You can be sober but not free, and I see now there is no freedom apart from Christ.
I grew up in a rural neighborhood outside a big city. When I was around eight-years-old, I found a porn magazine thrown out on the side of the road and I still remember those images vividly. It didn’t feel right to me but to society, it was considered a victimless vice.Another time, a group of friends, our camp counselor and I agreed to go to a theme park together. When the day came, the camp counselor and I were the only ones who showed up. Instead of going to the theme park, the two of us ended up spending Saturday at his house looking at porn all day. I told myself if he was doing it and he was a Christian camp counselor, what was the harm?
When I got older, I got deeper into that world and ended up perpetrating on others. I stifled the shame I felt by acting out, doing things I am not proud of, and walking away from God. You punish yourself and beat yourself up. I drank to numb those feelings. The shame didn’t go away when I got married. Early on in our marriage, I made my wife out to be the messed-up one, the black sheep, because she had gotten pregnant and had a baby in college. On the other hand, I made myself out to be the white knight who rode in and saved her. Looking back, my wife resented my falseness. It wasn’t a good foundation for a stable marriage, and after two years we started counseling. Amazingly as my wife and I begun to learn more about each other and shared our pasts, we recognized we had very similar stories. We are both messed-up, and we both need God.
A major turning point came when I accepted what happened to me was abuse. I didn’t believe it until my therapist asked me what would I do if I found out the same things happened to one of my boys. I told him, I would be furious and probably kill the abuser. When I saw it through a father’s eyes, I understood it for what it was. Then during a program called Celebrate Recovery, I began to see myself based on what God said about me, and not based on what I felt about me. As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us (Psalm 103:12). Notice it does not say – as far as the north is from the south – because if you keep going north at some point you have to go south, but if you go east or west, you are always going in that direction. That’s how far apart they are and how far he has removed our sins. As I moved towards accepting and embracing God’s freedom, I realized real freedom is being free from the opinions of others and even the opinions you have of yourself. I believe what the Bible says about us – we are dear, beloved and were bought with a price.
Now I try to help others experience freedom as well. My wife and I came up with a vision for our marriage – as we journey together, we will be compassionate agents of change to those we meet along the way. We are foster parents and we sponsor transformational training through a ministry called Gap Community. Together, we help people awaken to the possibilities that they don’t see in their lives, their jobs, or their marriages. The training shows people they can experience freedom, build richer relationships and live a life uncommon. We are saving up for a training program that helps women coming out of the trafficking industry discover their voice, their value and vision for their lives.
For me, the hardest thing on my freedom journey so far is seeing my boys make the same choices I made when I was young. I’ve shared and trusted my story with them hoping they would understand, but they seem intent to learn things the hard way. As a father and knowing what I know now, it is a painful experience watching them ignore my warnings. I have to trust God.
My hope for the future is continuing to be an agent of change. I wish I had done things sooner, but I know this side of the grave it will never to be perfect. All that said, I wouldn’t change anything. I wouldn’t change my path; it’s led me to where I am now.