HI! Let me begin by saying that the topics that I will be covering in this post will sometimes be of an adult nature, so grown-ups, please read this before your kids do to determine if it’s appropriate for them or not.
So, where does one begin when telling their story? Should I start at birth? Well, I was born in 1975 in Racine, WI to a woman I have never known, my biological mother, who by Gods grace decided to carry me to term and deliver me instead of deciding to have an abortion and end my life. She could have easily decided to do that since I was the product of an affair between her and another man who was not her husband. I am actually very thankful to her for making a decision that must have been very hard for her to make; the decision to give me life. I have never met her and more than likely, never will. But if by some strange occurrence, she is reading this blog right now- THANK YOU for the gift of my life. I thank God that He created me, but I thank you for loving me enough to allow me to enter this world.
There. That’s my birth. It’s an interesting part of my life, but it’s not the reason why I am writing this today. But none the less, it’s an important part of ME, so I figured I would include it. But the more important birth story here is my spiritual birth. I can’t remember an exact date but I do remember hearing about Jesus and what he did to save me in one of my Sunday School classes when I was around 5-6 years old, and on that day after I came home from church, I went into the bathroom where I could be alone and prayed to “accept Jesus into my heart as my savior”. I put that in quotes because while I firmly believe that was the moment I was saved, I really didn’t understand what that meant until I was a junior in high school. But never the less, that was the moment my eternity changed.
And now just so we can get all controversy out in the open before we get too far, since I was born in Wisconsin, yes, I AM a Green Bay Packers fan! Being a fan of the Pack here in MN presents some very interesting situations and conversations! But I wanted to get that out now so you can see from the very beginning that while I have made some very bad decisions in my life, I can at least pick a winning team to be a fan of!
OK, now to get into why I am here today. My story revolves around many different issues, the core of which I believe is pride. I will address that issue many times in my different postings, but the issue that this blog will revolve around is the issue of sexual purity. (thus the disclaimer at the top) I want you to get an idea of where I have come from and what I struggled with for many years, and then as I post I will get more specific in certain areas and share some of the heartaches that have resulted from it and how God has worked in and through those.
I had a great set of parents growing up. I was the only child in a solid Evangelical Christian household with parents that showed me love, taught me as best as they could and lived out godly lives for me to see. There was no abuse in my home between either of my parents or from either of my parents to me. As I got older and hit my early teen years, the topic of sexuality came up in school quite often. I can say that around age 13-14, us boys certainly began noticing the girls in our classes in a different way than we ever had before. I was not the most popular kid in school so I didn’t have the opportunity to have many girls take any notice in me, which really was OK with me. However around the age of 14 is when I discovered the black-hole of pornography. Back in the mid-late 80’s pornography was found primarily either in magazines or on the internet. I had a few friends with a fairly extensive collection of magazines that were readily available to look at whenever I was at their homes, but I also found it on the internet at home. When I was alone I would often hop into the chat rooms and would inevitably have someone send me a picture. After waiting the usual 7 1/2 minutes to get a single picture to come up on dial up, I would have a picture of a naked woman right there in front of me, and that’s where it started. I was into looking at pictures there for a few years and then the interest dissipated quite a bit, but by that time the long term damage had already been done. The way I looked at women had been dramatically altered; they were now “objects” instead of people. I wrestled with both print and on-line pornography off and on for roughly the next 5 years and at times dabbled with calling into chat lines that were many times of an erotic nature. Around my sophomore year in high school I started singing in church quite a bit and discovering the musical talents that God had given me, but as I was developing my ministry, I was still looking at pornography.
After graduating from high school, I went to a Christian Bible College in Michigan where I became one of the worship leaders and also the freshman class President. While I wasn’t looking at pornography there, I was getting more into calling into the phone chat lines. In fact, I had a job in the colleges admissions office and while I was working there, I would call into those lines quite often. Well, back then, all of those calls showed up on your phone bill, so it didn’t take too long for the college to figure it out, and when they brought me in to ask me what I knew about it (they were expecting me- one of the worship leaders and the class president) to let them know who was doing it so they could deal with them. I am sure the academic dean who I was sitting with was quite shocked when I admitted that it was me. As a result, I was expelled from college at Christmas break. That was the first external consequence of my purity sins that I experienced and sadly, it was not enough to stop me from continuing down that road. When I would have relationships with women, they would always turn sexual, and I believe that was a direct result of how all the pornography changed my way of thinking about women. I made decisions to do things that I was taught for my whole life not to do until I was married. After I came home from college, my pornography use stopped completely for a number of years.
In 1997 I moved to MN to be with the woman that was actually my first real love. We met when we were kids at summer church camp, and had a few little summer romances throughout the years, but as I look back, she was the first girl that I really felt something different and special about, even when she went back home to MN and I was in WI. Well, life happened and we grew apart, but the Lord brought us back together again over the summer of 1996. I moved to MN as I said above in 1997 and we were married in May of 1998 and we have been together ever since then; by Gods grace and His grace alone. My pornography use started again almost immediately after we were married as I had the opportunity to be home alone quite a bit since I worked 3rd shift and my wife worked normal day time hours. There were times throughout our marriage where the pornography dwindled or even stopped, but it had gotten a deep hold on my life and was dragging me down to the pit where that garbage comes from.
Unfortunately, I took on the role of Worship Leader at my new Church in MN after I moved up there before my wife and I were married. As I was getting up in front of the congregation each Sunday and leading them in worship I was living a double life where my pornography use was getting deeper and deeper. Proverbs 5:13-14 says “I have not listened to the voice of my teachers, nor inclined my ear to my instructors! I was almost in utter ruin in the midst of the assembly and congregation.” The issue of sexual purity is one of those things that most men struggle (or at least have experience) with at some point, but with Christian men it is an issue that we completely avoid talking to anyone at all about and avoid seeking any sort of help for it for fear of judgement and being labelled a “pervert” in our churches. So as I got deeper and deeper into pornography, it became more common place to me and while I knew it was wrong, I would pray and ask God to forgive me for looking at it again, and that was good enough for me. I knew that my relationship with God was barely existent, but for whatever reason, I was OK with that. Between asking for forgiveness and my worship leadership position I figured I was “OK” because I was doing gods work. I knew enough about Gods word that I could “fake it” pretty good when I would talk to other Christian brothers and sisters, and as far as I know today, nobody knew what was really going on behind the closed doors of my life. I even was helping another Christian brother who was wrestling with pornography and said all the right things to him out of Gods word, and while I believe God used His word to help him and bring healing to him, my actions were all done in vain as I was struggling with the same things he was but I didn’t have enough guts to confess it and ask for help with it as he was doing.
Over the years I can tell you about many specific times when God tried getting a hold of me and I completely ignored Him. In my head, I truly loved God and wanted to live my life for him, but living my life for me was more important and while I wanted God to be with me, I wanted him to be just a little behind me following where I was going. (I am here to tell you my friends, that is NOT the way you want to be living your life. More on that another day.) As I said earlier my pornography use had a few breaks here and there, but it was steadily growing and becoming an addiction to me. There were times that I felt I HAD to look at something and created ways that I could. The scary part for me is that as the addiction grew and grew over the years the pornography alone was starting to become not enough. There were days where I would look at something on line multiple times throughout the day and spend hours upon hours stuck there watching that filth. It had me trapped. It was an addiction that I could not break free from. Pornography is a drug that is used by those addicted to it to medicate some pain or hurt from the past, and that was exactly what I was using it for. My pain cycle or external triggers such as stress, loneliness or lust brought me into it and made me feel good while I was watching it. After I was done, there were tremendous feelings of guilt and shame over what I had just done, and that would actually put me right back into my cycle all over again; it was awful. This went on for years but as I said earlier it was beginning to feel as if it were not enough and I wanted something more, something different. Without getting too deep into details here and in order to protect other people involved, my viewing of pornography escalated into my real life and I sexually touched a girl who was under 18 on multiple different occasions. I had made the decision to do something that was obviously very wrong. I don’t want to blame what I did on pornography alone because there are many guys who are addicted to pornography that don’t do what I did, but I also don’t want to discount pornography’s role in where my life was at that time. I had chosen to sin greatly, and God had another opportunity to get a hold of me, and this time, I made the decision that I had no other choice but to listen to Him. In August of 2011, what I had been doing came out and my wife immediately took our 3 kids and moved out. I went through months and months of talking to investigators and child protection services but I was also starting to turn my life back to God for the first time in over a decade. As my world turned completely upside down, as I was alone without my wife and kids, as I lost all the worldly possessions around me and all of the positions I had achieved and was holding at the time, HE was the only one I could turn to and because of the God that he is, he was there. He had never turned away from me and was there for me when I turned back to him; even after all of the amazingly horrible sins that I had committed, he was there.
God led me to an offender treatment program specifically for guys who have offended sexually and I started that. I also started going to a mens sexual purity accountability group at the Church I started attending, and honestly, that is one of the things that has helped bring about a radical change in my life. Then, around March of 2012, after a lengthy legal process, I was convicted of my crime and was sentenced to 90 months in prison. My judge saw the different things that I had started doing in my life to take responsibility for what I had done and that I was actively engaged in turning from my sin and changing my life, so he gave me a downward departure from the sentencing guidelines and sentenced me to 180 days in the Carver County jail. I went into jail on the work release program so I could continue working and as a result of that, I served 120 total days in jail. That was the beginning of the most excruciatingly painful time of my life. Not having my wife and my kids in my life was the worst, most painful thing I have ever experienced. As time went by, my wife became more and more distant and more and more bitter toward me. I gave her every reason to do so because of what I had done but also because of the kind of husband I was to her over the years as well. (more on that later) I tried everything I could think of to win her back and start to rebuild trust with her, but nothing worked. I had to learn the incredibly painful lesson of how to let go of the most precious thing in my life and put it into Gods hands and really trust him with it. I did that with my wife and also my kids as well, but let me tell you it was a process that did NOT happen overnight. More on that as well later. After my jail time completed I was still in the offender treatment program that met once per week and I was working as well. But I was still alone aside from a few close friends that God allowed to come into my life as His hands and feet to me, but even with them there was still a massive hole where my family was supposed to be. In June of 2012 I received the notice that I had been dreading; my wife had filed for divorce. Trusting God took on a whole new meaning for me and I never prayed so much and so earnestly for another person as I did for my wife then. There was something in me that felt that God was definitely going to do something amazing in my marriage, but each time I felt that, the marriage itself took more steps backwards. There are not many things more painful that reading through divorce papers that came from the one person you love the most in the world. But as that pain grew more unbearable, I felt Gods love for me growing as well and soon, while I didn’t feel giddy and happy, I felt at peace. I knew God was in control and that he loved me and that I was trusting in the very one who had my wife and kids in his hands at the very moment I was crying my prayer to him about them. Through all of this, God provided me with a great place to live and a great job as well. Both of those things are quite difficult for guys with the types of things on their records like I have, to find. There were times that I felt so incredibly unworthy to be blessed by God in any way, but that was another way that he showed me just how much He loves me and how much His grace covers and forgives. As my wife’s attorney and my attorney fired revisions of our divorce decree back and forth changing this and that, the pain was growing deeper and deeper over the hurt that I had caused my family as I was confronted with it daily. Then God gave me an amazing blessing and allowed me to connect with 2 of my kids, and even though I had to see them with supervisors, I was still able to see them again. The first time I saw them after a year and a half will be a moment that I won’t ever forget. Even though I was able to see them only a few times each month, I was tremendously grateful for that opportunity. As time went on, my wife had stopped all communication with me and everything was being done through attorneys. Then one night I received a text from her that said “alright, I am willing to talk with you”. After picking my jaw up off the floor, we set up a date to meet; Tuesday, January 8th, 2013. Mind you, our divorce was scheduled to finalize that Friday the 11th. We met at a Perkins restaurant around 9am and we didn’t leave till around 3pm. I later asked her why she met with me, and she said that she had to see me one last time to know that she was comfortable divorcing me as she didn’t expect to see a different person there. Well, I have learned that I can’t underestimate what God can do in a life! He had been working in my life, but also in hers as well preparing us for this day, the day that the healing would start in our marriage. I should say it’s the day that the healing would begin with us being together, but I feel that God had started the healing process some time prior to that. But as we were sitting there talking, her divorce attorney called and left her a voice mail. She called back after listening to the message and got his voice mail, and left a message saying that she was not going to get him the papers he was asking for because she was not going to move forward with the divorce on Friday and that she was “stopping everything”. I swore I didn’t hear her correctly, but she told me that I had heard her right and she was stopping the divorce. After every thing I had done to her, the inconsiderate, nonsupporting, arrogant condescending husband who was addicted to pornography and committed a horrible sexual sin, she was giving me one last chance. Moving forward from that point we had many ups and downs. She wrestled a lot with anger toward me for what had happened and I had to learn a whole new dimension of patience and trusting in the Lord when things were out of my control. As we moved through hard times and valleys in our relationship where we would stop communicating for a while but then I woudl start to slowly start reconnecting with her again and she would come around to opening up communication with me again. If you are a husband who has wounded your wife through sexual sin, be ready for lots of ups and downs as she progresses through the cycle of anger. She will feel the feelings of betrayal over and over again and she will need to vent her anger toward you (in healthy ways, and preferably with a Christian counselor) in order to get to the point where that is behind her and she can move forward. But also realize that while she may indeed fully forgive you, she may not be able to re-engage in the marriage as your wife. For me, it has been 5 years since my wife and I separated and as I write this entry, she and I are not doing well. My primary focus in my life aside from my walk with the Lord was and has been the restoration of my marriage and giving her the space and time that she needs to heal. However, she has grown increasingly angry with God for everything that happened and has continued to walk further from Him and as a result, has walked further away from our marriage. Over the last 6 months, I have really had to learn what it truly means to put the one thing that you love the most in this world into Gods hands, really let go of it and truly trust Him with it. Things do not look good for us right now but I have a peace about leaving her with the Lord and I am praying for Gods will to be done in our marriage and that divorce is not where things end up. I hope to have a story some day of how our marriage came back from the bring of disaster but the truth of the matter is that it may very well not. My marriage is an example of the absolute destruction that can, and most often does, accompany sexual sin. My prayer for you is that you can stop, repent and turn things around before you are too far down the road to avoid devastating consequences like I have seen. There is always consequences to sin but the further you go into the pit of sin without repentance the worse and more destructive those consequences will be.But even in the pain of where my marriage is, God has been transforming my heart over the years. I wrestled with significant anxiety in my life when things woudl go bad with my wife but those times were what God was using to teach me to trust in Him and now it still hurts, but I have a lot of peace knowing He has her in his hands and whatever she chooses to do I will continue to be covered by Gods abundant (and undeserved) grace in my life and I can and do have His joy in my heart as a result.
I will be going into the specifics of what God has done in my life and what I have learned and am still learning here, but for right now, I want to make 3 points abundantly clear to everyone reading this.
1. Pornography, lust and other sexual impurities are absolutely destructive 100% of the time and have a very negative impact on the person trapped in it. It doesn’t have to be to an addictive level either. Pornography at any level is damaging.
2. If you are caught up in any form of pornography or any other sexual sin, STOP IMMEDIATELY! But don’t stop there. You need to reach out to someone and get help. Confess your sins first to God, accept His forgiveness and commit to him to turn from those sins, and then confess those sins to another Christian brother (or sister since pornography use and sexual addiction is NOT just limited to men) and find one or two accountability partners to begin your journey of recovery with. James 5:16 says “Therefore, confess your sins to one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much”. More on that in one of my next posts.
3. Don’t give up! There is hope through Jesus Christ for ANYONE who is caught in ANY sin, and there is always hope for reconciliation with those you have hurt. If you are feeling alone right now and you are caught in an addictive sin, reach out to Jesus and confess your sin to Him. Pray for guidance and he will lead you. Proverbs 3: 5-6 tells us to trust in the Lord with ALL our hearts, don’t rely on our own understanding of things and to acknowledge God in ALL our ways, and he will make our paths straight, or show us what to do next. Do you see where is says “in all your ways acknowledge him……”? Notice how the author does not say that we need to be perfect in order for God to direct us? We will still sin. But if we are acknowledging God in all our ways, there is no way that an addiction can develop let alone stick around! It’s a spiritual battle and we belong to the one who has already won the battle! Now that doesn’t mean that we will always get what we want or feel that we need. Not every marriage will be saved. Can God save every marriage? YES, he can! And I believe that is his will; for marriages to stay together. But he also gives each of us a free will, and we don’t always do what we are supposed to do. But even in the midst of amazing pain, God can do amazing things. Things that you could have never dreamed of! Romans 8:28 says “We know that God works all things together for good for the ones who love God, for those who are called according to his purpose.” He doesn’t say that all things will work out how we want them to. He says all things will work out for good for those who are called according to his purpose. Gods purpose, however different from ours, will always be the best for us! So don’t ever give up! There are amazing things waiting for the one who fully trusts in the Lord in the hardest of circumstances.
Well, that’s my story. At least the parts of it that are relevant to why I am doing this blog. If you are struggling with an addiction, particularly a sexual one, or if your feeling that your marriage is in shambles and there is no way to fix it, or if you are caught in a sin and you don’t know how to get out of it, I would encourage you to use the contact form below and reach out to me. I don’t have all the answers, but I know the one who does and he has been helping me begin to understand these things for the last 5 years now, and I would love to come along side of you and pray or find someone to connect you with that can help. May God richly bless you as you read these posts. Please reach out to me with suggestions, comments, criticisms (God is teaching me how to take those as well!) or encouragement. I would love to hear your story as well. God is at work in so many lives, marriages and families! It’s totally awesome to see just how active he is and how many tragic situations he is turning around for HIS honor and glory! Praise God from whom all blessings flow. May God bless you today.