Tuesday, December 23, 2008
It was actually a really good conversation. I was at my brother, Frank's, boat for dinner and the exchange of early Christmas presents. Baby-back ribs, fresh salad, oven-fried potatoes with onions still populated my plate. A half-empty glass of wine rested nearby. Clare and I were in a pretty serious conversation about how people can REALLY be helped out of a life of sin.
Without going into great detail here, I shared some of my "hitting bottom" experience of being in prison and how that has changed my perspective on life in a lot of ways...including being willing to be unashamedly honest about things I never would have even considered talking about five years ago.
The conversation moved toward what people (men mostly) are supposed to do after they go through a workshop like "Every Man's Battle" and coming out like they can beat their addiction to pornography. They feel better because they realize they are not alone. But what happens after the "weekend retreat" is over and the real world hits them again and they are being bombarded by the same temptations they had before the retreat.
"You know, Mark, if you were to write a book about your experiences...your battles and what it all cost you...and men read your book. What would tell them they needed to do after they had the information...after they had read your story...after you had given them hope that they could win this battle?"
It was a really great question that I'm not sure I have the answer for yet! And that really disturbed me. I've really believed since I was first arrested that God has placed a calling in my life to use my story and my experiences to help other men who deal with the same issues of sexual sin. I have absolutely NO doubt that I have to write a book that might give men (and their wives) hope in a seemingly hopeless situation. But Clare's question really brought something into a more clear focus for me.
A book that simply tells my story...even though it is an interesting one, is not going to be a great help for most men. As I think back to where I was five years ago, I'm not sure I would have even picked it up off of a book shelf, let alone read it. Why? Pride and shame! Most men struggle with those two issues. I can remember my own shame and embarrassment when I bought a book called "At the Alter of Sexual Idolatry" a week after I was arrested. It was almost as bad a taking a pornography magazine to the counter in an adult book store. In my mind, the question, "what if someone sees me with this book" keeps rolling around and I feel embarrassed and ashamed.
Most men are NOT going to spend a lot of time in the "self help" section of the local Border's books store and even fewer will spend time browsing the "sexuality" aisle, unless it's to take a peek at some erotica or maybe hope for some skin someplace. Even with as much "sex" as we see prominently displayed in our culture, we men still struggle with who might see us taking a peek.
So what is the story I want...no, need to share that men will actually want to read? What is it that I really want men to know after they have read my story? What do I need to leave them with so that they can be confident that they can win more battles than they lose with pornography?
When Clare asked me the question, sadly, I didn't really have a good answer. I know what has made the difference in my life. My relationship with Christ! But I know that there are a lot of men (and women) out there who have been so beaten up with the whole "church" and "Christianity" thing that the mere mention of Jesus for some will result in an instantaneous blockage of the auditory nerves, leaving them temporarily deaf! They won't hear a message that can change their lives.
So how do I share my message in a way that men can hear it and receive it? I told Clare that there are two passages from my intense reading over the past five years that have really stuck with me. One is found in the Bible and one is found in "Wild at Heart", by John Eldredge. In his book, Eldredge says, " I never trust a man who hasn't suffered; I don't let a man get close to me who hasn't faced his wound. Think of the posers you know...are they the kind of man you would call at 2:00 A.M., when life is collapsing around you?...I don't want cliches; I want deep soulful truth and that only comes when a man has walked the road I've been talking about."
That passage struck me so strongly because I was that "poser" for so many years of my life. I had a ready batch of cliches that I could share with others to "help them feel better when they were struggling." But I was never telling them the truth! I had never been where they were, or if I had been, I would never admit it...that would be revealing a weakness! I believe Eldredge really hits the issue at its core. Men (people) will trust someone if they have been there and are willing to admit that they are/were broken and that they finally came to a realization that they couldn't solve the problem all by themselves.
And that leads me to the second passage, found in the Book of Acts. "However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me...the task of testifying to the gospel of God's Grace" (Acts 20:24, emphasis added). God has called me to tell my story, but the emphasis is on how God has changed me...not how I've changed myself!
It has not just been a "parting of the Red Sea" miracle. God didn't just "heal" me and now I don't have any problems. I don't just count on God to miraculously save me every time I feel tempted. Instead, I've come to realize that he helps me through the people He has sent into my life, the songs I hear on the radio, or a comment someone will make without even knowing that I'm listening. God shows up in many different shapes and colors...but He does show up!
So, now I look forward to having someone ask me that question. When I do finally sit down to write my book, I have confidence that the Holy Spirit will direct my words and my fingers across the keyboard...that He will give me the words that will leave the reader with hope, with the desire to ask the next question...and the next question after that. Only through the questions do we find the answers.
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