“We’re in the presence of a good story when the flaw that shatters shalom is also the doorway to redemption.” Dan Allender
“Come on, let’s go back to God.
He hurt us, but he’ll heal us.
He hit us hard,
but he’ll put us right again.” Hosea 6:1
The television’s high pitched hum got closer as I descended the basement staircase. The cooler air here offered comfort on this muggy Michigan summer day. I felt relieved on an otherwise apathetic Saturday afternoon. I turned the corner of the stairs to see my whole family in our “family room.” It was a rare occurrence for us all to be together in a room of our house other than the kitchen. The TV kept my brother and father from noticing me. My sister stood helping my mom with our new computer in the corner.
“Sam, do you know what this is about? All these pornographic websites keep popping up and I don’t know what’s going on.” My mother genuinely believed that something was wrong with the computer and innocently wanted my help. I gulped a big breath of air and said, “Yeah, I do know. I’ve been looking at them.”
My entire family looked at me with rapt attention. It seemed even the golfer my dad was watching on the television dropped his club and his jaw. I knew it would be a bomb to my family… at least I hoped it would be. The internet was new to us all but in a few short weeks I had already discovered the web version of crack cocaine. I was getting scared of my growing use of pornography and really wanted help.
But getting caught like this felt terrible. Excruciating really. I might as well have just walked naked on stage to a gasping and wide eyed packed arena. I promptly exited the room, double timed the hallway to make it to my bedroom, and crashed on my bed trying to get the thumping in my chest to stop. Now what happens? I thought.
A few minutes later my mom knocked on my door. Um, awkward. I said nothing as she came in. I was still paralyzed by the whole experience. She walked over and sat on the bed. The silence lingered. Then she broke it. “What if I call a counselor for you to meet with?” I nodded not even looking up, the shame too great to lift my head.
But it was grace. I was nineteen then and met with my counselor for two years. It changed my life. No, it saved my life, rescuing me from an engrossing depression and a very quickly descending darkness called pornography. And it instilled in me a love for counseling that later led me to pursue this craft as a profession. I shudder to think where I might have ended up had I not been caught in my darkness.
There is a gift in getting caught. Oh, it won’t feel like it. All those lies and all that hiding will come tumbling down like all kinds of wreckage with a thunderous kaboom. Your double life now so very clear, you will see the hearts of those you love break in front of you. And you will want to run. You will struggle to be honest through and through, trying to hold back the truth of it all even just a little, hoping to ease the pain.
But getting caught can save your sanity. It can let the double life you’ve been hiding for a long time come to an end. You won’t be a split personality any longer, two people coexisting inside your skin. There will finally be the chance of a true return to peace and wholeness and reality, something never even in the realm of possibility until the truth comes out.
This is true for the little things harbored in your heart as much as the earth shattering secrets. Last year I stopped returning a friends phone calls for a month. Oh, just busy, I told him in text messages when he asked what was wrong. Then he left a message and sternly acknowledged what I wanted to hide, that I was avoiding him. The truth came out that I was mad at him, hurt really. We met in person and had one of the most healing conversations of my life. All because I got caught in it.
And then of course there are the big things too. I sat with a couple a few years back, walking with them through the impact of the wife’s affair. She had rekindled a relationship with a high school boyfriend from years ago. They found each other on Facebook and the intrigue with what could have been was too much. Her husband saw a text message show up on her phone while it was sitting in the kitchen. And her cover was blown. The house of cards came crashing down.
Our sessions together were excruciating at times. His pain was deep. And it took everything in her not to run out of the room. I was often undone by his weeping. This kind of emotional vulnerability was especially new for her. She was forced to face her hidden heart and the story that got her there.
And oh was there ever a story. Her mother had been an alcoholic. A neighbor had sexually abused her. And it all came spilling out too. How could it not? It told the story of how she had become so willing to hide her heart from her husband.
At first of course, there was a threadbare hope at best of this marriage making it. All bets were off. They could only live 24 hours at a time with each other. And then there was the session where she broke, where she apologized for the affair and more so the years of hiding her heart from him. Over a number of weeks and into a few months, I began to see this woman soften immensely. Her deceptive pokerface came completely off. And she began courageously coming out of hiding and being vulnerable. It became rare for her not to be soft.
This couple made it. They now have a more passionate, connected marriage. And she has a fuller life and a freer heart. All because she got caught.
Getting caught is a fork in the road. There is no going back once you’ve been caught. You will change one way or another. You can choose to let it break you and change you. Or I suppose you could try to keep hiding, keep hardening your heart. I read the news last week of Jerry Sandusky’s sentencing. The man will spend the rest of his life in prison. And yet he continues to deny the truth. He has chosen insanity over reality and in so doing scorned the gift he’s been given. He could recover some of his humanity in jail if he just let the truth be true. Indeed, his worst prison is the delusion of his own making.
My sister is one of my heroes. You will like her too if you ever meet her. She is a beautiful woman through and through. She can calm a room with her inner peace in .8 seconds. And she’s fought tooth and nail for every bit of this peace. My sister just celebrated five years of sobriety this summer.
She told me a story that precipitated her rock bottom. One summer afternoon, she drove to a friends house. One hand kept the car going straight while the other pulled beers from a case in the back seat. Beer by beer they went down easy. Apparently her straight driving began to suffer a little bit. Or so the cop told her who finally puller her over. At this point though, she was in a pretty good mood So when the cop asked her step out of the car, she handed him her keys… and a beer.
Caught, oh so very caught. That being her second DUI, this landed her in jail for fourteen days. She spend these two weeks crying for several hours every one of those days. And she prayed. She found God. And though her sobriety did not start until a little while later, something had been started in her heart.
That something became her sobriety. She got her sanity back. And in many ways her very life. Can you hear it? That’s the gift again in getting caught.
Is there some double life you’re living? Have you been caught in it yet? Maybe you need to catch yourself and tell a friend. Why put off your sanity another day? You’ll thank me later.