My response: Running

Hello. Thank you for stopping by to sit with me today.

This is not a polished presentation. This is a conversation, in which I am going to change as few words as possible after they leave my mouth. I just want to talk to you.

Both of my last two blog posts (Photoshoot and Running) are true pictures of my family. There is great pain and great beauty side by side in my home, and neither destroys the other. Unfortunately. Fortunately.

So – there are a few things I need you to know after Running. One is that my husband did not make a disclosure here for his own sake. His confessions have happened elsewhere, and brought light. He offered to do it in love for me, because I hate feeling like something I’m not and I couldn’t breathe anymore in this space without speaking about parts of it. I know if I hint at pain you’ll be like, what’s wrong? Your son isn’t doing well? You’re having more heart problems? You’re grieving former foster children? He was willing for me to talk about it to you in any way I felt comfortable, but I couldn’t do it. I tried over and over, and the words would not come because they weren’t mine to speak. I have enough sins of my own that I’m not really in a position to confess anyone else’s.

Act of love. That is what I am trying to say. And I’m really grateful.

But the big thing that I need you to know is that there’s a lot of the story you won’t see, at least while it’s happening. The last thing I want is to post updates on how it’s all going. But I will share pieces as they come. Just please know there is a lot more going on than what will appear on the surface.

More consequences, for one thing. I may talk respectfully, but I’m as hurt and angry as the next woman at what was broken between us. Church life has become a place both of healing and of pain, as my husband steps down from church leadership for an extended time, possibly one year. It matters to me that my church friends see me being what I really am, here – not carrying on in this space as if the sailing is smooth and the view all rosy posy.

But not only more consequences, also therapies. My husband wants to be clear that he is doing more to address the issue than running and listening to podcasts. He says anyone who thinks they will solve their problem by gathering more information is still in denial. (I might have messed up that quote, I’m not sure. It’s close.) There are good men walking with him, and he with them. There are many steps taken, much trust gained. Accountability, connection, brotherhood.

We faced the issue of pornography many years ago, and the devastation and loss of personal worth were severe. It changed nearly everything about the way I saw myself, even in ways it shouldn’t have. Finding out that it was not in our distant history as I thought, but has been instead a recurring bedfellow, shattered things for me. But I didn’t lose it all. We still have what we’ve built, these past almost-seventeen years. It has significant cracks and translucencies in it – but it’s still intact. Still precious. And he self-disclosed voluntarily, in the end. This means everything to me.

So we will go on from here, and I will tell you what I feel will help. I won’t tell you all of it, and I do not think you would want me to. I know I don’t want me to. My point is that I welcome you to see what you see, and say what you say, but at the same time I don’t expect you to fix or heal or offer primary support. Our real life people (some of whom are you. some of you are whom. whatever.) are still here, and are how we will find our way.

Thanks for being so super kind and supportive. Your words blessed me, and the genuine love behind them. I’m sorry we aren’t as good of people as we wish we were. We all need a lot of Fatherlove. At least I do.

Okay, I think that is all. I am grateful to be able to draw in air again.

Speaking of which, I’ve found a lot of useful side effects in wearing face masks, these past months. They mitigate bad breath. Magic. They hide bored expressions and accidentally snarky lips. I don’t fake as many smiles. They are really, really good with tears. Only an inch or so of visibility, and then – gone. You don’t even have to wipe them, which makes public worship a lot simpler for me. It has always been a slightly emotional and runny affair for me. Now, much more so.

In bigger ways, of course, the division, isolation, and anxiety of Covid-19 has much complicated our recent experience. I am trying to look on the bright side.

And while I am disclosing, I might mention that signing a book contract right before major life upheaval is not on my list of recommendations. So tuck that away for your future. I didn’t think I was going to make it through, but I am. I really am. I’m on track, and heading down the finish line of the first draft. Worrying like mad. Collapsing every few days into the certainty that it is actually completely and one hundred percent an irremmedially – irremidal – is the opposite of remedial not a word? okay, an impossibly worthless piece of junk. And then dusting myself off and trying again. I’m praying I get a really, really talented editor.

I tried shutting up about five paragraphs ago, and I’m still yakking, so – I’m good now.

Thanks for listening. Say a prayer for us. Send me chocolate. Whatever you think will help.


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3 years ago

I have thought a lot about that Running post and what happens when a powerful secret is brought to light.
Also: that delicate balance of Telling or Not in a public forum, and what happens when Online and Real Life overlap.
I was oddly moved to find out that your husband is taking a year off from ministry. So is mine–a medical leave. Maybe we are both learning how to be wife, coach, and caregiver to broken men.
I don’t know how to put my thoughts and wishes for you into words so I will stop here and hug you tight with my mask on.

3 years ago
Reply to  Shari Zook

Thank you for making this a place where the Father’s love and grace takes precedence over “how good we wish we were.” ❤

Priscilla F.
3 years ago

May you feel only love and grace from your blog family, as you share that which you can and will, and bear that which must be borne. If ever you feel led to give advice for helping young men navigate the treacherous waters of young adulthood as it relates to pornography, and/or red flags for which to look, I will be an eagerly listening learner, as by God’s grace and with His help, I raise several still young, but quickly growing boys, in a screen-riveted world. A huge, (socially distanced of course) hug to you!

3 years ago

Shari, I bless you for your openness and honesty. God will bless that. Thank you to you and your husband for not taking the route of “Brother so and so has had moral failure, please forgive him, never mention it again and absolutely don’t mention it to anyone outside of this group of people, and life goes on as normal and nobody except the ministry is quite sure just what the problem was.” There is much hope for the future when sinners repent openly. God will hear and honor and heal your marriage and home. Because of your openness, you will reap the benefits of the prayers of His children who are interceding for you and your family.

Joanna Yoder
3 years ago

I am blessed and encouraged by how you and yours have handled all of this. God is using your story for good in ways you cannot even imagine. Praying often for you.

3 years ago

Your transparency is beautiful + encouraging. Blessings to you + yours ♡

3 years ago

You don’t know how this has encouraged me. There are so many homes that struggle with this and so many unspoken hurts. May God bless you and your family.

Kendra Sensenig
3 years ago
Reply to  JESS


Kendra Sensenig
3 years ago

Sorry. I replied here accidentally. Although it works here too. ????

3 years ago

A couple things come to my mind. My response recently to a sister who said she wonders if she’s dysfunctional. I said, We all are, aren’t we?

And a few quotes in an email from a friend this morning.

We do believe that when we look back at the end of the journey, we shall see how perfect the way was—every mile of it.

If you are seeking after God,

you may be sure of this:

God is seeking you much more.

He is the Lover,

and you are the beloved.

He has promised

Himself to you.

John of the Cross

The reason people read this blog, Shari, is because they admire your honesty. Keep being real.

3 years ago
Reply to  Marie Lapp

Oh listen to the words of Jason Grey’s song, “the wound is where the light gets in.”
“You can recognize a saint by the scars they don’t disguise. You can pick a real sinner by the kindness in their eyes.”

3 years ago

Thanks again for the openness of both of you. The story of God at work is always beautiful. The example of Unconditional Love by you and your church is an unearned gift. It motivates a response based on love – the best kind of response. How did Unconditional Love ever get painted as soft, mushy, and not of God? Isn’t it really the hardest, highest form of love? The one that allows its own heart to be cut in half, just like our Lord, by those we love. And still loves in return. There is always consequences. But unearned love? A true gift. and nothing comes at a higher cost. God bless you all. From one who also has a heart that bleeds easily… And who has at times held the knife.

3 years ago

I looked for a way to comment privately but didn’t see that option. If you can share so openly, then I will try to also. What you are going through has happened to me more than once and I can so well relate to your feelings of devastation and loss of personal worth. This post brought me to tears. I have nothing to say that you don’t already know, but wanted to say I know your pain. You are so brave for sharing this!

Rachel Shenk
3 years ago

My dear friend. We all have some kid of private pain, different, yet the same. PLEASE let people help carry you and support you. We think we can just grit our teeth and handle it (I blame our stout German roots!) but it’s a lie and it’s not necessary. Thanks for sharing in this vulnerable way! Love & hugs!

3 years ago

Cheers about that book. I can’t wait to get my hands on it. 🙂

Otherwise, I love you and I love the words you wrote for your audience here.

I sincerely trust your readers will respect and understand and care for you but not push the boundaries that you tactfully laid out for them. 🙂

3 years ago

I do believe that the telling of this experience will be so helpful to so many by you allowing yourself to be “poured out as wine upon the altar.”

Thank you both for your openness and vulnerability. That took so much courage but only eternity will reveal the way your story helped others. It certainly causes us all to take heed into our own lives. I’ve found that in life we take turns lifting each other up to the Great Healer.

3 years ago

Shari, thank you for your honesty. You were not required to tell us (or any one for that matter!! Except that we answer to God …. about why we did or did not tell. And then it’s the only thing that matters….) But as the power of silence is broken, the greater power of truth rises and it sets us all free. God bless you and Ryan’s willingness to live in His light. This time and pain will become a power in your life, not because the failure never happened but because it did. And was given to God to repair….

Kendra Sensenig
3 years ago


3 years ago

How about I just come and eat your chocolate. Shamelessly. Right out of your pantry.????
You are my dear brave friend.♥️

3 years ago

Thank you Shari for being vulnerable and honest. There are many of us who have been or are walking in you shoes. We have been left with asking questions like “What’s wrong with me? “Am I not beautiful enough?” “Should I not be so modest?” .
The one thing we need to know is Its.Not.Our. Fault!
No matter that a popular book for wives seems to say that it is.
Shari, I don’t know you personally but I just love you and I appreciate what you share here and I know you and your dear husband will get through this. Sending you a social distancing hug!

Kim Z
3 years ago

❤️ Much love & hugs. Can’t wait for this book. Keep going, you got this!

Twila Beachy
3 years ago


3 years ago

I admire you and your husband greatly for your courage and honesty and please know I am praying for you both..a song keeps running thru my mind when I read your post …one that the Eshes sang …” Dear child of mine, I know your heart, I feel your pain, I hear your cry , The sun will shine, The clouds will part, Beyond the rain, The clear blue sky….” Blessings to you and yours..

Delphine Horst
3 years ago

God gave me this song for you
“When I knelt the blood fell
Sin lost the battle
The Lamb had prevailed!
What made all hell tremble
And rang heavens bell-
When I knelt the blood fell!”
Not sure who the author is. God bless you!

3 years ago

Your bold love takes my breath away. I respect you guys so much. Hugs to you, my friend. You’re going to make it.

Wendi Bollinger
3 years ago

I am reading It’s Not Supposed To Be This Way by Lysa TerKeurst. I think u would connect with it during this time of difficulty. Thanks for your openness! It’s rare to find a Mennonite Christian who is willing to admit their life isn’t peaches & cream! God bless you abundantly!

3 years ago

Shari, I understand that awkward dance of writing towards what you wish was while living with your people who know how it is. (I didn’t tell my people about my public space initially for that reason.) You have done so graciously.
Also, there is a pang for you and all us women over “Running” but there’s also a touch of awe in me, because it takes a brave and humble person to admit his brokenness–especially in a public forum.
I’m longing for someone to write about the female side of pornography, when we women read and fantasize and try to make men into people they’re not. That’s a side note from what you say here.
I’m excited about the book: I know there is good there, even in that rough draft. Way to press through and put down words! (When it comes to technicalities, I found your Dad a very thorough editor.)

Ruth Anna
3 years ago

Wow! You both are incredibly courageous people. Bless you for your vulnerability. My desire is that you will experience love and grace and hope from your “real-life people”!

3 years ago

When I first read this post, I tiptoed away without saying a word because I knew I was in a sacred space and I did not want to blemish it. I am still on my tiptoes, back to say you are often in my heart before God. You and your husband have earned deep authentic respect as you model honest and humble confession in a way that many of us have never witnessed in real life. The vulnerability you express through Confessions (what a brave theme!) is exactly what draws scores of women to this site. We are all broken, messy, works-in-progress. We love the ones who don’t fake it.

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