I was standing in church somewhere around the turn of the millennium. We were preparing for communion at Sunset Presbyterian Church. I was active in my recovery group and enjoying a new level of sexual sobriety for the first time in thirty-five years. My beautiful wife, Adonica, was standing by my side as we held the bread and cup in our hands, ready to partake. In that holy moment, I noticed two young ladies in front of me. They were wearing tight jeans and had nice figures. Don’t ask me how I knew that. I did not look at these Christian sisters in a sexual way. But somehow I knew.
Like many men, I have been cursed with sexual radar and can quickly locate all gorgeous ladies in any large crowd. Attractive women, tight jeans, low lights, soft worship music. I don’t mean to sound sacrilegious, but the setting was positively seductive. Would there be any harm in a quick glance? It was a familiar question. I considered doing what I had always done: to sexualize these young women in my mind. Then, I heard the voice of Jesus:
“You can look if you want, or you can have a ministry with men. But you can’t have both, and the choice is yours.”
I knew precisely what He meant. I had a decision to make at the crossroads of sobriety. No one could make it for me, not even Jesus. No one, besides Jesus, would ever know if I made the wrong decision. It was my choice, and mine alone.
Nearly 1,500 years before the first coming of Christ, Moses presented a similar choice to the people of Israel.
At this critical point, early in my recovery, I chose life. No one could have made that decision for me, but I could not have made the right decision alone. I needed help from God and my brothers in recovery. I did not look down to ‘check out’ the beautiful sisters in Christ who stood just inches away. Instead, I kept my gaze forward.
I made the right choice that day. It wasn’t easy; in fact, it was downright painful. I wanted my sex hit and self-denial felt awful. Yet, inside I wore the smile of godly satisfaction. I knew angels leapt for joy over my victory in that moment. I passed a small test and proved to myself that I wanted effective ministry more than porneia. It felt good. I was energized in a new way. I partook of the Eucharist on that eventful day with a clear conscience.
My pastor, Dominic Done, once encouraged our congregation in a Sunday sermon. “The best way to conquer an old passion is to be conquered by a new one.” My new passion began eighteen years ago on Communion Sunday at Sunset Presbyterian. There and then, I chose to conquer an old passion with a new one. Today, I am still motivated to serve men and women caught in the web of sexual addiction. Call me “Driven Scriven.” I am unashamedly and passionately devoted to assisting people in the pursuit of healthy sexuality. If I can find freedom from sexual bondage, then anybody can. If Jesus can use a fallen and broken guy like me, then He can use anyone for His redemptive purposes.
The springs of living water about which Jesus spoke cannot flow freely through a woman or man who is consumed with lust and driven by uncontrolled fantasies of forbidden pleasure. Proverbs 4.23 commands every human, “Guard your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life.” There is a reason to guard your heart. The reason is the promise of life.
In Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic novel of the battle for dominance between opposing inner forces, Dr. Lanyon recounts the horror of virtuous Dr. Jekyll’s resolve to rid himself once and for all of the malicious Mr. Hyde.
“He put the glass to his lips and drank at one gulp. A cry followed; he reeled, staggered, clutched at the table and held on, staring with injected eyes, gasping with open mouth; and as I looked there came, I thought, a change – he seemed to swell – his face became suddenly black and the features seemed to melt and alter – and the next moment, I had sprung to my feet and leaped back against the wall, my arm raised to shield me from that prodigy, my mind submerged in terror.
“‘O God!’ I screamed, and ‘O God!’ again and again; for there before my eyes – pale and shaken, and half fainting, and groping before him with his hands, like a man restored from death – there stood Henry Jekyll!”
My “mind was submerged in [the] terror” of sexual addiction. I too “screamed ‘O God!’ again and again” throughout my many years of bondage. I emerged from the painful ordeal “like a man restored from death.” I am a new man, the man I was destined to be before I drank from porneia’s dirty cup. I “put the glass to [my] lips and drank at one gulp” of the water Jesus and my brothers in recovery offered. I was given a second chance at life, a chance to drink deeply of the pure, eternally thirst-busting water Jesus freely held out for me.
I am a new man. I am conquered by a new passion. I am forever grateful to Jesus Christ and my brothers and sisters in recovery.