by Jonathan Daugherty
At our 3-day intensive workshops for men I make a guarantee to all the guys in attendance. I loudly and slowly proclaim,
"You will fall on this recovery journey. Not, you 'might' fall, or it's in the realm of possibility a fall could happen. No, you WILL fall."
Thankfully, that isn't my closing word of encouragement to the guys at the workshop. But I want the point to be clear: no one recovers from secret sexual sin without stumbling. No one.
What, then, is a person to do when they fall? If it is inevitable, what is even the point of trying? Why would anybody sign up for more failure? It seems like "recovery" is pointless if it involves failing.
It may seem that way, until you examine more closely the process of true change and growth (i.e. maturity).
How many of us have achieved success (at anything) without failure? Anyone? Anyone? I didn't think so. Personal growth, especially spiritual growth, is never achieved apart from falling down. If you learned to walk as a child, you did so after falling down over and over and over again. If you made the team in school, you did so after missing thousands of shots or "getting it wrong" innumerable times. Whether it be art, science, business, or politics, success is only achieved on the tail end of lots of failure. But the difference is in what those who succeeded did in response to each failure: they learned from it.
I don't remember learning to walk, but I know that I've never been a big fan of physical pain. So, I'm pretty certain that every time I fell down in my attempts to walk and scuffed a knee or bumped my head on any immovable object, the resulting pain became a lesson for the next time I would be brave enough to give walking another try. Bump after bump, and bruise after bruise, I discovered balance and motor skills. In essence, each failure provided an opportunity to learn something new about what I was actually trying to achieve: walking! (And, today, even as an "expert" walker, I haven't walked perfectly my whole life; I still stumble at times, especially after reclining for hours in front of a football game.)
What is the goal of sex addiction recovery? Is it never falling? If so, everyone who has ever attempted recovery has failed. Repeatedly.
What if the goal of recovery was growth in community; living an unhidden life in open, transparent relationships with those we love? If that's what "running" looks like for a sex addict, at what stage do they start this journey? Marathon champion? Hardly! They're infants, immature in both the process and the understanding of living a life of purity and integrity. Would you expect a baby to run a marathon without first learning to walk? Why, then, do we expect a sexually addicted person to develop healthy, loving, transparent relationships without first learning to "walk?"
The grace of God affords us everything we need for this difficult recovery journey. By grace, we are invited to come out of the dark and into the Light. By grace, we are free to be honest about our struggles; even our failures. By grace, our progress is not measured by our falling, but rather by choosing to get up and keep trying. By grace, every bump and bruise of failure is turned into an opportunity to learn and grow and mature. By grace, we can walk and not faint, we can run and not grow weary. (Isa. 40:28-31)
But not without stumbling along the way.
Will you embrace grace? For yourself as well as those you pass judgment on for falling? May the grace of God give you a new compassion for the many spiritual infants stumbling and falling all around (even yourself). May you see the hand of Jesus reaching out, and His gaze of encouragement and joy cast upon those who have stumbled, saying, "It's okay. Everybody falls. Let me pick you up so you can try again..."