“I want you to meet him. He says he is a sex addict.”
The year was not 2013 or 2003 or even 1993. It was 1983 and I was working part time in an Episcopal Church close to the Northeast. There was almost nothing available in America yet to help the sexually broken. The 12 Step group I now regularly attend was barely off the ground in 1983 and would not produce a meeting text for another six years.
My rector was inviting me to call with him on a parishoner. Though I myself was mired in a lifelong struggle with pornography at the time, I hadn’t yet named my own sickness in such stark terms as “sexual addiction.” That would take another ten years. But inside, I suspected there would be a some kind of spiritual kinship with this man I was about to meet. Yet, I also had a picture in mind mind of a down and outer struggling to survive.
Instead, when his wife opened the door of their nice suburban house, I saw an attractive young family with a hint of shame covering their conversation. Looking attractive and prosperous, they did not fit the “addict” profile in my head. (“Our insides never matched what we saw on the outsides of others.”) After a brief visit, we left. I remember wondering why this kind of thing was happening to this family, in this particular city known for its Christian faith, one that was, surprisingly to me, also littered with porn shops. I needed only to look at myself to find the answer. But I was not ready to do that, at least until the pain grew much greater down the road.
Why are so many Christians struggling today with lust or sex addiction? We cannot know completely because the “mystery of iniquity” is too great for us mortals. Only God has the full picture. But we do have some clues. First, we should expect that the first people the enemy will attack are those who express some energy and passion toward the things of God. I once read a book about an alcoholic who drank himself to death. It was called A Sensitive, Passionate Man. There is nothing that so threatens the kingdom of darkness than “a man fully alive.” The enemy’s best strategy is an early, nearly fatal, spiritual blow. Addictions, which by their nature are lifelong, fit his bill. Many of us have been derailed from God’s use of our passion from a early age. The average lust addict begins his behavior between the ages of 5 and 12. Many have known nothing other than an addictive view of the world.
Secondly, the very connection to Jesus in the believer opens us up to the possibility of distortion. There is no getting around this. The same roof that protects from the rain can also be struck by lightning. That is why the Apostle Paul speaks so vigorously about putting on “the whole armor of God” in Ephesians 6:10. We are in a battle that will not cease this side of heaven. The enemy’s attack often comes in the cracks and places our armor does not cover, our besetting sins, weak points and character defects. Addictions are wide-open targets. That is why we need each other as well as the Spirit’s power to counteract this relentless assault.
But thirdly, we must recognize that God has a greater, more powerful purpose. The enemy often overplays his hand. He did in the cross where he undoubtedly believed he had thwarted God’s plan forever, until the Jesus burst forth from the tomb. God is master of the “great reversal.” The end turns into a new beginning. The wound becomes the healing agent. We see this in lust addiction recovery on a daily basis. Christian men, once downcast in spirit are raised to new life, new purpose and new freedom. Many become the healing and hopeful agents in the lives of other men. Just as the wounded Savior became the healing agent for broken people, so now we see wounded men helping others to find help and hope. It is God’s way.
If you are struggling or know someone who is, there is all the reason in the world to stop fighting a battle alone that can never be won alone. The fellowship of recovery stands ready to welcome all who will come, a community of lust addicts who have chosen to never be alone again.