Shame On Me

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“Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.” – Job 42:6

In January of 1984, I had my crises of truth. I was a Christian who had back-slidden into destructive sexual behaviors, and the conflict between my sexual and spiritual desires reached its peak. That was the beginning of my recovery and oddly enough, the darkest time of my life. All my porn had to go, of course. I had my cable service turned off, canceled my subscriptions to erotic publications and relocated to another city.

Only then did it hit me that I’d ruined everything good I had been given. By indulging in my sins, I had abandoned a fruitful ministry, a loving family, great potential – all wasted in a public, shameful way. The more I thought about it, the more I sank into a bottomless disgust with myself. I began sleeping through the days, then waking up horrified at myself, remembering what I’d done, each time seeing it in a worse light. I would cry, thrashing around in my bed in fits of weeping and moaning.

The poet Robert Bly wrote: ‘Where a man’s wound is, there he finds his genius.’

As part of my ‘penance’, I called all my old friends to apologize and to let them know that I had repented.  I could only find a few, but one of them permanently interrupted the ‘I Hate Joe’ cycle I had gotten myself into. When I got him on the phone and told him what was happening with me, the dam burst and I poured out my guilt, the miserable state I was in, and my fear that there was no future for me.  ‘Well, Joe’, he said, ‘if banging your head into the wall is going to build up the Body of Christ, please keep doing it. But if it won’t, don’t you think all this energy you’re putting into self-pity could be put into doing something useful with what’s left of your life?’ That shut me up. ‘And who knows’ he continued ‘but someday, after you get through all this, you might have learned something worth passing on?’

I had been drowning in shame, beating myself up but accomplishing nothing worthwhile in the process. That night I decided to find something more useful to do with my pain. Oddly enough, it was that very pain which led me into my own counseling, and then into a desire to become a trained counselor, and finally into the opportunity to work with hundreds of other men who’d made mistakes so similar to my own.

Be sorry for your sin, by all means. But don’t wallow in shame. Instead, take the time to prayerfully consider how God can convert your worst failures into useful opportunities. You just might be amazed at the genius lurking behind the wound.

For more information on Every Man’s Battle, please call 1800-NEW-LIFE (639-5433)

The Lie of Illegitimate Solutions

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We are made for relationships. The Bible is full of all kinds of relationships: relationship with God, towards others, and even towards ourselves. The trinity themselves are a model of relationship. Even more than that, it is a model of intimacy. It has been said that people who have addictive tendencies are much more aware of their spiritual nature–their deep need for relationship and intimacy. Specifically, there is an acute awareness that something is missing deep inside; a longing for a deep connection and seeking some kind of oneness, fellowship.

This need for intimacy is God ordained. We are designed for it. We know from the Bible, being made in the image and likeness of God that this is actually true, and short of having an intimate relationship with God and others, addiction may be as close as we can get to our divine design in this earthly life.

As sex addicts, we lack connections with others and in our failure to get our ‘legitimate needs met in legitimate ways,’ we isolate and withdraw into our acting out patterns as a poor substitute for what we really desire, addiction instead of relationship; intensity instead of intimacy. As individuals isolated and alone we don’t stand a chance!

Sexual addiction for most of us, became a way of connecting with ourselves in lieu of knowing how to connect with others on that deep personal level. By the time we had passed through our adolescence and into our twenties, it became a substitute for intimacy with others. A secret self of privacy that was isolated had developed. We didn’t have the communication or relationship skills to do otherwise. Intimacy, the kind that allows us to be fully accepted for who we are, just didn’t happen for us.

The world makes all kinds of false claims and promises, like, if we would only do this or seek that, the special connection we long for will indeed occur. ‘NOT!!! It may satisfy for the moment or even a season but not for a lifetime. Our particular choice, sexual addiction, in the whole scheme of alternatives is at least focused on the crown of God’s creation, woman. In our worship of women, or at least her body or body parts, in whatever form we have particularized, is still going to fall way short.

As men, what makes us so vulnerable to this form of addiction is that we are hard wired as visual creatures. In the United States, it is my belief that we are trained to become sex addicts. We’re told that men stand alone, that being needy is for wimps. We hear messages communicating that women are to be exploited. We hear that anything goes and everything is relative. We’re easy prey for the plethora of hyper-stimulation we receive through the portals to our souls, our eyeballs.

As individuals, isolated and alone we don’t stand a chance. We are dead meat. So we try as best we can. We stumble and fumble along, alone, isolated. We make promises and covenant with God and others. We are deceived into believing that all we need is more determination or will power and effort. We should be able to overcome it alone, on our own, in our own strength. And then we fail again and again. Oh, wretched sex addict that I am, what can I do?

One of the powerful experiences that takes place during our 5 days together at Every Man’s Battle is the transformation from isolation into community, large group as well as our break out groups. For some of us this may be the first time ever, or at least since we have become entrenched in our addiction, that we have been so open and transparent, felt safe and free to express our brokenness, our neediness honestly without judgment or criticism, and to be vulnerable about our pain.

Enough written. You get my drift. Stay connected. Utilize the tools that have been emphasized from the conference. By staying connected, the ability to manage our addiction will be one hundred times easier.

For more information on Every Man’s Battle, please call 1800-NEW-LIFE(639-5433)

Unleashing Samson

He was strong and impressive; a clever Nazarite who could spin riddles, destroy lions bare-handed and conquer a thousand men with a donkey’s jawbone. He was Samson, and he was not to be messed with. Yet this man of strength eventually found himself tied up, blinded and put to work at a grindstone like a common mule. What happened? Compromise. Samson was bound by a vow to abstain from drinking wine, eating unclean meat, and cutting his hair.

So long as he was faithful to this vow of separation, he retained his strength. But when presented with an aggressive beauty named Delilah, he broke his vow and integrity, never imagining the nightmare a simple compromise would bring. As soon as he foolishly told Delilah the secret of his strength, she betrayed him to the Philistines, who immediately tied him up, gouged out his eyes, and put him to hard labor.

Strength came from faithfulness to God’s design of separation. Your own Delilah doesn’t care any more about you than Samson’s did. Whatever your weakness may be ‘ pornography, commercial sex, affairs or anonymous encounters ‘ you can be sure it will only weaken and betray you. Look what it’s done so far. Look at how it’s affected your confidence, your judgment, your general ability to perform. Be honest about this. Has sexual sin done anything for you, other than to weaken and limit you?

Compromise came from breaking from God’s design and his own integrity. That need not be the end of your story. When Samson allowed his hair to grow back, his strength returned. And with it came a determination to once and for all destroy the enemies who had so brutally kept him from his potential. If his compromise mirrors your own, take heart. Because his final victory can mirror yours as well. I hope you’ll begin by recognizing that, apart from a consecrated relationship with God, you’re very much like Samson at his weakest. But in returning to Him through repentance and a commitment to knowing Him and His will for you, your spiritual and emotional potential will return as surely as Samson’s hair grew back.

Unleashing Samson involved repenting and waiting for his power to return.
Unleashing Samson was as simple as repenting and waiting for his power to return. So take heart if you’ve allowed yourself to become a compromised man. Your compromise has been foolish and destructive,yes, but your potential, like Samson’s is still waiting to be unleashed.

For more information on Every Man’s Battle call 1800-NEW-LIFE (639-5433) or consider attending one of our Weekend Workshops.