Harbor family, it is very difficult for me to stand up here, because of how heavy it is for me to look out and see God’s undeserved love through so many of you all to me. Many of you may not know the backstory as to why it is crazy that I am even before you today. What I share may be too blunt at times and more than you want to know, but I know no other way to sing the praises of my Savior right now. Why has God permitted me to remain alive in the midst of my own great darkness and ruin? First, I have to share what life has been like this last year, not to gain your sympathy, but I hope so you will see there is no other explanation of how I am before you but for Christ.
“For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself.”
“Fear not O Zion; let not your hands grow weak. The LORD your God is in your midst a Mighty One who will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness; He will quiet you by His love; He will exult over you with loud signing.”
“Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her. And there I will give her her vineyards and make the Valley of Achor a door of hope.”
“But as for me, I will look to the LORD; I will wait for the God of my salvation; my God will hear me. Rejoice not over me, O my enemy; when I fall, I shall rise; when I sit in darkness, the Lord will be a light to me. I will bear the indignation of the Lord because I have sinned against Him, until He pleads my cause and executes judgement for me. He will bring me out to the light; I shall look upon His vindication.”
“I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek your servant, for I do not forget your commandments”
This is where I have been for almost two years and it has been my longest and darkest valley with my Jesus. Some of this is due to significant loss in my life, much of it due to my current vocation, and all of this complicated with an addiction to pornography. For over a decade it has been the drug I have used to dull much of the excruciating pain of this life. After graduation from college, the loss of precious life didn’t stop with people I loved immensely, and as I moved to a new geography with heavy work responsibilities, where I knew few people and few people knew me, my ability to deal with life’s difficulties in a healthy manner became severely diminished. I don’t say this as an excuse but as an honest reflection on where I was in my life with Christ. It truly sucked. All sin poisons our hearts and robs us of our faith in Jesus’ promises, but I believe sexual sin is very different in the deep way it insidiously perverts the Gospel and distorts the way we see the very person of Jesus.
I have had two brutal bouts with work in the last year that has been overwhelmingly intense. In God’s perfect knowledge of me, He knew I needed a second and more treacherous valley this year to be more intense and exhausting than the first so that I would see and love Him again. If you don’t know me, I am an extremely stubborn man, but thanks be to God in Christ Jesus that His will is FAR stronger than mine! Starting in January of this year, my workplace started 80-100 hour work weeks that continued for months on end with what seemed like no end in sight. It is hard to explain, but with the constancy of work, it was almost impossible for me to detach my mind from the stresses and anxieties of work. I began to resent work and wrongly allowed anger to well up against many of my coworkers as it seemed to be tearing me from my church, which was really my only family and reminder of the real hope I had in my Jesus. I had no control over my work schedule which had me feel and start to believe I was stuck on this carousel of unending work and trying to escape that reality by filling my mind with something more dark and destructive.
Three weeks prior to God breaking through my darkness, we were working until midnight and I had to get up and leave for work again at 4 in the morning. Doing this 5 days a week was beyond unhealthy but it was what I needed to finally start to wake again. I remember talking to Mike Forrest around this time and just saying that I was utterly exhausted with running from God. How could He ever love me again? I had ruined and wasted so much. About a week and a half before God woke me up, I had several experiences of near serious car accidents because of how difficult it was to get home without falling asleep at the wheel. To be honest, I did not deserve in any way to make it through this, I thought death was a more just verdict at the time. BUT My God kept me alive. My parents, extended family, and numerous friends did not cease to pray for me and listen to me as I remained stuck in this cycle of insanity.
Finally it was the end of June and it was crazy because I got my first weekend off in over 4 months. It truly felt so weird. I had this longing to go the mountains, as it seemed the only way I could separate myself from my work and possibly start to clear my head and my heart to see and love Christ again. I had hiked to this overlook and sat down where I could see everything around me. It was totally quiet and terrifyingly beautiful. This was the first time in over 6 months that I was this “alone” but realized I wasn’t alone at all. I couldn’t have been more surrounded and loved by my Heavenly Father. It was here that my Father just said over and over “you are Mine, I love you, I am with you, you are never alone, you can never be alone, for I have pledged myself to you in love and I will not let you go. You cannot run and ruin beyond the reach of my Son’s blood. For He has already covered you, and you are totally clean, and with you I am well pleased.”
God began to flood my mind with distinct memories of how He has been with me and how He has been loving me…those late nights Mike Forrest would hang with me on his deck to talk , my best friend Jordan picking up the phone at 1 in the morning to listen to my failures and remind of the truth of Jesus, the lunches that I had with Chad where I was a broken record in my frustrations and sin, breakfast with Bill McCurine where he would patiently listen and give counsel and pray, the church in El Cajon that loved me like their own when I couldn’t come to Harbor Sunday mornings for months, my Mom who showed love every time I talked to her on the phone…no judgement, just compassion, my Dad who would text me Scripture at the right time, or the weekend God flew in one of my closest brothers to San Diego just at the time I was the end of my rope, Candace who would faithfully remind that God was doing something in all of this, and Isaac and Jake hearing me and praying over me when I was too tired and discouraged to talk to God…I truly could keep going on as God just keeps reminding me and saying, I am with you always son and I love you so much. And so it was here on this mountain that God flooded his light and joy into my heart again where I couldn’t run from Him or avoid his face any longer.
In one way I have no idea what God is doing in me. He is just graciously putting Himself in front of me and I am tasting and seeing again that He is SO good. It’s not that my appetite for pornography disappeared, or that God turned off some kind of switch (like I would often ask) but I think more so that God has just made himself so much sweeter and better and beautiful, that He is the greatest thing I desire. Life is literally new folks. Everything is fresh from the clouds on watercolor like skies, to the tears I have now been able to shed for sadness I never grieved, to making my own food for the first time in 5 months, to the wild sounds of little kids on Sunday mornings, to the new joy in my relationships with those around me, God is doing such an immense work in me and around me. I have never felt so overwhelmed by His goodness that it truly feels like it is too much. It is as if the weight of His grace is crushing me.
Thank you Harbor for loving me when there is nothing in me that deserves your love. I want so much for you to know that our Jesus loves us to the utmost and is with us in all our darkness. He will not stop coming after us whether we see, acknowledge, or want it. King of Kings is tattooed on his thigh and his banner is waving over us saying “You are Delivered.” His will is that our joy would be full in Him, and He will accomplish this in us since He has started it. He will not lose anyone entrusted to Him by the Father, and He is coming back soon for us. I want to close with this dope song from a band that has breathed new life into many ancient hymns and hope it will open an honest dialogue between you and our God and just be an immense blessing:
He heard my cries,
He bowed his ear and chased my griefs away
O let my heart no more despair
while I have breath to pray
I love The Lord He chased my griefs away
Despair no more and use this breath to pray
My ﬂesh declined, my spirits fell and I drew near the dead
Return my soul to God thy rest for thou hast known known His love
My God I cried thy servant save
Thy power can rescue me from the grave
My God hath saved my soul from death and dried my falling tears
Now to His praise I'll spend my breath and my remaining years.