This is an article I published in the April 2010 issue of Wiregrass Christian Family Magazine. Since this is my first post in the forums I thought I might use it as a way of introduction to my work and my life. Lord of Hosts! When I swim in the merciful waters of your grace I find that I can neither plumb nor measure the depths
(Meno Simons, A Meditation on the Twenty-fifth Psalm
I was invited to pen this article not because I have been a great failure but because God has been a great success. From childhood I have struggled with intimacy – a fear of exposing who I really was to others for fear of rejection. Instead I lived in a fantasy world where I could control that fear – a world of false intimacy. What I am about to share with you is an amazing journey whereby God transformed that fantasy into a vision. Dr. Mark Laaser, a mentor of mine, would define vision this way, “…an image of a preferred future in which you pursue God’s plan for your life.”
Though I grew up in a home where I had two parents who loved me and sought my best interests and had loving grandparents nearby, I was sexualized at an early age through abuse and exposure to pornography. I mention this to explain that even in safe environments we cannot control everything. Fear and shame associated with these events were involved in my decision to hide them from all. This was a costly decision and I found myself drifting deeper into unhealthy behaviors as I grew despite an honest desire to stop. However, a longing for a different life did not exceed my need for self-preservation. I believed I was unlovable and untouchable.
I could shock and tantalize you with anecdotes. So many testimonials like mine focus on what one did. It is not my intention to run and hide from my actions by withholding further details in this article. Instead, I choose to direct my thoughts to the subject of “Who I am”. That is a theme of such greater importance.
Victory in the daily battle with addictions is often elusive to those who would focus primarily on behavior. Real redemption is found not in a laundry list confession of behaviors followed by gritting one’s teeth and trying harder. Redemption is found in surrendering our story and its conclusion to God. Too often “getting better” looks like this:
Dear LORD, help me I have sinned. Here is the list of reprehensible behaviors in which I have participated. I know it looks bad but I promise if you will get me off the hook this time I will bear down extra hard and do better. I will read my Bible, pray, and go to church. Really, I don’t want to do these bad things and I don’t want anyone to be hurt as a result of my actions. So, please don’t let anyone find out about this. Seriously, I’m not trying to avoid anything; I just don’t want people to be hurt.
I have prayed this frequently. It was offered up to God with sincerity of heart. Over and over I sought removal of my unhealthy desires. I enlisted all of my will to do the right thing and just “stop” doing the wrong things. However, honest examination of this prayer reveals that there is no surrender found within. It is just another fantasy – a world where I am in control of what will occur next. I am god.
My road to redemption began when I acknowledged my powerlessness over my past and present. It was fulfilled when I acknowledged my powerlessness over my future. Many believe that if I confess my heart and change my actions then I can expect things in this temporal life to improve according to my plan. That is manipulative and dishonest. It betrays an attitude of entitlement. “If I do this then God owes me…” I know that is manipulative because I have tried that one on God myself…it doesn’t fly.
Redemption came in full surrender. It was bittersweet – relief and pain all at once. Relief of being god over all my problems and their consequences…pain at releasing to God the responsibility to manage them. For so long I did not trust God to handle the outcome. I thought I could provide myself with relief better than God. Honestly, I never liked God’s idea. In James 5:16 we read about confession to one another. My perception of James’ admonition was that it was about punishment. I never realized that in God’s economy it was about intimacy and fellowship. The truth is that fellowship is equal to freedom.
Discovery of the freedom to be “who I am” in the presence of others because “God is who he is” in my life was realized through a process of treatment that included individual, couples’ and group therapy. It involved painful self-examination. Having a safe place to do this work was paramount and required time and money in addition to the other personal costs exacted.
Through my personal experience God has opened my eyes to the intimacy epidemic that exists in our culture and is so often manifest in problems like pornography and infidelity. Without running down a lot of statistics it is important to note that the word most frequently searched on the internet by both males and females is “sex”. Closer to home, while I have been writing the previous three paragraphs of this article I have taken three phone calls and one text message. Each were Christians in the Wiregrass community and one was from my church – all were wanting help related to sexual addictions and two were women.
Today this life that was once a train wreck is on a different track. God has grown the ministry at the Westgate Church of Christ known as Intimacy Matters into a visible presence in our community. My colleague Krista Smith has recently joined the ministry at Intimacy Matters full-time. Every week Intimacy Matters works with numerous Wiregrass families struggling to gain the victory in the area of sexual integrity. We offer groups for men and women who struggle with sexual addictions, spouses of sex addicts, individual, couples’ and family therapy. Together we are seeing God work to restore and rebuild relationships once consigned to divorce or miserable co-existence. We invite all who seek redemption in this area to contact us through our website at www.intimacymatters.org
Eric Greer, MS LMFT www.intimacyanswers.com www.twitter.com/intimacyanswers