Flying Blind

But flying all the same

Tag: Freedom

My Wife’s Encouraging Letter to Friends in the Midst of Porn

 

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My wife and I have endured much together.  I love her deeply.  (You hear that babe, I said I love you, and I said it in “public”)  All kidding aside…

We have been very fortunate to have friends who have loved us and helped us along the way.  I have really been cancerous to my marriage in the past.  Now that we are moving on through the stages of life, we have friends who are walking some of the same roads with the same pot-holes we walked before.  Some of these friends turn to Jessica and I for advice.  Talk about scary!!  You want marriage advice from us??!!!  Have we met?!!!

Porn was a pretty major part of my life and, in a lot of ways, is still a major part of my life.  Though I have separated myself from the poison, we are still dealing with the effects of it in my life, as well as some of the more subtle things that drove my passion for it.

A young wife, who had just had a baby, sent us a letter last summer.  Her husband has been taking steps to separate himself from this destructive habit.  He asked her to check his phone, knowing that she would discover that he had been watching Porn.  She lost it.  She absolutely blew up.  A few days later she sent a letter to Jessica and I and we sent emails, Facebook messages, and texts with the two of them for a couple weeks.

I had many talks with “Jack” and still communicate with him when I can.

What follows is a letter that Jessica sent to “Jill.”  We got permission from Jack and Jill to let us post this on here after changing the names.

We do not blame Jill, or any other Jills out there, for her husbands interaction with Porn.  That is in no way, shape, or form, her fault.  That is Jacks… and Jack MUST deal with it.  BUT… Jill’s ownership of her reactions to Jack can really set the tone for how they move through some of this stuff… or at least it did for us.  I owe whatever victory I have had in the arena of Sexual purity to Jesus and to my wife as He demonstrated His love and His healing nature through her.

I am so very proud of my wife.

Anyway…

We post this email, just 1 in a long set of messages, to hopefully encourage any other “Jills” out there who are dealing with a weak/wounded/lost “Jack”:

 

I’m sorry it took me a couple of days to respond. I was going to respond last night but my internet connection wouldn’t load anything and then we had to go to bed.

First off, let me assure you, Jill, that this is not your fault and that Jack’s temptation toward or fall into porn is NOT about you, nor is it a reflection of you. I know that is hard for you to believe, and you know that I know all-to-well the insecurities that come with a post-baby body and that I know the lies that will flood your mind and heart that your imperfections are what drives Jack away. Let me tell you that is one of the ways in which Satan will defeat you and drive a wedge between the two of you. And that is all it is…pure lies.  Strangely enough, God has wired our husbands to be intensely attracted to us and desiring of us even with all the changes our bodies go through. When Jack tells you that you’re beautiful or sexy, BELIEVE HIM!

That being said, all that Michael said is true, the more you approach him, the more free and willing you are with him, not only the more connection and intimacy you will have, but it helps him so much to fight the temptation to look at porn. It is much easier to click a few links on a computer than it is to think about approaching a wife who isn’t enthusiastic or is so tired or busy with household chores and children that she might reject or not notice his advances. I don’t know where you are on this. This is simply my experience and my knowledge based on discussions Michael and I have had.

I will go back and address some specific things in your message in a minute, but another thought off the top of my head… the passcodes and locks on the computer are like putting a bandaid over a gushing wound. They are a temporary fix for a deeper problem. Don’t get me wrong, I think taking any step to help Jack avoid falling prey to porn is good, but you’re only treating the symptom and not getting to the root of the problem itself, so do NOT think if passcodes are in place, that everything will be good. It won’t. The temptation and ‘need’ are still there…the temptation will likely always be there, although the severity of it may lessen as you deal with the problem.

The need for and the security that he finds in porn is a result of something else, wounds as Michael called them. Jack might not even know what those are himself. Those wounds will not heal without finding someone to walk through them with him… another man who is deeply committed to God, who is willing to love Jack and invest time and energy discipling him and uprooting the trash and cleaning out the wounds, who can communicate truth to him on an intimate heart level…not simply praying for him and sending him Bible verses. These help, but he needs more, and this is where true biblical church comes into play. This will also help Jack become the spiritual leader that you so need and crave. How can he be a spiritual leader when no one is there to show him how?

And the lady who is mentoring you should be teaching you how to be a Godly wife and mother and probing the emotions and thoughts you have regarding all of this. She should be turning you to the truths in God’s word, helping you remain grounded in your identity as a precious princess of the King in the midst of the raging storm inside of you. Encouraging you to love and respect your husband even when you can’t see how that’s possible. One of the biggest things I was told by two different godly women when we went through all that we did last year was that I HAVE to respect him. It is commanded of me by God (Ephesians 5). I know this is hard right now, but you have to respect Jack.

This should be a daily prayer of yours… not simply that God would protect Jack and help him stand against temptation and that God would make him a spiritual leader for your family, but that God would show you how to love and respect your husband today (every day), that He would guard your heart against the lies of Satan, that He would heal the wounds in both of you and bring you into greater intimacy and spiritual unity. If you do not pray through these things and ask God to change your heart, you will continue to suffer in pain and isolation from Jack.

Along these same lines, if you react out of pain, anger, and bitterness every time Jack confesses his falls to you, he will stop confessing them. He will either tell you nothing or he will lie (For the record, if you’re reading this, Jack, the lies make it so much more painful than just simply telling the truth to begin with. Trust me, as hard or humiliating as it is, up front honesty goes a long way toward healing the rift and moving past it).

Neither one of you can fight this alone, and you cannot fight this together if you let your pain drive your responses. When Jack asked you to check the history on his phone, that was a big step for him. He is inviting you into the battle with him. When you found the website and got angry and upset, it was more destructive than if you had been able to talk about it with him and forgive him for it. He is now not only fighting against porn, but he is also fighting not to hurt you. He doesn’t want to hurt you so he lies, which then hurts you more, which then shames and defeats him, which leaves him in need of healing again, which he can’t get from you because he just hurt you so badly….it’s a vicious cycle.

Forgiveness….that’s a big topic. Let me encourage you, Jill, to do a thorough study of the bible on the topic of forgiveness. Try to answer these questions…What is true forgiveness? Does a person have to apologize or change their offending behavior in order for you to forgive? What does forgiveness look like as it is lived out (in an association, friendship, brotherhood, marriage, whatever – use examples if you feel you need to)? You hear “forgive and forget”…what does that mean and what is your opinion of this term? Is forgiveness different from mercy and if so, how? What does mercy look like as it is lived out? Feel free to add any other questions or thoughts.  I had to study this many years ago…I had no idea how to forgive for such deep and ongoing pain.

As far as dealing with deployment, everyone around him is gonna have a computer or phone so it would be super easy for him to borrow someone else’s to skype. That could go two ways…either he is less likely to look at porn because it’s not his device and he doesn’t want to be caught, or it could be easier to look since it’s someone else’s device and there’s no telling what’s already on it. Most units offer opportunities for communication on public use equipment…maybe not as reliable or free or frequent, but an option to look into. Frequent honest communication between the two of you, in love, no topic off limits, is a big deal. Your responses, Jill, as I mentioned earlier, will have a huge impact on this.

Having someone (mentor that I mentioned earlier) who will continue to pursue Jack as much as possible during deployment is another factor. Jack finding a guy or two to meet with and study the bible and pray on a frequent regular basis there, not like leading a bible study, but walking alongside each other and encouraging and challenging one another.

And, if you can do so without them being discovered by someone else, send him naked pictures of yourself to look at when he wants a little something. I was super uncomfortable taking them at first, but I set the timer on my camera (do NOT have someone else take them) and sent them anyway, and he really appreciated that. It gave him a release without falling into sin. You could also have Jack direct you and take pictures of you before he leaves.

Moving on to your feelings of not being loved or cherished and being overworked and unappreciated…welcome to motherhood and marriage. Not to make light of it, but I believe that every single woman struggles with this at some point. I think it comes down to just three things… laziness, miscommunication/misunderstanding, and the enemy’s lies.

It is entirely possible that Jack has simply become lazy in his interaction with you, not being deliberate in showing you love and appreciation. It is also highly likely that your feelings are being exacerbated by the feelings that have resulted from the pornography problem. Try to separate your feelings on the pornography from the rest of Jack and your interaction with him and see what you have left. The rest of it, you communicate to him, but you do so in a non-confrontational, non-condemning manner.

Here’s the thing…men and women think and communicate very differently. I, for probably years, struggled with this attitude…”Why can’t he get up and get his own drink? Why does he sit there on the computer when he sees me struggling to cook dinner and juggle kids and get the house cleaned up all at once? How can he ask me to do one more thing with everything on my plate? He doesn’t see anything I do! He doesn’t appreciate any of it!” Ten years into our marriage and four kids later, I learned through a professional counseling session that the whole time he was sitting there thinking, “Why on earth is she trying to do everything on her own? Why doesn’t she ask for help? She wants things done her way and she doesn’t want me to be a part of her world. I am just a pawn in her game of family and house.” All I had to do was ask, and it solved that problem for both of us…communication.

Asking for his help doesn’t mean you are his mother, or that you’re inferior for asking, or that he’s uncaring for not offering. Sure, it would be nice if our husbands just jumped in and did everything, but in all honesty, they’re not too sure just what we want or need from them a lot of time in regards to the baby needs or managing the household. And being that y’all haven’t been married that long and are new to the parenting thing, there’s gonna be a lot that he simply won’t see. And it’s not for lack of caring, it’s simply obliviousness or in some instances I’m sure, laziness or immaturity.

You have to communicate, and you cannot do it in an accusatory manner. Simply tell him that you need to discuss some needs and desires with him, and then lay it out in black and white. Giving him specific ways in which he can help you with Baby or the house, as well as specific things you would like for him to do in order for you to feel loved and cherished will be more helpful than just giving him a light-hearted or vague ‘I need more help and I need to feel more loved by you.’ There are even many times now when I will tell Michael, “Hey, I did this today and I want you to notice it,” or “Hey, look at this…you have to be excited about this for me! ” Then it doesn’t go unnoticed simply because what are significant things to me may not be so significant to him, and I won’t be disappointed when I get no reaction.

And don’t let the enemy slip in and cause bitterness or resentment when Jack doesn’t meet your expectations. He is human, and he will fail you. It’s just a part of being the imperfect sinners we are. Know and trust that Jack loves and cherishes you deeply, and dwell on the things you see that show you that…like the fact that he willingly met with the youth pastor, attended those meetings, and asked you to check his phone. Like how he loves on Baby or even does simple things to take care of you by taking out the trash or something like that.

If he doesn’t seem to notice your feelings, then you’ll just have to make the first step and start sharing with him. If you want a hug, ask for it. We cannot expect someone else to know what we need or want at any given time, specifically when we are wired so differently (different personalities, values, love languages, needs, priorities…). Communication…it has to be a priority.

So anyway, I wrote this mostly to Jill since you are the one who wrote us. Michael, if there is any error in my words, please let me know. Jill and Jack, we are an open book and always open for questions, discussions, etc. Feel free to respond with your thoughts, feelings, etc. on here. And please give us a call any time. My schedule is very open right now, and even if Michael is in school, he will be glad to return a call if you leave a message or text. If you want to take a vacation to the east coast sometime, our doors are always open to you and we would love to see y’all!! We love you both very very much!

I will be praying for you both. When is the next deployment?

On a side note, we are doing great as well. Michael’s class is mind-numbing and intense, but he’s a genius so he’s doing well. I am loving some downtime and finally getting the house in order and looking forward to fun times with the kids for the rest of the summer. They are all doing well, starting to make friends, and enjoying the freedom of being done with school for the year! Looking forward to hearing back from you!

Much love,

Jessica

Confidence or Something Else?

If you would have asked me about my confidence a year ago today, I would have told you that, though I come across as being very confident, I am really not.  I felt as though I was lost in a cloud, flying blind, a lot of the time (and still feel this way a lot).  I would make decisions and if they went poorly, I reacted very badly.  I tended to pour anger and frustration all around me because I felt as though I was not capable, or was not ready to be in the positions in which I found myself.

Ask me now about my confidence and I will tell you with great assurance that I am no longer as confident as I used to be!  I will also tell you that it is okay.

My parents, in-laws, wife, and kids can all tell you about times that things have not turned out the way I had hoped they would because of a simple mistake or oversight on my behalf, and how I feel as though I have failed at so many things.  Having come to this school, I have been placed in some very difficult positions.  The pace is so quick, the requirements so strict, the instructors so demanding, I have been forced to start pushing the envelope which contains my sense of “everything will be okay.”

Everything will in fact NOT be okay.

I am going to fail and I am going to screw stuff up.

I have been told by past leaders that I am a leader, that the bar I set for my peers is pretty high, and that I outperform those around me.  I never saw that.  I saw that other people would get worked up a lot more about the requirements, would work harder at their tasks than me, and would spend more time getting their tasks accomplished than I would.  My perspective was that they were better equipped and more motivated to succeed than I was, that they understood what was going on better than I did, yet somehow my leadership, and those working around me, started to rely on me as the “go to guy” for things that involved me.  I was so afraid of screwing up what I was working on, that I never pulled the trigger on a project or task until I was absolutely, positively, 100% sure that the task was complete and met the standard.  By the time I executed my task, I felt absolutely confident that it was right…  but I would not act until then.  This did not breed in me a sense of confidence though, it simply created a sense of focus, speed, and intensity in me that caused me to work my tasks faster than those around me.  While they were still unsure of what to do, I had finished my work and called the shot… confidence in my ability or quickness to finish because of a lack of confidence in my environment?

I would stay at work until 3 AM working on some tasks.  Think about that!  I would do almost 2 days work at night while my peers were home asleep because I was afraid I was going to miss a deadline or turn in a job that was incomplete.  My “confidence” was purely fueled by a true lack of confidence.

I do not have the time or resources to work my current tasks until they are absolutely 100% complete.  I am having to turn things in, run reports, finish tasks when I am mostly sure they are okay.  That is a long way from 100% complete and correct.  I am turning things in that meet the standard but require some correction instead of turning in perfection.

Having worked for so long in an environment where my work was pretty close to perfect, turning in things that simply meet the requirement is really hard.

It got even worse this month.  So far I have failed 1 test (made a mighty 64 on it), and have had to redo one of my tasks 7 times before it met the standard!  Talk about a death blow to my paradigm of confidence.  In the midst of the rework, I had the privilege of writing lines like I was back in middle school in order to correct one of my deficiencies.  I am faced with a Gastrointestinal lab, Head/Ears/Eyes/Nose/Throat (HEENT) lab, Cardiovascular exam, and HEENT exam all stacked up next week.

Guess what… my world did not come to an end.  I have royally screwed up several things this month now that I am having to perform on a much higher level than I have in the past and it is okay.

I don’t feel as though I have clearly communicated what I am feeling…  let me summarize like this…

I was so afraid of failing and having other people see me how I see me that I worked really REALLY hard to make sure everything I did was absolutely spot on.

Now I am in an environment where I cannot do what I used to do.

I was super afraid that I would drop the ball and the people around me would see me for the fraud that I so often feel I am.

I dropped the ball… I dropped it many times!

The people around me, family, friends, co-workers, leaders, looked at me, gave their advice/criticism, and moved on.

I had to do a lot of work because everything is not okay.

Apparently that is life…

And I really am okay!

Confidence is a thing of irony for me now.

What others may see in me and call confidence is really just me learning how to fail, recover well, and live with the grace and mercy that has been given to me.

Everything in life is not okay, but with grace, I can be.

…  So Joey, when you ask how I am doing, and I say, “I’m doing really well” and you say, “Awesome… I would like to hear why you are doing well…”… well…  this is why.

Thanks for asking!

 

Captain Hook and I

I was sitting on my Uncle’s porch in Maryland last weekend reading my Bible and drinking my coffee when my oldest daughter (the introvert) came out to spend some time in the warmth of the rising sun with me.

It was a really precious time.

As I sat there reading and meditating, she started talking about Peter Pan and Captain Hook.  I got to thinking…

I am Captain Hook.

I wanted to be Peter Pan.  Truth be told, I have often put Peter Pan more or less in the position of somebody I would like to be someday.  Free…  Wild…  Adventurous…

It clicked that morning by the pool that I share a lot more in common with Captain Hook than I realized.

1.  Captain Hook is haunted by an alligator that has swallowed a clock.  It is really neat for me to think about an Alligator and a clock going hand in hand.  Time moves constantly on, the hands of the clock can never be stopped and time will consume everything in its path.  I think a lot about time, not simply as a law of life, but as a character in my story.  I cannot escape the effects of time.  If I am unprepared, selfish, unobservant, etc., time will be upon me and will consume something in my life.  I will have to work very hard to recover what I lost or have to learn how to live without it.  Sounds a lot like a man with a hook in the place of a hand that was swallowed by a tick tocking alligator.  Likewise, if I am prepared and I am living wisely, then I am rewarded by seeing the fruit that comes with time.  Almost like planting a garden and then seeing a happy little alligator carrying a basket of carrots and tomatoes to my house.  Silly… I know…   In the end Hook and I are both running from and fighting with time, in the form of an alligator or not, we both engage in this dance.

2.  Captain Hook is in constant pursuit of Peter Pan.  Peter Pan seems to really symbolize youth and freedom.  Hook has a ship full of pirates to look after and command as well as a mission to accomplish.  He has the gift of age and maturity which has produced the burden of responsibility upon his shoulders.  Yet the single greatest pursuit of his life is this youth, free and wild.  It is interesting to me that Hook runs from time and chases youth.  I do not chase youth per se.  I do not do much of anything to make me look or feel younger.  I am actually very VERY happy to be ageing at the rate that I am and I embrace my age.  I’m happy to be the age that I am and I look forward to getting older, even though I know there are some hard things that come with that.  I cannot help but reminisce about my youth and dream about being young again.  I find myself getting carried away by hobbies sometimes and then discover that, in those moments, I am chasing my youth.  Hiking, hunting, fishing, riding my bicycle, running around with the kids in the yard… these all remind me of being young and I pursue those activities with a vengeance.  My kids are truly lucky!!

3.  Whether you knew this or not, Hook tries to make Wendy his mother as well as the mother of the pirates under his command.  Amazing.  He is looking for some kind of loving, gentle, caring, affirming, emotional connection that he currently does not have in his life.  These things are well symbolized in the idyllic mother.  It is no question that I look for these things too.  My wife has been a true blessing to me.  She has given so many of these things to me and has helped me figure out how to receive these things for myself from Jesus, but it does not change the fact that my heart looks for these things often.

In short…  Captain Hook runs from time and the consequences time brings, chases his youth, and pursues a gentle, affirming love just like me.

I am Captain Hook.

I was Captain Hook.

Though I still feel all of the things I just mentioned, there is one major difference.

Captain Hook is perpetually engaged in a vain pursuit of hopelessness.

I am not.

I feel the pressure of time every time he comes around.  Instead of running from him, I live wisely.  I make the most of every moment because that clock marches on and I will be measured in the end.  Instead of running I engage.  It kind of takes the teeth out of the Alligator and makes him more of a pet than a menacing creature.  I play with my kids, I read my Bible, I cherish my wife, I exercise, I read a lot, I go for walks, I forgive, I give grace to my friends, I ask questions, and I generally want to intimately know others as well as to be known.  I am actively building my life with an eye on time and an eye on the standard to which I will be measured.

I do not chase my youth.  I do not subscribe to the magazines that sell youth and insecurity to men, I do not care at all that my face has hard lines and wrinkles in it or that my gut hangs lower than it used to.  It does not bother me that I am slower than guys I work with who are younger or that I am sore for longer after a hike than I used to be.  I spend no money (and thus no time) on trying to look, sound, smell, or act like I did 10 years ago, or like those who are 10 years younger than I am.  I have found a deep sense of satisfaction and pleasure in maturity.  I find confidence in my thoughts and attitudes which comes from having spent time thinking about life and engaging in life.  I enjoy the confidence that comes from competence which seems to come from a solid investment of time, thinking, and making mistakes.  I look forward to the next 20, 30, or 40 years of learning and growing more competent and confident in who I am.

I know that I am deeply loved and cherished.  I know that I am pursued with a passionate vengeance.  Just because I feel the ache of desire which longs for love and affirmation does not mean that I am not loved or affirmed, it simply means that I want it badly and that I appreciate it immensely when I receive it.  I do not need to go looking for it very often because it is very often brought to me when I am not looking.

I can identify very much with Captain Hook.  I really can.  I guess the truth is I used to be Captain Hook…   wanting to be Peter Pan.

Now I know who I am…   And I am pretty sure that Captain Hook and Peter Pan wish they were more like me!

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Thanks for reading.

The Baker and The Flour

“I cannot complain about the flour… or the early mornings”

That was what she said.  That is what set me free to pursue the things I enjoy and feel led to do.  But did she mean it?  There is no way she did because she had no idea what she was talking about… but she said it all the same.

We were riding through Key West at the time and I was trying to figure out what to do with my life.  I was set to get out of the Navy within the year and I was really torn between going to college, becoming a cop, or trying out for SARC, Special Amphibious Recon Corpsman.  I knew that I should involve my wife in this decision making process.

As we sat riding in the Jeep, we talked about my desires for the future.  I would talk about being a cop and then tell her that I wanted to steer away from that.  My dad was a cop for as long as I can remember.  I remember how it felt to be a kid and have my dad gone so often with the strange hours and rotating schedule of a Police Officer.  I remember watching my mom’s face when she would get the phone call saying daddy would not be coming home because he was standing on the side of the road taking care of a traffic accident.  I remember what it felt like to know that my dad had arrested the brothers and fathers of some of the kids in my class and that I had to watch out for the retaliation against my dad that might be served to him through my broken body.  It was a rough life and I did not want that for my family.

I mostly did not want that for my wife.  My mom spent a lot of time raising us kids by herself.  My dad would ask her how we were and he would tell her what he would like for her to do with us, but my mom was really the active one in raising us.  I did not want my wife to be that “single” parent because I was gone so often.

When I shared these ideas with her, she responded by talking about a baker.  She said,

“You are not the man that you are because of the job that you do, you do the job that you do because of the man that you are.”

That took a long time to sink in.  She continued by explaining that she could not marry a man who enjoys the early morning, serving breakfast, and exercising his creative spirit through baking, and then complain about the early mornings, the smell of pastries, and all the dirty aprons.  If she marries a baker, she has to put up with the baking.

It still took a little while for my identity to be refined and for me to understand what that meant.  As I started thinking through these things, I started to question my motives for choosing my future job.  What it boiled down to was pretty simple.  I wanted a job where I would be required to think under stressful conditions, use my body to bring about the desired results of a task at hand, and to serve people in a manner in which they were not able to serve themselves.  I wanted to protect, defend, and serve.  I wanted to think, strategize, and make things happen.  There does not seem to be many jobs that put such a high emphasis on intelligence, “outside of the box thinking”, and physical prowess and stamina.  That kind of ruled college out.  It also set Recon above getting out to be a cop.

But I was afraid that Jessica did not fully comprehend what she was asking.  In my extensive wisdom, I made her watch Black Hawk Down and then go talk to some of the wives of the instructors at the Army’s dive school on Flemming Key.  She spent a few days in a very somber mood.  When we continued the conversation, she confirmed what she had said before.

I started looking for a bakery.

We lost everything we owned to Hurricane Wilma.  While walking around a grocery store making a list of the food items we lost for the insurance claim I got a call from a friend of mine.  He was a part of 3/8 (Third battalion, Eighth marine regiment, pronounced Three Eight) and they were deploying to Ramadi.  He said the platoon sergeant had requested 2 Corpsmen for the deployment, and that the battalion wanted to support this decision, but had already assigned their other stellar performers to other sections.  He asked if I wanted to go to Ramadi with 3/8 Scout Sniper Platoon.

I hung up the phone and talked to Jessica.  The next day I started the paperwork and within 2 months had all the signatures I needed to move back to Camp Lejeune.

Right after Christmas 2005 I slid into the platoon.

I’ve been baking ever since.

Thanks Sweetie for recognizing what it meant to marry a man like me, embracing the difficulties and making the sacrifices required of you, and for not ever complaining about duty days and deployments.

I’ma Burn This Jungle to the Ground Finale

Why questions can be hard questions to answer.

As I kept looking at what was going on in my life, I started to feel an awareness that I had not yet known.  I had been doing all of these Christian things, leading other believers, and submitting to Jesus for years.  I talked about this life being a spiritual war and I talked about Angels and Demons.  I had not spent any time thinking about the implications of this ideology.

It was almost as though I talked about these things like a peace time military talks about war.  There are great examples and references to war.  There is an intimate understanding of war and the stuff that goes along with it.  There is no knowledge of the taste, smell, and sound of war.

I continued to sit and think.

This is why I believe Jesus allowed my life to spiral out of control like He did.

Jesus says at one point that the harvest is plentiful and the laborers are few.  He commands His disciples to pray unto the Lord of the harvest to thrust out laborers.  I am a laborer.  I want to be a leader of laborers.  Jesus knows that His Kingdom advances.  In that language, the language of an advancing Kingdom, there are strong implications.  There is a King.  There is a Kingdom.  The Kingdom advances into new territory.  This territory must be held by an enemy.  Jesus wants men who labor to be prepared to lead other laborers into a hard environment as He advances against His enemies.

These leaders need to be seasoned.  I remember the calm and peace that would come over me when I knew that the team leaders in my platoon were seasoned combat veterans.  They were intimate with the hardships, tactics, logistics, and mission of the war in which we were engaged.  They knew the pain of loss and the exuberant joy of mission success.  They knew the sting of missing family and the innate passion to get back home.  I knew that they had felt everything I was going through, had the same fears, had the same misgivings.  I also knew that they had found a way to survive and that built a lot of trust.

I think this is what Jesus was looking for in Peter.  He knew He was going to thrust Peter to the front line of the advancing kingdom and he wanted Peter to lead well and fight hard.  It worked too.  Peter was sifted.  He was broken to a point of abandoning Jesus, abandoning his only friends, and running away from what he had come to believe.  He made his exit and went back to fishing.

After a short conversation with Jesus, Peter felt encouraged, took up the task, and left his nets for the last time.

I endured such despair.  I quit the mission.  I told everybody around me to move on.

As I started putting these pieces in place, I got in touch with a friend named Mike.  Mike had helped me walk through some hard times in the past, so I trusted him.  He got me in touch with a group of counsellors in Colorado and, for 2 weeks, I got some help.  We talked about my family history, my marriage, combat, and ministry.

After these trips I felt like a new man.  I felt grace in my life like I had never felt before.  I felt as though Jesus really had chosen me to lead.  I felt a deep peace in the midst of the parts still falling down around me.

I firmly believe that Jesus has invited me to labor with Him for the long haul.  I believe that Jesus has asked me to lead others as they labor with Him.  I believe Jesus has chosen for me to fulfill a specific role in the Kingdom.  I believe He let me struggle and flounder in order to season me.

I believe I met Jesus.

Before this encounter He was the most significant character in a story.  He was the point upon which an entire religion pivots.  He was something to study and talk about.  He was what Christians try so hard to represent well.

After this encounter I became a significant part of His story.  He is no longer the point upon which my religion pivots, He is my friend, my encourager, and coach.  I do not study and talk about Him, I spend my time with Him in study and conversation.  I do not have to try to represent Him well.

I simply have to follow Him and tell the truth about who He is, what He has done, and represent my story with integrity…  even the ugly and hard bits.

And what about the things in which I had been misled, or misguided, or misunderstood?  Well… I’m still working on those.  I have taken a step back from a lot of the dogma which I used to believe.  I have taken a step toward simply knowing Jesus.

I can already see a massive change in my life because of this new paradigm.  My political views have changed a lot.  The way I grade whether or not a ministry is successful has changed.  I have become very sensitive to the hippy, liberal, college age critics of Christianity.  I hear them saying things that have now started resonating deep within me.  I no longer feel as though their rhetoric is an attack on me or the Church.  It is a passionate plea for me to be like Jesus, as I get to know Him, instead of the dogma that goes along with Christianity.

Hopefully this demonstrates the difference…

Before this ordeal I spent a lot of time thinking about the points of Theology which were presented by Jesus in His various discourses. I completely missed His heart.

Jesus reads a scroll at one point in His life that says,

The Spirit of the Lord is on Me,
because He has anointed Me
to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent Me
to proclaim freedom to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to set free the oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.

He finished reading this and sat down making the point that this passage is talking about Him.

I have found myself being deeply moved to see captives set free.  I spend more time trying to figure out how to free slaves than I spend strengthening the points of an argument.

Jesus escalated force to beast mode in order to set me free.

I am no longer motivated to argue the points of Christianity.

I am excited to sacrifice my desires in order to see grace, love, and freedom come to those who are oppressed and enslaved.

I guess you could say that I am no longer so concerned about representing the religion of Christianity…

I just want to be like Jesus.

Key-West-Sunset-2.jpg

So here I am…  Standing on the beach having just broken through the jungle.  I guess it is time to learn how to swim or fly above the waves!

Porn Commitment

I have had an on again off again relationship with porn for a long time.

For a really long time.

Sometimes I try not to get involved with porn, sometimes I just don’t care.

I have found that I have a binge, puke, and starve relationship with porn.  It became an almost controlling entity in my life several years ago and I watched, almost like a bystander to my own life, as a death affect crept across my relationships like shadows in the evening.  Everything I did seemed to have been influenced by my involvement with porn.

I could tell that my attitude would be a little extra hostile and angry, possibly from the guilty feeling that would wash over me, and so I would deliberately choose to not engage in order to make sure that I was not hurting anybody in my home.

If there is something I have learned in my life as a dad it is this…

An angry dad, an emotionally dead dad, and an absent dad all cause great harm to the family.

So as I pushed back on my negative emotions, I also pushed back on whatever good things I felt, and this left me in a state of unresponsiveness to my wife and kids.

I deployed in 2012 and managed to go for 5 months without watching anything pornographic.  I really felt as though I had come out of a fog and was really excited to begin life clean.  I managed to stay clean just long enough to get home.  I watched the shadows creep back into my life and started living the same binge, puke, starve cycle all over again.

After enduring some significant hardships in 2013, I decided to rethink my approach to porn.  I started thinking a lot about what I had done differently during my brief intermission in 2012 and decided to bring as much of that as I could into my life now.

My wife and I went out to eat in January and then found our way to a frozen yogurt joint that we like.  While eating my standard chocolate, vanilla, coconut, and chocolate chip dessert, I let Jessica know what I was thinking about.  During our conversation, I decided to let her know about a commitment that I had made a couple days earlier.

I have committed to go for a solid year without watching any porn.

“Why on earth would you do that?  There is nothing wrong with porn!”

[My wife has requested that I edit this post and make it clear that SHE did not make the above statement…]

Well…  I think there is something wrong with porn.  I understand that the word “Porn” is not an English word, but actually a short form of a Greek word that sounds something like “Porneia.”  This word is used in a sentence in the Bible that says to stay away from all Porneia… in english this is translated as sexual immorality.  Pretty broad phrase.  Sexual immorality…  Because I am a Christian, I feel a desire to conform to the standards of the Bible and that means no porn.

Something else that concerns me greatly is when I see things in my life that control me, instead of me controlling them.  I hate seeing friends of mine who have become addicts.  It pains me to see them struggle to control their lives when it comes to the vice with which they have been struggling.  There is an analogy that goes like this:

Food was made for the stomach, the stomach was not made for food.

I do not have a stomach simply to indulge in eating whenever and whatever I want.  (Ironically enough I am snacking on a pop tart as I write this)  I have a stomach in order to process food to fuel.  If I loose the ability to skip a meal, or  loose the impulse control when it comes to snacks and cookies, then I have been replaced as the master of my stomach by food.  In the same manner, if I have lost the ability to control my impulsive desires for porn, then I have essentially submitted control of my life to porn.

It is not like I was a zombie mindlessly seeking my own pleasure and going for it at all cost.  I was in control to the extent that I would decide the when and where to engage my habit.  I did not feel like I was in control of whether or not I was going to fall prey to my vice.  I feel like I can identify with the alcoholic that chooses not to buy beer at a grocery store, but takes a drink in a restaurant with supper, looses his willpower for the rest of the evening, and polishes off a fifth by the time he goes to bed.

Like I said earlier, I can also see the way my emotions change when dealing with my family and friends.

Because of these reasons, I have made a commitment to abstain from pornography for a year.

I would appreciate your encouragement if you have ever tried to fight back against the almost undeniable combined influence of our culture and desire when trying to recover self discipline.

I would appreciate your prayers if you are a praying person.

I would encourage you to take look at your life and evaluate whether or not you are truly free in your decisions, or if you feel like you are a slave to your impulsive desires.

For the record…

I am 1 month into this commitment.  I have 11 more to go.

Thanks for reading!

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