Today’s temptations are best handled by yesterday’s decisions.
My parents were good teachers of wisdom. As a teenager I can remember them sharing their thoughts on how to best deal with tempting situations. My dad might have said something like, “If you’re waiting to make your decision in the back seat of a car, you’ve waited too long, and you will likely make a poor one.” While I didn’t always pay attention to these incredibly profound nuggets of insight, the impression they left was deep enough to impact me now; and impact those I serve in ministry.
Our ministry serves sexually broken adults, those who have mismanaged their sexuality in some way and are reaping the consequences of their sinful behaviors. Every person who reaches out to us got in the habit somewhere along the way of waiting until they were “in the back seat” before making decisions about the use of their sexuality. And, as my dad forewarned, they made poor choices in those moments. I can relate, since I spent 13 years of my life wandering to the back seat over and over again, promising to never do it again afterward, but somehow always finding my way back. It wasn’t until I was well into my recovery that I discovered (well, rediscovered) the truth about how (and when) good decisions are actually made.
Several years into my recovery I had a pretty significant relapse, one that nearly toppled our ministry before it ever got off the ground. (I have never shared this part of my story publicly, although I do share it as part of our intensive workshops and marriage retreats, to illustrate how important discipline is in recovery, and how susceptible we all are to temptation.) It happened when I agreed to counsel a wife whose husband was sexually addicted.
My initial hope in starting Be Broken Ministries was to help everyone affected in any way by sexual brokenness. And I foolishly believed I would be the one to help them all! So, anyone who picked up the phone, sent me an email, or walked through the door, I would help. This lack of boundaries led me incrementally toward the proverbial back seat.
As I began to counsel this woman, first every 3-4 weeks, and then on a weekly basis, my emotional boundaries began to crumble. Even though from the first moment she walked through the door I knew there could be potential temptation (she was very attractive and emotionally vulnerable), I convinced myself that my mission was to help everyone affected by sexual brokenness. Over the course of a few months, office visits led to phone calls and an emotionally unhealthy bond. Finally, and thankfully, the charade came to an end with the help of my wife and our board of directors. Praise the Lord no other boundaries were crossed. But my mishandling of that temptation jarred me into reality, a place where I knew my parents were right: no one makes wise decisions in the back seat. And resisting temptation is less about the moment of temptation than it is about already having a decision in place prior to the moment.
I took a 30-day leave of absence from my ministry work to humble myself before God, my wife, my board, my church. I needed recalibrating. I needed to make some solid choices before considering getting back out on the front lines of battle. As part of that relapse recovery time, I created our Standards for Irreproachable Conduct, which still stands today as the baseline by which we conduct our ministry. I have also never counseled a woman one-on-one since that time almost 10 years ago. As a result, today’s temptations are much less daunting and fearful because wise choices were made in the healing of those prior years.
In order to be prepared for temptation, we must be preparing for temptation. Too often we live our lives like the old guy with holes in his roof, who never does a thing about them on sunny days because, well, it’s sunny! But O how he wishes he had fixed those holes when the rain comes. Folks, rain will come. Every day. And before you leap into the back seat with the enemy who promises to shelter you from life’s storms but only seeks your destruction, look up and be thankful for the roof over your head, strong and secure from all the labor invested on the sunny days.
By wisdom a house is built,
and through understanding it is established;
through knowledge its rooms are filled
with rare and beautiful treasures.
May your life be filled with rare and beautiful treasures. Begin today by making some solid decisions for purity, ones that will help you stand strong against temptation and offer hope to others climbing out of the back seat.
If you are feeling unprepared for the storms of sexual temptation in your life, we can help.