Four years ago, I thought my story was over. Who would befriend a failed youth pastor who’d been on the psych ward? And beyond friendship, who could possibly dream that he might have anything of value to offer anyone else?
A guy who attempted suicide and nearly abandoned his wife and one year old? Hang it up pal, you’ve got nothing left to give.
When I was released from the hospital, I was still so full of shame over my childhood sexual abuse and the porn addiction (which no one knew about yet). I believed I was worthless. I thought I would be lucky to find some meaningless job, making a few bucks an hour, under the table.
My wife was the only family member to visit me in the hospital, so I figured they had all disowned me too. And that was shocking, because even though our family has had more than its fair share of dysfunction, we had all still managed to remain pretty close-knit.
But then, how could I hold anything against anyone else, right? I was the one who tried to leave. I was the one who threw in the towel. I was the one they’d initially bet all their chips on. And I was destined, from a very early age, to “be a preacher or a politician”. And upon leaving the psych ward, all of that seemed laughable.
Not only did public office and traditional ministry seem impossible, I believed I would never blog again. In a very strange way, I had decided to live again, but I figured if I couldn’t die, I would probably just be better off in a vegetative state in a long-term care facility some place. I imagined a shared room with cold block walls and unfriendly nurses who would talk about me in front of my face, figuring my mind was shut off, too.
Even after coming home, my heart didn’t really begin to beat again for a year. It’s like I had been frozen in time and it took a solid year to thaw out.
But once my heart began to live again, I started thinking crazy thoughts, like maybe my whole life wasn’t over at the age of thirty. Maybe, in some distant galaxy, there was still a place for a guy with mental health issues to have value. I thought just maybe the former pastor, in recovery from abuse and beginning to heal from a twenty-year addiction to pornography might be able to find his voice again.
So, I put pen to paper and began to dream for the first time in a long time. But not really even dream, I had to confess my mess and lighten the load before I could ever get the hot air balloon of my life off the ground. And boy, oh boy, was there ever some confessing to do.
Four years ago, I would have never believed people would do me the courtesy of reading my blog again. And I definitely would have never even considered publishing e-books, creating online courses, hosting a mastermind group, and having my blog hosted on the largest religion and spirituality website in the world.
But it is all happening, friends.
And please don’t take this as a brag session. This isn’t bragging, this is grace.
This is the very same grace that a guy found centuries ago, as he left the pig peg and started the long walk home. The Prodigal Son was content to be his father’s servant, but Grace gave him a ring of sonship. He imagined he would have to beg for forgiveness, but Grace ran toward him and threw him a party.
This young man, who had squandered his entire inheritance, only believed he might, just maybe, have the chance to hug his father one more time. He just wanted to make things right, but Grace cloaked him in acceptance and kissed his filthy cheek.
In spite of it all, because of his heritage as the son of a Good Father, the son was completely forgiven, all was forgotten, and he was brought back as an equal.
There is nothing lacking when Grace arrives. There’s no place for shame. When grace and recovery meet, anything is possible.
For me, Grace looks like the forgiveness of my wife. Grace looks like intense marriage counseling. Grace sometimes looks like strong medicine and taking “mental health” days. Grace is having a second child when I nearly abandoned the first one. Grace is leading worship on a Sunday morning in the same church where I grew up.
Grace has gotten down in the muck and mire with me and believed in my potential, instead of only being discouraged by my mess. Instead of giving up on me when recovery gets the best of me, Grace realizes that recovery is a process, not a destination. Those who know me best continue to love me, even when the lingering scent of the pig pen shows up. I have been shown Grace is greater than every failure.
Grace changes everything.