This probably should be a 2 or 3 parter, but I don’t want to leave people hanging…so I’ll make this one my only blog for the week.
I can pinpoint the day 9 years ago I became a disappointment. I made a choice and it was the wrong one. I got lost into a world of sin. I walked willingly into something I knew was wrong.
It was in Brainerd, MN – I was serving in my first fulltime ministry position after graduating college. It was a good church, a good pastor and good people. I was young, stupid, and full of energy. Sometimes I wonder what it was like for Pastor Boone to work with me…I know it must have been hard.
After being at the church for about 5 months I made an unfortunate discovery. Internet pornography. I was single and living by myself. While at home one evening I was surfing the web (back in the days of dial up) and I clicked on a link that turned out to be a redirect to a porn site. I turned it off quickly, but my curiosity got the better of me. I went back to that site. Over the next few months I became more engrossed in searching for websites that had similar images…after a time I came to see myself as addicted to Porn. It was a hard realization.
Over the next month I slowly backed myself out of looking at the websites and spent time in prayer trying to break free of the addiction and bondage I had gotten myself into. I was mostly successful, but knew that I was fooling myself if I believed I could be totally free without help. I went to my Sr. Pastor and confessed my sin – he responded in grace and love asking what he could do to help. He was an executive presbyter for the Minnesota District of the Assemblies of God – he helped me get connected with the right people. We decided it was best if I moved back to Ohio to be close to family. The Ohio District agreed to oversee my restoration – I was blessed by that decision. Emerge Ministries is in Ohio and would be the organization that I would be meeting with to work through my issues with Porn.
The Ohio District Council and presbyters were very supportive. I’ll never forget the presbyter that wept for me in the meeting – he was so broken by the bondage I had walked into. At the time I didn’t see it as compassion, but as pity – hindsight is a great thing for perspective. I spent a year meeting with an Emerge psychologist, a Sectional presbyter, and a pastor. It was helpful and hard at the same time. I met quarterly quarterly with Bro. Crabtree, the Ohio District Superintendent, he was also supportive and encouraging. It was because of him that I was allowed back into ministry after a year of being in the restoration program. He argued that with the new guidelines the national office had passed at General Council and with the circumstances that lead up to be coming forward on my own that I deserved it. He was very gracious.
After being approved to go back into full time ministry it was a very difficult time. I sent out over 2-dozen resumes…in each packet there was a letter explaining the details of why I stepped out of ministry and the process I walked through to be approved to go back into ministry. Sometimes I would get a letter of rejection back, most of the time I heard nothing. I had one church that sent everything back. It was sad and funny at the same time.
I did eventually find a church that would talk to me. The Pastor there had a heart for people who needed grace – I was certainly one of those people. Sadly the Pastor who invited me to interview had other issues at his church that wouldn’t allow me to go into ministry there. Even sadder his desire to bring me in gave his church board ammunition to fire back at him. They accused him of trying to bring in a pedophile (me) to work with their children. For clarification there was no child porn or anything remotely related to that subject in my struggles. They pressed the issue so hard that the finally brought it to a congregational vote. Him wanting to bring me in wasn’t the only issue, but it was part of it. Fortunately he was not voted out. This Pastor had enough compassion, grace, and character that he contacted some of his friends telling them they needed to hire me…believe it or not one of them did. Ironically 2 years later I was working for the Pastor who first showed me grace.
It has been 9 years since I confessed my sin and submitted to the restoration process. I have been back in full time ministry for almost 7 years. It has not been the easiest 9 years of my life – it was a struggle to get free of the bondage. I’ve had to put things in place in my life to help me with accountability -I have happily done so. I have doubted my call, my commitment, and myself. I have wrestled with grief and regret. I went from being supremely confident that God had a great and glorious plan for my life to having no direction back to knowing God has a plan, but having trouble finding it.
Along the way I have gotten many different responses when people find out about my journey. I’ve never hidden or lied about what happened, I just rarely offer details either. There are those who respond with disgust, those who respond with pity, those who respond with judgment, those who respond with compassion and love…there’s the whole spectrum of responses. Just this week I shared my past with a ministry colleague – the look in their eyes said it all. ”How could you? SINNER.”
I actually got a tattoo on my right arm to remind me that I am a sinner “Peccator” is Latin for Sinner (I got it on the 1 year anniversary of being back in ministry) …I need to get some work done on it to add in “saved by grace.”
I don’t share this with you to illicit pity or sympathy – I live with the certainty that while it has been a hard 9 years I have grown immeasurably as a person, Christian, and pastor. What this experience has done for me overall is break me out of an even greater bondage than the sin of pornography – it has broken me out of a Religious bondage. The thoughts I had about grace and salvation before lacked depth. It is harder to understand the fullness of grace until you need it and don’t receive it. God is always willing to give it – His people aren’t.
I share all this today because I am done feeling condemned by my sins. Will I forget what I have done? No. But I will quit giving Satan a foothold in my life by walking around in guilt and remorse. Things left in secret are given a power in our life – I will not walk in that fear. SO no longer will Satan be able to whisper in secret “you know what you did…” 9 Years ago I became a disappointment to man, but God loves me unconditionally. It is time to shake off the shackles placed on me by others, shackles I have accepted…it is time to dream again and walk with a head held high knowing I have the Spirit of Sonship. The Father has adopted me – He loves me. No more will I feel looked down upon by the pious and legalistic. I will walk as one forgiven. I will dream as one forgiven. I will no longer be a disappointment.