I opened this latest iteration of my blog with a draft sermon. It’s been a long time since I preached anything; and like those times, my process, given my Asperger’s/autism, has been to write a first-draft stream-of-consciousness “brain dump,” which will go through numerous reads, rereads, rewrites, and practice reads before it becomes a concise, direct, and effective message to be delivered. In all likelihood, most of my personal story will end up excised from it because the topic is not something churches like to hear preached from a pulpit. But I posted the original brain-dump so you know my story.
My story has lifelong consequences. I’m divorced. I have a son by adoption whom I have not seen since he was four (he’s now approaching twenty), to whom I am a stranger, and for whom, had I remained in his life, would’ve ended up being a terrible example of being a man and father for. And in spite of Christianity’s professed belief in healing and restoration, there are those who will continue to protest any time I am offerred an opportunity to speak or teach in any church-related ministry or position or the term ‘forgiveness’ and ‘restoration’ are even uttered.
Case in point:
For several years after my being caught, I sought recovery through a ministry called Celebrate Recovery (CR), and while both being served and serving there I eventually helped establish and lead the open share group for men with sexual addiction as I parcipated in the program and my own recovery progressed. It was while serving as support for a local seminar event hosting staff from Saddleback Church where it originated that I received the email from my then-wife informing me that our marriage was over.
While serving here, I was invited to share my story as part of a regional men’s conference that addressed the issues of pornography and sexual sin that was being led by an invited nationally-recognized speaker on the topic. At my regular weekly CR meeting the week leading up to the event, my mentor pulled me aside and informed me that the church had received at least one phone call from my now ex-father-in-law—a man whom at that time I still respected and whom I had hoped could fill that position of a godly example for my son that I could no longer be in. The gist of the call was that the church was wrong in inviting me to speak, making several accusations against me (some but not all of which were admittedly true) under the mistaken belief that I was actually going to speak more extensively about marriage and such at the conference.
My mentor, who received the call, corrected his understanding of what I had been invited to do, but the damage in trust was done and it was at that point that I lost all respect for him and anyone associated with that family. While it’s one thing to forgive (which I have), but forgiveness doesn’t immediately restore trust or relationship, if at all.
It also made painfully obvious an observation that I had heard from many who have left Christianity to become agnostic or outright atheist: Christians are the only army that shoot their own wounded. We claim to believe in restoration and healing but we are far from practicing what we preach. We forget that David remained a “man after God’s own heart” after committing adultery and murder by proxy; that Samson was granted power after giving in to his own lust for Delilah; that Peter was made the “small rock” of the church after denying Christ not once, not twice, but three times; that Paul of Tarsus became Christianity’s greatest defender after having sought out their members’ destruction as a Roman and Jew.
I think about this a lot as I move into my next chapter on the other side of Florida. If I posted, say, to Facebook, that I had accepted a ministry position in my new church home (assuming one was ever offerred; mind you I’m not looking for one), would they get a phone call from a certain someone like that church in Brandon did?
If they did, I hope their response would be something like this: That I’ve been fully open to them about my history and my past failures, that I have sought and obtained recovery for my past failures and they remain in the past, and that we believe in the grace and mercy of an almighty God and the redemptive, healing, and restorative power of the Blood of Christ shed on the Cross for all of our sins. I hope they would reiterate that it is the foundational tenet of Christianity, something that I have experienced in my life over the last several years, and either you believe it or you don’t, so which is it?