While it’s probably not a good thing to get too bogged down in the “who am I?” and the “who are you?” questions, they do come up in our minds every now and then. We can’t help it.
Who am I? Who are you? God only knows. But, thank God, God truly does know.
It took me a long time to admit I was “sexually-broken.” I knew from an early age that engaging in sexual activity with a person of the same sex was wrong. I knew it instinctively, but I also knew it spiritually. God’s Word was clear on the issue. Still, it seemed impossible to resist and yielding to it cost me greatly. Only by accepting the fact that I was “broken,” could I accept my need for repair, through a desire for holiness.
My issue was homosexuality, but many Christians struggle with other forms of sexual brokenness: pornography addiction, lust, adultery, idolatry. What was meant for good – our sexuality – has been corrupted in many ways. Still, those of us who know Christ will always hope to replace our brokenness with wholeness though holiness. It is a survivable struggle.
I was not always sexually broken.
I was the little boy who sat on a sidewalk and watched the ants cross by, inches in front of my bare feet and wondered why they had so many to “be with.” My father had left the family and we were splintered to the point of co-mingled solitude. God knew me in my aloneness.
I was the second-grader zipped into a camping tent with a pedophile, innocent one in the hands of a not-so . . . being changed without my knowledge or consent and certainly in ways I could not understand. God knew me in my vulnerability.
I was the shy middle-schooler envying the boys rising in popularity and athletic prowess, wondering why I am uncomfortable and so uncertain of self. God knew me in my awkwardness.
I was the high-schooler anxious to move on beyond the presence of peers and the pressures of performance, but totally unsure as to what I was moving to. God knew me in my uncertainty.
I was the college freshman exploring freedom, walking in the dark on a misty campus and accepting an invitation from a stranger into a new world that slyly presented itself as an answer to all my confusion. God knew me in my stumbling.
I became the man hiding behind the man, developing the double-mind, fencing in the soul, projecting the persona, erecting the image, avoiding the reality, feeding the brokenness of the past so it could bleed into the present and project into the future. God knew me in my destructiveness.
In the timeless view of God, I am all of those described above . . . but so much more. In God’s expansive view of time . . . I am broken and whole, hurt and healed.
The weight of who I am is not a burden to an omniscient loving God whose grace covers all.
I am the man who is healing, rejecting society’s claims of inevitability, shaking off judgment, refusing to surrender to others’ genetic wishful thinking, accepting the reality of choice and embracing the simplicity of daily surrender . . . to the God who always knew me.
We are who we are in part because of where we’ve been. In all those places, God was “mindful” of us. We hid; we paused; we ran; we rejected; we fell. Sometimes we ran to Him; sometimes we fell before Him; sometimes we cried out to Him; sometimes we pleaded with Him. In all ways, He is always “mindful.”
I am a husband and a father. I have five children who are: a business owner, a graduate student, an Army Ranger, a police officer, a college student. I have four daughters-in-law and six grandchildren. I have two dogs and five fish. I have a wife who has loved me from before “I do” and still does.
I am all of the things I mentioned above: sometimes alone, sometimes vulnerable, sometimes awkward, sometimes uncertain, sometimes stumbling, and sometimes destructive. I am also healing; I am surrendering; I am changing. I am showing the signs of the struggle, which means I do not yield to brokenness as inevitable or final.
Maybe you . . . or someone you love . . . is a bit like me, too-long bent beneath the weight of who we are, ready to let the God who bears all . . . bear us.
It’s tragic how many things in life we do for love and acceptance, and yet all that time we have Someone who loves us and accepts us from the moment we are conceived. It’s sorrowful that we yearn for someone to really know us and yet we have always had Someone who has always known the very number of hairs on our head. It’s sad that we want so not to be alone and we have always had Someone who said He would never leave us. And yet, even if we are aware of His presence, we often try to hide ourselves.
When I look back - - - which it is getting easier to do – I understand much more clearly what use to be not so comforting.
The truth is, if we believe that we can find our own way out of this wilderness of sin, we won’t. It is in Christ alone. Still, Christ is not limited in His workings and can use anything or anyone He so chooses to bring the lost sheep back into the flock.
I had done many things right and well. I married the woman I loved; I tried very hard to be a good father to my five children, though there is no doubt they were damaged by the deep secrets in my life . . . secrets kept from them in part to protect them and in part to feed my own personal misguided search to fill an emptiness only God can fill.
I never abandoned church. I never turned my back on God’s Word. I was not totally hopeless, but often futilely helpless.
Just as my journey began in the hands of a twisted man who robbed me of my trust in all men . . . my journey’s end began in the hands of men I learned to trust. These are men who fear God but were themselves fearless in the face of my confusion, caring enough to be a steady hand through my continued stumbling, rather than recoiling in horror as if I bore a sin of contagion. These men straight-forwardly helped me to right myself, presenting me with supportive accountability, not super-scriptural checklists. Through these relationships, I learned the power of compassionate truth from men who had ears to hear and hearts big enough to carry the burdens I finally unloaded. And they wanted nothing from me other than to see me walk steadily towards freedom.
Myself long suspicious of God – particularly when told to view Him as Father – I began to experience God’s love through people who approached me as God-with-skin-on, yielded to His purpose, enabled with the stamina it takes to walk faithfully at the side of one who had teetered so often on the edge.
For me, this has not been an easy struggle. No bright light switched on in my brain to chase away the darkness in my soul. It took practical and persistent help from people trained to do so . . . and it took a willingness to lose all in the pursuit of freedom, Through the help of a professional counselor, I addressed the empty spaces of my past that had been filled in wicked ways. Through the Living Waters program at First Stone Ministries in Oklahoma City, with the help of fellow strugglers, I addressed my present and began to see that the future is not written in stone, but built on the Rock.
While most people in my life -- from my own children to most of my church friends -- wearied of this hill-and-valley-plagued journey, a few did not. Perhaps God just considered them strong enough to bear it all . . . or perhaps they were perfectly gifted for the walk. They know who they are because they never turned away.
Perhaps the greatest help comes from those who remain at our side, even though they receive pressure from others to remove themselves from the life of the struggler, supposedly for the struggler's own good, as if abandonment and rejection were akin to shock therapy. The peddlers of hopelessness shake their heads at the stalwart ones who stand. My wife endured this out of her love for me and her belief that God's will was for her to stay and see what God could do.
For some, the big question is . . . how can a marriage survive such a huge failing as this, such deception, such pain, unfaithfulness, distortion and mistrust? And some marriages don't. Mine did. Through the grace of God and the adopted grace of Lisa, my wife, who has the ability to see me through Jesus' eyes. She understood the price He paid and let it serve as an example for a price she would pay herself in hope. And, she, who had more reason than anyone to abandon me . . . rescued me instead.
If we are willing, God brings rescuers into our lives. If we are willing, He can take us from the brink of disaster and call us to become rescuers ourselves. Those who have seen the pit know best where to place the warning signs to help others avoid the fall.
I had a hard time believing that some of the things that happened to me - - - as well as some of the things I myself did - - - could possibly be used by God for any good purpose. Now I know better.
I know there is always more going on than I can possibly understand, so I learned to stand on God’s promises.
God loves me even when I can’t feel it.
God is working in every moment even when I can’t see it.
God is changing me even when I don’t understand it.
God has always been there, no matter how rejected I felt by others, no matter how hard I was rejecting Him.
When I was knit in my mother’s womb . . . God was there.
When my Dad drove away for the final time . . . God was there.
When the scoutmaster crawled into my tent . . . God was there.
When I married my best friend . . . God was there.
When my children were born . . . God was there.
When they turned away from me . . . God was there.
When I was hurt . . . God was there.
When I hurt others . . . God was there.
When I was redeemed . . . God was there.
When I fell . . . God was there.
When I was restored . . . God was there.
When I got up this morning . . . God was there.
When I lay down this evening . . . God will be there.
And when I ascend into heaven . . . God will be there too.
There is no secret too buried . . . no past too dark . . . no confusion too deep . . . no sin too ugly . . . no inner or outer fault so distasteful that it is above the enduring and ever-present grace of God. Nothing can separate us from our Father’s love.
There is no struggle He cannot cease.
(NOTE: The post above is actually the Introduction from my book, Surviving Sexual Brokenness: What Grace Can Do. I hope you will order a copy today for yourself, if you are a struggler, or for someone you know who needs it. Please order one for your church pastor and library. All of us need to learn better how to help our brothers and sisters who struggle in hope of freedom. This is a survivable struggle.)