The author of this article has been a valued member of our Living Waters leadership team for many years. Some of the minor details of this testimony have been changed to protect the privacy of the author and his family. The author’s journey shows that no one is beyond the reach of our merciful Savior. He can redeem and restore anyone with a repentant heart.
It's been about 7 years since what I call my "mouth shut" epiphany – 3 1/3 of those were spent in prison.
The emotional trauma of losing my wife and children, family and friends, my job, my money and possessions, my reputation and finally my freedom brought me to see that I had failed at the very purpose of my life: knowing God, seeking Him and not just His benefits. Serving Him. Doing His Will and not my own.
My crime was molesting my oldest daughter. My addiction after that was pornography. I had grown up in the church, in a good family that blessed me. What began for me as stupid, evil, selfish choices became inescapable bondages.
I was at the lowest point of my life, and when I later read the words of Ezekiel, they could have prophesied of me what he wrote to Israel in 6:9 “Then when they are exiled among the nations, they will remember me, for I will take away their adulterous hearts – their love of idols – and I will blind their lecherous eyes that long for other gods. Then at last they will loathe themselves for all this wickedness.”
It was utterly clear that I deserved no mercy from God or anyone else – I felt like a man standing before the throne of judgment. My mouth was finally shut: I no longer blamed my wife (at least not consciously), or my stress, or any other thing in my life. I could accept death for what I had done, but I could not bear to live in the darkness of my addiction and ignorance and narcissism any longer.
Somewhere in that time of self-loathing, waiting and wishing for the fire of God's judgment to fall on me, He shattered my expectations with an overwhelming and tangible experience of love. I could not fathom how anyone, and especially God who knew me fully, could love me. There are no words to express it: I felt the presence of something that could only be God. I knew that He loved me, and that in those minutes or hours (I'm not sure how long it was) – I was completely wrecked for the world. I felt like the Gadarene demoniac who found himself clothed and in his right mind, but with nowhere to go and only wanting to follow Jesus.
It was literally weeks before I realized that I had been supernaturally freed from my addiction to porn – I was so consumed in seeking Him and reading the Word and listening to teachings I had downloaded. The Bible that I had read all my life – the book that had been about as inspiring as a phone book in my daily readings – now spoke to me from every page and every verse.
The sexual perversion and compulsive addiction that had once held me like a shackled prisoner now repulsed me like a steaming bowl of vomit. I have never returned to those addictions, despite the fact that I now work daily with unfiltered internet access – whom the Son sets free is free indeed!
I began to know that I was forgiven, and truly set free, but I still faced charges and could not see how I could be of any use to God after all this was through. One night, I sensed during prayer to stop asking God to deliver me from prison – I knew that I would have to go there although my lawyer was still negotiating the plea agreement. As I resigned myself to what I believed was the Holy Spirit’s prompting, I experienced for the second time an overwhelming and tangible presence – God's peace – as I accepted His will going forward.
I won't say that I changed quickly – God has had massive reconstruction to do in me. I felt like Jeremiah’s clay pot that was smashed before slowly being rebuilt. There wasn’t anything usable of the man I had become. Prison was the hands God used to break me down, to build me up, to re-form me according to His plan, and to make me completely dependent on Him. I had many, many hours a day to study His word and to be transformed by the renewing of my mind.
In that valley of the shadow of death – and men did die there – God also delivered me from every fear and continued to show me love and deliverance daily. I prospered in body and soul. As a result, I have a strong revelation of how Romans 8:28 works – all things really do work together for good for us who love God, and who are called according to His purpose.
One of the hard things for me to confess now is how far I still have to go. That's a common Christian expression of often false humility, but in my case it's a revelation that hurts. Coming out of prison, I wanted to be a "fixed guy" and a super-Christian and a good person again. For many people, and much of society, I can't be any of those things – I'm a lifetime registered Tier 3 sex offender. But I already know that with God NOTHING IS IMPOSSIBLE and my life is not my own. This gives me hope for my daughter, Sarah [not her real name] who was also my victim.
When I first gave this testimony, I had not seen or heard from any of my children since the day of my sentencing in court. I knew that she was immersed in my old addictions and many more, and I couldn't think of her without feeling a knife in my chest. I asked many of my Living Waters friends to pray, and I know that you did because of what happened next. A few months ago I saw Sarah again, in a restaurant where we met for dinner – it was the first of many more meals and visits. Sarah is an adult now, and despite deeply painful life experiences, she has been inexplicably forgiving toward me. Our relationship is healing, and both of us are grateful for a new father-daughter relationship – but no one more than me.
As still further evidence of God’s excessive grace, He has allowed me to participate in Sarah’s recovery from homelessness to a steady job and her own apartment. Her hardships would crush me if I did not know that God is working in and for her even though she currently rejects Him. Because of God’s love for me, I am convinced that there is no one He does not love – no one He cannot save, heal, and transform.
I pray that my story is not a stumbling block for some of you who have been hurt by people like me, and that God will continue his work in each of you to heal all those wounds of life. If you haven't yet experienced the transforming power of God’s love – that’s what I am praying you'll know, and then all of His perfect healing will follow.
And if you were abused or misused by your father and never heard these words from him, please hear them from me: I am sorry we failed you. Your heavenly Father will not.
© 2018 Reconciliation Ministries of Michigan, Inc. This article may be reproduced and distributed as long as no fee is charged and credit is given. Photos used under license with www.shutterstock.com.