I got yelled at on a recent visit to Colorado; by a park ranger at Garden of the Gods. I didn't set out to break their rules, but I somehow still found a way to cross the line. But my error turned into one of my most intimate engagements with God and His creation.
I set out around 9:00AM on an absolutely gorgeous day in south central Colorado. I originally was headed to Blodgett Peak but it was closed due to some recent fire warnings. So I continued on to Garden of the Gods (a place I believe is more appropriately named by dropping the 's'). The air was crisp and cool, and I was ready for a good hike. My backpack was supplied with snacks, water bottles, my Bible, and a notepad. I parked my car in one of the canyons and began my trek up the hilly terrain.
In Garden of the Gods there are many marked trails going every direction across the vast landscape. Unbeknownst to me, the park rangers expect hikers to stay on these trails. I have never been one to stay on trails, literally or metaphorically. So, within about 10 minutes of my hike, I headed off through the woods, weaving in and out of rock formations and underbrush. As I came to a clearing I saw the tip of Pike's Peak off in the distant horizon. There were several mountain ranges between it and me. I thought to myself, it sure would be nice to get to higher ground so I could have a better view.
As I surveyed my surroundings I noticed just to the south of me about a quarter to half mile away a spectacular rock formation. There were these three huge, flat red rocks jutting out of the ground at about a 45 degree angle. They looked like a massive, rocky airplane wing signaling which direction to go if one wanted to head toward Pike's Peak. The tip of the formation would be the perfect spot from which to survey a nearly 360 degree panoramic view. I quickly mapped out my route to the rocks in my head and started trudging toward my destination.
As I got to the bottom of the rock formation I realized that things seen from a distance are much larger up close (that's probably a rich principle for another article entirely). But I wasn't deterred. I took a deep breath (or as deep of one you can take at over 8000 feet elevation) and climbed up the rocks. At the peak I took off my backpack and sat down with my legs dangling over the edge. I looked down (reflexively) and realized it was a 50-60 foot drop to the ground. But when I raised my head to look toward Pike's Peak, it was breathtaking! The climb was over. I made it to my summit. And taking in the panoramic view was simply overwhelming. I sang out praises to the Lord, remembering His Words, "In His hands are the depths of the earth; the heights of the mountains are His also..." (Psalm 95:4) It was beautiful. I took a picture (see above).
As I was drinking in the moment, I felt water dripping down my back. This seemed unusual since it was barely 50 degrees outside and zero humidity. I turned around to look at my backpack and noticed a wet corner on the bottom. I opened the pack to discover that one of my water bottles had leaked out onto my Bible and notepad. Ah, man! I started pulling all my stuff out of the backpack and laying it out on the rocks to dry. As I'm doing this I glance down to the road that winds through the park. It's about a half mile away. I see a white truck driving slowly down the road. Then I hear this bull horn honking and a guy starting to talk over the loud speaker. But it sounds like the teacher from Charlie Brown; just muffled and gibberish.
I continue to work on drying all my soaked goods when I hear the bull horn sound again. This time I look at the truck and pay more attention to what is being said over the loud speaker, "You, sir, in the red shirt. Get off those rocks and get back on the trails!" I look down only to be reminded that I was wearing a red sweatshirt. Unconvinced that I could be breaking any rules, I look around to see if there just might be somebody else in a red shirt standing on some off limits rocks. Unfortunately, no one else was seen. I politely waved to the rangers in the white truck and started packing up my wet gear to begin my trek back down the rocks and onto the approved pathways. But before I left, I took one last long look at the view; a true masterpiece of artistry from the Creator.
I was a bit embarrassed for my blunder, but I'm not ashamed of what resulted of my error. I drank in the majesty of God's creation from a vantage point that, apparently, few ever have.
I think God is in the business of making mistakes majestic. We wander off His trail in life, sometimes because of sin, other times because someone leads us away. We find ourselves lost in the woods or stuck in a valley. Then we see a marker, like that rock formation in Garden of the Gods, a signpost reminding us which direction we must face in order to once again see God's glory. And when we reach those markers we drink in the majesty of our Maker, thankful for His faithfulness to never leave us nor forsake us, even when we step off the trail.
Oh, and the best news is that in God's "garden of life" He never yells at us for getting off track. Instead, He encourages us to pause, embrace His grace, and press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus (Phil 3:14). He is able and willing to turn our mistakes into something majestic. His grace really is that good...
How can a person fully describe the places their sexual brokenness has taken them? There is the spiritual reality of sexual brokenness; a reality that speaks of the condition of our soul; a condition wrought by another's sexual brokenness or by our own; even the condition of a soul as it learns to allow the Almighty to mend their brokenness. There is also the physical reality of this brokenness. For many this reality comes in the form of the strange beds they find themselves waking up in -- strange places in even stranger situations. For me, it is a reality of which I am far too easily reminded every waking moment as I sit where I sit -- concrete walls, steel bars, and razor wire.
My name is Dennis and by invitation of Be Broken Ministries I share my story. It is a story that, when my world first started crumbling, I thought was unique. I felt alone, singled out, and scared. It is also a story that, as I become more involved in healing and connecting with other broken people, I see is far more common than I first could have imagined and is becoming more common every day.
If you and I had met between 2005 to 2007 you might have walked away thinking to yourself, "Now there is a young man who has got it together. He's got a beautiful, smart wife, a lovely home, a promising career, a sprouting music ministry, and a very bright future." If you had asked me, I would have only confirmed your thought and added, "Yes, I'm living my life-plan exactly as I have planned it. Life is good!"
And life was good -- at least on the surface. I was a young 30-something. I had married my college sweetheart. I was an established professional musician and private instructor. I had started a career as a public school teacher and real estate agent. I was living in a new home my wife and I were purchasing. On the surface I was a pillar of the community, a future leader. Yes, I would have told you, "Life is good." The world was my oyster and I thought I held the pearl of great price. My curriculum vitae had been established and I was living it. Today, I scarcely can remember what that life-plan was.
Late in 2007 the "good life" ended for me. My sexual brokenness had come to a breaking point, my sin laid out in front of me, my family, and the world. It started wit the FBI banging on my front door at 6:00am in the morning and by the end of 2008 I was indicted on child pornography charges. I lost my career, my home, my wife, my reputation, my very freedom.
I remember during this process crying out, "I am a broken man!" I was financially broken, socially broken, emotionally broken. All caused by my sexual brokenness. I had been content to ignore my sexual brokenness -- up until the breaking point. I was busy living my life-plan. But God had a different plan for me.
In 2010 I reported to a Federal Correctional Institute to surrender myself for a 100-month sentence. For 100 months I will sit in my physical reality: concrete walls, steel bars, and razor wire. Yet I rejoice because my spiritual reality, though once broken, is on the mend.
I still struggle to surrender all the world tells me is good. I struggle against the temptation to write for myself a life-plan that is outside what the Gospel tells me my life should be. But I recognize my brokenness. I pray that your brokenness never brings you to such a place as my current physical reality, but that instead you allow it to show you where your spiritual reality is deficient and begin, by the grace of God, the process of healing.
For me the first step in healing was saying, "I am a broken man." In recognizing and embracing my brokenness I also recognize and embrace the One who can mend me and make me whole.
Be broken, but be encouraged...
We believe there are 4 essential principles to living a life of sexual integrity. This Purity Post highlights the fourth Pillar of Purity: Engage Others.
Order the book, The 4 Pillars of Purity, at pillarsofpurity.com
We believe there are 4 essential principles to living a life of sexual integrity. This Purity Post highlights the third Pillar of Purity: Relate with God.
Order the book, The 4 Pillars of Purity, at pillarsofpurity.com
I have been hearing from more and more people lately who are sharing of their terrible battle with withdrawals as they begin their recovery from sexual addiction. Unfortunately, many of these individuals have bought into the mainstream cultural view of sexual addiction as something that shouldn't be classified as an addiction at all. Our society at large is becoming so oversexualized that a type of normalcy is being attached to unhealthy sexual compulsions. And all these individuals experiencing headaches, cold sweats, inability to concentrate, and panic attacks in the early days of their recovery are left wondering what is wrong with them.
I'm not going to make a long argument for the validity of sexual addiction as a compulsive disorder. That's for other people smarter than I am to hash out. But I'm not going to ignore the real physical symptoms of people trying to break free from sexually addictive patterns; partly because there are a substantial number of these individuals out there, but also because I suffered the same symptoms.
When I started my recovery in 1999 from a life of porn, masturbation, illicit affairs, and prostitution, I never expected the physical difficulties I would have in the early stages of the recovery process. The first three weeks were hell on earth, and not just because I was now trying to not act out sexually for the first time in 13 years. I was in physical pain during those weeks. My body had become so "conditioned" to my sexual behaviors that me "putting on the brakes" felt like the equivalent of driving a car going 100mph into a brick wall. It was agonizing.
The worst for me was the headaches and chills, which would occur most regularly in the evenings (not coincidentally, most of my acting out was done at night). Around 4pm I would start feeling a headache and mild dizziness. Oftentimes, by 9pm I would be curled up on my bed freezing, yet sweating - and no fever. And though these symptoms didn't last extremely long when they came on (usually a couple hours), they were very uncomfortable and confused me greatly. I wondered why it "just so happened" that I started "feeling sick" at the same time I started pursuing recovery.
Thankfully, I had some good counselors who helped me through that season and assured my I wasn't crazy, and that these symptoms were normal for someone who was seeking to so drastically change how they lived their life. Over time the symptoms lessened and clarity began to replace confusion. The cloud lifted, both physically and emotionally. But I don't know if I would have made it without the encouragement and support of counselors and group. Through them I learned what it would take to press on and not give up.
If you, or someone you love, is struggling with the detox process, let me encourage you to focus on the following guidelines for making it through.1. Withdrawals are normal.
It might feel shocking and overwhelming when you experience that first headache or emotional outburst or cold sweat. It's okay. This is normal. You aren't crazy, you are just experiencing the effects of what happens when a body that has been operating one way makes a 180 degree turn. Take a deep breath and be careful of letting the lies of shame drown you. You are still a priceless child of God who is worth recovery.2. Withdrawals are temporary.
I remember the first couple days in recovery and the painful headaches and dizziness. I doubted whether I made the right choice to quit. Pain has a way of making everything seem urgent (just ask a mother in labor!). But it also has a way of clouding our vision of the bigger picture. Withdrawal symptoms are not permanent, they will pass in time. Take another deep breath and remind yourself that this will pass.3. Withdrawals are deceptive.
When you experience withdrawal symptoms you will be tempted to return to your old ways of coping with pain: sexual lust. But that's not answer! It may provide immediate relief for your physical pain, but it will drown your soul to a deeper level of sorrow and darkness. Be careful of making decisions based on the momentary pain of your symptoms. Remember, it is the truth that sets us free! (John 8:32)4. Withdrawals are opportunities to receive help.
No one recovers from sexual addiction without help. No one! And while the addiction teaches a person to isolate and disconnect from others, withdrawal symptoms can be a great (and powerful!) reminder that help is needed. Plug into a support group
, connect with a counselor
, and just start reaching out for help. You have been drowning too long; let others help you to the surface.
If you would like more help with your recovery journey, please visit Starting Point
or call us toll free at 1-800-49-PURITY.
We believe there are 4 essential principles to living a life of sexual integrity. This Purity Post highlights the second Pillar of Purity: Understand Triggers.
Order the book, The 4 Pillars of Purity, at pillarsofpurity.com
by Jonathan Daugherty
My whole life I have struggled with depression. It's been an on-and-off thing since as far back as I can remember. It's not something I talk about very often, if ever. I have been on medication in the past to help regulate my mood. It is one of my core weaknesses, like a "thorn in my side." And although I have discovered on life's journey that I don't need to live in fear of my weaknesses, there is no guarantee I will not feel afraid because of them.
My imagination is vivid and active, just ask my wife! This is a great blessing when attempting to write or tell stories, but it can be quite crippling when mixed with a depressed mood. Recently I was going through my mental checklist of all the events and tasks and projects our ministry has coming up in the next few months. The list just kept going and going and... I felt this wave of pressure come crashing down on my soul. I wanted to kick and thrash, try my hardest to swim to the surface of this overwhelming ocean. But instead I was frozen, unable to move, suffocating. Fear enveloped me and I felt myself slipping into emotional unconsciousness.
As I experienced the scene above, my mind wandered through a trail of old movies. I love movies, especially those with lots of plot twists. I'm always drawn to stories that have an element of free-spirited living, like in Shawshank Redemption when Tim Robbins' character refuses to let the walls of prison entrap his sense of wonder and hope, or Eric Liddle in Chariots of Fire, feeling God's pleasure when he ran. Freedom, hope, these wonderful passageways that lead the burdened heart to a place of calm and lightness. But sometimes I feel like these passages are walled off, or constantly moving, requiring more and more searching to find their treasures.
I believe God is not cruel or into playing games with our emotions. I believe He is what His Word says, a loving Father who cares infinitely more for us than all else in creation that He daily supplies with food and protection. And although I believe this, I still find it a great mystery that God allows His children to suffer, to endure pain and unanswered questions, and even prevent
some "thorns" from being removed. This mystery doesn't cause me to abandon my faith, but it is puzzling nonetheless. I really don't want to struggle with depression, yet it lingers. I want to feel at peace, unburdened, able to breath, but the seasons come in which I taste nothing, see nothing, feel nothing. Is God uncaring? Absent? Busy?
Ironically, it has been through my depression that my love for God has deepened. I'm not saying I would have chosen this method, but this has been my journey. I often picture God as an endless ocean. His richest treasures are not found washed up on the shore, but deep in the depths of the waters miles and miles away from all that is safe and "firm." The more I venture into those "unsafe" waters the more my weaknesses are exposed -- and experienced! I flounder, sink, gag. But then something unexpected happens. In certain moments I'm enveloped not by my weakness, but by the majesty, power, and grace of God. The waves of my depression that sought to crush my soul are replaced by waves of God's steadfast love and tender heart. And although the power and force of just one cresting wave in the ocean of God could completely destroy me, instead it refines me, instructs me, moves me, heals me.
I still don't like feeling depressed. And I don't always manage my fear of it very well. But for the moments my God reveals to me how His power is made perfect in weakness, I will press on. I will not give up. I will confess my frailty, acknowledging my complete emptiness apart from Christ. Then, and only then, do I know what it means, "When I am weak, then I am strong."
Are you wrestling with God over your weaknesses? If not, I hope you will. Not because I think you'll win. No, I hope you will wrestle over them because sometimes it's the only way to get into deep enough water to see the rich treasures of God. That's a sight worth seeing, and something I believe God only reveals to the truly broken; even the depressed...
We believe there are 4 essential principles to living a life of sexual integrity. This Purity Post highlights the first Pillar of Purity: Profess the Struggle.
Order the book, The 4 Pillars of Purity
, at pillarsofpurity.com
Here is a short answer to one of the most common questions we receive (especially from wives). What difference is there, if any, between viewing porn and committing adultery?
I've been spending time recently in the book of Numbers in the Bible. Unfortunately, this isn't a place in most people's Bibles where they spend much time, maybe because the stories can seem redundant and there is a lot of focus on, well, numbers. But there are also such great stories of God's care and redemption of His people, even when that care doesn't always appear so caring. Like what happens in Numbers, chapter 11.
At this point in history, the Israelites have been freed from slavery under the heavy hand of Pharaoh in Egypt. They have crossed the Red Sea and have seen God's provision of manna, the 10 commandments, and even the glory of God's presence at the entrance to the tabernacle. Yet, they grumbled.
Numbers 11:4 - Now the rabble that was among them had a strong craving. And the people of Israel also wept again and said, “Oh that we had meat to eat! We remember the fish we ate in Egypt that cost nothing, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic. But now our strength is dried up, and there is nothing at all but this manna to look at.”
It's almost a tragic comedy to read of the repeated grumbling and complaining of God's people throughout history. Yet, it's not really funny at all, as there are always consequences for sinning (i.e. grumbling) against a holy God. Notice what was at the heart of the motivation to seek other ways to be fed than what God had provided: strong craving.
It was lust in the hearts of discontented citizens that began stirring up the entire congregation of Israel to question the goodness of God's provision and instead exalt the provision of a corrupt, godless Pharaoh. This kind of dissension was an example of what I call "memory scrubbing," when one chooses to only remember what they want to remember, not the whole truth.
The Israelites were slaves under Pharaoh! So, whatever their memories might have been of "good food," needed to be placed in the context of them not being free men and women. But that's not how they chose to remember their time in Egypt. Instead, they seemed to remember Egypt as one magnificent buffet line, full of delicious meats, melons, and salads. But a good meal in the context of slavery is nothing a sane person should long for, and especially not those of the chosen race of God who He redeemed, protected, and very literally provided daily bread.
God, however, didn't abandon His people because of their slander or scrubbed memories. But He did teach them a lesson about what lustful cravings lead to: death. In the case of the Israelites, God chose to give them exactly the meat that they wanted - to the point that they gagged on it!
Numbers 11:18-20 - And say to the people, ‘Consecrate yourselves for tomorrow, and you shall eat meat, for you have wept in the hearing of the Lord, saying, “Who will give us meat to eat? For it was better for us in Egypt.” Therefore the Lord will give you meat, and you shall eat. You shall not eat just one day, or two days, or five days, or ten days, or twenty days, but a whole month, until it comes out at your nostrils and becomes loathsome to you, because you have rejected the Lord who is among you and have wept before him, saying, “Why did we come out of Egypt?”’
God's faithfulness is not always pleasant, even though it is good. God gave the "rabble" exactly what their lustful bellies craved, until the couldn't stand it anymore. But this was actually a merciful act on God's part. Rather than completely wipe out all the Israelites forever, He taught them a lesson about the foolishness of assuming God is not thoroughly good. Sadly, it was a lesson they didn't permanently comprehend, but it still speaks to us even today, thousands of years later.
God kept His promise to feed the people meat. And that it would be overwhelming, even to the point they could hardly move because there was so much meat falling from the sky.
Numbers 4:31-34 - Then a wind from the Lord sprang up, and it brought quail from the sea and let them fall beside the camp, about a day's journey on this side and a day's journey on the other side, around the camp, and about two cubits above the ground. And the people rose all that day and all night and all the next day, and gathered the quail. Those who gathered least gathered ten homers. And they spread them out for themselves all around the camp. While the meat was yet between their teeth, before it was consumed, the anger of the Lord was kindled against the people, and the Lord struck down the people with a very great plague. Therefore the name of that place was called Kibroth-hattaavah*, because there they buried the people who had the craving. (emphasis mine)
*Kibroth-hattaavah means "graves of craving"
Lust will never invite God's best into your life. Instead, it leads to death. Those who rose up in the Israelite's camp and sought to stir up the people against God because they entertained delusional fantasies about how "good" life was in their days of slavery; those were the ones who were buried at Kibroth-hattaavah, in their "graves of craving." Lust only digs graves, ones we eventually occupy ourselves.
Don't get caught up in fantasies of "better days" that are really nothing more than illusions. The truth is that any picture of life drawn within the lines of slavery is not what God has pictured for His people. He has "a land flowing with milk and honey," filled with every good gift and treasure. He knows what is best for us and what will ultimately satisfy. Our only "job" is to follow where He leads. Sometimes that means we will go through valleys and deserts, but it is always a step closer to the Promised Land.
Will you endure, fighting the ever-present cravings that draw you away from the journey to God's best? May you not be party to the "rabble," but instead hold fast to the promises of God, that where He leads is always good, even if the journey is hard. Don't get buried in the grave of craving...