Hello! My name is Kyle, and I am a new creation in Christ. I’m recovering from apathy, angry outbursts, and hopelessness.
I have old friends that have never seen me angry. I am, generally, the least threatening guy you will ever meet. However, my anger can be easily provoked by my wife and kids. It’s not fair to them. Usually I regret it almost immediately, but sometimes I feel justified in my anger and I hold on to it longer. But even if it is something worth getting angry about or even something that I am right to be angry about, it does not mean that I am right for yelling at my family, that my kids deserve an over the top punishment, or that I put all the blame onto my wife.
Some of these are habits that I learned young. If I got a bad grade on my report card, I’d be grounded for 6 weeks. I won’t repeat the things my parents said to and about me when I was suspended from school for trying to sell fake drugs on campus. Life was black and white, right or wrong, truth or a lie, a success or a failure. If I didn’t agree with my parents, I was wrong; if I spoke something inaccurate, even out of ignorance or with good intentions, I was lying; and doing something short of all the way or incorrectly was as bad as not having done it at all, maybe even worse.
So I beat myself up as much as I could, and when I couldn’t take that anymore I chose not to care. Then, when I stopped caring about the present to avoid hurt from the past, I didn’t have much hope for the future.
I brought all that into my marriage. When I would hurt my wife, and didn’t know what else to do, I would check out mentally and emotionally. When she told me that she was pregnant with our third daughter, I got angry. We were not in a good place in our relationship, I did not want any more children, we rarely had been physically intimate that year and yet I still managed to get her pregnant… And then I found out that our unborn daughter probably wasn’t going to survive – about 99% of babies with Turner Syndrome do not. We lost Jaxlee two weeks before her scheduled delivery. I had screwed up during the first part of my wife’s pregnancy by being an absolute jerk. I tried my hardest in the second part of it to be a loving and supportive husband, but I had no idea what to do; and guilt for my initial reaction hung over me for years.
Eventually we tried out a marriage ministry at our church called Re-Engage. At the end of the program my wife was asked to be part of a pilot for a new discipleship program there. Thankfully they had room for another guy in the program too, and we both began re:generation. Even though I’d been a Christian since second or third grade, at that time in my life I wasn’t interested in the “things of God”. I knew it was wrong, I knew I should be interested. I can’t even say that I wanted to be interested though, I wanted to want to be interested. That’s where I was when I started my Regen journey.
I’ve been in church my whole life. I’ve been around godly men who readily said “I’m not perfect.”, but if asked how they sinned today, even a deer in a car dealership at night would be like “that dude looks surprised.”.
In Regeneration I found a group of men, in a church, who were more than just willing to acknowledge that they had a sin nature and had sinned sometime in the past, they were talking about what they had done that week! Not celebrating it, like Paul warns against at the beginning of Romans chapter 6, but being vulnerably honest about their current struggles. I was paired with two guys as recovery partners, one is still a friend of mine today. I had to learn to not just trust God for my salvation and the “daily bread” of my physical sustenance, but I had to trust Him in the moments that I thought I should be able to handle on my own. I don’t have to be “good enough”, and in fact I can’t be, but He is more than enough. So I was open about what “having a bad day” actually meant, the frustrations I was dealing with in my marriage, and just how much I had distanced myself from God.
It took me going through Regen twice to complete my inventory thoroughly. And that’s okay. There was a lot that I didn’t want to admit the first time… to myself or “out loud” to God even though He already knew it. The point of the inventory step isn’t to write down everything that’s ever happened to you. The point of the inventory step is to start processing what you have gone through or are going through, explore your reactions, and attempt to identify idols in your life. I knew that if I wrote something down I was going to have to do something about it, and there were some sins that I wanted to hold onto. My second time through I was less focused on solving a specific problem that I saw in my life, and more open to God showing me what patterns and behaviors I have that need to change.
I confessed everything I wrote down to my mentor. I also confessed everything that had to do with my wife and all of my sexual inventory to my wife. And I discussed most of the items with my recovery partner as well. But there were things I didn’t write down on that first inventory; in my second time through the program I did. While confessing to my wife about those darker secrets, I really saw how much I hurt her.
After confession I was able to repent. I was able to do more than just say I was sorry or be sorry about my actions. I was able to use the repentance plan guides in the book to create some spreadsheets, and at the suggestion of another leader I created flowcharts that help summarize them, and now I’ve added SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures) to help me to be thorough with my approaches to situations. Because of my repentance plans I am able to do two things: when I do sin I recognize it sooner, seek amends quicker, and don’t dwell in shame. And, even better, I’ve been able to identify triggers and signs that I’m heading down a bad path so that I can avoid sinful situations earlier. As CS Lewis puts it, “Progress means getting nearer to the place you want to be. And if you have taken a wrong turn, then to go forward does not get you any nearer.
If you are on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; and in that case the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive man.”. Step 6 is my favorite step of the program because it’s where I get to take some proactive action.
Through Regen and the community here at Faith Bible Church, a new passion for following Christ was ignited within me. The end result of repentance isn’t turning away from sin, but turning to Christ. 2 Timothy 2:22 says “Flee from youthful passions, and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.”. I need somewhere to go when I flee from sin. That somewhere is the Lord! Not only is God our strong refuge (Like it says in Psalm 18, Psalm 46, Psalm 91, Psalm… You know what? It’s in a lot of Psalms, check them out.); we are told by Jesus explicitly to “Come to [Him]…” in Matthew 11:28. For me to follow Christ, I had to care more about what was right than what I wanted, I had to care more about my family than myself; I had to find my satisfaction in Him, not my wife, or my kids, or my job.
Somewhere other than the Bible said “Sometimes the only payoff for having any faith is when it’s tested again and again every day.”, but the Bible says “Blessed is the one who endures trials, because when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.” (James 1:12). And, “No temptation has come upon you except what is common to humanity. But God is faithful; he will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to bear it. So then, my dear friends, flee from idolatry.” (1 Corinthians 10:13 & 14). And, where do I flee to when tempted? To God himself. I’ve learned that it isn’t bad to be tested, Jesus doesn’t always lead me around hardships; when they occur I need to follow Him though, and ultimately, out of them.
One of those tests of my faith is forgiving others. God commanded me to forgive everyone that had ever wronged me, and in the future to forgive everyone who would wrong me, and to maintain that state of forgiveness. There were no “just desserts” for me to relish, there was just me needing to trust God. I have to trust that He will take care of me. I have to trust His power, authority, and dominion over this world more than my own desire to “take care of it myself”. To think of the destruction that would be wrought if I got to right every perceived wrong in the way that I had thought best humbles me when I try to control people and rationalize retribution.
My first time through the amends process there were a few amends that I was afraid of, someone I owed money to, a grudge I’d held against a family member for years, and harm I’d caused to multiple family members when acting out sexually at a young age. Every single one of those went better than I imagined. My second time through, amends with my wife did not go so smoothly. This is when I tried to fully address my sins against her, specifically sexual sins. It has taken years of forgiving and seeking forgiveness, years of repenting and following repentance plans, years of following Christ different than I ever had before to repair the relationship and rebuild the trust that I had spent a decade destroying. My apathy, like the wind beating against a mountain, slowly wore down my relationship with my wife in ways that I could only see when looking back over time, while my angry outbursts blew chunks out of it like dynamite in a strip mining operation, and my hopelessness prevented any rebuilding or erosion prevention efforts.
I try now to keep very short accounts, and when I do something like lash out at my children, and my wife calls me out on it, more and more often my heart is receptive and I quickly seek forgiveness.
But now my marriage is in the most honest place it’s ever been. It isn’t always pleasant. It can be really frustrating to not be selfish; to do more than just acknowledge, and actually accept their struggles, and love them in those struggles. And I fail at that often, but it’s something I am continuing to strive to do. With my wife, with my kids – with everyone.
This means I have to go through all the steps all the time. Every day I have to Admit my shortcomings, Believe that God is good in all things, and Trust Him in both great and small matters. When I sin I need to examine those sins, even if I’m not writing them down on an Inventory right then, so that I can Confess that sin, Repent from it, and Follow Christ’s teachings, His example, and most importantly Him as a person worthy of all worship so that I will truly Forgive whoever wrongs me, and seek Amends where I have wronged those that God has blessed me with.
Only then can I really walk with Jesus intimately. In the “Voyage of the Dawn Treader” CS Lewis gives us a really cool allegory. There’s this kid, Eustace, who is just the worst. And on one of the islands they visit he gets greedy and puts on a piece of jewelry that he was not supposed to touch. It transforms him into this hideous monster, a dragon. His sin, which he walked into wantingly, has made him unrecognizable to his shipmates, and even family members. Upon this horrible realization, he wants to change, but he also wants this thing. And he decides it is not so bad, it may even be better this way. Just like I would feel justified in my anger, and resign myself to the lie that “this is just the way things are, there’s no changing that, and I’m okay with it”. But eventually the pain from this thing that he was never meant to carry, hurts him so much that he is willing to do anything to get it off, but he was unable to do it on his own. Aslan, the Jesus figure of the story, comes to his rescue, and rends Eustace’s flesh from his body – peeling away all the draconic tissue, leaving only what was supposed to be there in the first place. This boy now stands there, bloodied but relieved, feeling terrified and elated, both beaten and healed at the same time, ready to live life as a new creation that was only made possible by fully surrendering himself and being stripped to his core physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.
And that’s what intimacy is: really knowing someone. Seeing the depth of the sacrifice that God made when He died so that I could know Him. Seeing those scars from pains endured for me, and shuddering. Him seeing me, all of me, every mistake that I would make, every heinous act I would commit against Him, before I was even born, yet He pursued me.
Next month my wife and I will celebrate our 15 year anniversary. We met in second grade, and she knew then that we would get married, it just took me a little longer to realize it. God knew what He was doing when He made me – when He died, when He died for me. He chose to do all that, to enable and secure an intimate relationship with me, it just took me a little longer to realize it.
Because of my new life in Christ, I can’t help but carry God’s message of reconciliation to others and practice these biblical principles in every aspect of my life. So on that note, I want to encourage you with one specific thought: God knows you and died for you out of love, live for Him. Doing this program helps you do that.
My name is Kyle, I’m a new creation in Christ, and I am being given victories over apathy, angry outbursts, and hopelessness.