Monday, October 18, 2010

ABUSE, ADDICTION, SHAME AND REDEMPTION

When I was in first grade my family moved from Tennessee to Texas. By that time I had been sexually molested by 3 different people.

Our move to Texas was God's grace to us. It served to heal my parent's marriage. It helped me to escape the sexual predators in my life, and it brought my family to a saving faith in Christ.

I still remember standing in the kitchen as a second grader and gripping the butcher knife in my hands with the point against my belly button, trying to find the courage to stab myself to death. I didn't know why I felt so bad, but I knew I wanted it to stop.

My mom walked in on me, standing in the kitchen with tears streaming down my face, holding the knife against my stomach. I couldn't talk to her about what had happened to me. I couldn't find the words. I felt so much shame. So much confusion about my feelings. How could I admit all that I had done? I didn't even know the words for what had happened to me.

Somehow, after hours of tears and unbearable confession, I managed to explain what had happened to me. Most of it, anyway. It would be years before I could put all the memories together into something my adult mind could process. I still have flashbacks today of things that I cannot put into words, and I won't try to do so here.

Even in the midst of all this pain, I can remember laying on the bed at a babysitters house during naptime and talking to God. I remember telling him that I would be a preacher if he would help my mom and dad get back together. I don't even know why I said that, really, because I had only visited a church once before at that time and I hadn't even sat through the entire service.

Still, God heard that prayer. He took my family out of Tennessee and carried us far away to Eagle Pass, Texas where we found ourselves in the front row of the Lighthouse Freewill Baptist Church.

I remember Bill Sikes, a white-haired man from Virginia who sang "The King is Coming" almost every Sunday morning with a strong baritone voice. I remember Sandra Peterson, the cute blond girl whose father was the town's only vetrinarian. I remember singing "Victory in Jesus" at the top of my lungs with my new friends Shane Briggs and Carl Rutledge on either side of me. But mostly, I remember Vance Link, a tall, dark-haired preacher from North Carolina, talking about how Jesus loved me and died for me. How He could wash away my sins and make me clean inside. I remember my heart racing when he made the invitation to come up front and receive Jesus as Lord and Savior. I wanted to take those steps, but my feet were frozen to the floor. The piano played the final verse of "Just As I Am" and it was over. I had missed it.

After the closing prayer I remember taking my Dad's big hand in mine and asking him if he would please tell the pastor that I had wanted to go up and ask Jesus into my heart but that I couldn't make my feet move.

My dad looked at me and said, "No, son. I won't do that."

I was stunned, but he wasn't finished speaking. He said, "But I'll go with you and you can tell him yourself."

So, my dad held onto my hand and we walked those ten steps to the front of the church where I did my best to explain to Pastor Link that I wanted to ask Jesus into my heart. He prayed with me through my tears and then something really amazing happened. My mom and my dad both asked if they could be baptized along with me. So, together, all three of us were baptized on the same day into the family of God.

Years later, I found that the ideas and experiences I had been exposed to at such an early age made it nearly impossible for me to escape an eventual addiction to pornography that plagued me throughout high school and into my early college years.

I went through a cycle of addiction for several years. It was always the same. I would start by immersing myself in pornograhic magazines, videos or books. Eventually I would become disgusted with myself and beg for the Lord to forgive me and take away my desire for those things. Then I'd enjoy a season where I could resist the temptation, but eventually it would overwhelm me and I fall right back into that cycle again.

The amazing thing is that, no matter how many times I repented and begged the Lord to take away my desire for pornography - He would do it. It was so amazing to me. He never seemed to get tired of forgiving me and removing my desire.

Over time, my ability to resist the temptation grew stronger and eventually I found freedom from this seemingly endless cycle of addiction. Not that I consider myself to be immune from the power of this addiction. I am constantly aware of the fact that it would only take one stupid mistake to send me back into that cycle again. But now I have a wife who loves me for who I am. I have two amazing boys who I hope to protect from this same addiction. I have no desire to return to that hideous slavery of lust again. Freedom is sweet and the fruit of this freedom is reward in itself.

One thing I learned during my seasons of resisting this temptation that I'll share with all of you is this verse:

"Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you." - (James 4:7)

Many people misquote this verse and say, "Resist the devil and he will flee from you" but that's not what it says, and it's not true. The devil isn't afraid of me, nor am I stronger than him in my own flesh. The scripture starts by saying, "Submit yourselves, then, to God." This is the key. If we are submitted to God, then we are automatically moving away from the devil and the flesh. If we are in the arms of God then we are safe from the enemy's power and the enticement of lust. We have to start by submitting ourselves to God and then, when we resist the devil he will flee from us because he knows there's no use trying to pry us out of the hands of Almighty God.

I'm sure a lot of you reading this will wonder why I decided to share this personal, intimate testimony on my blog. I think mainly because I realized this week that God had rescued me from so much already and that it was good to remember it, and to openly confess these things to others.

Everytime I've shared this testimony in the past I have been innundated with people who share similar stories with me about their own molestation, or their own struggles with addiction to pornography. I guess I wanted to let people know that they're not alone and that God really can take away that lustful desire in the heart. I wanted to let people know that God can heal the wounds and the scars of our past and that it's not our fault if an adult takes advantage of us against our will. We are not dirty because someone treated us like dirt. We are dearly loved children of God who need to be held in His arms and made whole again.

I'm one of the lucky ones who can say that Jesus healed my heart and made all things new in me. He gave me the strength to resist temptation yesterday, and He will continue to give me the strength today, and tomorrow as well.

-kg

5 comments:

Traeshawn said...

Thanks for this. I needed to read it. Hopefully Jesus can do the same for me.

Marc said...

Judging by what conservative preachers keep telling us, viewing pornography is the single most important problem in the Church. It's like "What? You're not giving any of your possessions to the poor? No problem! Just make sure you stay away from pornography, read your Bible, tithe and come to church and you'll be fine."

Hasn't anyone read how Jesus will judge the world? In Mt 25 our Lord doesn't mention sexuality or any other sin but focusses exclusively on how you treated the poor, sick and imprisoned.

In Rev 21 he does indeed condemn the sexually immoral (which is up for definition) but have we noticed that "cowards" are also in the firing line?! When last did you hear someone preach against cowardice?

The OT prophets (of whom Jesus was the last in a line) always came with a twofold message: stop idolatry and start doing social justice. When they spoke of sexual sin it was often a marriage metaphor of infidelity to God i.e. idolatry or in relation to sex cults.

I suspect God doesn't care too much about watching pornography and all that compared to gross social sins such as consumerism, 3rd world exploitation and other injustices.

I think once we've strained the camels of the social evils we participate in via our consumerism we can take a look at the gnats of personal inner piety and purity.

Keep your Playboy magazine but for goodness sake, drink fair trade coffee!

Like a Mustard Seed said...

Praise God for His enduring love, and that he sets captives free...

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your honesty. I found this blog in my own searching for redemption stories. I am right there with you. Similar story, similar failures, same prayers and same gratitude for God's love and forgiveness. God bless you.

Keith Giles said...

Marc - I think it's just possible that God might care just as much about how we care for the poor as He does about the lust that's in our heart.

Does it have to be either/or? I think the same Jesus who said, "The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is upon me to preach good news to the poor" also said, "If you look at a woman lustfuly you have committed adultery with her in your heart."

Yeah. I just checked. It's the same guy.

:)