In 1987, as a 12-year-old boy, I took a walk that would change my life forever. Down the street from my house was the community golf course, and across the street from the golf course was an old dirt path that was quickly becoming a dumping ground for anything. I started walking down this path one day to find some more ‘treasures’, like the baseball or beat up Tonka truck I had found there before. On this day, however, I stumbled upon a pile of pornographic magazines. My first thoughts were of disgust, shame, and guilt. I had been warned about these before, and growing up in a Christian home I knew these were off-limits. Yet I opened one and found myself flipping each page with growing curiosity. Finishing, and upset with myself, I threw the magazine down and practically ran back home, swearing never to return to this spot. What I swore I would never come back to, though, had already hooked me.
My years of viewing pornography continued, as did my years of hiding my addiction. Overall, I learned to play a pretty good actor. Outside I looked like a nice church boy who one day would go to Bible College and become a pastor. However, inside I was a guilt-infested, shameful mess of a man who wanted something better. I was too embarrassed to ask for help, too scared to confess to my family or pastor, and too sure God was already mad at me. I only needed to survive till college, I thought, for it was there I could confess my sins to people who didn’t truly know me, find accountability, and turn my life around. After all, I hated what I was doing and I wanted a strong walk with God again. However, this change that I expected, and that I began to move forward towards, was short lived. Only a month after my confession to the student chaplain I was reliving my past, and with more dedication and opportunity for it was at this same time that the internet debuted. Even at a Christian school, I found the guts to peek at sights, print off pages, and view over and over in my room late at night. The countless times I would confess my sin were outnumbered by the countless times I would fall down again.
The constant teetering of confession and addiction went on for years, including with it my college days and straight into my first marriage. In truth, it would be this same addiction that would see me fired from my job, my wife walking out on me, and me looking in the mirror with hatred at the person I had allowed sin to aid me in becoming. But just as it was on a walk that my life had been changed and I had been brought to this point, so it would be on a walk that Jesus would reach out His hand to me and pull me up. It was on this walk that the Holy Spirit brought to my memory two verses I had learned growing up.
The first verse was Romans 8:8. It is here Paul writes, “…and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” This verse was a true definition of me. Although I wanted to serve God, the truth was that I was unable to because I had allowed myself to become controlled by my sin. The question I had to answer was if I wanted to be free of my sin. But this reality fit well with the second verse the Spirit reminded me of, which was John 15:5. It is in this verse where Jesus says, “’I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.’” I began to see why all my attempts to sever my connection with pornography had failed. Not only had I not truly wanted freedom before now, but in every attempt I had tried to do it alone. I had been so convinced that God hated me that I figured that He did not even want to help me. My twisted theology put me in a corner that in every way I was not strong enough to get out of.
I will never forget the reality of this walk and the effects it had in the days that passed. It was from this reality that I found myself enrolled in a Christian rehab program, found myself exposing the sin that had held me for so long, and found myself under a true banner of accountability. I wish I could say that I got my job back and that my wife and I worked things out, but the truth is I didn’t get my job back, and overtime my wife and I would divorce. Yet even in these moments I had come to an assurance on one thing – God was with me. When I allowed myself to believe that God hated me, He instead proved that He would never leave or forsake me (Heb 13:5).
When my life had turned negatively based on decisions I had made, God was still there. When I was certain God had turned His back on me, God was still there. When I went off on my own, spending my inheritance and living the so-called dream life like the prodigal son, God was still there. I had to take a walk to realize he was there and to come to a point where I allowed Him to speak, but I am glad I did. And a walk may be just what you need to take, a walk back to Him that is. He is there, He always has been, cheering you on and welcoming you home.