One of the most discouraging aspects of battling a deeply-internalized sexual issue or other commanding presence of repetitive sin is that, even after you face it, fight it, and deprive it, something in that deep-internal goes right back to work to revive it. You choke it, pound it, bury it, surrender it and then, before you know it, you’re back under it. You toss it out the window on your journey to freedom and about the time you peek in the rear-view mirror, it’s splatting on the windshield.
I’ve heard of . . . and would like to shake the hand of — some people who faced-down the addictive nature of sexual brokenness and, in that very moment, rose from that spot of confrontation, not momentarily cleansed and standing in the timidity of repentance, but forever unshackled and absent the pull of a perceived need and a nagging want. They stand tall and shout the call of freedom. They see trees like men walking and the light is so brilliant that the fog is now mere memory. I’ve heard their testimonies and I reflected on the sovereignty of God to do that . . . for them . . but it somehow made God seem so selective. My journey to freedom took longer.
I remember wondering in the past if it was just my lack of faith that left me sitting in the valley beside the mountain mouthing “move.” Or was it an allergy to grace that left me itching on occasion to avoid the light of His forgiveness and restoration, opting instead for the darker recesses of the depths of deception? Did I misunderstand mercy? Did I — while railing at others for doing so — view my sin as greater than God’s vision? Was I my own stingy keeper of the key to the door of hope?
I think sometimes we content ourselves — though there is no real contentedness to it at all — with knowing that we know where the door is, with knowing that we can knock, with knowing we have a key, with knowing that we can run in that direction if we really need to, with knowing that we will find, on the other side, light and warmth and truth. And yet we go on, comforting ourselves a bit by proximity, staying close enough to the door, but keeping the key in our pocket like some insurance policy, just in case we truly find out that all the lies of the world really are just that. Lies.
In an odd twist of clever deception, the enemy makes the things outside the door seem so tangible and immediate. We look longingly at the door and believe the lies of the enemy that we have already — through our endless u-turns — surrendered to, forfeiting the right to even finger the key, much less slide it into the lock upon which we are so fixated. We’re not good enough anymore for His goodness. Too bad, so sad. Too late, your fate. And so we comfort ourselves by pulling the darkness in around us and turn away from the reality that He leaves the light on for us.
So . . . we wonder. Why doesn’t He just throw open the door and grab us as we slink away from the stoop? Pull us in, slam the door behind us and bolt it. Never let us out again.
Oh sure . . . that sounds just like us, doesn’t it? Demanding God strip us of our freedom, take away our will, separate us forcefully from the sin that so enthralls us. Just blind our eyes and banish all temptation. Do we want Him to remove from us everything that should drive us to Him and then naively think we will be so gratified that we will glorify Him forever even though we would no longer need Him, having no need to despair and seek in the absence of all confusion? You go, God. If You really want us to be so pure and holy, then you do it, God. I know you can.
You do? You know He can?
Then why flee the door?
It’s hard to know how sincere someone is about giving up if you don’t know for sure how hard they fought against the giving in. I remember that beyond the original temptations was the great temptation to give up hope, accept fate, make the best of it, count my losses and look for some sort of justification that would allow me to escape the judgment of others and dismantle the complicated and conflicting self in a total embrace of sexuality, as if that self-satisfaction was the answer to all the exasperation of life. It was especially tempting when, whacked by the tidal wave of my revealed sinfulness, my children walked away, my friends departed, my church folded exasperated arms against me, while, at the same time, culture chimed in with all the reasons we should rise beyond the ignorance and embrace the obvious: “being gay is about as good as it gets in this world.” It’s the domain of the creative and witty and intelligent, the self-actualized and contented ones, the ones who had discovered finally the meaning of loving oneself.
And, in the midst of loving themselves, that are also the sad and the lonely and the searching and the longing and the self-haters, always in pursuit of . . . something. After all, why would gays be deprived of the emotional and relational deficits everyone else suffers?
If we make our decisions on anything less than a full-flung pursuit of the truth, we should not be surprised to look up one day and see that the door from which we rarely strayed has become so distant that our eyes can barely see it and the key so deep within our pockets that our fingers barely reach it. But . . . the door and the key are both still there.
That’s how truth is. It sails like an ever-free bird above the waves of culture, with the land always in sight. Truth doesn’t bend beneath the beckoning call to change. Truth does not yield to counterfeited peacefulness. Truth does not cave into the ceaseless call to clarify truth itself. It is just truth. Unchanging, unwavering. Efforts to weaken it only serve to invite the inevitable emergence of the strength of truth.
When you find yourself signaling a left turn into another u-turn, heading back towards the places you wish you’d never been but for some reason long to re-visit . . . it’s time to ponder truth. Here’s a question you might want to ask yourself:
“Who told you you were naked?”
That’s a follow-up question actually. God first asked Adam: “Where are you?” Then, when Adam explained that he had been hiding because he was naked, God said, “Who told you you were naked?”
It wasn’t God.
If you have any doubt that the confusion and the sorrow and the anger and the fear and the frustration and the doubt that drive you to and away from the door are what God intended for you rather than what the world uses to ensnare you and enswhirl you in endless circles of questioning your very being, then you don’t understand the reason for truth.
The truth is that God knows who we are even when we do not. He accepts us as we are because He see us as He created us to be, not as we have crafted ourselves. Isn’t it odd that we think God should change Himself and approve of us rather than that we should change to be approved?
And that’s the truth, which, by the way, sets us free.
Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.– John 8:32
One more thing about real truth: it will not taunt you or tantalize you because it has no need to make itself attractive. It just is, after all, the truth. It doesn’t have to dress up and make promises beyond the one that Jesus Himself made: it sets us free.
I would rather run wildly through the wilderness with my hands in the air and my voice crying out for rescue in pursuit of truth as the hounds of hell bark at my heels than sit in the camouflaged comfort of surrendering to world-inflicted wounds now soothed by the balm of something I know is not from God. How far you enter into the “age of enlightenment” depends on how ignorant you can convince yourself to be about the Word of God.
If God had not already cornered the market on truth, we might have some merit for embracing it from elsewhere or even creating it ourselves. Instead, we need to accept it.
I don’t know why some of us find ourselves so at odds with God’s clear direction. Yes, I believe He could have sorted a few sins out of the mix. I would have voted for the elimination of sexual brokenness of all kinds so we could all live happily ever after in perfect harmony, with no one conspicuously drifting off key. Let something else be the greatest sin . . . okay? Let someone else be the most naked.
No, I think we are so much better off battling to the very end if that is necessary than we will ever be just seeking an end, at all costs, to this battle. The truth is, only God knows when you will be free of it, but, if you turn your longings elsewhere, forsaking the paths of righteousness for the personal path of what seems right to you or others, you may find yourself in unwelcome wilderness. When you find yourself with a choice between the wilderness and the door, dig deep for the key.
Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls. — Jeremiah 6:16
Now that’s the naked truth.
(Thom Hunter is the author of Surviving Sexual Brokenness: What Grace Can Do.)