I normally share my joy with you, but I wanted to share a picture of something that you normally don’t get to see.
When I was just three years old, an older boy molested me. He was a family friend. It was both painful and shameful having my sexuality awakened and abused at such an early age. As time went on, I began to orchestrate sexual situations with other children around me, not even grasping why or what I was doing. My inner world was plunged into shame and I began exhibiting predatory behavior as a toddler.
When I was four, my parents marriage dissolved. With the divorce, my inner turmoil only deepened. I believed the lie that I was responsible for my parent’s breakup.
Not long after the divorce, I was at a family’s house that was watching me while my Dad was working. They had two young boys my age. I molested both of them. When the parents found out, they told my Dad that I wasn’t allowed back to their house.
Later that day, my Dad punished me for what I had done, leaving some bruising on my body for weeks. (I would only come to understand just how deeply damaged my own father was years down the road. It has given me tremendous compassion for him, and helped me forgive him. We enjoy a great relationship now.)
The stability of my home had been torn to shreds, and my inner world was filled with sexual shame. I believed the lie that me being a bad boy had cost me my relationship with my Dad.
At the age of five, I molested a cousin who was my same age. When their father walked in and saw us, they immediately called Child Protective Services. I am so thankful that they did.
It was because of that phone call that I began seeing a child psychologist from Pittsburgh, and I received counseling for the sexual abuse that I had both suffered, and perpetrated. Had I not received help at that point in my life, I easily could’ve ended up in prison, took my own life, or took the lives of other people.
It’s taken me many years to begin to process my personal loss and trauma. I’ve begun to realize that receiving physical abuse as a result of my sexual brokenness deeply devastated my inner world. It seemed to fuse those two things together in me: sex and shame.
Sexual abuse is a powerful teacher. It taught me that I wasn’t worth having personal boundaries. It taught me that I had no intrinsic worth, and that I was only good for meeting someone else’s need. I learned to find other people who had no personal boundaries and exploit their weaknesses to feed my addiction, leading to more devastated lives.
My sexual pain turned into a lifestyle of looking at pornography in a desperate attempt for comfort and satisfaction. What a hollow and empty fabrication of intimacy that poison is. I wholeheartedly condemn that cancerous garbage with all of my heart!
When you believe the core truth about you is worthlessness, then prostituting your feelings off on a screen promises satisfaction and comfort without having real vulnerability and trust with another human being. Problem is, it’s not real. And afterwards, all you’re left with is what you started with: yourself and your pain.
Ironically, only as I’ve grown in my deep conviction that the truth about me is that I am a good creation at my core, the compulsion to look at pornography has dissolved away. In being honest with my wife, despite doing tremendous damage to her trust and self-esteem, I’ve found the comfort and intimacy I longed for, and as a by-product, the venomous addiction of pornography dwindled away in the light of other-centered, self-giving love.
But porn wasn’t the only dysfunction my shame caused. I learned to become what others wanted me to be. People pleasing. Fear of man. A non-negotiable need to avoid any and all confrontation. When you don’t love your own heart, you’ll conform to people’s expectations of you, even at the cost of your own thoughts and desires.
Unlike the rest of the world looking at perfectly timed snap-shots of my life on social media (we all do this), my wife sees me without any facade. She takes the brunt of my pain and anger. It’s taken me a long time to stop blaming her for my emotions, and to begin taking responsibility for myself. And I’m still learning.
I’m still learning how to be angry. Hell, I’m still learning that I am angry. And that it’s ok to be angry. In fact, it’s right to be angry with injustice. But as we walk with Holy Spirit, Wisdom shows us the right thing to do WITH that anger, so that we don’t use it as a weapon against others.
No one has helped me to be more brutally honest with myself than my wife, though it has cost her dearly. I almost lost our marriage because of my pain and shame driving me into hell-bent self-destruction. And only by the grace of God, and her relentless patience, have we begun to rebuild our trust again.
Emily has continued to love me well, and has helped me to confront things in my life that I never would have left to my own coping mechanisms and survival skills.
She has shown me love. Hard love. In your face love. A fierce love that refuses to tolerate lies and fabricated fronts. She’s shown me God’s love.
When rage is beat into you in an attempt to fix your bad behavior through punishment, it creates an image of an angry God who mirrors our own rage.
This is why I can’t swallow the theory that God had to punish Jesus so that He could feel good about me. I’ve lived my life as a victim of punishment, and I discovered that punishment NEVER healed a single ounce of my heart. NEVER.
Far from healing me, punishment only sent me deeper into the hopeless chasm of my pain. It also gave me passive aggressive tendencies to punish those closest to me. I am undoubtedly on a journey of being unwound from those lifeless habits.
I don’t need a “god” who has to punish an innocent Victim so that He can look at me through His blood-of-Jesus-blindfold.
I need a God who sees the real me and isn’t disgusted.
I need a God who looks at me and doesn’t see what I’ve always seen: worthlessness.
I need a God who looks at me in my brokenness and doesn’t feel what I’ve always felt: shame.
I don’t need a God who has to punish before He can love me.
I need a God that loves me by nature WHILE He’s the One being punished!
I’ve posted myself with alcohol before, and I’ve posted myself with a cigar before, but I did not anticipate that those two things posted together would illicit such a volatile reaction. However, I’m not surprised.
I understand. Emily ordered a beer on one of our first dates and I was mortified because I was so afraid that someone in leadership from our local church would see us with alcohol. I had no idea how bound up I was with the fear of people’s opinions and judgements.
It’s sad (and embarrassing) that as Christians we call a cigar and a glass of bourbon a stumbling block, yet we willingly swallow the idea of a God who will eternally cook His children in an oven forever if they don’t pray the right prayer or live up to code.
We strain at a gnat and swallow a camel. (And not a Joe Camel! Wouldn’t want to offend anyone with a cigarette reference!)
We wince over offending someone with a glass of wine (even though Jesus compared His blood to wine WHILE drinking wine Himself), but we preach that the Father of Jesus runs an eternal Auschwitz in the sky for anyone who doesn’t believe the right way, making Him infinitely worse than Hitler!
That to me, my dear brothers and sisters, is the real stumbling block. Presenting an image of God that is actually an idol. It’s high time we realize that image of “god” is not the Abba of Jesus Christ. That image of “god” is the accuser of the brethren, Satan.
For someone who has lived their life inside of religious and performance facades, it has been incredibly refreshing to begin embracing integration in my life. Tim Wright is learning how to be the same person in every scenario. And that’s a miracle for me.
That is why for me, immediately taking a picture down of myself with a cigar and alcohol because of people’s opinions, would’ve actually been submitting back to the very bondage that the Lord has been delivering me from!
I do not advocate the abuse of alcohol or any other substance. The truth is, we can become dependent on just about anything when we allow it to take the place of our co-dependency on His presence.
We are designed to drink from the intoxicating New Wine of His love without moderation and in absolute excess! And when we find our unbridled pleasure fulfilled in Christ alone and His indwelling glory, we won’t need to turn to other things to satisfy that inner ache. Then, we’re free to enjoy all things in Godly moderation, with thankfulness and a content heart.
Surely, my heart was not to intentionally damage anyone with my picture. If I offended you, will you forgive me? I love you! If I brought up painful memories of abuse that you’ve suffered or committed, will you forgive me? I love you!
There is one thing that I am wholeheartedly committed to taking down! And that, my friends, is the demonic lie that God is somehow different than Jesus.
I actually want to thank everyone that commented on my picture, both negative and positive, because you were willing to bring your thoughts to the table in a conversation. And that’s what this is all about. Being family.
You don’t have to cover up any part of your story, no matter how deep your pain or loss. Once you realize that Love does not keep a record of wrongs, you’re free to stop keeping a record of them yourself by hiding them in your shame. And once you know the truth about you, letting go of every shameful facade into the ocean of His grace becomes easy.
If you’re a victim or perpetrator of sexual abuse, don’t let your secrets lock you into a prison of isolated despair. It’s a lie that you’ll be safer inside of that delusion. You’re not. You’re safest in the wide open spaces of vulnerability and child-like trust. You’re not alone. There’s a family of believers waiting to embrace you.
Only when we embrace honesty with ourselves about what we’ve lost, can we see for the first time just how found we already are in Him! And in letting go of the facade that we are sinful or broken victims, the truth about who we really are begins to emerge like a tidal wave in our consciences!
We are good. We are loved. We are clean. We are whole. We are perfect. We are safe. We are His!
In 2006, Jesus began giving me opportunities to talk to the people that I had abused when I was younger. He led me to share with them how the love of God had changed me. I asked each of them for their forgiveness for what I had done to them. It was so powerful.
One of them, after hearing my heart, confessed to me that their boyfriend had died recently in an accident, and they were planning on committing suicide the following day. They allowed me to pray for them, and healing tears flowed freely, right at the gas station where they were working at, and suicide broke off of them.
I remember feeling how precious the leading of the Holy Spirit was through confronting these painful situations, and I knew that if I wanted to continue to grow in my intimacy with His love, that I needed to obey His leading. I’m so glad that I did. I wouldn’t be where I am today if I had hardened my heart to His tender, leading love.
I haven’t had the chance to talk to my abuser yet. But I’m looking forward to the day where I can. And when I do, I’ll tell him that I love him and forgive him. And that Papa is especially fond of him.
I wanted to break open some of my inside world for you so that you can know and understand more of who I am. I also want to encourage anyone reading this to go on the adventure of following Jesus out of your shame and into His glorious light! You’ll be so glad that you did.
Our Lord wants to take the little bread and fish of your life, bless you, and break you so that the brokenness of your heart can be multiplied to feed the nations!
And just like Jesus told His disciples to gather up all of the fragments of the multiplied bread so that nothing would be wasted, we too find the broken fragments of our hearts, seemingly lost for good, scooped up in the hands of His disciples, waiting for us to discover unfolding pieces of who we really are, hidden in relationship with one another in Him!
I look forward to the next time that we break the bread of our hearts together, face to face.
In His relentless affection,