I was raised in the church, and yet, in many ways, I didn’t feel like I belonged there. I accepted the Lord at the age of 6. Everyone said that I was too young to make such a commitment, but I knew what I was doing. Still, I couldn’t help but feel that I was broken from a very young age. I began forming a double life and learned how to, very effectively, conceal my “true identity” with a mask. The fact is that for many years I didn’t know what my true identity was. In public I knew the rules. I knew how to appear that I was following them. In private I broke every one of those rules. The most shameful points in my life came when my private self was discovered and brought into the public light. There were many such moments to come. There are many aspects to my fallen nature, but, for the purposes of this note, I am focusing on just one of them.
Even before puberty I was drawn to women. There was something about the female form that I found fascinating. I was a natural explorer and took every opportunity available to get a girl alone to play “doctor” or any other game that would allow me to see her naked. I was introduced to pornography at a young age as well. I knew that my behaviors were “unacceptable,” so I went through a great deal of effort to hide them. Little did I know that my life was headed for a train wreck.
By the time I reached puberty, I found that I was taking exploration to new levels. Now the images I had seen in the pages of pornographic magazines were accessible in real life. I took every opportunity available to lure girls into sexual situations. I attended parties where drinking and drugs were involved. I had no real desire to get drunk, but I knew that others would. Most of my drinking and drug use was even a cover-up of sorts. I didn’t want to stand out, and, if I did inappropriate things and was exposed, I could fall back on my own inebriation as the cause. Everything that I did revolved around sex. I didn’t think of it in these terms when I was a teen, but when I look back and reflect, it’s clear to me now.
My behaviors continued into young adulthood. In my 20’s, I was no longer in reach of the watchful eyes of my parents and others who held me to a moral code. I pursued my desires with reckless abandon. I had perfected the double-life and was effective as a chameleon. In the front stage of my life, I appeared intelligent, polished and more sensitive than most guys. I was a mixture of the real me and the mask that I wore to project an image to the outside world. I discovered that this polished public image reduced suspicion. Women were drawn to me, and I used and abused them. I broke hearts, but over time I realized that my own heart was breaking. I wanted love too, and yet it was so elusive. I convinced myself that I was in love so many times. Of course, to me, love was just a feeling. Over time it faded, and I would move on with my false belief that the next woman and the next sexual experience would give me what I was truly searching for. Yet it was fleeting and seemingly just out of reach.
As the internet age took form, I discovered a new tool to fulfill my desires and fantasies. Pornography was readily available, and I viewed it as a convenient and private way to indulge myself. I also hoped that it would be useful in curbing some of my other sexual behaviors. Sometimes I sat for hours in front of the computer. The images I saw seemed like everything that I wanted. I viewed the world of pornography as a way that I could satiate my desires, and yet I remained insatiable. There was no experience that served as a permanent fix. Each experience led me to a cycle. Shame became a centerpiece in my life, and yet I continued attempting, with futility, to convince myself that I was “normal.”
God was mixed into my life for all of these years, and yet I believed that he didn’t really know me. Even if he did know me, I knew that he had to view me with contempt. I was deeply ashamed over who I was, and I knew that he had to be as well. I had a desire to reach him and to form a relationship, and yet, as with my sexual encounters, intimacy seemed out of reach. In my years of experience in the church, I learned an extensive list of “do’s and don’ts.” I wasn’t able to consistently “do the do’s and avoid the don’ts.” It seemed that I had it all backwards. I tried exercising willpower more times than I can recall. I made promises to God about how I was going to turn it all around. I was convinced that when I could do this I would be worthy of a relationship with him. Finally he would stop viewing me with disgust. Yet as my attempts to exercise willpower and religion in my life failed, I found myself spiraling out of control. There were periods of time where I would just give up. Then, when my shame became overwhelming, I would renew my vows. I would promise never again to repeat my behaviors. The cycle repeated itself for years, and the mask that I put on in my youth was growing heavy.
In April of this year I was traveling on business. I picked up a book called “unChristian” and had begun reading it on the plane. I began having difficulty with what was being said from the very beginning. The book contends that so many potential Christ-followers are turned away from him by the Christians themselves. Outsiders view us as judgmental hypocrites. I was examining the book’s assertions against my own life, and I knew they were true. I was feeling deep conviction to change. I found myself drawing on willpower yet again. I told myself, “This time I am going to do it. I am going to get it right!” Yet the very next day, I found myself flirting with a woman at dinner. I was subtle, but I knew what I was doing. If she had been open to my advances, I would have fallen flat on my face all over again. As I walked to my hotel room, another wave of shame washed over me. It was overwhelming. I was certain that I was incorrigible. God couldn’t want a relationship with me. Looking in the proverbial mirror, all I could see was how broken and defective I was. The addiction I had engaged in, hoping for freedom in my youth was now seen for what it truly was. I was tightly bound in chains, and, the more I struggled against them, the tighter they became. My pursuit of freedom was leading me to bondage, and nothing in my power could stop it.
When I got back to my room I laid on the bed. I couldn’t pick up the book I had been reading. I couldn’t bear any more pain of reading about myself! My heart was racing, and I felt sick. I heard a small voice in my head say, “go to your knees.” I didn’t hesitate or argue. I fell immediately to my knees and, shortly after that, found myself on my face. As I prayed over my sickness and my inability to control myself, God was speaking back to me in ways that were undeniable. He invited me to give myself to him. Here I had been a “Christian” for 30-plus years, and he invited me to give up the reigns. It immediately occurred to me that I was not trustworthy. My willpower was useless. Religion was worthless. If I wanted freedom, I had to trust him. He was the one with the keys to these chains. Without hesitation, I said, “YES!” My life was transformed at that very moment. He began ministering to my wounds in that prayer… which lasted for hours. He told me that he knew me all along. He told me that he knew me better than I knew myself. He told me that he LOVES me. If all of these declarations from God weren’t enough, he continued by telling me that I was “good enough.” I didn’t know what he meant until the next morning. That night I slept with a deep peace, and he continued ministering to me in my dreams. Much had been broken, but nothing was beyond his repair!
The very next day, God reminded me of his statement in my prayer the night before. This time he made it clear what my purpose would be. He said, “If you are good enough for me, you are good enough for them.” I knew exactly what he meant and what I was being called to do. I had removed my mask before him the night before, and now it was time to remove it in front of the world. It was time to begin telling my real story, but more importantly, it was time to start talking about the depth of God’s healing power when we say, “YES!” I wrote my first blog on Facebook that day, and I have been writing ever since. I found that when I am open about my fears and failures that others begin to remove their masks as well. Most are hesitant to do it in public, but I am honored and privileged to hear their deep, dark secrets in private. Because of the depths of my failures, I am able to remind anyone, from any background that God does love them. After accepting his true love we can’t help but be transformed! I was called to start a “world wide church,” and I could think of no better name than “True Faced.” Removing the mask requires courage, but God can and will fill the gap when we say “YES” to his call. If you would like to check out True Faced, you can find it here. http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=78576592724&ref=ts
We come from different dark corners of despair, but we are drawn to the same light. Thank you for reading.