A curious dichotomy marked me as a young person. I had a desire to perform, to impact others and at the same time was shy and reserved, to the point of keen embarrassment when noticed by others. Maybe a lot of us are like this? But for me it was a sharp contrast of competing interests. Of wanting to push out into the world of others and wanting to pull back where I felt hidden and safe.
As I emerged into adulthood and ministry, I continued to be ambivalent about being known, about being a public personality. On the one hand, there was a certain stream of craziness in my life that fed a sense of grandiosity, of wanting to be a significant person making a sizable impact.
On the other, a sincere spirituality fed in me a desire for genuine humility, of quietly serving others and not seeking the limelight.
That was enough for a healthy tension, plenty of push and pull for any life. But I had another stream, too, one of secrecy and shame. Caution was advised. Others couldn’t be trusted. Better to avoid attracting attention.
So there is a curious irony in where I find myself at this stage in my life. I am a man who has succeeded and has failed. I have messed around and wasted a lot of my life. I have some formidable accomplishments, none as satisfying as an enduring marriage to a remarkable woman and being father to four grown, equally remarkable children.
Given the nature of some of my failure in life, the attraction of quietly blending in is quite strong. Hence the irony: I’ve written a just-published book, I am writing this blog and occasionally I even tweet—which still sounds so odd to me—to share some of my failures, and much of what I’ve learned, and it doesn’t feel safe to me at all. So why would I do all this?
We have a problem, we meaning our culture, our society, our families, our churches. We’ve got a growing epidemic of obsession with arousal, distraction and compulsive sexual behaviors.
There’s always been a certain percentage of guys—and some women, too—who were particularly vulnerable to compulsive sexual behavior. How could there not be? Sexuality is so wonderful, so powerful, so intoxicating, and as human beings we so easily get important wires crossed. But the dynamic has changed. A lot more people—men and women—are stumbling into compulsive lifestyles they didn’t seek and may still not recognize and the cost is high.
Families are wrecking as partners and parents disappear into the abyss of arousal attraction. Companies and organizations suffer the loss of productive contribution as employees and volunteers are increasingly marginalized by dis-integrating distractions. Personal lives are fractured and self-worth is denigrated and the pace of craziness ramps up to a scream.
And it turns out there is a way through this.
There are observable dynamics and workable strategies, things that we can know, of which we can learn to be certain. There is mercy and compassion. There are others who know, who care, who walk with us. And there is Help. Wonderful and mysterious, soothing and challenging, life-altering Help.
Truth. Grace. Each other. God.
The more things change, the more they continue as they always have.