Looking at Your Life: Grieving Childhood Losses

Lance David

Most of the men I see in therapy who struggle with sexual addiction and temptation have no idea what is driving their battle. What I often hear from them is that it seems like they were just born with an overactive sex drive. However, something else is going on in the person who uses sex in an addictive manner. Addictive behaviors do not make the addict feel good even though they would seem to. Instead, they numb a person to what seems unmanageable to him.

One of the most common factors that contributes to sexually acting out is shame from childhood wounds. By exploring and grieving these wounds, the roots of the weed of addiction are attacked.

No one would deny that it is important how we raise children. Good parents protect, nurture, correct, affirm, and discipline their kids, all the while knowing that they cannot always keep them from harm. Why is it then that so many adults say their childhood had no effect on them or they had no childhood hurts?

Often I hear statements like the following: ‘The past is in the past. Just leave it there.’ ‘What good would it do to blame others for what they did to me?’ ‘I can’t do anything about it so why bother.’ ‘The Bible says, ‘forgetting what lies behind, I press on…’ ‘ Let’s look at these objections to looking at the past, and consider what a healthy model of grieving one’s childhood losses might look like and bring about.

I would agree that there are ways a person can look at his past that would not be helpful. One such way is to play the blame game. Blame merely keeps a person just as stuck if he doesn’t address his wounds in the first place. Both options do not take the sovereignty of God seriously. God knows everything that has happened to us and his desire is to take the good, the bad, and the ugly and turn it into something beautiful for His glory. When we refuse to look at our past, we keep a door closed that God may want opened so He can move in and through us more freely.

When Paul writes in Philippians 3:13, ‘forgetting what lies behind,’ he is not commanding or even suggesting we forget our past. Rather, Paul is making a rhetorical descriptive statement of what he is doing. Much of scripture is telling stories of the past, many of them painful. Looking at the context of this passage, the past about which Paul says he is forgetting is limited. Paul says he is forgetting the accomplishments he had thought during his Pharisaical days gave him a right standing before God. He was not forgetting his entire life history, merely his religious performance. So this passage should not be used to avoid looking at the past.

One exercise I like to give my clients is an impact egg. I take a piece of paper and draw a large egg on it. Then I draw horizontal, vertical and diagonal lines on the egg to make compartments. I ask my client to draw or write something in each compartment that represents a story of impact in his life. Each story can be positive or negative and they need not be in chronological order, but should include ones as early as a man can remember. I encourage men to tell their stories of impact to as many others who will give a receptive ear. But men should make sure they tell someone who will give them feedback on their emotional processing as they tell their stories. I have heard heartbreaking tales of pain and loss told to me by the person who lived it as if he were describing the scores of a ball game- or worse, with a laugh. What this person needs is the feedback of a safe friend who can create the space to allow the emotion- whether it be fear, sadness or anger- to flow.

Most men learned at a very young age that it is not okay to be a male and show that you have hurts. We have all been made fun of, shamed, punished, or withdrawn from for showing emotion–especially crying. The impact of this is to send our emotional selves, our hearts, into hiding. When we are not able to feel for ourselves, we have to do something to take the pain away. Many turn to sex in an attempt to quell an ache they do not even know they have or just because it has become the repository for all unmanageable feelings. However, looking at our past and the wounds we have sustained can help open our hearts to allow God to break in with His healing touch.

For more help in the battle for purity see Every Man’s Battle.

The Miracle that Almost Wasn’t

Edward J. Grant

Naaman, a trusted general in the Syrian army during the days of Elisha, was a brave, well decorated soldier. The king trusted his judgment implicitly as he basked in the glow of a decisive victory over his arch enemy: Israel – God’s renegade people.

However, any biography about Naaman would inevitably conclude with one sad note: ‘but Naaman had leprosy.’ Leprosy – that hideous, debilitating, skin disease inspired fear and was viewed by many as a punishment from God. He could never fully enjoy his long list of accomplishments so long as that ‘but’ remained a part of his biography.

Through the testimony of an Israelite slave girl Naaman heard about a prophet in Israel who was purported to have the power to heal his affliction. With the permission of his king and laden with extravagant gifts for the prophet Elisha, Naaman and his retinue made the trip to Israel.

When he finally reached the prophet’s house he was filled with hope and expectation. Both were quickly dashed when the meeting didn’t go the way he expected.

In the sight of his entourage Naaman masked his nervousness as he walked up to the prophet’s door and knocked. A servant answered and announced Naaman’s arrival. Naaman wondered what this miracle working prophet looked like and was visibly upset when Elisha had the audacity to send the servant back to deliver a brief message to the decorated general: ‘go, bathe yourself seven times in the Jordan and you will be healed.’ With that the servant went back into the house and closed the door.

Was that it? His hopes of healing depended on his bathing seven times in the Jordan? Naaman shook with rage: ‘I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call on the name of the Lord His God, wave his hand over the spot and cure me of my leprosy. Are not Arbana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than any of the waters of Israel? Couldn’t I wash in them and be cleansed?’ Naaman had traveled so far filled with hope and was within seven baths of a new life sans leprosy: would he simply walk away from it?

Naaman faced two difficulties that threatened to abort his healing: his expectations and his faulty reasoning. ‘I thought that he would surely come out to me” God had a different plan for Naaman, one that involved lessons the general needed to learn that were of equal or even greater importance than his desire for healing. He who was accustomed to giving orders needed to learn to take them from the one true God! Notice also how his faulty reasoning almost sabotaged his healing: ‘Are not Arabana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than any of the waters of Israel?’ If all he had to do was take a bath, why couldn’t he have stayed at home?

Those whose lives have been trashed by addictions usually find themselves at the bottom of a huge pile of emotional rubble. Out of desperation they are willing to try almost anything that holds the promise of help. They make deals with God, promises to loved ones – if any are still speaking to them – and are even willing to attend a recovery group. I’ve seen many of them come through the doors of our church to attend Celebrate Recovery, a Christian recovery ministry used by congregations around the country. Perhaps for the first time in their lives they profess a need for God and willingly admit that their lives are unmanageable. Over the weeks that follow they remain sober, they engage in heart felt discussions with fellow pilgrims, and a flicker of hope becomes visible in their attitude.

But then they are faced with the demands of the third principle: ‘Consciously choose to commit all my life and will to Christ’s care and control.’ Suddenly they flinch: ‘Can God be trusted to control my life? Why can’t I keep some of it for my direction and allow God to just handle my addiction?’ As I like to say to these queries: ‘Your best thinking got you into the trouble you find yourself in.’

Perhaps they get beyond the third principle but get hung up by the fourth : ‘Openly examine and confess my faults to God, to myself, and to someone I trust.’ The thought of telling your faults to another person can be terrifying! Why not simply let it remain between you and God?

Remember – God’s healing will always take us out of our comfort zones, forcing us into the realm of faith and obedience. It is there that we meet God and experience His healing on various levels, many of which we weren’t aware we needed!

By the way – Naaman’s story has a happy ending. His servants pleaded with him saying, ‘My father, if the prophet had told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more, than, when he tells you, ‘Wash and be cleansed!” Naaman heeded his servant’s urgent pleadings, bathed seven times in the Jordan, and was completely healed. When you’ve come to the end of your ideas, resources and hope, don’t be surprised that God’s path toward healing is one you never expected!

Need some help in the battle for purity? See Every Man’s Battle.

What Am I Recovering To?

Jayson Graves

Have you ever wondered, ‘Okay God, I know what I’m recovering from, here’but what am I recovering to?’ Ever felt like, in a sense, recovery needs you more than you need recovery (in such a formal, programmatic way)? Well, if so, I say ‘HALLELUJAH!’ The truth is, you are pondering one of the most important yet overlooked aspects of recovery: Vision!

I want to give you a way of thinking about Vision that will pull your recovery from sexual addictions into the future. My heart is to share a few ideas about areas where you can pay attention and with following-through, enrich the process of recovery with greater meaning, radical redemption, and down-right Kingdom authority. I also want to warn you about some common challenges to Vision to help you anticipate how the enemy will try to take you off your God-ordained course.

The bible is clear: ‘Without a Vision, people will perish!’ God wants us to be forward thinkers as a body and as individuals. He has given us each dreams, gifts, talents and passions and He expects a return on His heavenly investment, yes? Well, why is it that so many of us in recovery can’t see past the edge of our 12 step workbooks? The bottom line is it’s not that we can’t’we often just don’t or simply won’t. But that can change and is changing for many. In fact, men all over the world who are getting ‘sexually saved’ are partnering with God to minister redemption in three key areas: Family, Community, and Culture.

Let’s talk about several ways Family Vision can take place. Maybe you have a wife that needs a recovery process of her own. She needs you to work hard on your own stuff first, but eventually, as a result, will be more likely to respond when invited to look at her own issues. (INVITED, being the key word, here fellas!) Perhaps you have kids’they need their father’s shepherding around their sexuality more than any other time. How about other family or extended kinship? Couldn’t they benefit from your openness regarding the process and victory you’re experiencing? You better believe it!

I have a client in Tennessee who shared openly with his family about his past struggle, recovery program, and healing’as a result, his adult children have entered their own healing partnerships with the Lord and a recovery community of their own. In fact, his daughter wrote a compelling story of faith, openness, and purity featuring her dad’s ability to say no to a bunch of peers who wanted him to join them in a visit to a strip club while visiting Las Vegas! Talk about inspiring. Do you think he sleeps easier at night knowing how he’s overcome the enemy’s lies of condemnation and disqualification? I know I do!

What about our Community Vision? How many times have you recognized an individual you work, attend church with, or live near may be struggling? Will you allow God to minister through you to those co-workers, fellow congregants, and neighbors? I know one guy in Reno who was gifted athletically and also suffered from Juvenile Diabetes. When he found out a local girl had the same condition and couldn’t afford treatment, he used his extra time, talent, and treasure (which used to be wasted acting-out) to swim across the frigid waters of Lake Tahoe. He raised thousands for her care in the process. Can anybody get excited about that kind of self-sacrifice? It blows me away!

And then there is Vision regarding Culture. Needless to ask, but can you see where the problem of sexual sin has caused erosion and destitution? My partner on The Blazing Grace Show, Mike Genung sure has’he’s on a mission to put billboards reaching out to the sexually broken in all major cities across the land! Then there’s my client in Ohio who writes and does web-development and served his local sexual integrity ministry by building a much-needed website. Do you get the sense that these guys get excitement and fulfillment form these involvements? Trust me, they’re alive and plugged-in to the Vision they asked the Lord to share with them!

I meet with a Vision and Leadership group for an hour every other week and we discuss these things, challenge one another and take risks. We also anticipate the things that would want to prevent a redemptive partnership with Christ: selfishness, laziness, lack of commitment to our own recovery, being ‘driven’ rather than ‘called,’ pride, arrogance. Listen, these will kill you and steal your dreams so look at them, men! Lay them at the cross, pick up your sword and let’s take back the land!

What are your ideas? I mean, I’m not saying you have to go out and save the world tomorrow’focus on getting better, by all means. But don’t neglect the mandate being given here: ‘seek the Lord while He may be found,’ find out what He means when He says ‘I have plans to prosper you’to give you a hope and a future,’ and ‘they that wait upon the Lord will renew their strength.’

Ask Him to begin showing you your unique, custom-tailored Vision of redemption and then slowly move into that Vision, one step at a time.

Need some help finding vision and fighting the battle for purity? See Every Man’s Battle.