My father died 23 years ago at the age of 60 on a day I did not notice, busy with my own life, far removed from his. It shouldn’t have been that kind of day. There was no late night bedside call for a last-gasp farewell. I did not even know he was so close to death, and, I fear, had he lived another decade, I would have known no more in 1998 than I did in 1988. At some point, I became so focused on him not being a good father that I completely neglected being a good son.
I believed I had done what was best, surrendering to his belligerent determination to live life on his own terms, which turned out to be short-term. I’m not sure what he believed because I had long since quit asking or wondering or wanting to know.
That was wrong.
So many things we do or accept are wrong, based on something we have been told we should believe, or on something we have been told we should not. Or just some inner feeling. Or perhaps the babble of someone who will feel no loss from our bad-belief-based decisions. For instance, my children never met my father because I “believed” it was best. Now that I myself know what it feels like to have grandchildren withheld, I understand the impact of my self-righteous decision to “protect” them from exposure to a broken down alcoholic who would never so much as buy them a dollar toy, but would have perhaps seen hope within them that he could not find on the cold dark streets of Fort Worth, Texas . . . or in me and my self-righteousness.
Oh what dangers lurk in what we think is best for others.
I’m not saying we necessarily have to walk a mile in a man’s shoes to have any say about the direction in which he is traveling. If so, we’d all be so deep in sin, trying to gain relevant experience, we would be collectively immobile and life would end. My father was uneducated, fought in World War II, endured a divorce and lost his wife and kids to a more promising man who dealt promises out like a worn deck of cards and never followed through on a one that I know of. My father spent a bit of time in jail on occasion and considered himself meaner than hell, despite an overall gentle nature of which others took advantage. He began drinking in his early years and likely died with a finished bottle at his side. I don’t want to walk in those shoes; it was better he be buried in them.
I believed he would never recover. I believed he did not care about me. I believed it was best to cut ties. I believed that if he really wanted a life, he would get after it, get over it, get on with it. That’s past tense. I believe now that he came to believe he could not recover because no one believed he could. I believe he decided to stop expressing care for me because he believed I wanted nothing to do with him. I believe he just . . . died, and that he probably wondered what took so long.
I believe that sometimes what we believe about others robs them of any hope of believing in themselves.
My father never knew I struggled with unwanted same-sex attraction, but I believe he would have understood, and, in his own addiction, would have seen my struggle and, I believe, he would have encouraged me to not give in or give up. He would not have been dismissive either, just saying “get over it.” I don’t think he would have labored with his own beliefs over the issue, but would have instead focused on me.
Of course, I can believe these things because he is not here. One of the most difficult things anyone with sexual brokenness – which includes many Christians, especially with pornography — has to deal with is the constantly trumpeted and trumping beliefs of those who are here, whittling away at the struggler’s belief that God can heal and change and is patient and loving. The God who saw the first flicker of skewed sexuality which grew into a flaming and consuming inner fire of control in you . . . is the same God who will snuff out the last ember as freedom comes. I believe that and no one is taking that belief from me.
If you or someone you know struggles, believe that God can and will set you free in His time and in His way if you are faithful to follow Him, confess your failings, seek forgiveness, repent and keep walking. As you walk, keep an eye out for the people who can take this belief from you and leave you hopelessly clinging to a diminished God. Can we not just believe together that without God, we’re toast? Sin does not mend at our own demand.
The motives differ, but truth suffers when you deal with any of these “belief thieves.”
Recruiters. These people will do anything to tempt you into acting out on your sexual temptations, especially if you are porn-addicted. To them, you are only as valuable as the next click. Under the mask of “meeting your natural need,” they are trading you around like a fading baseball card. You mean less to them than even the people they manipulate into “entertaining” you. Whatever your sexual problem is, someone out there knows how to make you feel better, as long as you make them feel better. These recruiters are users producing losers.
Refuters. These are the people who refuse to believe you have any problem at all. “Don’t worry; be happy.” “Smile and the world smiles with you.” “Accept yourself.” They revise the truth of the Bible in pursuit of that all-important happiness and really don’t want to be pulled down by you, plodding along your path to wholeness. You know how it is . . . people who are dissatisfied with themselves can be so dreary. You pour out your soul and they respond with a queasy “don’t do that.” The tempting thing about refuters and their redefining of God’s Word is that it can be tempting to believe what masquerades as relieving reassurance.
Recusers. These are the people who approach you with a “get thee behind me” look. They work through washing their hands of you and shaking the dust off their feet fairly quickly and then pledge to pray but also say “people like you don’t ever change.” This proclamation says more about their faith than yours, as they have somehow divinely reckoned that God is not . . . divine. He can create a universe, but he cannot change you? That’s definitely a get-thee-behind-me thought.
Reminders. These are the people who like to remind you that not only have you been bad, you redefined it and made your way into the dictionary. They remember every slip, every dip, every lie and every try that did not work, and, lest you get giddy about shaking off a bit of the slime of the past, they’ve got barrels of it stored in the garage. They use that to dash your hopes, lest your forget how much you hurt them. You can confess; you can repent; they’ll not relent.
The one thing all of these people have in common is the belief that they have it right. Forgive them for that, but realize that their beliefs are not rooted so much in love the need for self-assurance about their rightness. What we need are people who are Christ-like, sacrificial, not seeking anything in return. That’s a lot to ask for from people, but there are some who love you enough to take up that task. Look for them.
Be one of them.
We move beyond the shame and the guilt of being sexually-broken when we move into the reality that Christ — who hates sin and clearly knows the cost because He paid the price — is not surprised by our brokenness, devastated by our stubbornness, disturbed by our sinfulness, or deaf to our cries for restoration. The One who is all and knows all, loves all and died for all, does not recuse Himself from our case, refuse our pleas, remind us of our confessed sins or seek to justify them for the sake of happiness and inner peace. You and I are the all.
Yes, we do need people. The days of our lives should not play out unnoticed. But it is okay, even for the broken, to be discerning, building relationships with people who will look you in the eye and nod in agreement with you when you tell them that you believe you can be free. Later, when you believe that you are, you can work on those recruiters, refuters, recusers and reminders. They need your help.
(Want to know more about sexual brokenness for yourself or someone else? My book, Surviving Sexual Brokenness: What Grace Can Do, is available through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, WestBow Press or through your local bookstore. It’s a very small investment for a wealth of information to help someone you love.)