Silent Struggle

Last week Shelley and I both had the privilege of speaking at Biola University in La Mirada, Ca. We’ve had other opportunities to speak to students at schools and ministry events through Campus Crusade for Christ, and every time we are blown away.

There is so little pretense.

It is almost like they haven’t had enough time in the Christian sub-culture to figure out they need to wear masks. Or maybe better said, there is still enough sensitivity in their heart that when they are invited into authenticity and transparency they can throw caution to the wind and enter that sacred space.

Shelley and I challenged the students to make a decision to be radically vulnerable about their struggles. We urged them to risk rejection and take the first step to open up. We tried to help them understand the value and reward of true intimacy. We talked about teenage pregnancy, bestiality, shame, guilt, pornography, sex addiction, anorexia and body image, work-aholism, abortion, forgiveness and redemption.

The stories that were relayed back to us from students covered all these topics and more. They were vulnerable, gritty, sometimes empowering and made us want to cheer, other times painful and hopeless, bringing us to tears.

Interestingly, two consistent themes came out as we engaged the students’ stories. First, the reality of a silent struggle. So many times we heard, “I’ve never told anyone” or “I’m afraid to tell anyone that I’ve…” I even received a handwritten letter from a student describing her shame and disappointment of struggling with repetitive sexual sin, and I’m the first person she has told [written to].

The second theme was that of divorce in the home. Several students came up and said their folks are currently or have recently divorced due to sexual integrity issues. One girl, in tears, talked about how at 20 she’s realizing that her father’s sexual sin has affected her deeply. It pains her to see her mom so resentful and bitter, and her dad simply declares it covered in the blood of Jesus so it doesn’t need to be spoken of again. Heartbreaking.

All in all, I walked away from that campus with hope. Hope because of the raw, unfiltered, willingness of the students to engage difficult topics. Hope because the faculty and staff decided its important enough to address from the main stage and create an open dialogue about. Hope because God is still in the business of redemption and those stories we heard are, for many, a turning point that will change the entire course of their lives and legacies.

If you are in the silent struggle, it doesn’t have to be that way any longer. If you are the ones divorcing with college age children, it doesn’t have to be that way any longer. Change, real lasting change, may be right around the corner.

Purposeful Prayer

One of the great things about purposeful prayer is that it can center us. It can anchor us to the truths and realities of our identity in Christ, even when the waves of life feel like they’re crashing over us. Further, purposeful prayer can remind us where we are going. By inviting God into particular places in our journey, we do ourselves a favor by taking note of where we are and where it is we’re trying to go. We can invite God into the present, pray for his help reaching the destination he designates, and also to help us develop the character He desires in us along the way.

I find purposeful prayer especially helpful when I know I’m headed into a circumstance where my integrity may be challenged. For example, on Thursday I’ll be driving to the airport for the next Every Mans Battle Workshop. I know that I’m driving towards an environment where I better be on my A-game. Not only is the airport a temptation filled placed because of the people, but also because in my past life of addiction I would use the anonymity of traveling to other cities to act out. I used to get excited and feel the drip of adrenaline just driving to the airport, knowing I was going to become a different person. Now I know that the electricity associated with that drive it is a trap; giving it attention or acknowledgement is a step towards forfeiting my integrity.

So, knowing I’m headed into that space requires me to prepare with purposeful prayer. Month after month on the drive I pray this prayer:

 God, help me be a man of integrity as I walk into that airport. When I’m on the plane, or at the hotel, help me honor you, my wife, my boys, my self, my clients, my ministry and my recovery. Help me honor you with my words, with my eyes, with my mind, with my hands and with my heart. Help me be a man worthy of the call you’ve put on my life. Amen.

What situations do you know in advance will challenge your integrity? What prayer can you pray to help center and anchor you to be the man God has called you to be? I urge you to write yours down and review it often.

PS: this idea of purposeful prayer is a part of the additional tools I’ve included in the Worthy of Her Trust Toolkit. I developed this ebook to summarize the key points of Worthy of Her Trust, as well as to provide additional prayers, exercises and Scripture to help with the process. You can purchase and download that resource HERE.

Own It

Jumping right in…

If you have acted out sexually with pornography, masturbation, affairs, etc. you’ve also acted “in” relationally. The two go hand-in-hand. Men who struggle with sexual integrity issues also struggle with things like hiding, blaming, shaming, avoiding, stonewalling, criticizing and controlling with anger. These behaviors push people away and, as some wives report, actually hurt worse than the sexual betrayal.

Once disclosure/discovery occurs and the acting out behaviors stop, the acting in behaviors become the issue. The tougher issue. It’s incredibly hard to change and get away from a critical spirit, from a blameshifting attitude or from being angry and defensive. Yet this is the work of recovery.

Too often I find that while men will own their acting out behavior, they have a difficult time owning their acting in behavior. Typically the justification for it is a cause and effect accusation against the wife. He says he wouldn’t have to be defensive if she didn’t get so angry and accuse him of things. He wouldn’t have to be quiet and shut down if she could just calm down and listen. He wouldn’t have to criticize her if she were a little more complimentary of him. Further, I hear the self validation when guys say that it is only with their wives that they are this way. Since it only happens with her, not the kids, at work or with his buddies, then by process of elimination she is the problem.

Take it from a recovering acting in addict, the best thing you can do for your relationship and for your recovery personally is own this junk. Even the cause and effect thinking itself is acting in. It is putting up a relational wall that keeps pain out and stagnant, self righteousness in.

By the way, sometimes the last statement about it only happening with a wife is true. But its usually not because she is the problem, though that can certainly be the case. More often, its because the marriage is the most intimate relationship we’re involved in. A wife has more ammunition to fire, knows exactly what buttons to push (intentionally or accidentally), and wields the most power to pronounce judgement and rejection. Simply said, there is more risk in the marriage.

The sooner you begin to own those acting in behaviors, the sooner you will feel a change within yourself. Remember that those of us who do this stuff aren’t monsters or perverts, we’re not stupid or simply jerks. There is a reason and there are emotional triggers that prompt us to enact old, unhealthy ways of dealing with life. The more you understand these triggers and your automatic response, the more you have a chance for life to be different.