Every Thursday we post something to do with emotional or relational health. Hope this helps.
Feels Like It’s Over!
So many men I know who are dealing with sexual sin go through dark periods of depressed, listless despair. I can appreciate that, because I remember all too well what it was like for me back in 1984.
The weeks following my repentance were the darkest I’d ever experienced. Not at first, though. First I had to clean my act up, which was oddly exciting.
All my porn had to go, of course. I had video tapes and magazines to throw out, and I felt a little pathetic when I ran out of boxes to put them in, realizing how much money and time I’d spent having sex with phantoms. I had my cable service turned off, cancelled my subscriptions to erotic publications, located another place to live in another city. Friends had to be notified – I only told my closest friends, hoping to keep a relationship with them, naïve (again) as to how hard that would really be.
Then relocation, a new church, a different job, different everything, it seemed. And the dreaded AIDS test, which was brand new and, at the time, required a four-week waiting period before getting results. I sweated it out, got the good “You’re HIV negative” news, then, with the energy of newness now spent, I settled into a routine.
Only then did it hit me that over the past six years I’d ruined everything good I’d been given. A fruitful ministry, a loving family, great potential – all wasted, radically screwed up in a public, shameful way. I began visualizing the people I’d preached to, baptized and prayed with, hearing the news back in ’78 and responding to it: Did you hear about Joe Dallas? Can you believe what he did? I saw their faces, disappointed and disgusted with me. And I, in turn, sank into a bottomless disgust with myself.
Repentance wasn’t joyful. It actually preceded the first time in my life I’d ever been suicidal. I began sleeping through the days, then waking up horrified at myself, rehearsing again and again what I’d done, each time seeing it in a worse light. Hundreds of sex partners, thousands spent on hookers, broken relationships, gross stupidity. I’d cry, thrashing around in my bed, pondering suicide, (“If I ask God’s forgiveness after I take the pills but before I die, can I still get into Heaven?”) hitting the walls with my fists and head, then going back into fits of weeping and moaning.
As part of my “penance”, I called everyone I could locate from my days in the ministry, to apologize and tell them I’d repented. I could only find a few old friends, but one of them permanently interrupted the “I Hate Joe” cycle I’d gotten myself into.
When I got him on the phone and told him what was happening with me, the dam burst and I told him more than I’d intended to: my guilt, the miserable state I was in, my fear that there was no life or future for me.
“Well, Joe”, he said, “if banging your head into the wall is going to bring people into the Kingdom or build up the Body of Christ, please keep doing it. But if it won’t, don’t you think all this energy you’re putting into self-pity could be put into doing something useful, even redemptive, with what’s left of your life?”
That shut me up.
“And”, he continued, “who knows but that someday, after you get through all this, you might have learned something worth passing on?”
He worked in Christian publishing. Six years later, as we kept in touch and he watched my life take its course, he asked me if I’d be interested in writing, and as a result my first published book was born.
So. What do you know?