Greg McAvoy’s life was turned upside down in 2009 by a note left on his front door. Greg recalled that it was a note from the sheriff’s department addressed to his ex-wife asking her to contact them and that the matter was urgent. His ex-wife knew exactly what the note was about.
“I’ve been embezzling money for the last 3 1/2 years and I’m probably going to jail. Sorry.” Greg recalls her saying.
“Who’s equipped to get that kind of news?” Greg said.
The couple had just returned from a trip to Israel with RiverLakes Church. Greg and his ex-wife were high school sweethearts, married 14 years. They were both involved in church activities.
Greg’s ex-wife was a bookkeeper and always handled the couple’s finances. With two healthy incomes and no children, the couple never lacked for anything. The two talked about money occasionally, but it was never a source of debate or stress. “I never once thoroughly looked through all of our bills and receipts,” he said. “She would bury the laundering of the money two or three pages deep. I didn’t find out about this until way later.”
Prosecutors eventually proved that Greg’s ex-wife stole nearly a half million dollars from local clients, and she went to prison.
“I was in huge denial,” Greg said. “I couldn’t really understand what was happening. I was shell-shocked. I was in survival mode.”
The criminal charges were only the beginning. Civil lawsuits were filed against the McAvoys to recover the money that was rightfully theirs. But the money was gone. Greg found $30,000, but the other hundreds of thousands of dollars had simply vaporized. With his ex-wife in prison, Greg was on the hook for the money. Filing for bankruptcy was the only way Greg could get out from beneath the weight of the debt his ex-wife owed.
To add to Greg’s confusion and heartbreak, he had learned his ex-wife had an affair with a married man across the country. “The mental anguish from the betrayal and the fear from not knowing what my future looked like caused physical pain,” Greg said. And his pain wasn’t private. Her crimes made local news.
And Greg hung onto God.
“I’m thankful for the maturity of believers at RiverLakes that carried me through.” Greg said. “When something like this hits, you’re going to go back to where your heart is. Thankfully the Lord planted me at RiverLakes with a lot of solid people that really built into my life so I didn’t go off the deep end.”
When Greg’s ex-wife was released from prison, he began an effort to repair their relationship. He had never taken off his wedding ring. In his mind, infidelity allowed but didn’t necessitate divorce. “That is a yes, you can; not a yes, you must,” he said. “The Bible talks way more about forgiveness and things of that nature rather than bailing out.”
That doesn’t mean it’s not easy to bail. Greg recalls asking God to kick him down the road of reconciliation if that’s what he was supposed to do. “I’m not saying it was easy and I’m this super faithful guy. The Lord and I argued over this for months,” he said. “Lord I don’t want this woman. She has burned down everything.’”
Greg tried to make it work, offering forgiveness if she’d be willing to turn from her sin. But she refused to give up her boyfriend and filed for divorce in late 2011. Greg was both relieved and grieved at the same time.
Greg employed three lawyers – one to represent him in the civil suit tied to his ex-wife’s crimes, another to represent him in bankruptcy court and a third in divorce court. It seemed no matter what happened the inevitable result was his financial ruin.
But as Paul notes in Romans 8, suffering works for the eternal and spiritual good of those who love God.
“The Lord says he allows things to happen for our good but the good doesn’t mean everything works out fine,” he said. “The good means that our relationship and reliance on Him is what grows.”
Seasons changed as Greg continued endless meetings with lawyers. True to Romans 8, his crisis brought him nearer to his Lord. In time, Greg began to see blessing for this life too. “The longer it goes and as painful as it is, it’s going to shine more light on the darkness of what happened here,” he said, noting that each new detail judges learned helped his cases. “It takes time for real truth to be revealed and you have to allow that to happen.”
Slowly, God began to reassemble Greg’s life, beginning with his finances. The three court cases were resolved in an order that helped mitigate his personal losses. “I was vindicated and able to get out from underneath the money I was supposed to pay,” he said.
But God had only just begun reconstructing Greg’s life. He met Kariss at RiverLakes in 2013. He laid out his entire story on their first date and she didn’t run. “I was really attracted to her, her love for people, her love for the Lord, oh man!” he said. Greg and Kariss dated for a year and a half, married, and six months ago welcomed their first child, Benjamin.
“I was restored prior to all that and then the Lord heaps these blessings on me,” he said. “I’m not worthy of any of that and yet the Lord was wonderful in his grace and mercy and showered all this on me. It’s just such a joy.”
Finding himself again now in a season of comfort, Greg says he’s investing everything he can into the God who carried him through his hardship. “This is an opportune time to consistently dedicate myself to getting to know Him better and leading my wife that way.”