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I am recovering from fear of rejection, pride, perfectionism, and acting out through sexual fantasy and pornography.
Well that ramped up quickly, didn’t it? How in the world did I get here?
Honestly, I believed I could do life on my own. I tried and I couldn’t, so I tried to cover it up. And for the last several years I have been doing the deep work of trying to take off that mask with myself, my wife, my close friends, and now you, the blogosphere.
We have all been hurt and have hurt others (Titus 3:3), and we all medicate this hurt and pain with something. Mine happened to be perfectionism and pornography. Perfectionism is driven by my fear of rejection. If I do everything perfectly, I will then be loved and accepted. School. Sports. Career. Family. Do and be perfect, and everyone will love you. Porn taught me I can always feel loved and cared for by the women I look at. They would always accept me and tell me what a strong and wonderful man I was. It was there that the deep wounds of my soul found false medication.
Both of these symptoms of a deeper issue caused me to put on a mask – a false self that I would display to the world, and unfortunately, church often reinforced this mask.
I grew up in a conservative Bible-teaching church. I learned a lot of great things that have shaped me into the man I am today, but one thing I also learned is the church would not be a safe place to confess and talk openly about my struggles with sexual sin. As you can imagine, this created a dark place of guilt and shame, and my mask got harder to pull off.
Because of my perfectionism I decided, as most men do, that I could fix this myself. I tried it all: books, sermons, confessions, prayers. I thought I would be the one to fix it, but I’m sure you can guess how that worked out.
A passage from Luke 7, “A Sinful Woman Forgiven,” began to haunt me. The story begins with Jesus at a religious leader’s house with other important religious people. In comes the “sinful woman,” and she falls before Jesus, broken. She stops hiding and confesses her sin. Her tears fall on his feet and she wipes off his feet with her hair. The religious leaders are disgusted, but Jesus turns to them and says, “‘Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.’ And he said to her, ‘Your sins are forgiven’” (Luke 7:36-50).
The irony of the story is that she is called the sinful woman, yet she is the one who is forgiven. The religious churchgoing folks are the sinful ones who don’t want Jesus’ forgiveness. They are proud. They are trying to be perfect. They are the unforgiven, hiding from God and pretending for others. They are the ones wearing masks.
For so many years I have felt like one of those religious leaders relaxing at the table, watching Jesus, but not needing Jesus, respected by others on the outside, but the inside was, as Jesus said, “full of dead man’s bones” (Matthew 23:27). I was hiding. I was fearful. I was prideful.
The last couple years in re:generation groups have been a big deal for me. I am realizing my desire to be perfect is obviously a rejection of the gospel. The gospel reminds me I am broken, and nothing besides Jesus’ healing love and work on the cross will change that.
Christ has taught me that I am so desperately insecure. On a bad day, just a little boy in grown man’s clothes, who seeks affection and fears rejection. I simply want to be loved. I work hard to be perfect and so I perform, act the part, hoping you will be impressed and love me in return. When I feel rejected, insecure or doubtful, I have learned to turn to a source that will accept me and tell me what a strong and wonderful man I am.
If you struggle with these same core issues, I encourage you to memorize Ephesians 2:4-5 with me so you can call this powerful truth to mind on those bad days:
But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ–by grace you have been saved.
Jesus has and is continuing to root out these issues in my life. I have seen real change and I am so grateful for that. I have so much further to go, but I am taking off the mask and it feels good. I have a new life in Christ, and I feel Jesus’ love of myself and others, just as He promised.
I am ready to be like the “sinful woman” – a little foolish, but forgiven by Jesus, understanding the good news of the gospel and the freedom it brings!
Previously published on selftalkthegospel.com. Used with permission.