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24
Feb

A Fallen Pastor’s Story Part 2: Trying to be God

After they were on the other side, he sent over all his possessions. This left Jacob all alone in the camp, and a man came and wrestled with him until dawn. When the man saw that he couldn’t win the match, he struck Jacob’s hip and knocked it out of joint at the socket. Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is dawn.”

But Jacob panted, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”

“What is your name?” the man asked.

He replied, “Jacob.”

“Your name will no longer be Jacob,” the man told him. “It is now Israel, because you have struggled with both God and men and have won.” ~~Gen 32:24-31 NLT

 

My friend Mark gave me a missiological tour of Los Angeles. Out of the blue, driving through Watts, he said, “Whom in the Scriptures do you most clearly identify with?”

After thinking a little while, I replied, “Jacob because he was a manipulative and deceitful scoundrel who tried to make it on his own. God loved him enough to cripple him…”

I was the second of two sons. My brother was three years older than me. Dad traveled. Mom stayed at home with us, and she hated it. Before having children, she excelled in her career. She was in demand as a speaker. Living a fairy tale; she traveled the world with the man she adored, seeing and doing amazing things. When my older brother and I came along, she was stuck at home with us, without her husband, trying to be competent as a mother and feeling as if she failed at every turn. In part, to help her deal with all the changes, we moved to America where Dad was an unknown commodity. This depressed Mom even more. Our family’s celebrity vanished except for in her mind. She made it real for us. We lived as if we were celebrities. In essence, we became modern day Don Quixotes.

We were a “blessed family.” Dad was God’s man because he was an unwavering evangelist who lived by faith, often scorned, and often forgotten — A prophet who was often without honor in his hometown.

I grew up needing to prove our family’s worth to the world. I knew what the world didn’t –we were chosen. The world simply needed to wake up and recognize it. It became my primary my job to make it true. We — I was guilty of “familial narcissism.”

One of the meetings for sex addicts is a “closed” meeting: a meeting for professionals only. It is closed to “protect” psychologists, pastors, doctors, and lawyers, etc… from running into clients or parishioners in “open meetings”. One night someone said, “Growing up I felt simultaneous as if I was the most gifted and exceptional child in the world and as if nothing I ever accomplished would be good enough.” As I listened, tears welled up in my eyes. His story was my story.

In fifth grade, I ran home with a near perfect report card. Straight “A’s” in academics and on the behavior side I had straight “E’s” (for excellent) except for a lone “S” (for satisfactory) in “self-control”. I breathlessly and proudly presented the card to my parents, and their first words to me were, “Why the S?” I was devastated. I could never be good enough.

There was no shortage of people telling me how good I was. And I knew that I wasn’t good enough. I could accomplish 100 great things in a day and still go to bed obsessing about one I didn’t accomplish. I was just like Jacob. I was destined to accomplish great things. The expectations piled up. I felt them weigh on me and learned to escape those overbearing feelings by escaping into a world of fantasy – even as a kid.

I tried desperately to meet my need for acceptance. I was angry that I couldn’t live up to the “golden boy” label and even more infuriated that no matter how well I performed it wouldn’t be enough. So I merely survived, escaping through fantasies of heroism – of being a savior I knew I wasn’t but desperately wanted to be. These fantasies were my dream of whom I wanted – no, needed to be. They provided escape and solace in the present moment; giving me necessary reprieves from intolerable reality. I didn’t realize that they were a like a loan with interest; and though they were saving me in the instant, they were also adding to my pain. My fantasies weren’t real. Life wasn’t that kind or glorious. God didn’t want or need a rival, and I couldn’t carry the weight of the world despite my best efforts.

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.