys and eventually men. I bounced from relationship to relationship throughout high school and college, on a desperate quest to find men who would be physical with me. Sex had become my currency, and I used it liberally as a means to find “love”. No surprise these relationships always felt hollow and often ended as quickly as they started.
I was about to graduate from college and understood that the next step in life was to find a job, get married and have kids, so after dating a nice guy for six weeks, I accepted his marriage proposal. As a 22-year-old, I came into this first marriage with a truck full of uncommunicated hopes, dreams and desires. When my husband didn’t meet these expectations, that feeling of being in love dissipated quickly and I was convinced that I had married the wrong person. By the age of 27, I was a mom to two girls, desperately wanted a divorce, was having difficulty drawing boundaries with my own extended family, and so pushed my husband to move to Texas, hoping a cross country move and a fresh start would allow me to find happiness. Though I stayed in that marriage, I was constantly on the lookout for any reason to bolt, convinced that I deserved better.
In 2009, my youngest daughter started playing on a soccer team – Alex’s daughter was on the same team. We began a very flirtatious relationship, often texting throughout the day. There was no sexual component to our relationship at this point, but we were having conversations that we should not be having – we had become engaged in an emotional affair. I had found my safety net and so asked my husband to move out and filed for divorce immediately. In my total self-absorption, I gave no thought to how deeply this would hurt him or the fact that I had forced “divorce” to forever be part of my daughters’ stories.
The day my first husband moved out, I started dating Alex and immediately began a sexual relationship with him, believing that this was now “ok” because I was separated from my husband. Alex and my relationship was quickly built upon a physical foundation fueled by lust and I was utterly smitten. Within a few months, however, this fizzled. I had never felt “love” like that and so continued to pursue Alex like a puppy dog for the next two years. We married in 2012 and became a blended, dysfunctional family overnight. Something always felt so off. Alex could be so romantic and kind, but he was often cruel and detached. He would show up from time to time to interact with me and the kids, but otherwise did what he wanted. A darkness and deep seeded bitterness began to take over in my heart – this was not the second marriage I’d signed up for.
Alex: Paul says in Romans 7:19, “For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.” Despite the revolving door of women, I knew in my heart that there was something different about Jen. Something that I saw in her that compelled me to desire to be different. But, without God in my life, I remained a hopeless slave to my sinful patterns and continued grooming women, seeking inappropriate sexual relationships, sexting, and porn and masturbation. I knew something was wrong, but I also knew that I couldn’t be authentic. I would lose everything if all the sins of my past and our present were revealed to my wife. I was trying to be “better,” but was also trying to manage and continue to hide my sin.
Jen: By the spring of 2016, I knew something was very wrong. Alex had started drinking often, would go into work at 5 AM and came home regularly past 7 PM, avoiding the girls and I when he arrived home. I finally discovered the affair he’d been having for months with a coworker through racy pictures on his phone and I was devastated.
Alex moved out. I vacillated daily between calling a divorce lawyer and wanting to fix our disaster of a marriage. I was so lost and numb that Alex’s brother recommended we get help through re|engage. Walking into a church as an atheist was the wildest thing I’d ever done – I watched as a small band played a song called, “O Come to the Altar” and heard the verse “Have you come to the end of yourself? Do you thirst for a drink from the well? Jesus is calling.” I had no idea what that meant but realized this perfectly described the hopelessness I was feeling. We then watched a couple come up on stage and unapologetically detail out what a mess their marriage was and how someone named Jesus had saved it. I had no buoy to cling on to at this point and so clung to re|engage, where I began to cultivate a personal relationship with Jesus, a God who would never be unfaithful and loved me just as I was. Romans 5:8, “…but God proves His own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
As Alex and I continued to attend re|engage, something was still very off and so I began digging. I discovered email accounts, phone records, folders on his desktop, credit card receipts and was overwhelmed with horror. There were so many other women throughout our years together.
Alex: Because we weren’t living together at this point, I assumed Jen only knew about the one affair. I couldn’t possibly tell her about everything – that would surely be the end. Going to re|engage, I kept hearing the same thing from people – tell the whole truth. So, every time I saw Jen, I would tell her about another woman. I can only imagine the pain she experienced. “Please tell me this is all,” she implored. It was awful, because that wasn’t all of it, and I knew it. This trickle of information plus what she was finding on my computers definitely eroded any remaining trust she had in me. It was during this difficult time in the fall of 2016 that I gave up porn and masturbation for good with the help of “Covenant Eyes”. Yet I prayed to a God I didn’t know, not really sure how to pursue a relationship with Him. Then God made his presence known to me and I couldn’t ignore it. In six short weeks the following happened:
First, I tore every major ligament in my remaining “good knee” playing the sport I loved – soccer. It was the last game I’ll ever play again and the first time I ever scored a hattrick (three goals) in a competitive match – very sweet of Him to give me that nice parting gift. Surgery then followed which gave me time off to spend with my brother and grow through our conversations.
Second, I discovered the dad of my daughter’s swim friend was grooming her over text and Instagram. While children were not part of my addiction, it made me realize that I was no different than him, apart from Christ. I had told many women they were beautiful over the years and asked them to send me pictures, just like this man did with my daughter at that time.
Next, we got into a closed group in re|engage and I suddenly lost my job. God took the decision to leave this job (where my last affair partner worked) off my plate. The severance I received gave me time off to continue to grow in my understanding of God’s character.
Finally, I made the most important decision I’ll ever make. I finally trusted God, through Christ, with my life and my heart, while also deciding to disclose all of my sexual past to Jen – and it was a lot. James 5:16 “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, so that you may be healed.”
After an agonizingly long disclosure with Jen that took almost two hours, I felt deflated and felt that there was also a very good chance our story would end in divorce.
Yet, just three days after disclosure, our re|engage group gathered around the fire pit at our leaders’ home – and to my amazement, Jen was there! We were able to share our pain, and even smile and laugh. I don’t know about you, but in what world does that ever happen?! Wow, this God is some amazing God – that I can share such hurtful things and He can keep us moving toward reconciliation.
Jen: During this season, God had taken hold of my heart and I began CRAVING the goodness and the truth in His word. I listened to worship music daily, read devotionals and scripture several times a day. I studied books like Ruth, Song of Solomon, and Proverbs 31 to understand what is expected of me as a woman, wife and mother. I joined a Christian support group for wives of men struggling with sexual addiction and learned what self-care and creating boundaries entailed. Through re|engage, God was uprooting all the warped beliefs I’d brought into both of my marriages. I was learning how to draw a circle around myself and work on everything inside of it, and well as beginning to understand the power of forgiveness and grace. I was starting to learn to love my husband as Christ does.
Alex and I reconciled in March 2017, and we made the decision to both renew our vows (with one of our re|engage group members leading the ceremony) and to make a public profession of our faith in Christ through baptism. Having our children there to watch us fully commit ourselves to the Lord and again to each other was the sweetest gift we could have ever given them.
So, you might be thinking that our marriage was trending up and to the right after re|engage. Not quite. Though we had reconciled, we still conflicted very poorly and were in desperate need of help in creating a healthy foundation for this new marriage. So, Alex and I made the decision to go through re:generation, Watermark’s year-long biblical recovery program for those with hurts, hang ups and habits.
Alex: With all this hard work through re:generation, I came to grips with the wounds from my mother’s abandonment and how this shaped my dysfunctional relationships with women as an adult. I learned that my entire life I’d been asking, “where am I going to find the right woman for me?” when in reality, I should have been asking, “how can I be the right man for the woman God gifted to me?”
Jen: And I learned that idols had long had a stronghold on my heart. I worshipped my husband, my marriage and my sexuality – and through God’s infinite wisdom, He put Alex, someone who struggled mightily with sex addiction, in my life knowing that one day our sins would collide and God would lay waste to these idols and fill my heart instead with His love and His truth.
We have since taken our girls through Passport2Purity, which is a biblical walk for teenagers guiding them on how to protect their purity through finding their worth in God alone. Only God could take two recovering sex addicts, and allow us to use His word to speak truth into the lives of our three girls.
God has given us an incredible gift in this story of His resurrection of our marriage – the Spirit convicted us to use this story and our brokenness to help shepherd a group of six couples through re|engage. We just commenced with this group a couple of months ago!
Alex: It’s our hope that you come to see that re|engage is a safe place where you will be loved by an amazing group of people, regardless of who you are, what you’re going through, or what you’ve done. Perhaps you feel like you’ve done something so terrible that you can’t be forgiven, or that your marriage is well beyond repair. Perhaps you don’t know who this Jesus is and what he can do for you or, even, how he could allow whatever it is you’re struggling with to happen to you. There are a lot of wonderful people here who are more than willing to walk with you through this.
Jen: Almost three years ago, I sat where you are, not believing in God and feeling like a complete failure in life. Today, I sit up here and implore you to consider that God can change anything! He is a builder, a healer, and can raise anything from the dead. Through Him all things are truly possible. There is hope. The following passage is the embodiment of God’s story in our lives:
Titus 3:3-5, “For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit…”
Alex: We want to encourage you to: 1) look with your eyes and listen with your ears to see and hear the stories of change occurring in the lives of those around you and 2) please just keep coming back (even when it’s hard) to assess for yourself if all that you see happening here is “normal” based on the current cultural standard in this country. Then ask yourself, what is the common thread behind all of these hard-to-believe, and sometimes ridiculous stories of resurrected marriages and relationships. There’s only one word, one name – and that’s Jesus. Thank you for letting us share.