My Dangerous Friends

by Men’s Ministry Participant

“The water is deep, the river is wide and God has promised that I will be standing on the other side.”

I have three very scary friends.   Any of them could knock me out and I fully expected at least one of them to do so.   These three friends sat with me  in my newly rented apartment on the only three pieces of furniture I owned: A futon, a rocking chair and a camp chair. I sat on the floor. They had just come from a deacon’s meeting that I was not allowed to attend. For about three hours, I started at the beginning and outlined the depth and breadth of my sin and my struggle with same sex attraction. I had fallen into pornography, spas, illegal massages and prostitutes.  It was all coming out.

From that meeting, we put together a team that has walked with me over the last two years and God has done great things.   I need to tell that story but it will have to be anonymous for now.  The disclosure of my struggle with same sex attraction is still fresh on the mind of my church and my former wife.   My restoration group and I also decided not to discuss it with my children yet.  Discretion is still important for the sake of my family.   Everyone that needs to know;  knows.  My mother knows.  My family knows.  My pastor knows.  Everyone in my Sunday School class knows.  The enemy really doesn’t like light to move into dark places.

I have always had the feelings of same sex attraction since I was young.  For most of my life, I managed my sin and was able to serve in the church and see fruit.   God sustained me every day and I clung to Him.    When my marriage started to suffer later in life, I dove into sin.  Not all at once but a little further every time  with no sense of the consequences.   I tried to repent and turn the other way but nothing helped.   .

On that Saturday morning, my dangerous friends responded to my confession in grace. They responded like people are not supposed to respond. I know they all went home in anger and grief, but they didn’t show any of that to me.   I was certain that they would run out of the room screaming, but all I saw was an amazing atmosphere of Grace in response to my confession.

Only a few days before that meeting, my wife had filed for divorce after reading a journal filled with my issues and sin.  She was afraid and wanted to protect the children and didn’t know how I would react to being exposed.   She knew that I cared more about what people thought about me than anything else.

I thought about disappearing.  I had business partners in Mexico and that would be a place to restart my life.  My other choice would be to face my kids, my wife and my church.   That did not seem very appealing, but it really was the only choice.  It was the only way to maintain connection to my kids and pursue possible restoration with my wife not to mention my only chance for an intimate relationship with the God that created me.   I chose the hard road.

I didn’t choose it because I was so strong, or really spiritual or so devoted.   I chose it because those dangerous friends were carrying me and they encouraged me to choose it.    I was too emotional and couldn’t trust how I felt, but I could trust that they had my best interest at heart.    They carried my burden and helped me make good decisions.  They were carrying my burden until the point I could carry my own load (Galatians 6:2,5).

Those friends knew they were not totally equipped and encouraged me to seek help with a counselor and with Living Hope.     What I found at Living Hope was the same atmosphere of grace.  When I showed up at Living Hope, no one was shocked by my confession.   No one questioned my salvation.   No one was under the illusion that the battle for my heart would be easy.    They simply loved me.    They normalized my situation and told me that there is hope.   They told me God didn’t want me to just manage my sin, but be delivered from it.   Their kind compassion and outpouring of grace continued to make a difference.

Long before everything came to light; long before there was any fruit of repentance in my life, God was working for my restoration.    My reconciliation with Him had been one of the many issues He dealt with at the cross.   I was on His list when He took the nails for me. 2000 years ago in His sovereignty, He was starting to build an atmosphere of Grace for me.   God also prepared a  group of men with hearts of compassion who would help me be restored.  He prepared a Sunday School class and a church who responded in a mature and loving way.   He prepared a ministry called Living Hope who knew how to meet me where I was.

Up to the point of that meeting with my dangerous friends, my repentance had been incomplete.  I had joined a 12 step recovery group and confessed I suffered from sexual addiction, but not same sex attraction.  I manipulated anonymity to meet my own personal goals.    I lied to my accountability partners about the extent of my sin and abused their trust.   I experienced a life in shame and fear.  I did not fully confess and repent and I remained where the enemy wanted me until God’s grace was demonstrated by God’s people in my life.

If you are reading this and there is secret sin in your life the clear and basic will of the Lord is to expose your sin. Acts 3:19 calls us to come clean and let a time of refreshing come over us.  Come clean.  Confess.  Repent,   Bring light into your dark places.   Every ounce of your body says that it is a bad idea.   The enemy wants to convince us not to tell our story.   He convinces us that we will be rejected and you will suffer for truth.   Full disclosure is the only road to repentance.

However, that road can be long.   The atmosphere of grace also allows perseverance.   People ask what is it about Living Hope that is so powerful?  The most powerful things in my mind is the commitment to persevere. Dealing with issues of abuse and addiction are overcome by the power of the Holy Spirit over time.   1 Cor 1: 18 talks about the Word of God saving us.    Every day I am becoming less defined by my sin and more defined by who I am in Christ. Change is a process.   God sanctifies us over time.

Despite the confession and the perseverance over the last two years, I can’t claim complete victory over my sin, yet.   I have more work to do.  There have been stumbles and falls.  BUT…  I am still here.   I am still taking the hard road.  Submitting to accountability.  Under church discipline.   Sometimes I want to simply escape and disappear.   I am determined to keep walking and many are walking with me.

If you are a brother or sister caught in sin, you  need to experience the same atmosphere of grace.  Living Hope is just that kind of place, but God also wants to provide that place for you in your local body with people who can love on you.  Why?  Because you can lie at Living Hope and we would never know.   You need to find a church like mine — a church that is not surprised to find sinners in the pews.

I can hear the excuse of someone reading this article – “He was lucky to have those people and that ministry in his life.  I don’t have that.”

Really?  You are the exception?  Are you saying that you are the only person in the world, that God hasn’t sovereignly devised a plan for your redemption and restoration?  Are you saying that Jesus is sitting at the throne of God excited that he delivered the whole world from their sin, but frustrated because it was too difficult to deliver you?  I think not!

God has prepared a way of repentance and restoration for you.   His hands and His feet are waiting to minister to you.  They may be right in front of you or you may have to go find them, but God has already prepared them.   God didn’t send the people of Israel into exile without a plan for their redemption.  God is still God and He is a redeemer, restorer, rebuilder and rewarder.     You are not the exception to the finished work of Christ and He has prepared a way of escape for you.  Find it.  It is worth your life!