Anonymous asked (edited):
Hi J.S. Park, I’m a recovering sex addict and porn viewer. I’m a female. I gave my life to Jesus and started in a 6 year relationship with a brother from church that resulted into engagement. In a state of emotional uncertainty and mental vulnerability, I allowed one of his groomsmen to emotionally/sexually prey on me; I consented. I entered into a sexual relationship for 7 months and just got out of it. What’s worse, with this other fellow, we taught Sunday school, he’s my brother’s spiritual mentor and leads a small group. We stopped this sin and he has since not spoken to me out of anger, but he continues to continue to invest himself and is not remorseful. I’ve come out to others but I know I have created a wave of destruction in my church. The shame and guilt are eating at me. What should I do? Please help.
My dear beloved friend:
I’m really so sorry about everything. There will be some choices in life that have irreversible consequences, and it will feel impossible to move forward. You’ll try so hard to pick up the pieces and go back to how it used to be: but I think you’re learning this might never happen.
Many of us respond in different ways to shattered situations, such as:
– Binge-eating, binge-drinking, binge-shopping, binge-sex, binge-everything.
– Packing up and changing cities.
– Leaving the church for good.
– Depression, isolation, constant regret, and suicidal behavior.
– Emotional paralysis, shut-down, and antisocial tendencies.
– Aggression, violence, bitterness, and resentment — especially at God.
– Choosing to do whatever you want to do, because you feel you’re now “damaged goods.”
I know things are really screwed up and you’ll be tempted to do any of the above: but my dear friend, none of these things have to be your story. I completely understand the trapped feeling of being among others who constantly remind you of what happened, but even if things fall apart, it doesn’t mean you have to. In the worst of times, you can still choose to do the best you can, however imperfectly.
Maybe you’ve heard this before, but really: you can only get bitter or better. You are heading for a breakdown or breakthrough. It’s really okay to feel you’re not okay, but I don’t think it’s okay to stay there. It’s awesome that you’re honest and you’re allowed to feel what you feel, but let that push you towards growth instead of regression.
In fact: your situation is more reason to grow, and not less.
In case you think this is just pretty pep talk, I’ve really heard it all. I’ve spoken with people that have similar stories:
– My friend cheated on his wife with a married woman, and they all have kids. One of them is a Sunday school teacher.
– Another friend has been raped by at least two guys in the area, and they all still hang out like nothing happened. They all attend church.
– Another friend was sexually molested as a child by a pastor who leads a church here.
– A youth pastor was recently discovered to have slept with almost every female teenager in his youth group.
– In my early days before I was a pastor, I slept with one of the members of the praise team. I say this with deep shame and horror, and it only became worse from there.
In nearly all these situations, I’ve been able to see how the events unfolded. And for the most part, many of them chose to continue messing it up, even after they were forgiven and shown grace.
In this very moment, even if your entire church were to embrace you again: you still have your story ahead of you. You still decide who you’re going to be from here on out. And amidst the broken pieces, you can still be whole.
I don’t have the silver bullet to fix up your specific circumstance. I can only encourage you to be patient, be humble, be loving, and don’t look back. You don’t need to do that perfectly, either. People will judge you regardless, because they’re people. Don’t let that change you for the worse.
I would hope that your church realizes you don’t need more guilt than you’re already feeling and that the consequences themselves are enough. Even if not, you don’t have to constantly hang your head in church. Don’t worry about compensating to “win back” friendships. Once you’ve apologized, you don’t need to keep apologizing. Don’t be pressured into a guilt-driven humility.
And hey: you don’t have to protect anyone like this. Tell the leaders about who is preying on others so they can enforce discipline. It’s not cool that you were victimized, but you’re also not a victim. If you were leading this church, you’d certainly want to know if this was happening. Tell the right people and don’t be afraid to take action for justice.
I must also add: God absolutely loves you and He’s crazy about you no matter what. In our rock-bottom moments of ill consequences, it’s easy to think that God’s response towards us is disappointment or frustration. But God sent His Son exactly for this very reason — to draw you near Him in spite of yourself. Don’t ever let self-pity get in the way of this; don’t ever feel you have to pay off your guilt with self-inflicted punishment. God did the work for you already. He preempted your failures and saw your sin coming a mile away, but He loved you anyway. He will not time-warp His Son off the cross. He says in Jeremiah 31:3, “I have loved you with an everlasting love.”
I know it feels like you’re walking in a fog you created. and there will be some tough days ahead, but God is with you in this struggle to the very end. Pace yourself and don’t rush the healing process and have grace for you, too. If you mess it up again, get back up. God is there to cheer you on and restore you for next time. There’s no such thing as “too late” with God. When your church or your family or the whole world will not give you a second chance, God is the God of infinite chances. His grace is that big. Continue to stumble after Him.
Please don’t let the weight of your consequences say anything less about you as a person, because God continually has grace for you in the middle of the mess. Love you and praying for you, dear friend.