I have had a long relationship with God. From the time I was 5 or 6 years old, my parents dropped me off at our local church every Sunday morning for Sunday school. I was proud of my 5-year perfect attendance pin. I developed friendships at church and was accepted there. Church was a comfortable place to be. I thought I made a commitment to God. I discovered later, I had learned about God, but I didn’t get to know God.
I was married in church, and over the years Ellyn and I were always active participants in church life. I believe I have served in almost every leadership position in our local churches except pastor and Sunday school superintendent. On the outside, I looked like a virtuous Christian man.
On the inside, I shamefully knew I was something else. I was a sex addict. As my addiction involved more and more deviant behavior, I became more uncomfortable because my actions were in direct conflict with my values. I tried to stop acting out but discovered that I could not.
I prayed, over and over again, for God to take away my addiction, then became angry and resentful when the cravings for sex and pornography did not go away. Where was God? Hadn’t I earned His help?
Early one morning in March 2004, there was pounding on the door of my house. “Police! Open up!” they screamed. The police had a search warrant. I knew why they were there. In that second I knew my life was about to be completely different.
Four hours later, after the police had completed their search and found what they needed, Ellyn called our pastor. He came to the house and we prayed together. For the next four weeks life went on. I hired an attorney and prepared my defense, but we kept our problems secret, and went to church each Sunday as usual.
Then one Monday morning the telephone rang. It was NBC. By the end of the day the news of my arrest had spread throughout the world. My behavior was secret no more.
Ellyn and I went to church the next Sunday, but the tension in the air was very apparent. I was an outcast among my church family. Ellyn was too. She had nothing to do with my criminal activity but would not attend church without me. There were no visits, no phone calls, no offers to help. This was church? Where was God! I felt deserted, and I was angry.
The pastor called a meeting so I could talk to the congregation. The sanctuary was full that afternoon. I admitted my very non-Christian behavior to a room full of Christian men and women, uncomfortable with a known sinner in their midst, and asked for their forgiveness. Everyone sins, and God treats all sins equally. People do not. The next week I was asked not to return to church. At the time we most needed support, Ellyn and I were isolated and left alone.
And so, at the time I began seeking recovery from compulsive sexual behavior, I was angry at God. By working the twelve-steps with a sponsor, I learned that I had been treating God as my codependent. I had been telling God what I wanted, not asking him what I needed.
One of the first lessons I learned was not to tell God how to answer my prayers. I told God what I wanted. Sending the police to my house was not what I wanted. God knew what I needed.
I needed a power greater than I. God is that power. I needed to get down on my knees to God, not tell God what to do. I needed to look deep inside myself, and with help to discover those character defects that led me to addiction. I needed to humble myself to God. I did not need to ask God to cure my addiction. I needed to recognize the fears, resentments, and harmful behaviors that separated me from God, and from those I had harmed, and admit them to God. Then I needed to ask Him to take away those defects in my character.
Finally, I needed to not just know about God. I needed to know God. I needed to let God in.
This was not a quick process for me. Much of it happened in prison. That will be a topic for a future post.