Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. -- John 14:27
"It takes time."
Of all the words meant to express comfort and hope, these have always been and still are my least favorite, to the point of my almost never using them when people's lives crumble in the many ways in which they do.
Still . . . some things do . . . take time. Often, perhaps, even more than we imagine we will have, although, in the truest scope of time, we have no less time now than we ever had. Still, accepting the fact that some things may only reconcile somewhere in the vastness of eternity is not as easy or as comforting as we may think when we tell someone first that "it takes time" and then follow up with "if not in this life then in the next." The eternal one . . . which is actually this one already if you are in Christ. Time is then, without end. Wouldn't it be nice if our patience for change and restoration could align with that timeline?
I started "Signs of a Struggle" about three-and-a-half years ago, fueled by an inner tantrum, an odd mix of selfish expression and selfless desperation. I wanted my heart to be heard and my pain to be released and I especially wanted -- desperately -- some way to communicate what I believed God had done in response to my cries of despair. I realized that years of deception had closed the doors to speak to those I love the most -- my children. I thought perhaps, though deaf to direct attempts, they would read the words I wrote in this blog and see them as a true description of what it means to be granted freedom from the darkest pit of life. In expressing remorse, confessing hurt, pursuing repentance and marveling at the grace of God, I hoped they would see and trust a new me. That was the selfish part: I wanted my family restored.
The selfless part? I knew I was never in the pit alone, but that many stumbled around the darkened depths, feeling blindly for some way out. I thought perhaps in sharing transparently my own struggle I might accomplish two things: encourage fellow strugglers to persevere and pursue restoration and encourage those who love them to be more hesitant in leaving them, believing in the hope of Christ to heal and the power of grace to restore.
A Christian who struggles with sexual brokenness struggles from the point where he first encounters Christ and realizes he is out of sync with God's plan for his life. Much of that struggle takes place in secret torment, wrapped in fear of revelation. That was my case for decades, until, in 2005 -- seven years ago now -- the battle emerged onto a public battlefield, and, in the freedom of that revlation, I was able to enlist re-enforcements and benefit from the insight and input of those who had traveled a similar road to freedom.
In 2009, due more than anything to the crippling consequences of a false accusation leveled at me by someone close and dear but deeply deceived, I began to write, partly out of a crippling fear that I had perhaps lost hope, and partly out of righteous indignation that I had traveled so far only to be sideswept and blindsided. I had not lost hope of change, for that was already well underway, but I had lost hope of restoration, as self-defined. It seemed that loss was to be my prevailing lot in life. It was becoming more and more difficult to balance the columns of loss and gain. Oddly, in the days when I had buried a deep secret, I seemed to have it all. A wonderful family -- great wife, four outstanding sons, an amazing daughter -- a great job, perhaps undeserved but the cherished respect of friends and peers, a fairly stable and predictable future, a nice and comfortable home. The clarity that had emerged in the years after 2005 careened into chaos in 2009 with an attack that overwhelmed everything that had come before, seeming to heave the healing that had taken place into a heap of meaninglessness. Abrupt, unwelcome and untrue now and forever, the accusation was clearly a flexing of Satan's muscle, something I have seen take place in others who find their recovery assaulted by Satan's refusal to let them go. He will use anyone and do anything he can when he sees the work of goodness freeing anyone from his snares. Breathless and bewildered, I began to see everything slipping away.
As many fear -- "If you only really knew . . ." -- became skewed reality. Those who had been unaware of my past struggles, including those with whom I worked, now knew not only about the real ones of the past, but viewed them in light of the false accusation, resulting in an end to my career as a respected executive. Consequently, each of the cherished things slipped away: my children, the respect of others, the seeming stability of life that had been assured by the cozy executive position.
It seemed only two things remained and both are examples of the extreme strength of love: God and Lisa, the only two things I have ever been "one" with. I am in Him and He in me. I am one with her. Had God not demonstrated the strength of those bonds, I would have welcomed the temporal soothing the world always seems to offer at our most despairing or bewildering moments. He was so faithful. And, Lisa, who had stared down my own unfaithfulness, continued to demonstrate hers.
I have, for the past three-and-a-half-years, traversed the paths of brokenness and come to love those who traveled there with me. The fuel of anger was slowly spent, though I railed at what I saw -- and still see -- as an indifferent church which blames its losses on culture instead of its own neglect to address the emerging needs of fellow saints, those who survive momentarily by pretending to be what they hear they should be instead of reaching out for help from those who pretend to be what they are not. The church needs far fewer words and less glorified insight and far more action and a sincere desire to engage in the fights that are ravishing the flock.
That is not to say that there is not desire on the part of some within the church to help those who struggle. For the past several years, I've written regularly for SBC Voices on the subject of sexual brokenness and -- at least in the comment section - it appears the message reached some church leaders. I also joined with others who have a heart for those who bear the burden of sexual addiction within our churches, handing out thousands and thousands of copies of resources to pastors and leaders at the annual Southern Baptist Convention. I pray that some took it to heart, though the evidence is underwhelming.
Within the "ministry" itself, I benefited in my own battle through healing involvement with First Stone Ministries and through the insight and truths shared through Exodus International and Desert Stream. Still, it was heartbreaking to see the split develop within Exodus, thought it did make my own resolve -- to address each person's burden individually within the landscape of their own trial -- and not to get pulled down by distracting disagreements while the puzzled perish.
I pray that the work of the determined individuals prevails even as the ministries attempt not to derail.
How does a tantrum give way to a sigh?
I slowly have come to the realization that consequences are not always erased by grace and that restoration is not always a mirror of the dashed past. Just as battlefield injuries leave the soldier forever changed, perhaps with a prosthetic leg and a deep facial scar that all can see and wonder about, so does that battlefield of a consuming inner war leave us forever changed, perhaps with some scars that do not completely fade, but do close tight around the original wound. That does not mean we default from the race or turn from the mirror. We are different, but not indifferent.
There are types of sighs.
Sighs of resignation.
Sighs of sorrow.
Sighs of indifference.
Sighs of regret.
Sighs of exhaustion.
Sighs of surrender.
It appears to me that it is time to, at the very least, pause in the writing of the blog. I am not doing so out of resignation --- though some of the things I hoped for are unresolved. I am not doing so out of sorrow -- though some of the things unresolved do sadden me. I am not doing so out of indifference -- I am as determined as ever to do as much as I can to help others free themselves from Satan's grip of sexual brokenness. I do not do so out of remorse . . . for I am forgiven and have walked through confession and repentance. I do not do so out of exhaustion . . . though I am dismayed that the enemy has made so many gains in this battle and that Christians seem to wander further into apathy about how to fight against the consuming of so many. And, I definitely do not pull back on this blog out of surrender. Indeed, I am prayerful that another door will open.
In the days ahead, I believe that we will see more and more people, perhaps exasperated by the complexities of too-bureaucratic churches and denominations and too-entrenched ministries may find that God will continue to do what God has always done: use us each and everyone to reach out to our brother and sisters and walk with them, at their side, through the trenches we have ourselves endured.
What an honor that will be, changing lives one-on-one. So Christlike.
So, I do sigh. But it is a sigh of peace. Much like sitting on a porch as the seasons change and the trees drop their leaves and leave us longing for what we know will be a gorgeous spring, once we have endured the calloused winter. A bird crosses the sky, just below the low hanging clouds and a train whistles in the distance . . . and there is a peace that makes you want to linger. But there is much to be done, and there is peace in knowing that. It is the promise of enduring.
No doubt I will venture back here on occasion when I feel like God is nudging. In the meantime, I hope you will explore the older posts and reflect on my journey in the hopes you will see glimpses of your own and find encouragement. The books -- Surviving Sexual Brokenness and Who Told You You Were Naked? The Counterfeit Compassion of Culture -- will always be available and, if you think you or someone will benefit from my attempts to fill them with truth, compassion and realistic encouragement, I hope you order them..
Thank you for reading and traveling with me. God has been so good and I am so thankful that I am not who I once was.