FamilyLife Today® Podcast

The Attraction Begins

with Judy Starr | November 5, 2012
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A long-time missionary couple, an exotic locale, and a handsome sea captain: the recipe for disaster? Missionary Judy Starr found herself enticed to leave her marriage for a handsome sea captain. It was unthinkable, but it happened while she and her husband were ministering in the Caribbean and she began an emotional affair with another man.

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  • About the Guest

  • A long-time missionary couple, an exotic locale, and a handsome sea captain: the recipe for disaster? Missionary Judy Starr found herself enticed to leave her marriage for a handsome sea captain. It was unthinkable, but it happened while she and her husband were ministering in the Caribbean and she began an emotional affair with another man.

  • Dave and Ann Wilson

    Dave and Ann Wilson are hosts of FamilyLife Today®, FamilyLife’s nationally-syndicated radio program. Dave and Ann have been married for more than 38 years and have spent the last 33 teaching and mentoring couples and parents across the country. They have been featured speakers at FamilyLife’s Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway since 1993 and have also hosted their own marriage conferences across the country. Cofounders of Kensington Church—a national, multicampus church that hosts more than 14,000 visitors every weekend—the Wilsons are the creative force behind DVD teaching series Rock Your Marriage and The Survival Guide To Parenting, as well as authors of the recently released book Vertical Marriage (Zondervan, 2019). Dave is a graduate of the International School of Theology, where he received a Master of Divinity degree. A Ball State University Hall of Fame quarterback, Dave served the Detroit Lions as chaplain for 33 years. Ann attended the University of Kentucky. She has been active alongside Dave in ministry as a speaker, writer, small-group leader, and mentor to countless wives of professional athletes. The Wilsons live in the Detroit area. They have three grown sons, CJ, Austin, and Cody, three daughters-in-law, and a growing number of grandchildren.

A long-time missionary couple, an exotic locale, and a handsome sea captain: the recipe for disaster?

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The Attraction Begins

With Judy Starr
November 05, 2012
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Bob:  Well, you remember when Heather Mercer and Dana Curry were here—the two young women who were held captive by the Taliban in Afghanistan.  The reason they had been picked up was because they had been showing a copy of the Jesus film, in the Afghani language, in a private residence, to a family that had wanted to see it. 

This has been an invaluable tool for missionaries, in every culture, from a variety of missions organizations; but, Judy, you and your husband travel with teams that go into cities or into rural areas and show this to folks.  Is that right?

Judy:  We do some of that, as well, as working with the national directors—helping them strategize and how best to reach their countries.

Dennis:  You were showing this film in the Caribbean?

Judy:  That's right.

Dennis:  On a spiritual mission, with your husband—evangelizing the lost—when you had the enticement of the forbidden.

Judy:  That's right.  The unthinkable happened in our marriage.

Bob:  You’re traveling, by boat, from island to island, throughout the Caribbean?  This sounds like a four-month-long honeymoon, with your husband.

Judy:  Well, it should have been; but it didn't quite turn out that way.

Bob: What happened?

Judy:  When I actually was preparing for the project, we had just come back from a very difficult translation project in India.  I came back exhausted.  It was a challenge doing that project—and had to turn right around and immediately begin preparing for this boat project—which, logistically, was quite difficult to put together. 

I was working very long hours, working late at night.  I would get up in the morning—and to maximize my time—I started skipping time with the Lord because we were on this deadline to get this thing done.   When I arrived at the project in the Caribbean, I arrived with somewhat of a hardened heart, spiritually, because I just had not kept my relationship with the Lord current.

When I arrived there, it didn't take long to realize that there was a real draw—and an enticement—between the captain of this boat and myself.  It was very obvious that we had quite a connection.  He was athletic; I'm athletic.  He was a former professional musician; so am I; and so forth.  We just began spending a lot of time, talking personally.  It was apparent, very quickly, that there was a real emotional connection between the two of us.

Bob:  You mentioned being spiritually-vulnerable—at having not spent time with the Lord—not been in the Word.  You were also physically exhausted. Those two things, going together, had your defenses down; didn’t they?

Judy:  Not only down—about obliterated my defenses!  [Laughter]

Bob:  When you met him and—I mean, I’ve done this; right?  You meet somebody and you go, “Well, she’s attractive,”—sparkle in her eye.  She smiles; and you go, “She seems like a nice lady.”  I’m sure you were having those thoughts.  There’s something very different between having a thought like that and having a desire awakened in you.

Judy:  That’s true; and because I sensed that there was such a connection between us and chose to ignore what the Holy Spirit was telling me with red flags, bells going off, sirens, everything in my spirit—I just continued to allow that relationship to grow—and right before my unsuspecting husband—really began spending a lot of time allowing my heart to be knit to this captain because of spending all that individual time.  There were things I should have done—that I know, now, in hindsight, are great protectors for our marriage—but I chose not to do that.

Dennis:  What did you do?  Did you go out of your way to try to find times to spend with him?

Judy:  I did.  We needed to work one-on-one a lot on the project, anyway—just on the sailing itinerary and so forth—but I would spend all my extra time just sitting and talking with him about our background in music.  We went scuba diving together.  We would swim together—do just a lot of individual things together. 

I would sometimes send Stottler off with the film team, at night, saying, "I'm too tired.  I've been working so hard.  Why don't you take them?"  Then, I would just spend the time on the boat; and “Oh, the captain happens to be on the boat, too—my; my.”  But, internally, I knew what I was doing.  I knew I was trying to further this relationship.

Bob: Was the captain a believer?

Judy:  He was, but not a real strong believer.

Bob:  He must have sensed, early on, the same kind of connection that you sensed.

Judy:  He did.  When I made my feelings known, he told me that he felt like I was untouchable because of my husband.  He had a great respect for Stottler, and rightly so; but when I let him know that the doors were potentially open, then he responded more favorably.

Dennis:  How did you let him know your doors were open?

Judy:  Well, somewhere towards the end of the project, I was in the Caribbean by myself.  We had actually traveled back and forth, quite a bit, from California.  Sometimes, I would return by myself.  Sometimes, Stottler and I would both come.  This particular trip, I came on my own.  We were in a beautiful port in Guadalupe, a charming little port.

Dennis:  So, it was romantic.

Judy:  Oh, it was absolutely romantic.  The whole project was romantic.  You’re in the middle of sun, and sand, and sin.  It’s a perfect place for a setup like this, but we were in Guadalupe.  It was the middle of the day.  We were on the boat by ourselves, and I had just revealed to him how I had been feeling and wanted to know if he felt anything the same.

Dennis:  How had you been feeling?

Judy:  I told him I was incredibly attracted to him, and that I was really interested in possibly pursuing something with him, and wanted to know how he felt.

Dennis:  And what did you mean, "...pursue something with him"?

Judy:  I just was leaving the door open for his response; but in my own heart, at that point, I was really, potentially, considering not returning home to my husband.

Dennis:  So, bagging your marriage—

Judy:  That's right.

Dennis:  bagging the ministry, and running off with—

Judy:   —with a sailor, in the Caribbean!

Dennis:  With a sailor, in the Caribbean.  What led you to that point?  I mean—

Judy:  Yes, it's amazing that someone could get to that point—who is in full-time work and has devoted their whole life to seeing the Gospel furthered and so forth.  It really comes down to just a hardened heart, spiritually.  Once—I believe, once a woman or a man—but I know, for a woman—once we begin pursuing that kind of relationship, spiritually, we just become harder and harder. 

The emotions are so incredibly strong and the desire to be with this person—it's like you're in love, all over again—like what you experienced when you first met your husband.  Those emotions are so incredibly powerful.  You will do almost anything to be with that person, and reason is gone.  You become like an addict, in one sense. You will do anything that it takes to be with that individual.  The sanity of what you're doing—it doesn't make any sense to anyone else—but you are willing to do whatever it takes.

Bob: As you look back on it, Judy, how much of what you were feeling toward this other person—how much of it had to do with who he was, and how much of it was just the fantasy of the forbidden?  The reason I ask that is because, most of the time, when there is this draw to another person, we’re not stopping and thinking about what it would be like if we had bills to pay—what would it be like to live with this person, in real life. 

I mean, here, you are—in a boat, in the Caribbean, for four months.  I could fall in love with a lot of people on a boat in the Caribbean for four months. It doesn't matter who the person is.  It's just that life seems so wonderful, that if—it is almost a fantasy.  It's not like you're really drawn to the real person.

Judy:  That's true.  I was partly drawn to him and the connection that we had—being similar backgrounds and similar interests—but it is a fantasy, too—because when we don't expose these kinds of things, essentially, to the light—and I talk about telling your husband, as a great way to nip this in the bud—but when I didn't expose it, I could just, internally, fantasize all I wanted and create a whole scenario that I thought would be perfect.

At the first, it was a real struggle for me.  It was back and forth.  You’d feel like you had one foot in heaven and one foot in hell, with the desires going on, internally; but the longer I didn’t respond correctly to that and cut off the relationship—do the things that the Lord was telling me to do—the further my foot got away from heaven and the harder my heart became.

Dennis:  Judy, we left that conversation with the sea captain—with you throwing open the door.  You sent the signal.  What did he do, at that point?

Judy:  He was very surprised.  It took him a while to process; but I called him back, a few days later, when I had gone on to another city.  I was, at the point, then, of deciding whether I would stay in the Caribbean and not return home, or to return home—and really laid that before him.  He pretty much left it up to me.

Dennis:  At that point, and it’s clear, in your book, that the relationship had been purely emotional.

Judy:  That’s right.

Dennis:  You’d enjoyed a lot of great communication but there hadn’t been anything sexual.

Judy:  Nothing physical, whatsoever.

Dennis:  At that point, when you threw open the door, was there anything physical that took place on his behalf toward you?

Judy:  No, nothing.

Dennis:  Did you want there to be?

Judy:  Absolutely!  I believe an emotional affair certainly incites the ideas of what you desire physically but, by God's grace, nothing happened, physically.

Dennis:  I want our listeners to know this is where sexual affairs begin.

Judy:  Absolutely.

Dennis:  They start in the emotional realm—casually, at first—harmlessly, at first—but they gain momentum until the puppies are all running around in the heart, confusing both the soul and the mind.  At that point, it opens the door to much more than just an emotional affair.  It can become a full-blown affair.

Judy:  Absolutely and quite easily.

Bob:  I think it’s pretty remarkable, frankly, that an individual who was not particularly spiritually-strong—had some kind of a spiritual background—but you really wonder about his spiritual condition.  He’s sitting on the deck of a boat; and a woman says to him, “I’m open.”  He says, “Well, I’m going to have to think about that.”

Judy:  I believe I was surrounded by a whole lot of angels!  I really believe the Lord protected me.

Bob:  You must have been.  I mean, how many guys are going to have to think about that?

Judy:  Absolutely.

Bob:  When you called him and said, “I’m either staying or going.  What’s it going to be?” and he said, “It’s up to you,” you hung up.  What did you do?

Judy:  Well, we talked for two hours, and I hung up, and—

Dennis:  Whoa, whoa.  What did you talk for two hours about?

Judy:  I think I was really trying to convince him to be more open to this.  He kept talking about what an incredible husband I had, and he's right.  Again, I believe I was just so protected by the Lord because this could have gone so easily the other way.

Dennis:  He was trying to talk you out of it.

Judy:  Yes, I would say that he was—in one sense—and leaving the door open in another.

Dennis:  So, he was both trolling for you, as well as, pushing you back toward your husband, at the same time.

Judy:  You know, I think both of us really knew what we should do; but it was just a real internal battle for both of us.

Bob:  He didn't want to be a marriage-wrecker.

Judy:  He said, too—he said, “The rest of this project would just be a disaster if we pursued this,” and, “What would that do with my ministry and all those things, as well?”  So, he's a very honorable man in that respect—that he withheld his feelings, as well.

Bob:  So, you hung up and what?

Judy:  I hung up and, again, by God's grace, called an accountability partner that I had had for years—set up many years back, in my young Christian life—and told her what was going on.

Dennis:  Why, in the world, did you do that?

Judy:  I have no idea.  I believe, again, it was just God's grace.

Dennis:  I mean, at that point, you're deceived!

Judy:  That's true.

Dennis:  You're sending your husband off on spiritual missions—

Bob:   And you know what your accountability partner is going to tell you when you called her; didn't you?  She's not going to call and say, "Oh, well, gee, it sounds perfect!"

Judy:  She said she has no idea why I called and asked her to beat me up; but I did!  [Laughter]

Bob: Tell me about that conversation.  You get your friend, Holly, on the phone.  You say, "Holly, I need to talk to you."

Judy:  That's right.  I had told her, actually, a little bit before.  She already knew that I had an interest in this man but had no idea how far I had allowed my heart to go.  She really gave me a dose of reality in big form—and talked to me about my vows before the Lord, about my ministry, about my husband—just everything I needed to hear.

Bob:  But she wasn't telling you anything you didn't already know.

Judy:  No, it's true, Bob; but when you get to that point, you really need somebody to awaken in you, again, the reality because you are deceiving yourself.  You're closing your heart to what God wants to tell you.

Dennis:  Both Bob and I know Holly.  Holly is Holly Elliff.  She is not just any Christian—

Bob: She speaks the truth in love; doesn't she?

Dennis:  Holly has eight children.  She's married to a man who is committed to the Scripture.  We've interviewed Holly, here, on FamilyLife Today.  Holly is a God-fearing woman of God who doesn't play games.  You could have called a lot of people—

Bob:  —who would have been a lot easier on you.

Dennis:  It would have been a whole lot easier to have called—but you went right into the—you went right into the holy of holies.  You called a woman of God!

Judy:  That's the truth, and that's what I needed.  Holly has been a phenomenal accountability person for me, my whole Christian life, essentially.  We had established that relationship from long before.  It was really God's grace that had me call her.

Dennis:  Did you feel a boot come through the phone?

Judy:  Boot?  It was more like a knife, and a machete, and a machine gun!  [Laughter]

Bob: How long were you on the phone with Holly?

Judy:  Probably an hour—hour-and-a-half.

Bob: And when you hung up from that conversation—

Judy:  When I hung up—Holly told me, later, that she actually had no idea the direction I was going to go because she said my heart was so far gone, at that point.  She really didn't know what I was going to do.

Dennis:  Well, Bob, my kids used to hate this when I did this to them; but you're going to have to wait for the next edition of FamilyLife Today to hear the rest of the story.  But I just want to review a couple of things that occurred here.  First of all, we had a woman who admitted her heart was growing cold for Christ.  She was on a spiritual mission, but she was neglecting to guard her heart.

Secondly, she never thought she would ever find herself in a situation like this.  I have to believe there are literally hundreds of thousands of listeners, both single and married, right now, who go, "No, man!  Not me.  I would never find myself there."  That's not the message of Scripture, "Let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall." 

Third, she kept moving in toward the heat, that would burn her; but it was, number four, a relationship with a godly woman, that she could trust, that, ultimately, became a life preserver—not only of her marriage—but I think, probably, more importantly, of your faith and of the legacy that you're going to leave.

Bob:  Yes.  I remember a number of years ago when we sat down to have a conversation with author, Jerry Jenkins, who wrote all of the Left Behind books.  He had written a book called Hedges,where he had outlined the steps he and his wife had taken, in their marriage, to preserve their relationship with one another.  They had taken some steps.  I remember him saying, “I have friends who said, ‘Boy, this just feels a little legalistic.’”  He said, “What I was trying to do was just make sure I made no provision for the flesh, which is what the Scripture teaches us to do.”

We have copies of Jerry Jenkins’ book, Hedges, in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center.  I’d encourage our listeners—married couples ought to read this book and decide, “What are your personal hedges?”  What kind of boundaries are you going to put around your own relationship?  You can go to for more information about that book, Hedges. is our website; or call us, toll-free, at 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY”.  Get more information about the book, Hedges, when you call us.  We’ll make arrangements to get a copy of it sent out to you.

Well, tomorrow is Election Day in the United States.  One of the great privileges we have, living in a democratic republic form of government, is that we get to select who will lead us, going forward.  Tomorrow, we have that privilege of going to the polls and voting for the person we think would best lead our nation and for other elected officials, as well. 

One of our staff working, here, at FamilyLife, is Jeff Kemp.  You may recognize the Kemp name—his dad was Jack Kemp.  Recently, as our staff gathered for a Day of Prayer together, one of the things we prayed for was for our nation’s leaders and for the upcoming election.  We asked Jeff to lead us in that time of prayer and to remind us of the importance of our involvement in the political process; but, also, the importance of remembering Who is, ultimately, in control of all things.

Jeff Kemp:  My dad served in Congress for many years.  He’s served in Housing and Urban Development.  He ran for Vice President.  He ran for President.  I was out on the campaign trail—doing what President Obama and his family are doing and what Mitt Romney and his family are doing. 

These politicians—we critique them so much—but they are really laying it on the line.  They put so much of their family out there to serve us.  We need to pray for the best in their life and for their family.  We, also need, of course, to pray for God to shape the “kings” that He places in place—and not to be pulling our hair out—that things don’t go the way we want because they’re going to go the way God wants.

Our job is to repent—to disciple, as the Church—to love those who may believe differently than us, to be accepting of those who may believe differently than us, to take the values and principles of the Bible and great principles from the Declaration of Independence and whatever you think good economics or good social policy is, and make a good case—debate with your citizens, with friends.  Stand up for ideas; but don’t equate it with the Gospel, in terms of, “I know this to be God’s truth so you have to believe my way.” 

Don’t fear if things don’t go exactly the way you want.  God is in control.  He has always placed kings into positions; and we need to be ready to represent Christ, regardless of which way things go.  Those are some thoughts from a political family, that’s won some elections, and lost some elections, and seen how much the political families put into the career to serve us. Let me pray and then send us out. 

“Father in heaven, each of us knows that we have taken attitudes about politics, and about government, and about leaders, and about issues that have been less than perfectly biblical.  Forgive us for that.  We know that we haven’t been perfect citizens, but that You forgive us all that. 

“And we ask, from this day forward, that you’d let us be better and better citizens of heaven and citizens of earth—knowing the difference between those two kingdoms—never letting our political views stand in the way of guiding someone to Jesus Christ.  At the same time, stewarding this world, and caring about poverty, and caring about justice, and caring about the unborn, and caring about the institution of marriage, and our neighborhoods, and our schools, and our kids, and opportunity, and the poor—caring about these things, first, through Christ—and then, as it manifests itself into the ideas that the American gets to elect leaders to represent.

“Father, forgive us our sin.  Let us do this role, as citizens, in a responsible way.  Please guide every single politician and government servant to find Jesus Christ and, in humility, to find Your wisdom so they may govern well.  We pray for elections to go in the direction that You want them to go, and for us to have a faithful and prayerful, confident-in-You attitude, as we remember history’s had ups and downs and all sorts of twists.  In the end, Jesus Christ redeems everything. 

“And we pray for His shalom as we commit our nation to prayer.  In Christ’s name—Amen”

Bob:  Amen.  Thank you, Jeff, for leading us in prayer.  I do hope everyone will get out and vote, tomorrow, in the election.  Hope you’ll be back here, as well.  Judy Starr is going to join us back, here, tomorrow.  We’re going to hear the rest of her story—hear how she resisted temptation.  I hope you can join us for that.

I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team.  On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine.  We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today

FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas. 

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