My daughter just started kindergarten this week. What an exciting time of new beginnings and endless possibilities. These first few steps of her educational journey are memorable and mark the start of a truly adventurous quest for increased knowledge. The buzz created in our home because of my daughter’s first days of school caused me to reflect on the process of recovery and the essential ingredient to lasting purity: grace.
One thing I can assure my daughter (as well as you who are hiking the trail toward purity) is that the journey has obstacles. Just as my daughter will encounter barriers to her educational growth, so too will you encounter seemingly insurmountable challenges in your pursuit of sexual purity. You may hit a wall of frustration, boredom, or temptation in your recovery. The fact that recovery requires resistance is sometimes discouraging to the point of wanting to give up. But rather than take the path of least resistance (which only leads to more pain and disappointment), press forward on the path to personal purity.
The challenges we face in our pursuit of purity are no secret. Laziness, pride, temptation, even relapse. These obstacles attempt to impede our progress and reignite the deadly flames of shame in our minds and hearts. If we allow them to stunt our growth in recovery, we lose momentum and soon find ourselves contemplating old acting out behaviors. From there it is a short trip to deeper bondage in sexual sin.
What then allows a man to break through these barriers and enjoy ongoing, long-term freedom in sexual purity? A proper understanding and application of grace is a great starting point. Grace is God’s favor poured out on undeserving, sin-stained men just like you and me. It is God’s continual “stamp” of approval and acceptance on His children. As God’s child, you are forever engaged by him within the loving boundaries of grace – even when discipline is necessary. To understand such grace begins to put into perspective the many obstacles along the road to purity.
How do you apply this grace in a practical sense when faced with a very real obstacle such as temptation or laziness? First, you must recognize that something has gone awry in your recovery plan. The ship is taking on water, so-to-speak, and something needs to be done to correct it. Let’s say you realize that you have begun to drift toward certain sexual temptations, maybe lingering on seductive websites or TV shows. You haven’t “crossed the line” to porn, but you are drifting. Applying grace to such a situation would include first recognizing that a drift is occurring, and then reminding yourself that whatever you choose to do from that point on, God still loves you. That’s right. Grace is given, not because it is deserved, but because of Christ’s sacrifice for you. Most often, such a reminder will cause you to see that any more movement toward sin would only bring pain, shame, and disappointment. Grace, therefore, leads us to repentance and purity.
I once knew a counselor who used a very unconventional practice to help smokers overcome their habit (and I am not necessarily recommending it here). After several months in counseling and support group therapy, the counselor would instruct his clients to spend one week carrying a pack of cigarettes in their pockets. Not so they would smoke them, but rather so they knew that at any moment they could pull one out if they chose to. This counselor wanted to teach his clients that they had a choice – they did not need to be controlled by the cigarettes, they could choose what to do with their lives. Grace often reminds us of this scary truth – we have a choice. We can choose to walk humbly before God and others and receive the blessings of God’s grace, or we can choose to live in pride, calling the shots and suffer the consequences of isolation, shame, and broken relationships.
Seeing my daughter’s excitement at beginning school also reminded me that the road to recovery is worth it. There is a benefit to pressing through the obstacles and discomfort to reap the reward of peace and true contentment. Although there may be moments (even seasons) of difficulty and disappointment, the long-term results of a lifestyle of purity are worth it. And for every moment, or season, of obstacles and challenges, we are assured that God’s grace is sufficient.
For more help on this subject, please see Every Man’s Battle.