REbuild, REnew, REstore
In my last post I shared some pretty heavy stuff about my past and how image was a huge contributing factor to deceiving myself and others. I found the need to look perfect on the outside in order to hide the mess that pornography had created on the inside.
Pornography is built on lies:
I had believed its lie to make me feel better
That it would provide for me in times of need/want
I could stop looking at any time
That it is a normal thing that guys do
The biggest of all would be that when I got married I would not need it any longer……..
Lies, Lies and more Lies
And keeping it hidden only made it worse and more powerful. It grew and progressed. It was exactly like a drug…..actually it works in the brain the same way creating pathways and releasing pleasure producing chemicals. And just like a drug, the need for a greater high and more often is present.
I share this not to produce shock value and or draw attention to myself. Believe me sharing these things does not create a sense of pride or importance. Actually it is the opposite. I am disgusted by the things I did, the lies I believed and the people that were in my path of destructive behaviors. Then why do I share?
I share because God’s prescription for freedom from Darkness is HIS LIGHT!
I share because it gives glory to Him for freeing me from the bondage of slavery to this awful sin.
Ephesians 5:13 “But everything exposed by the light becomes visible-and everything that is illuminated becomes a light”
Without shining the light on my darkest parts, then it can remain hidden. I spent years hiding, posturing and playing Christian.
I shared before that God pursued me….what does that mean? He wanted all of me..I had given only part of me. I was doing some good things.
I was serving and helping at church.
I had gone on several mission trips
I was a good husband
I was a good father of my kids
I was a good boss
That’s the problem. God doesn’t call us to be Good….He calls us to be HIS.
He doesn’t want performance and deeds…..He wants us to surrender our Hearts
Surrender, Repent, Confess
I had to admit to myself that what I was doing was wrong and out of control. I had to stop and Repent. That is making the decision to turn away from sin and start doing the exact opposite of what I had been doing.
Then I had to confess……Up to this step it was all internal between God and me.
Now I had to share SOME of this junk with Andrea. NO, I had to share ALL of it! Andrea knew of my struggles. In God’s pursuit of my heart over the years of our marriage there were several opportunities to come clean. The problem was, I only opened up a little because I believed that if she really knew it all then our marriage would be over. If I only would have trusted sooner and revealed the truth I could have avoided so many years of pain.
It wasn’t until four years ago when I was at the crossroads of my life. We were separated and my relationship with God was at the decision point. Do I really trust you with all of me? Am I willing to follow what you fully ask of me?
Our counselor had me do something that I will never forget. She said take time to make an inventory of the sexual sins you can remember. Ask God for clarity and completeness to write this list down. Then once the list is done highlight the ones that happened after you were married. It took several days to make sure it was complete….I wrote and wrote….when I was done I read over it and felt utterly disgusted and ashamed. This is the picture I have in my mind of what judgement day will be like when all of our sins will be revealed before our Creator. To see a complete list of years of sins compiled all together…I said to myself its over. When she hears this any glimmer of hope for us to work this out is gone. So I chose to be obedient and share even though it may be the end of the marriage.
The next step was to share them with Andrea in order to ask for forgiveness.
WHAT? EVERYTHING? COMPLETE CONFESSION?
True intimacy and oneness is being fully known. If you are not fully known then you can’t be fully and unconditionally loved.
That Tuesday afternoon is etched in my memory. I shared one by one all of the disgusting, hurtful and shameful things that I had amassed in my past. She listened with tears and questions. Imagine someone reading a list of things that were done in secret over years that were slowly destroying the relationship you thought you once had!
There were so many tears that day. It was an afternoon that seemed to last an eternity. After sharing this with her I took the list and built a fire and burnt it. As I watched the paper ignite and disappear in the flames, there was a sense of freedom that overcame me. It was gone, just like Jesus had forgiven them when I asked, the list was no more. Freedom had begun that day. I was fully known by God and Andrea. Was everything better in an instant? Did we know from that moment on that our marriage would make it? NO GUARANTEES
It was the start of obedience. Each day He calls me to be obedient. I have a choice to respond. The challenge is to stay fully known….not to create more secrets. The enemy tries, but as long as I am obedient to Christ the enemy will stay at the gates.
Is confession easy? NO
Is staying fully known easy? NO
Is it possible? YES
God didn’t call us to easy…He called us to possible!
Are you still hiding something from your spouse? Are you scared of being vulnerable and fully known? True Intimacy with God and your spouse is only found when you are fully known.
Do you need to have that talk? Make sure it is done in a loving way and prepared. Not just an unloading of junk. Maybe it will take a counselor to navigate this process. Maybe your marriage has some good communication and can handle this talk without counselors. I don’t know but I do know that God wants ALL of your heart!
Andrea and I have shared with you about our marriage. We have walked a journey for the past 18 years that has been both wonderful and heartbreaking at times. I can venture to say that it is not unlike many marriages out there today. Each of you has a story and journey that you are traveling. For some, maybe you haven't experienced the deep heartache that we have trudged through.
Maybe its more subtle:
He’s into hobbies and activities that leave you feeling alone…..
She doesn’t take care of the house and keep it clean…..
He doesn’t share feelings and hurts, but keeps it all bottled up inside….
She fights unfair by bringing up the past all the time…..
I could go on with all the little things in marriage that cause tension and division. Funny thing was that we didn’t seem to have those struggles.
Our communication was good
We both worked together to accomplish tasks
Fighting was not something we did often
Our shared interests complimented one another
OUR MARRIAGE LOOKED LIKE IT WAS PERFECT! I heard that so many times from the outside that I felt that image had to be upheld and sustained. When your image becomes your master then GOD loses his rightful place in your life.
I have shared about my addiction with pornography. This may sound off the wall but Porngraphy wasn't the problem....It was a sympton to a much deeper heart issue. Pornography was the part of me that I had to keep hidden from everyone in order to keep my IMAGE elevated. Erasing the history on the computer, swearing I would never look at that again and again, and trying to make sure I covered my tracks so that no one would ever know. It was exhausting. There may be some of you reading this right now that know exactly what I am describing. You are caught in that trap of keeping the outside looking good while the inside is decaying and dying.
On the outside I looked good. I was the guy that was leading a small group, helping lead worship, in leadership at our church, running a small business and the father of a wonderful family. I was doing all those things with good intentions.
I was pursuing a relationship with Christ.
I did love my wife and kids.
The problem was that I was not fully committed to all of it. I had not SURRENDERED my heart completely. I gave just enough to feel and look like I was spiritual and invested, but held the deepest parts back.
Imagine your heart being like your home. I welcomed Jesus in the front door. He was able to walk around my house. I showed him the living room, kitchen, dining room, and many other parts of the house that were kept neat and tidy. But when he asked to see the basement……that’s when I got nervous and said NO. That room is a mess, if I let you in there you would see parts of the real me. My image would not look so spiritual and put together if you saw what was stuffed behind that door. I kept that door closed to Jesus and everyone else. Its messy and dark down there. NO ONE IS EVER ALLOWED IN THAT ROOM.
Do you have a room like that? Where your secrets and sins dwell.
I kept that door locked for a long time.
God kept asking and pursuing me to get into that room.
I kept denying him.
The worst part was that the more I kept it hidden the more it grew.
Sin in darkness breeds more sin.
And as you become more desensitized to the nature of the sin it progresses to deeper sin.
At one time looking at images was the extent of my addiction. But like any other drug the need for something stronger persisted. It grew into actually making choices to commit adultery against my wife and God.........
That last line took me a while to write….It is still extremely difficult to share this part of my heart. It allows others to form opinions about who I am that are out of my control.
For so many years I cared about what people thought about me. Outside opinions defined who I was….That was the problem. Image was everything…..
The answer was surrender, confession, and forgiveness.
We want to share in the next few posts about how God pursued us, our marriage, and our hearts.
Take some time today and evaluate your heart. Are there parts that are hidden from others, your spouse, or even God? Are you fully known by HIM?
Friends of Proclaiming Freedom, Friends of ours…If you are still here reading this blog after everything we have shared then I can certainly call you friends! Gary and I had an amazing weekend full so many emotions, The “Refine Us Date Night” was a huge success. Those of you who were with us Friday night, thank you for taking the time to spend your evening with us. Our hope is that you were able to take away more than just dinner and a “show” so to speak. Our prayer leading up to Friday night was that The Lord use the evening to speak to each and every person in a unique way…To meet you right where you were. It’s our belief that he did!
Some needed encouragement, to know that they were on the right track,
Some needed the Holy Spirits nudging (others needed shoving) to act or
make a change.
Some needed a wake up call
Many, needed HOPE!
Overall we desired for our message to be about HOPE. That no matter where your marriage is, no matter how many years you have been battling and trudging along, In Christ, there is HOPE! If you have read the first blog post or you were there Friday night, or perhaps you just walked with us over the years, you know some of our story. Honestly, in the eyes of the world, even many in the church, our marriage should be over. The years of betrayal and heart ache seem too much to “get over”. Too much to risk getting hurt again. I’m not going to lie and say it was a piece of cake or that it wasn’t heartbreaking, however, my mind never wavered from believing in God for Gary’s redemption story. I always had HOPE…I believed that surrender was possible and that God was in hot pursuit of Gary’s soul. What I didn’t realize is that God was persuing me as well. You see, over the many years of hurt and betrayal I had built walls up around me. Walls of what I deemed protection. Walls that wouldn’t allow me to be “hurt” but also wouldn’t allow God in. (more about this in a future post) Thankfully, I finally realized my need for surrender as well.
Today, we are two souls, damaged and wounded, but most importantly redeemed. We are better together because we surrendered separately and allowed God to work on us as individuals. Friday night Justin said that his counselor told him that “she could help broken people, but not a hard hearted ones. I think this is God’s motto too. When we are broken, God can strip us down to nothing and rebuild. When we try to hold it all together, we don’t allow him access to all parts of our heart and life and it’s difficult for Him to rebuild because we are holding tightly to so many pieces There is HOPE if we can surrender and let go of those pieces.
In the last 4 years Gary and I have become keenly aware of the spiritual battle here on this earth. We firmly believe that Satan is choosing to attack the church by tearing apart marriages. If he can tear down one marriage at time, he can take down the church. One of his biggest tools in this destruction is pornography. It’s considered the secret sin. It’s a sin that is so much easier to hide than other sins and the shame that goes with being found out is extremely heavy.
Secrecy and Shame are two of the devils biggest weapons!
Although Gary and I are super nervous and anxious, we are so very excited to be free from secrecy and shame! We will not allow Satan to use those two things against us anymore. We share OUR story for GOD’S glory. We humbly stand tall knowing that God redeemed our relationship, not us. We are excited to travel the path ahead knowing HE goes before us and lights the way. We press into this scary path because we long for others to find the same HOPE that we did. Thank you for walking with us!
As I sit to write this first entry to our new website blog…..I am blocked by trying to make it “catchy” and insightful. It needs to be something that would draw you in and give you all the principles to a better marriage and relationship with Jesus in a few paragraphs. Then I realized the part of me that desires acceptance and accolades, the need to feel important, and the wanting for the “pat on the back” still exists within my heart. For years I was motivated to do, say and act a certain way in order to fit it, feel accepted, and feel needed.
It was those very deep ingrained desires that slowly eroded my heart, soul, and life around me for so many years. If I am brutally honest with myself I could say that without God’s Grace and Redemption I would be right back in those places in a matter of time. On my own, my heart drifts towards those things. I am identified by those things I do….With Jesus though I don’t need to.
Four years ago my world came crashing down around me. Not because I wanted it to, but because I chose for it to fall apart. You see, I made choices over 28 years that led to the near destruction of my marriage, family, career, and relationships. It wasn’t because of some outside circumstances done to me, poor parenting, or the “devil made me do it” attitude. When it came down to it……I made choices that affected the direction my life and heart would take. I own my decisions.
Each of us has a story.
Each of us has a past.
Each of us has a collection of choices that explain us.
The problem came when I allowed my choices to define me.
I allowed them to set a course of
All of those are key ingredients to let sin grow.
In those places the enemy of our soul flourishes. He can twist our reality and keep us captive to our sins and desires. In darkness I opened the door to my heart. When that door opens the path that is beyond is a wide open road to endless sins. Notice I didn’t say the enemy opened that door for me….I opened it. I chose to keep that first look at pornography to myself when I was young. I kept those images of women locked in my brain. I didn’t know by doing that I would start a path of objectifying woman, distorted view of relationships, a false sense that intimacy was for pleasing myself, and that the cure for a pornography addiction was marriage.
Just writing this makes my heart heavy. It brings back a flood of emotions of a time when it seemed there was no hope. I was a mess….on the inside…
Many of you may read this and be in shock because you never saw this part. You didn’t know that I struggled with these things. You never knew that Andrea and I were separated for a time.
I was very good at hiding.
I was so afraid of being found out that I covered my tracks really well
I was a great achiever and performer.
I was a people pleaser. That gave me the feeling of acceptance and worth. If we are honest with ourselves we all like to hear good things said about us. The problem was I took it on as a job. My decisions were driven out of making everyone else happy. I was the yes man….
I thrived on being in the spotlight of people’s hearts. I didn’t realize or understand what I was doing or the lasting effects. I was supporting an inner need of my soul that I didn’t fully understand. It was unknowingly eroding my heart away along with my life around me.
Sin is incremental. We don’t just wake up one day and decide to ruin our marriage. Satan has studied us for thousands of years. He knows how to tempt us slowly and allow us to make small seemingly insignificant choices that take us deeper into the destruction of our own lives. I made those choices and one day found myself in a huge pit. My choices eventually led me to break my marriage vows.
I was in the pit, but I wasn’t alone. God was there with me. He spent all those years patiently pursuing me. Satan is patient and persistent, but God is more! God was relentless in His pursuit of me. I am not unique though. He is waiting on you as well. He longs for your heart to be aligned with His.
Andrea and I have spent the last four years going through the roughest part of our marriage. There have been times of utter agony and despair. It has also been the most freeing and sweetest parts of our marriage so far! God has shown us his faithfulness, grace, restoration and redemption. He has planted in our hearts principles of His way to FREEDOM. He showed us that it does not have to be over. He walked us through brokenness, complete surrender, forgiveness, spiritual warfare, true biblical intimacy and restoration. God showed me how to walk in freedom from pornography’s grip. As we learned and put into practice these principles God was gracious and patient. He surrounded us with people who loved and reinforced His hope and healing in our lives and marriage.
After seeing these people pour into us, we feel His call to pour that hope into others. He has planted a seed in our hearts to speak truth into an area of sin that is rampantly destroying marriages everywhere. Proclaiming Freedom Ministries is launching this year. He is calling us to stand with Him to share His HOPE to marriages that have been devastated by sexual sin. Our marriage was for years. But when the world said it should be over…..
God said “not yet…do you trust me…can you trust me….will you trust me?”
We did and are still trusting Him daily.
Where are you today? Maybe you are in a place of secrecy….maybe in a place of brokenness…thinking of giving up…..captive to sin….
Will you step out and trust Him? He longs to set you free so a new relationship with Him can be built.