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15
Feb

A Fallen Pastor’s story, Part 1: Beginnings — Holy Saturday is real

“I found the bottom and discovered it to be sound.”
–John Bunyon, Pilgrim’s Progress

I sat in a small upstairs classroom in an unfamiliar church, thinking, “I am all that I feared I was…”It was my first 12-step meeting for sex addicts. It was remarkably surreal — everything from the opening prayer, “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference” — to the introductions.

“Hi, my name is _________ and I am a sexaholic”…

It was my first 12-step meeting for sex addicts. It was remarkably surreal — everything from the opening prayer, “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference” — to the introductions.

“Hi, my name is _________ and I am a sexaholic”

”Hi _________,” the group answered in unison.

I didn’t know if I was dreaming or if this humiliating nightmare was my new reality. It seemed too unreal to be real. But it was very real.Just a few days earlier I confessed to my wife that I solicited prostitutes for sexual intercourse. I resigned all my responsibilities as director of

confessionJust a few days earlier I confessed to my wife that I solicited prostitutes for sexual intercourse. I resigned all my responsibilities as director of Cross Carrier Ministries, and dropped out of “life as I knew it.”

My identity was seeping away. How could I know that being crushed by the Church, and cast out into an unknown world was God’s way of letting me know he wanted a personal relationship with me. I also had no idea that my path was about losing more than sexual addiction, but about having to cut out all the “stuff” in my life that I considered, “a part” of me, but God saw “as harmful” to me. Little did I know that I was embarking on a journey through the deepest recesses of my soul. It traversed the gullies of my resentments, the canyons of my fears, the cavernous holes bored out by my secret life and the quicksand pits of selfish and prideful attitudes that touched every other aspect of my life. I merely used fantasy and sex to hide from all these things. They were symptoms of much deeper problems I didn’t want to have to face.I’m the son of an itinerant evangelist and missionary mother, I quickly slid into the family business. I started preaching at age sixteen. As a communicator, I prided myself on being open about my weaknesses. At times, I even admitted from pulpits that I was struggling with “sexual addiction”. I’d reveal much, but never my entire story. By doing this, I relieved some of the suffocating guilt I felt while appearing and sounding like a much better speaker. Looking back, by revealing some of my struggles I helped some people on their journeys.

In reality, my ministry—indeed my whole life – was a façade or a hologram. I was not really real. I was a “hollow man,” who perceived the world as his stage, and people as his opponent, or tool. Everything was about me. I was at the center of the universe. The world revolved around me. I was a narcissist. And though I knew something was wrong. I didn’t know what. Existential questions plagued me continually, and I found no respite. I was powerless, and my life became unmanageable, and I was incapable of recognizing that reality.

After my fall into grace, I listened to a tape of a seminar I taught at a singles convention on the topic of sexuality. As I listened to that distant memory, I was amazed at how right I was about so much. But I also realized that I offered no enduring, sure hope. How could I give away what I didn’t have myself? I had nothing to give. I was an addict with no recovery. Indeed, I was an addict that didn’t even fully know that I was an addict. I cognitively understood the lust trap and often expounded on it for hours. I knew every inch of the pit called addiction. I spent my life exploring its inner walls looking for a way out without any success. I read all the books, tried all the prayers. Nothing worked. I had nothing to offer but a tour of the prison I inhabited. It is a harsh reality that too many people live and are familiar with addiction without ever realizing that it holds them captive.

sisyphusSexual addiction (like every other addiction) does not discriminate. It doesn’t seem to matter who one is. Men and women from different faiths and classes of society whither and wilt inside, little by little, trapped and controlled by powers beyond their control. Many are physically dying from a seemingly endless list of diseases contracted through illicit sex. Or depression and anxiety that nearly always accompany sexual addiction. Some will take their own lives, hopeless and lost. Others simply wander with hollow eyes searching for their next “fix” trying to make it through another day.

I spent hours immersing myself in pornography, cruising bars, the red light districts, phone lines, or the Internet, looking for an adrenaline hit I only achieved while “hunting.”. Many addicts have no idea the amount of time we lost in a secret, shameful, fantasy world that sucked us in, refusing to let go. I lost weeks and months of my life to lust that I never will get back. I could get on my computer for a minute and snap out of one of my hypnotic-like state four to eight hours later.Looking back, that has changed.

Now I discover each day a new path to freedom. Like many in recovery, I am slowly finding the fullness of life I was promised (but never experienced) way back in Sunday school. Life is full of hope for recovering addicts. We discover that we have no choice to but to rely on God for our very breath.

For the first time in my life, I began to experience a real relationship with Jesus because I have no choice but to run into his outstretched arms every day if I want to live. I am not a disciplined person by any stretch of the imagination, but some simple disciplines have become a matter of life and death for me. Forgetting them, I consciously decide that I don’t want a relationship with Jesus that day or in that moment, and I isolate; alone in my addiction that, untreated will kill me. Today the Bible is not merely a book of theory. It is becoming a book of solace and connection.I cling to Jesus as my hope for salvation. His death and resurrection are my salvation. The twelve steps of which I here write are my path up Golgotha’s hill. They are the steps I take each day to kneel at my Saviour’s cross.

Three crosses

I cling to Jesus as my hope for salvation. His death and resurrection are my salvation. The twelve steps of which I here write are my path up Golgotha’s hill. They are the steps I take each day to kneel at my Saviour’s cross.There is nothing magical about them. They are merely a pathway – my pathway. They’ve allowed me to enter the transcendent spirit world and have fellowship with the Creator of all that is. After spending my whole life telling people about Jesus, these steps are finally allowing me to meet Him.

There is nothing magical about them. They are merely a pathway – my pathway. They’ve allowed me to enter the transcendent spirit world and have fellowship with the Creator of all that is. After spending my whole life telling people about Jesus, these steps are finally allowing me to meet Him.On my journey, I am discovering a lot about the Church and its approach to addicts (and other sinners) like me. I imagine that every rule has its exceptions. I have found some exceptions to my rule, but by in large, the 21st-century evangelical church is wholly inadequate to meet the needs of people struggling with sin or addictions in the 21st-century Western world.

On my journey, I am discovering a lot about the Church and its approach to addicts (and other sinners) like me. I imagine that every rule has its exceptions. I have found some exceptions to my rule, but by in large, the 21st-century evangelical church is wholly inadequate to meet the needs of people struggling with sin or addictions in the 21st-century Western world.

The church is haughty and has an excess of hurtful “truth” it wields all too freely. In the process lives are shattered, and people turn from Jesus to something more “loving.” The Church too often feels it has a monopoly on understanding God and His methods. We’ve boxed Him in and demanded that He limit Himself to our systematized categories of thought and action.

A mentor, known the world over, said to me, “Sadly, the church has no helpful concept of grace.” My experience agrees with him. And, I am aware that there are churches and people who do know and offer grace to the world — to me. The sad news is too many Christians haven’t and don’t, all the while thinking they have, and do.

Recovery is my journey. It maps the way I need to walk. Who knows, it might be your path too. There are a multitude of women and men who have earned chairs in sexual recovery 12 step fellowships without realizing that there is such a thing. They are unaware that there is a society of men and women who share their stories and experience and will walk with them no matter how far down into the pit they have traveled. For innumerable reasons, only a few will find their seat, begin to undo their wrongs, and discover real freedom. Don’t let anything stop you if you belong. Sex addiction (any addiction) is truly a matter of life and death. Often I write a gratitude list to God, and on that list I give thanks that I am a sex addict. For ironically, if I weren’t, I’d never have discovered him.

28
Aug

So you are worried that you are listed in the Ashley Madison Data Base

 

If you are reading this and you haven’t heard, Ashley Madison, the online dating site for singles and married people, guaranteeing you an affair if you are married was hacked. Every email ever used to sign up (AM never verified the email addresses) was released by the hackers. There were quite literally over 30 million emails in the released database, along with billing info, sexual preferences, etc… It is quite an embarrassment for way too many women and men.ashley Madison
There is something incredibly freeing about being a disgraced pastor who struggled in his recovery.  It feels to me as no one would be surprised to find  me in the Ashley Madison database. I have no fear of getting caught, and I don’t have to look over my shoulder. My name is expected to be in that database by anyone who knows my story. Even after the dissolution of my first marriage, my trip to rehab, and months and years in recovery I struggled with sexual sobriety. Not everyone is so “lucky.” Please remember, my current shalom cost my family, friends, students, church, supporters and me more than words can adequately convey.
I’ve purposely not posted anything about this to date. I wanted to wait. I wish I could have waited longer. I am only writing now because I think many are more concerned with “getting caught” than guilt over their actions. They are fearful of what might happen, rather than distressed over their choices. Additionally, I read two pieces urging Christ followers and Christian leaders to do things that I fear will do more harm than good.
Ed Stetzer wrote, in an article for Christianity Today, “Confess to your spouse….Confess to someone else…. If you are a pastor, confess to your church.” confession2Much of the article is right on, and yet the advice I quoted here is at best out of order and at worst, sadly mistaken. In an earlier post, I wrote about the danger of “blanket confessions.” If people, and particularly leaders follow his advice, I fear they will cause a lot of unnecessary pain and turmoil. I am not saying that confession will not have to be made. It might. But let me offer a different path..
If you are on that list:
  1. Talk to God about it (on your knees) Your physical posture is connected to your spiritual posture. Spend an extended time crying out to God. If you journal — then journal (honestly as if no one will ever have a chance to read it). Take time to tell God your fears, your guilt, your shame, your weakness and your failures.prayer-on-my-knees4
    • In the midst of this awareness, pray for your ability to accept the fact that you are not unique, that you are human and that you have limitations and weaknesses. List the weaknesses you see if you need to. If you need to bitch and moan to God about making you as screwed up as you currently feel yourself to be, then take the time to do it. This is a long process, but coming to a place of acceptance of our own limitations is really important if we are going to find healing.
    • Pray for those that, if they found out, you have damaged. Take time to consider how you have damaged them; and how you have violated relationship with them. Consider your spouse, your kids, your parents, your siblings, your church family, your supporters and prayer partners, and your friends who you’ve lied to.
    • AFTER you’ve done this work (sometimes it is while you are doing the work of acceptance) Confess to God your wrong doing — your attempts to be God (perfect), Your desire to be seen as something other than you are, the violation of relationships that you have committed (not loving as you ought).
  2. Take an inventory of what you actually did. Those of us that have been to the Ashley Madison site know that they lure you in with promises. You sign up and find out quickly that simply signing up does you no good. You have to pay to have any hope of having an affair, meeting someone, or even chatting with someone. At this point many people simply realize the scam and duck out. Some like me, pay to go further down into the muck. Once you are in you can chat with people on the internal email link. You can cruise all the data on others that are in the system and try to make connections. None of this means that you will. I never got that far on this site. Others may have. Once you meet, you have to decide if you are going to follow through. The person may not, and often isn’t who they portray themselves to be and so you back out then. Others go further and physically commit adultery. All of us that went to the site are clearly adulterers are still adulterers. But then again, most people are. This is not permission to minimize. Please don’t do that. If you are going to the Ashley Madison site something is really, really wrong, and you need help. Something is broken inside. By not getting help you will only increase the problem
  3. Get help:There are 12 step groups across America to help people controlled by their lust and their libido: Sexaholics Anonymous, Sex Addicts Anonymous, Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous, Sexual Compulsives Anonymous to name a few. The Church has tried to copy many of these: Pure Desire, For Men Only, Prodigals International, and Celebrate Recovery. If you are a pastor, I strongly recommend  going to one of the big ones on the first list rather than the Church copycats. The reasons for this will have to be given in another post. For a full list and the idiosyncrasies of each program see Gracefall’s Resource Page.
  4. Look for a sex addiction therapist. Then go see them. Or call us.
  5. It is possible that you are not an addict. You may simply have abused sex much like some non-alcoholics abuse alcohol. It is not likely, however. The group you choose, and your therapist can help you make this determination. Remember that the only one that can say you are an addict is you.
  6. Recovery tells us that the keys to recovery are Honesty, openness, and willingness. Listen to your sponsor and your peer group. Quit running your own show. Only then can you begin to move forward. They will guide you to the whens, hows, and wheres of confession.
  7. Once you have completed the above, prayerfully consider what and when to tell your spouse. If necessary get guidance to help you tell your Church leadership and empowerment to tell the congregation. (Please note, that it is rare that a congregational announcement ever be given. Normally this only happens healthily if there are victims in the Church body.)
  8. Remember you are not alone. There are countless thousands of us that are walking a recovery path with you and before you. We go to meetings to find out that we are not alone and find experience, walk togetherstrength and hope. Please don’t give up. Please don’t add to your stupid, impulsive actions and exponentially add to the damage you have already done. You have not tried and will not try anything that many of us have already tried. You can learn from our mistakes. Please do so. Know that people like me will love you no matter what, not for who you want to be seen as, but for who you really are.