Mark


Mark's Story - An Amazing Story of God's Grace

From Beauty to Ashes (Galatians 6:7-8)

For 25 years I worked as a professional Christian counselor and a number of those years I was the pastor of support and recovery at Vineyard Columbus where I shared that position with my wife, Kathy. I was respected in my small part of the world. I had a godly, loving, mature, beautiful and respectful wife. I had two young adult children who were proud of me and thought I was a wonderful father. I had a significant purpose in helping others, was part of a great pastoral team, had a good reputation and was making decent money to boot. By anyone’s estimation, it was a beautiful life…

All this exploded in an atomic bomb-like blast in early December of 2012 when, under duress, I confessed to Kathy that I’d had an affair a year and a half earlier. I had kept it a secret all that time but the secret was slowly killing me. I was becoming more and more aloof and distant. At one point a dear friend asked me point-blank, “Have you had an affair”? I confessed that I had, but expected him to keep it in strict confidence. But after watching me spiral down for some months, he felt like he couldn’t hold my secret any longer. He leaned on me to confess to my wife and said if I didn’t he would tell her himself. And so the nuclear holocaust began…The beauty turned to ashes.

In shameful agony, I told Kathy of the affair which was the most horrid day of both of our lives. She was traumatized. The next day, together, we told our supervisor and later in the day I met with our senior pastor in a meeting that was sickening and unbelievably painful and shameful. Then, quickly, everything I had feared came into stark ugly reality. I immediately lost my counseling and pastoral positions, my wife said I could not come back home, I had my professional counselor license suspended, and I had a horrendous confrontation with my 2 young adult children who were traumatized, stunned, confused and angry.

I found myself staying with my mother over in Dayton and it was here that the reality began to sink in. I had blown up my life and severely hurt those I loved the most. While walking in a park I contemplated killing myself as I walked along a river. It felt like taking my life was much better than facing the pain, shame, trauma and destruction I had caused. I had horrific shame over having my ugly sin exposed. I had spent my life covering up, hiding and minimizing my sin and character defects. I was the one who helped others with their sin and wounds. Yet I had not been willing to get help for these in my own life. All along, beneath the surface of the successful counselor and pastor, shrouded in denial, fear, pride, and shame, was a man very sick with sin and immaturity.

As I have pursued recovery, I have progressively come to see just how sick and immature I was despite my position of respect and the significant role I had in people’s lives. I was in significant denial about the degree of my sin and immaturity. I was an idolater who secretly worshiped the beauty of women and illicit sexuality. I was a man who secretly gave himself to lust, fantasy, and pornography. Yet I rationalized that because my looking at porn was “only” once every 1-3 months, I was not an addict. I was much better than the addicts who looked at it every day or once a week. Each time I rationalized that this time was THE last time. I even occasionally rationalized that my sin enabled me to appreciate the grace of God more. Each time I acted out I would feel guilty and ashamed and I would always seek God in what I thought was genuine confession and repentance. I would put myself under his grace and I would resolve that it was the last time. And I thought and felt that it really was…

But what I refused to do, over and over again, despite inner promptings from the Spirit was to obey James 5:16 which says “Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.” Whenever I was prompted to give a rigorous and full confession, I would imagine what it would be like and concluded that it wasn’t worth it. The pain it would cause Kathy and the broken trust that would occur—The shame I would feel— The negative ramifications for my pastoral and counseling positions—The disapproval of others I would experience!! For, after all, I was the Support and Recovery pastor! The blow to my pride and my lifelong appearance management strategy—The scrutiny of others, the hard work and vulnerability to which I would be subjected. All of this felt to me like a boulder way too heavy to lift. I allowed fear, shame, and pride to control me.

How foolish this was! Oh, how I wish I had started practicing rigorous confession years and years ago.

When we persist in sin and allow our pride, shame, fear and denial to control us then God will lovingly discipline us. His discipline for me was to turn me over to my own sinful devices and their consequences. He allowed me to reap what I had sown over many years. A passage of Scripture I was very familiar with says,

“Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction.” (Galatians 6:7-8). And so I entered life in the ashes.

Life in the Ashes(Hebrews 12:7-8)

I ended up in the ashes and the muck of pig pen, just like the prodigal son. It was the lack of full and rigorous confession that landed me there. And the pig pen of God’s loving discipline is terribly painful!

“But God disciplines us for our good in order that we might share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time but painful. (I wish he had added “horribly freaking” to “painful” in this passage), Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” (Hebrews 12:7-8).

Even when in the pig pen it sometimes takes awhile to reach “the bottom”. Even though I started my recovery in some ways right away, it took me about a year to arrive at the bottom of the muck and mire of the pig pen. For some of us thick-headed people, it takes being in the pig pen for awhile before we are faced with what we most want for our lives. Would I allow the pain and shame of my public fall to drive me to more sin? Or would I, in a new way, embrace my desperate need for my Father, Abba? Would I retreat into isolation and medicate myself with sinful pleasure now that I had lost nearly everything? Would I continue to believe lies and continue in my idolatry? Or would the tremendous pain and loss bring me to the bottom? Would I allow God to break me and refine me? Would I choose to commit myself to Jesus and to honest and accountable relationships with brothers in Christ despite the loss of nearly everything I valued? I had to answer those questions for myself.

In the meantime, Kathy believed strongly that the Lord was leading her to end the marriage, which perplexed her because I was pursuing recovery. But, she consistently felt the Lord clearly telling her to stay distant from me and have as little communication with me as possible. I needed to experience the full weight of life without her. And I think God was protecting her from the fits and starts of my early recovery. However, she consistently gave me the message that she would remain open to reconciliation if I continued to pursue recovery and could build a solid year of sobriety. She courageously followed the Spirit’s leading even though it wasn’t what she would have chosen. Her decision to divorce me was a huge blow and I did some acting out in order to medicate the pain and loss I felt. I confessed this to some degree to my support team but I kept it secret from Kathy. I feared that it would be the last straw and that she would for sure give up all hope and just completely turn away from me forever.

The day our divorce was finalized in an attorney’s office was a terrible day. But afterward, Kathy asked if I wanted to have dinner together. She had some things she wanted to tell me. She told me again that if I could build a year of purity she was open to building a new relationship! We spoke of a future together! I was so happy but I was still holding some secrets. Nine days later she saw some journaling on my open computer screen which made it clear I hadn’t confessed everything to her. This was a huge kick to her stomach. It took me three separate times meeting with her to finally bring it all out. Of course, this badly hurt Kathy and angered her that a year into my recovery I was still covering things up and being very slow to rigorous honesty. The fresh pain that I caused her and my adult children, Kylie and Keegan, was very ugly. The shame and pain I felt were excruciating. At this point, I reached my bottom, around the end of March 2014. It was then that I began to commit myself to rigorous honesty.

Developing rigorous honesty has been at the very core of my transformation. As I have pressed toward this honesty I have encountered just how vulnerable being honest really is. It is extremely vulnerable! This honesty involves so much. It means courageously confessing sin and temptation to a select few. It means courageously speaking out vulnerable emotions and the thoughts and beliefs that generate those emotions. It means having the courage to speak what we think is truth to others in love. It means having the courage to express opinions and convictions that may be disagreed with. And most importantly it has led me to see much more clearly the core lie that has energized me all my life and has created tremendous fear or anxiety. This core lie and the fear it has birthed is what has motivated my dishonesty and refusal to be vulnerable.

This core lie is amazingly simple and one that I’ve helped others to see for themselves many times over my years as a counselor. Yet discerning it in others is much easier than seeing and owning it in me. The lie is this: my real naked self is not acceptable or lovable. My real, naked self-means my inmost being that has been hidden beneath layers of self-protection. It’s the part of me that has deep longings and desires for belonging, love, acceptance and significance. It’s me that is easily hurt and has lots of fear and anxiety about being adequate as a person and whether I will have the approval of people. It’s the part of me that had hurt and losses throughout my childhood which I hid deep inside somewhere so I wouldn’t feel the pain. It’s the part of me that has quite a few weaknesses and struggles with various temptations. In other words, it is the fallen, imperfect but very valuable human part of me!

From a very early age, I rejected and hid this part of me. I concluded that it wasn’t safe to be my “authentic self” because of the unconscious lie that I was inadequate and unlovable. At the time I had no awareness of this conclusion or the inner vow that I made because of it. At some point, I made a vow that was beneath my childhood conscious awareness that I would never allow my true naked self to be seen. This was a self-protective vow birthed out of my sin nature, shame and pride. I believe our sin nature, which we are born with, is the primary driver of our character defects. The sin nature (the flesh) or indwelling sin is extremely ego-centric and committed to self-preservation and self-promotion.

So, I had a very insecure sense of relational and emotional attachment and never believed the truth that my inner authentic self was valuable. Thus, out flowed the core lie and the vow which in turn produced dishonesty, self-protection, shame, distance in the relationship, people-pleasing and a strong “performance mentality”. Furthermore, all these were fertile ground for enslaving sexual sin, which is often coined “false intimacy”. It is very pleasurable, controllable and safe for it doesn’t require the authentic self to be vulnerable and at risk like real intimacy requires.

Beauty from the Ashes (Ephesians 2:8-9)

So, you now have a large window into the sickness and ugly sin that lay beneath my public persona.

BUT that is not the end of the story! The reason this is not the end of the story is because of God’s amazing grace! I thought I valued God’s grace before all this but until you are undone by your sin and its consequences you don’t REALLY understand grace. Grace is God’s love, acceptance and fondness towards us that is not earned, not deserved! This is the most beautiful and powerful gift in all the universe! Through THE CROSS!

God’s grace enabled me to stay at Vineyard Columbus instead of running away. God’s grace enabled me to courageously connect with many people who have been critical to my transformation. My core lie and the vow I made had imprisoned me in isolation safe from the gaze of others. I was heavily involved with many people yet isolated from everyone. But God’s grace has shattered that self-protective isolation and has enabled me to be transparent and my real genuine self.

By grace alone, I involved myself in 180, a ministry at Vineyard Columbus for men pursuing sexual integrity. By grace alone, I also participated in Celebrate Recovery (a ministry which my wife and I launched at Vineyard Columbus while on staff there). By grace alone, I had the courage to join a weekly small band of brothers to work the steps of recovery. I met with Pastor Ron Hitchcock every other week after the Saturday service. I met with a spiritual director twice a month for a year and a professional counselor who specializes in sexual brokenness twice a month for three years. God’s grace also allowed me to be sponsored by my friend Denny who was the one who leaned on me to confess the affair to Kathy. For a year I called him every day to speak out sin, temptation, and victories. He has been a huge lifeline to me. God’s grace gave me the strength to write many letters of amends and to meet with anyone who desired to meet with me face to face. All this has formed rigorous honesty in me. By grace alone!

God’s grace enabled me to face my terrible sin and brokenness because God delights in me even though I have utterly failed to perform well.

“For it is by grace that you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)

My favorite Irish Christian band, Rend Collective, has been like a faithful friend that has walked along beside me and has encouraged me so much. Their song “Joy” (The Art of Celebration album) has a line that means so much to me “The dark is just a canvas for your grace and brightness” The darkness in me and in you is a canvas for him to show the artwork of his grace! Therefore we can face it head on and be honest with others about it!

By God’s grace, He forgives me when I utterly do not deserve it! God’s grace enabled me to admit my idolatry, my lack of trust in God, my dishonesty and deception, my strong people-pleasing, my shame, my controlling fear and my pride. Grace has empowered me to be able to accept the truth that I am Abba’s beloved son despite being totally undeserving of it. I visualize my Father God running towards me with joy and abandon to be reunited with me, the prodigal son! I picture myself in the arms of Abba, as he celebrates my return and how much he loves and values me! Grace is enabling me to embrace the value of my true but very imperfect self, created in God’s image. God’s grace has enabled me to establish a strong purity and has broken the power of lust, idolatry, and coveting. Of course, this is something I actively engage in one day at a time. Grace has enabled me to engage in the process of forgiving people who have hurt me throughout my life. God’s grace has empowered me to let myself off the hook of my own anger and receive His forgiveness. Grace is helping me to catch my tendency to defend myself when my family expresses that they feel angry, scared or feel pain. God’s grace is helping me trust him with my many fears about the future. God’s grace is enabling me to hold my head high despite my terrible sin and the way I’ve so badly hurt Kathy, Kylie, and Keegan.

Because of God’s grace and forgiveness Keegan and Kylie have each spoken out a detailed list of the pain and losses that they have experienced and have forgiven me for each one. Talk about painful and joyful weeping! Both of my kids are growing in respect of me and are very expressive of their love for me. Both of them feel free to confess their struggles, sin, and temptations to me! This is one positive outcome of being such a big sinner, people feel much more free to confess their struggles, sin, and temptations! This is pure grace! It also is a clear example of Romans 8:28-29 which says

“And we know that in ALL things God works for the good of those whose love him, those who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)

And MOST amazing to me is the grace of God at work in Kathy.

In April 2015, the Holy Spirit spoke clearly to her and told her “I will make Mark a man worthy of you!’ This caused her to cry with joy for she always wanted to be reconciled. He also wanted her to ask me to take a polygraph test to confirm that I had told her the truth about everything. I was a bit nervous about this (what if I was really telling the truth but the test said I wasn’t?) But I was on board to do it because I had been truthful about everything with her. I passed the test with flying colors and we’ve been working on our relationship one step at a time ever since! What grace and forgiveness Kathy has received from Jesus and then given to me! She is taking a huge risk to trust God and to open her heart up to me again! She is being very open and honest with me. In fact, all this led us to be re-married! What beauty God has brought from the ugly ashes!

God indeed is making something beautiful out of the ashes! He is so righteous holy and pure, yet so merciful, forgiving, and kind. I will be forever amazed at what He has done for me and I want to share this story, His story, with as many people as possible so others can stand with us in awe of His amazing grace!

You can read more about Mark's Ministry "Nathan's Cry" at his website.

Nathan's Cry

Bob


Bob’s Life Story

In 2001 I accidentally found a pornography sight on my PC. It’s not as if I had not seen porn before but I did not actively search for it. I did not buy pornography magazines nor did I frequent strip clubs. But that day I looked and got busted by my wife who was extremely upset and hurt. She said I cheated on her. I did not understand. How ignorant was I? I did the necessary apologies and promised to never do that again.

I met and spoke with my Pastor but I had no idea what had happened and why. A year or so later while my wife took the kids on an overnight trip I went to my PC and purposefully found porn and a chat sight and wrote things to someone who was probably phony preying on a naïve sole such as I. The chemicals in my brain were highly active but again I had no clue what was going on. I tried to erase everything and my wife found it again. This time we ended up separated and in counseling and I found Celebrate Recovery.

CR was good but did not deal with my specific issue. Long story short my wife and I reconciliated. For the next 10-11 years I behaved as I should. I didn’t get close to my PC in any inappropriate manner and was a choir boy on the outside. We went to church, I was involved in ministry in various areas. However, I had wandering eyes and my brain was extremely active at times with thoughts that didn’t exactly meet the criteria of “not even a hint of sexually immorality.” I acted out on occasion but being a strong believer in God and Christ, shame and guilt and trying hard kept things under wrap. I prayed about this issue between my ears but It was a half-hearted effort because I didn’t truly want to surrender it. I was ok with the occasional binge-purge cycle I was in however much guilt it would cause.

Fast forward to the Spring of 2014 or so. I had gotten a smart phone a couple of years before but had almost nothing on my phone but email, text messages and sports apps. Of course, I also had the internet. For a period of months, I had been searching legitimate websites to improve my understand of my wife and how to improve our sex life. As I said the websites were legitimate and had a lot of good information but they were suggestive and provided many triggers.

One night, purely by accident I saw something that perked my interest. I investigated and found some soft porn. I took it a step further and the next thing you know, BOOM! Within a few weeks, I was hooked. I was like a runaway freight train after several months. For about 18 months or so I tried to stop many times out of guilt and shame and knowing I was a strong believer and I was betraying my wife and sinning against God. I hated that feeling. I was living a double life, one as an over the road truck driver, addicted to porn and acting out in the cab and bunk of my truck during the week and while I was home on the weekend I was able to almost completely shut down my brain and love my wife, go to church and be a phony Christian.

Fast forward to the fall of 2015. I had found several chat sites communicating with people, mostly men, having conversations about topics I had no business having. On several occasions, I had women contact me and we ended up having online sex. In November of 2015 I met a woman online and we started chatting. We had great conversation but also had online sex. Then we met in person. Wrong move. The fourth time we met we had sex. It was not great. I was apprehensive but I had received so much affirmation from her I could not hold back. I was barely able to perform because I do believe I had Porn induced Erectile Dysfunction. I had had trouble performing in my marriage for about a year.

I had already been taking steps to move in a more spiritual direction due to a Chip Ingram sermon series on Spiritual Warfare. As a result, I had prayed to stop watching porn and had not watched for several weeks. To this day, I have not watched porn since mid-November of 2015. I can’t explain it, I just know it was God! But I could not turn off the juices that were flowing from the relationship with this other woman as she made me feel like a million bucks, seducing me about how great I was and what a crappy marriage she had. At the time, I was complaining about my marriage.

I had no idea at the time how much I was in sexual bondage and how selfish and self-centered I had become. But that day so convicted me that I told her that this was it, it would never happen again. However out of fear I continued to communicate with her. Wrong move. I was afraid partially because she knew my wife’s name and all four of my kid’s names and had pulled them all up on Facebook. My children are all adults but I didn’t know what to expect from her or what to do. God did! My wife intercepted a text message on Jan 1, 2016 and all hell broke loose. God knew what was going to happen and he allowed it to happen. I denied everything and lied to my wife’s face.

When I left out on the road my wife got on the internet and found phone records and text messages I had not deleted. My cell phone was linked to our PC on AT&T so she found a great deal of my online activity. She immediately called screaming at me and cussing me out, sending text messages just pissed off to no end, angry and deeply hurt. My wife said I was a sexual deviant monster. She said she could never trust me again and wanted nothing to with me ever again. I know I behaved like a sexual deviant monster but that is not who I am. I had no idea how sick I was though.

I didn’t know what to do. I spent a couple of days constantly asking myself and God why and how? I was very emotional, distraught driving down the interstates and highways in my rig. Then I began to ask myself WHAT? What do I do now? I called four of my closer friends, one who had walked down this road 10 years earlier and another who had battled addiction. I was completely broken and had hit a rock bottom that I never knew existed. I knew I had sinned against God and my wife and myself. I knew my Christian faith was authentic but I had many issues that had kept me from really connecting with God. I wanted to change badly!!! I knew God was the answer but I didn’t know in what way to turn.

I got on my knees many times in the next week or so. I prayed for these specific things.

  1. God, I believe in you. I could never denounce you. I would die for you if someone pointed a gun at my head. BUT, I do not revere you and have a sense of awe for you that I truly desire and you want from me. You are the creator of the universe, the stars, the earth, the mountains, oceans and every human being who has ever lived or will live but I don’t have the respect for you I should have and I desperately want that and have wanted that for years and years. I want to experience of complete AWE for you.
  2. God, in your word in the book of Deuteronomy and again in the gospels Jesus said in Matthew that the greatest commandment is to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Lord most people seem to act as if this impossible. How can I love my neighbor if I hate myself? I don’t want to hate myself! How can I love myself if I don’t love you the way you want me to? Jesus said this is the greatest commandment so it must be possible! I want to experience it!
  3. Lord, I have been a Christian for 40 years and I have a lot of intellectual knowledge but you know I have struggled greatly with connecting my heart and mind and I just have not connected with the Holy Spirit in my heart. God, I want to know the Holy Spirit. I want to experience His power in my life.
  4. God, I have to learn what it is to completely surrender this sexual sin in my life. I want to surrender everything in my life and really experience your power. I know this is about my life and not my wife and I desperately want to connect with you. I am dealing with so much guilt, shame and self-hate and I betrayed the most important person in my life. I’m Lost

As a result of conversations with my four friends I started my road to recovery by contacting Sexaholics Anonymous. I didn’t know if I was a sexaholic or a sex addicts but I was not in a position to argue with myself. I called New Life and Steve Arterburn who had co-authored the book “Every Mans Battle.” What a revelation! I knew I was much worse than most of the men in that book. I read the book and journaled every chapter. From the very beginning I was trying to glean every bit of information I could. I wanted to learn how and why.

I went to several SA face to face meetings and went back to CR. SA has phone meetings and I was attending a couple a day. It was awkward but I persevered. Along the way I have met about 7-8 guys who are authentic believers in Christ. There 3 men who I speak with 4-5 time a week. I love those guys and I’ve only met one in person but these relationships have grown since March.

Then a miracle happened. A friend of mine from CR, Bob Berryman told me about this program at Vineyard. He couldn’t remember the name but he got close. I researched and found Men’s 180 in early February 2016. I arranged to go to a face to face meeting. I was not afraid to go in to there or SA or CR. I was broken and wanted to be fixed.

I wanted to Love God and if this is where I could find help then I was all in. I met a guy named Doug and we had a very productive conversation. John was not there. I got some resources. I immediately started reading “Unconditional Surrender to the Holy Spirit.” I journaled every day. It took me 2 months to go through. From the email devotions, conversations with John, Bible reading and all my resources, I was suddenly getting all the Holy Spirit I wanted and was utilizing. Then I read 40 Days of Purity and journaled that. In the meantime, I was listening to David Jeremiah on my phone app and listening to Chip Ingram. I printed out message notes for Chip Ingram and listened to his messages and wrote notes. I have 2 spiral notebooks of about 15 Chip Ingram sermons.

I met John a few weeks later at a face to face meeting. Because of my job as an over the road truck driver I could not make the face to face meetings. John agreed to become my accountability partner and I could call him every weekday. I did and still do today. I’m not shy and I wanted to be healed. I asked, he answered. He advised, I listened. We talk about recovery and sometimes theology but he has made it clear that wants my focus on a deeper walk with Christ. I had started getting the email devotions in February and I journaled every one for 7 months until information was being recycled and I was retaining and building up a reservoir of knowledge. I still journal emails. Almost every one the month of December.

John shared his prayer protocol of Galatians and being filled with the Spirit, Romans 12:1-2 and putting on the Armor of God. I studied those scriptures to get the full meaning. I made them my scriptures. I have prayed them almost every morning since March till today and will continue to do so. I pray them differently every morning depending on my thoughts and my emotion. I have added to them as I had need. I was in the fight and trial of my life so I added James 1. Asking god patience to endure and persevere and to do so with a joy or looking forward to the work he needed to do in me to make me more mature and complete.

So, here is my prayer protocol

  1. Galatians 2:20
  2. The context and message of Galatians 5: 16-26
  3. The context and message of Ephesians 5: 15-20
  4. Romans 12:1-2 - To offer my body as living sacrifice; My eyes, what I take in and the purity I receive it; My tongue, the words that come out of my mouth. I offer my mind, what my thoughts are and my heart and what my emotions and feelings are. I offer my soul and my will in order to be pleasing to God today. Do not conform to the pattern of this world and to renew my mind with everything I take in through Bible Reading, I want the written word to become the living word in my life. Renew my mind through everything that is spiritual that I listen to so the Holy Spirit can be transforming me in order to understand God’s will and purpose for my life today.
  5. The context and message of Ephesians 6: 10-20, The Armor of God. I have a detailed explanation of each piece of armor and I pray it differently all the time.
  6. James 1: 1-6 – Praying to persevere through this trial in my life and praying for His wisdom.

That is my protocol. I sometimes have to be filled with the Spirit several times a day. I have figured out what my wounds and hurts from my past are and why I was medicating. My main addictions are my approval addiction and deep need for affirmation which translates into a desire to lust and to be lusted after so I can feel good about myself. I am insecure. I am a glass is half-empty kind of guy who can be pessimistic and negative. I have anger and resentment issues. So, I pray for the Holy Spirit to help me be alert and nudge me the second these issues rear their ugly head so my flesh doesn’t grab them and get a head of steam. The Spirit nudges me and I just say no! Move on. If I allow them to fester the Spirit will get my attention and I might pray to take them captive to the obedience of Christ.

I went 4 months with no porn, internet, or acting out. A Christian Psychologist told to beware because of the way I was found out, I could have been scared straight. He was right. In April, of this year, after 120 days of sobriety, I started to struggle with euphoric recall and sexual fantasies. I tried hard to fight them off. From April to July I fell 6 times or so. I kept having many and repeated sexual fantasies with the woman I committed adultery with. I knew she would have me in a heartbeat and I knew I could get hold of her.

I almost did on two occasions but somehow the Spirit prevailed. I had to learn to stand strong in his might. I had to learn to set boundaries. One of the first things I had done back in January was listen and journal a Chip Ingram study on Grace. It had a great effect on me. I had to take everything I learned from every resource and start applying it. Each time I slipped I learned something about this disease, God and myself. One of my biggest issues as a Christian man was to learn that God loved me, chose me, adopted me, forgave me and did not condemn me.

I had to learn to stop self-judging and condemning myself. I had to apply all that I had learned but I had to learn to prepare and fight in the moment with His power and strength. A couple of times I just acted out in pure stubborn rebellion because I wanted to fantasize and act out with my wife. I just continued to pray every morning. I continued to be in God’s word. I continued to ask God for strength to win this battle. My periods of acting out were all at night so I started praying specifically for sexual purity at night.

I wrote a Dear Bob letter to myself about what my deepest desires were as a child of God and how much I desired to be a Godly man, including sexual purity. I kept that letter next to my bunk and read it on a number of occasions when I might feel triggered or weak. I continued making phone calls on a daily basis or when necessary. I still get a trigger or temptation every day. God has done a metamorphosis on me turning me from a worm into a butterfly. I’m feeling stronger to take off from that tree branch and be strong and free, in Christ, flying strong in His might.

Today I am closer to God than I’ve ever been. Do I love the Lord my God with all my heart, soul, mind and strength? I’ve made a ton of progress and I can say without hesitation, “I love you Lord.” Thank you so much for what you have done for me! What was the weakest part of my walk with the Lord, the presence of the Holy Spirit in my heart, may very well be the strongest part of my relationship with God today. What am I working on today? As a result of everything I’ve learned and my connection with God, I love my wife more than I thought I could, unconditionally, but I want there to be no doubt that I love Jesus Christ more than I could ever love anything or anybody so I am spending time in prayer specifically for that.

I have a family background of addiction with alcohol and drugs. I have addictive tendencies. I have learned to live one day at a time. It has been a process. Sometimes a day seems like a week. It has been 13 months since I watched porn. 12 months since I’ve been on the internet. The sexual fantasies are few and the Holy Spirit is strong and fighting the flesh. I just keep starting my day in prayer and in the word and do a devotion which today is “31 ways that God says “I Love You.”

Today, almost a year since my wife found out, nothing has changed in our marital situation. She has not filed for divorce but she still wants nothing to with me. The silence is deafening. I still have guilt because of what I did to her. But I’m no longer allowing myself to be driven by guilt and shame. I’m presently looking for a place to live, an apartment or shared living situation. God is opening up doors of opportunity for me through this ministry and my church. I read information from other spiritual recovery groups to increase my knowledge but I know this about my relationship with Christ and walking it out on a daily basis. It’s about reaching out to other men and hoping God can use me to help others avoid what my wife, and family has.

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