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Blazing Grace Newsletter, February 2007
* Who’s the Prodigal?
* More Reading
* The Blazing Grace Radio Show
* The Numbers
* Upcoming Radio Interviews
* Ministry Needs
* Final Words
For the main article of this month’s newsletter, we have a guest writer. Molly Ann Miller is the author of My Husband has a Secret; Finding Healing for the Betrayal of Sexual Addiction. For those wives who feel trapped by the anger and pain caused by their husband’s sexual addiction, Molly offers the way out.
But this article isn’t just for wives, but all who’ve struggled with an “older brother” mentality.
Who’s the Prodigal?
By Molly Ann Miller
My sexaholic husband reminds me of the prodigal son: He squandered our money on wild living and prostitutes. When the consequences were painful enough, he “came to his senses” and returned to the Father, confessing his addiction of more than twenty years. The Father welcomed him and embraced him as a son again. Freedom and joy replaced the guilt and shame of his secret life. I sensed his spirit celebrating.
Meanwhile, I was paralyzed with shock and anger. I never imagined such betrayal in our marriage. He apologized repeatedly and sincerely, but the confession that bought his freedom cost me years of grief and a broken heart. Would the pain ever stop? I stayed with him, supported the recovery process, and waited to feel loved and fulfilled as our relationship healed. Since he caused this pain, wasn’t it his responsibility to heal it? I waited for this “proof” of his repentance. Finally I grew disenchanted and went to see our counselor. I told him of my unhappiness, and how my husband wasn’t meeting my expectations. Surely he would agree with me.
“He can’t—at least not to the extent you need.” Shocked at his response, I tried to appear composed as he continued, “No one can. You’ve put your husband in God’s place. He’s the only one who can meet your deepest needs.”
My well rehearsed “righteous” anger didn’t rescue my bruised ego this time. Instead, I felt relieved! I knew my counselor was right. For the first time in my life I realized how co dependent I really was—I depended on my husband and others to feel good about myself. I used his sex addiction to emotionally blackmail him, to guilt trip him into meeting my needs! I usually blamed others for my feelings, rarely taking responsibility for myself. It was part of a belief system I was loyal to without question—until now. Could it be faulty? A new hope of freedom from my dependency was born.
Yes, my husband was like the prodigal; he lusted for worldly pleasures to find fulfillment, but they failed him. He came to his senses and took responsibility for himself. His repentance was even celebrated at a party in his honor. He was not a second class Christian unworthy to be active in the church. Such lavish unearned love posed a big problem for me—it betrayed my value system—approval had to be earned. Wasn’t that why I’d sacrificed to please others all my life? I was the older brother in the parable: “Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders…but when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!” (Luke 15:29-30, NIV) God didn’t use my husband’s transgressions against him, but as the older brother I did it exquisitely. I was so “righteous” to stand by him! I exulted in the choice morsel of forgiving someone in sexual sin. It afforded me a fat bank account of good deeds to convince God, myself and others how spiritual and worthy I was. With my pharisaical attitude, my husband was indebted to me forever. When I hurt his feelings I compared my “righteousness” to his; this effectively discounted his feelings which I rarely validated. I justified myself at his expense for years. The satanic beauty of it was I wholeheartedly believed it was the truth.
I’d practiced comparing myself to others until it was effortless. It was as subconscious as eating when I was hungry. When that “less than” feeling came I innately knew what would boost my sinking self-esteem: a gossipy tidbit about someone else or a judgment of their appearance. My husband’s sexaholism was a very effective comparison. Of course, I wasn’t conscious of this dysfunctional process, but in the melodrama of my life, comparison played one of the supporting roles for my lead character of co dependence.
Another supporting role was my victim thinking. I could go on for hours when I wanted to convince my husband how much I deserved—how much he owed me. He cheated, lied and betrayed our vows mentally and physically countless times—I was a victim. But I exploited this fact to justify unreasonable demands, believing he had the power to make me feel loved and fulfilled. This illustrates one of the many half-truths that supported my faulty belief system. Yes—my husband cheated, but my assumption that he should heal all the damage his betrayal created was impossible. Half truths are so seductive because they are partly true. They justified the lies I believed.
The first rays of light exposing my false belief system penetrated my counselor’s office: I used the approval of others for the same reason my husband used sex—to feel better about myself! Brennan Manning writes, “…with an insatiable appetite for affirmation…my cardboard façade…bears a distinct resemblance to alcohol for the alcoholic.” (Abba’s Child p.32) I felt superior, but we were both the same. His addiction was socially and morally unacceptable whereas my addiction to approval was not only socially acceptable, but socially reinforced. Everyone seemed to like it when I did nice things for them. I even got recognition for it in my church! I’d been a Christian for decades, but suddenly I could see that God was not the motivation for many of my actions. Impressing others was a huge idol. For the first time I saw my life clearly. The light must have flooded through the windows of my soul because my counselor noticed it immediately. “I’m so happy for you! I’ve said these exact words many times and you’d be surprised how many people don’t want the truth.”
It’s hard to humble ourselves and admit we’ve been wrong—that God doesn’t honor our false value system. “The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him.” (Luke 15:28, NIV) I’m grateful God doesn’t let us go easily; He pleads with us. Prodigals have the advantage here—they exercised their free choice and came up empty and humble. They returned to God to have their needs met for love and fulfillment. We older brothers believe we’ve earned our worth, resulting in pride—we are Pharisees, loving the approval of men rather than God! Our idol doesn’t let us down so obviously so we continue to medicate the loneliness of our heart with approval. It’s hard to recognize that we even have idols because we’re addicted to appearing righteous. Jesus doesn’t tell us if the older brother ever entered the celebration to be in the presence of the father. But God’s offer stands—He pleads with us to choose his value system of grace instead of our harsh ones—where we can’t even live up to our own expectations.
The only thing God gives us more of than grace is the freedom to choose it. In my counselor’s office I saw I even had a choice and I embraced His grace. I knew I’d made a life-changing decision, and I thought it was done, but it wasn’t. Just like I choose to forgive my husband over and over again when feelings arise, I need to surrender my old value system every day. I nurtured my Pharisee mentality for many years, and it served me treacherously yet faithfully. It doesn’t simply disappear. When I feel insecure or self-conscious I often recognize that “helping” hand reaching out to “rescue” me. But I remember well how painfully that tempting beautiful satanic hand turns on me.
When I look back at my old way of life I’m amazed how deceived I was. I’d believed in a judgmental value system, and claimed it was God’s! No wonder the world cries, “Hypocrites!” That’s exactly who I was—part of the counterfeit church demanding people earn their right to enter. I judged others to feel better about myself and I didn’t have to look far to find others who would agree with me. I believed in Jesus, but not in his gracious value system. I was saved, but not from my worldly beliefs. How much safer our churches would be if we came to our senses and realized we’re all prodigals who need forgiveness. I could have been inviting people into the party to celebrate grace, but I judged them and myself as unworthy. I didn’t realize what dangerous ground I was on until I read these words of Brennan Manning:
“It is not the prostitutes and tax-collectors who find it most difficult to repent: it is the devout who feel they have no need to repent, secure in not having broken the rules…Jesus did not die at the hands of muggers, rapists, or thugs. He fell into the well-scrubbed hands of deeply religious people, society’s most respected members.” (Abba’s Child, Navpress, Colo. Spgs., CO 1994. Pgs. 82-83) The Pharisees condemned Jesus to justify themselves. I shudder to think how I resembled them—how arrogant I was.
I thought I was surviving life pretty well with my approval addiction, but God was pleading with me. Nothing dealt a death blow to my co dependence like having a sexaholic husband; it made it pretty difficult to keep up appearances. At first I doubled my efforts, but the recovery process made it safe to be honest and brought me face-to-face with my judgmental shaming ways. I am so grateful for my husband’s sex addiction because I wouldn’t have gotten into recovery and seen how serious my own addiction was. The shame of the sex addiction exposed my idols and addictions like nothing else would have.
All my relationships changed because I changed. When I blame now I know I’m not taking responsibility for myself. I don’t use people to meet my needs or control them as often. I’m gentler with myself and others. I’m more compassionate to those I used to judge. I struggle the most to love self-righteous people—probably because I still struggle to completely accept myself and my weaknesses. I thought I’d believed in grace before, but my actions proved otherwise.
I drove home from my counselor’s office transformed. Only an hour earlier I’d wanted to end my marriage, and it would have been because of my addiction, not my husband’s! I have only experienced spontaneous worship twice in my life, and this was one of them. Praise erupted from the depths of my soul. My mouth hurt from smiling! I was free. I was free from 50 years of slavery to the lies of a false belief system. I was free from the need to constantly sacrifice for others to earn their approval. I was free to find my entire worth in God’s view of me. My husband’s behavior didn’t determine my worth at all, for good or for bad. I felt empowered: I can take responsibility for my own needs! My spirit celebrated: I get to be a prodigal! My Father invited me—He pleaded with me— to come to the celebration of grace. I never believed I could go before, but this time I accepted His invitation.
“My son,” the father said, “you are always with me, and everything I have is yours.” (Luke 15:31 NIV) My pride shriveled as I realized the truth: I already had everything I was working so hard for! I said good bye to the proud exhausted lonely Pharisee within me, and stepped toward the father as a humble prodigal.
The father offered his arm. He escorted me into the party where I noticed a long curtain hanging above the entrance. It was torn in two, pulled to each side so I could pass through. Our eyes met, “Thank you for forgiving me, and accepting me. I didn’t realize I was also a prodigal.”
The father smiles, “But didn’t you know? You’re not a prodigal. You’re my beloved daughter!” He guided me to the center of the room, took me in his wounded hands and began to dance.
I’ve never felt more loved.
I’ve never been so fulfilled.
More information on Molly Ann Miller and her book is available at www.mollyannmiller.com
On dealing with porn/sex addiction in the church:
How Many Porn Addicts are in Your Church?
How Your Church Can Take on the Porn Epidemic
Getting to the Roots of the Porn Epidemic
How Your Church Can Help Those Who Struggle with Porn or Sex Addiction
On getting help for porn/sex addiction:
It’s Just a Little Porn; I’m no Sex Addict
Sexual Sobriety isn’t Enough
Winning the War in the Mind
The Blazing Grace Radio Show…
…Will start taping again tomorrow. New shows should be available for download by sometime next week.
The tragedy of the epidemic of sexual sin in the church is there are many marriages that don’t make it, even if the one who was originally at fault breaks free. Although Rob McIntire had some six years of successful recovery behind him, his marriage will be another casualty. He and his wife are now divorcing. Due to the stress involved, Rob is leaving the Blazing Grace Radio show.
Please pray for Rob, his wife Susan, and their three sons during this time.
You can download mp3’s of the broadcasts without cost at the radio page, or listen to them in streaming audio at Oneplace.com.
The broadcasts are available as a podcast through Itunes. If you have the Itunes software, the shows are listed under “Religion and Spirituality/Christianity.”
* In his book "The Sexual Man", Dr. Archibald Hart revealed the results of a survey of some 600 Christian men, on the topic of masturbation:
61% of married Christian men masturbate
82% of these have sex with themselves on an average of once a week; 10% masturbate 5-10 times per month, 6% more than 15 times per month, and 1% more than 20 times a month.
13% of Christian married men said they felt it was normal.
The average time a porn movie is watched in a hotel room is 12 minutes.
61% - The percentage of men in a Colorado Springs church of more than 500 that had viewed porn within the past year, taken in 2004.
Upcoming Radio Interviews
I will be a guest on the following radio shows to discuss the problem of sexual sin in the church:
2/15/07 - Front Page with Mark Halvorsen, WWIB Radio, Chippewa Falls, WI 10:30am CT www.wwib.com
2/15/07 - Teleseminar with Tess Marshall of www.kickporn.com. 9:00pm ET
3/6/07 - Quest for Character with Mike Dunn, MO, KJSL AM630 - 7:00pm MT www.kjslradio.net
3/7/07 - Mornings with Randy, KBJS Jacksonville, TX - 7:35am CT www.kbjs.org
3/10/07 - We Talk Back, KMLB 1440AM Monroe, LA - 11:00am CT www.kmlb.com
3/23/07 - The Matter at Hand with Larry Weidman, WGRC 91.3FM, Lewisburg, PA. 11:00am ET. www.wgrc.com
3/26/07 - Dominos, KCXL Radio, Liberty, MO - 1:00 CT
I appreciate your prayers for wisdom, boldness and grace, as these are live shows, some of which may have call-ins. Please pray that the Lord would be glorified, that His churches would be encouraged and challenged to speak out clearly about the problem of sexual sin in the church, and that the sexually broken would reach out for help. Realizing that silence about this issue is one of Satan’s greatest weapons, please also pray for protection for technical and any other issues that might keep these interviews from happening.
We are in need of:
1. Women to join our national prayer team. We have a group of ladies who pray for the ministry together by phone conference call once a week. Please email us if you are interested in joining them.
2. Women to join our local prayer team here in Colorado Springs. If you live in the city and would be interested in participating, please email us.
3. Your prayers, whether you join the prayer team or not. No ministry in this arena will survive long without the prayers of God’s people to protect and use it mightily.
4. Women who are willing to serve by emailing other wives for support. Please email us if you’re interested in helping out.
5. Financial support. God is opening more doors for the Blazing Grace ministry. We are working on setting up a team and website in Germany, plus support is needed for the radio show, website, billboard, and other costs to promote the message to men and women in the territory God is giving us.
Until the church repents of its sexual (and other) sins, we will not see revival in our homes, churches and other institutions. When 50% of Christian men are surfing porn, the church is corrupt, and in desperate need for a clear call to repentance. This is the time for all of us to step up, abandon the sidelines, and engage the front line of battle. Until we do, more families, marriages and children’s lives will be destroyed.
Blazing Grace is a 501c3 non-profit corporation whose purpose is to minister to the sexually broken and equip the church to effectively deal with the porn epidemic.
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May God’s grace abound to you.
All material copyright 2007 Mike Genung