CONQUERING STRONGHOLDS CHALLENGE 7
Raul, a friend of mine was struggling with an invitation to share his testimony before a group of other men from our church. The group wasn’t focused on any particular area of manhood, but was a regular, small gathering of guys who prayed over each other and liked to share meals afterward. Raul’s arrival into the group was because he’d had several affairs in the few years he and his wife had been married. But, now that it was his night to share testimony before the same group of warriors who had openly shared their struggles and triumphs, my friend had cold feet.
When it came to him, Raul offered a witness-lite account of a few struggles as a kid, and how God was the focus of his marriage. I knew the look on his face was more about his fear of transparency than whether he was actually living a bible-based marriage. A few months later his wife had left him because of yet another affair.
I’m not suggesting that had Raul opened up that night, his marriage would have been saved, but the truth is, transparency was his burden. He should’ve first come clean with his wife. There are many ways to be transparent, but most of us refuse to do so. It took an intense conversation before I realized that I did not have a right to privacy from my wife. The smartest thing I ever did for my marriage, and to ensure I never returned to the bondage of sexual sin, was to hand my cell phone over to her. I also gave her a list to all of my emails, social media and any accounts where there might have been information I once guarded to protect my secrets. It not only gave her the security she needed to begin the rebuilding of trust, but it allowed me to be transparent about my desire for freedom.
Warriors, failing to be transparent and open about your battle is exactly where the enemy wants us. We can try fighting in the shade, but we’ll only win in the light.
Are you open to meeting with a Christian counselor about your sexual bondage? If not, why not? Does it have anything to do with what we’ve already talked about regarding exposure, accountability or transparency?
Have you ever watched how a master bladesmith forges steel swords? It’s an incredible process. Like God’s light, a refiner fire is involved at nearly every step. So is the pounding and pressure to extract impurities and weaknesses, along with the cooling in quenches of water.
The way of a fool is right in his own eyes,
But a wise man is he who listens to counsel.
Christian counselors may help you along your journey. Like the craftsman, they are experienced in seeing what the polished final product can be. They are also experienced in spotting blemishes and working through a process for removing them so they don’t weaken the structure of the final product. I’ll tell you that I’ve never been a fan of going to see a shrink. In the early decades of my law enforcement career, we were told to suck it up. We did, and we as a cop culture ended up with crazy high rates of alcoholism, drug abuse and suicide just to mention a few issues.
As society began to better understand and appreciate the potential of sharing with a trained professional in a confidential setting, we began addressing those issues that ailed us.
My wife insisted that we work with a Christian marriage counselor after we talked about my bondage in sexual sin. While we both knew what was happening, neither of us knew why it was happening. I begrudgingly agreed to go for the sake of my marriage, but I immediately saw the benefits for revealing the why as well as the what.
Every skilled warrior goes through intensive training that not only builds their strength and ability, but also helps expose their weaknesses. A chain is only as strong as its weakest link. If it takes an unbiased third party to expose that weakness, then please consider participating. I allowed my ego and pride to stop me from getting the help I needed for years. When I consider the damage done to myself and those I love, not considering a Christian counselor was a costly error.
Also, there is a reason I continue to specify Christian counselors versus a secular one. You are fighting a supernatural battle, and one in which the devil is heavily invested. Only a believer will understand the realms within which you are warring. I cannot tell you how powerful it was to sit with our Christian counselor, and he allow the Holy Spirit to completely flip the script on whatever it was he’d originally intended to discuss. He was led by the Spirit of God, and spoke the words placed in his heart, not some checklist from a textbook. This is war, and God knows the value of a good counselor during those times.
For by wise guidance you will wage war, And in abundance of counselors there is victory.
21: Accountability Partner
We covered the topic of accountability a few days ago, but God placed this back on my heart. I want to again talk not only about accountability, but more specifically about partners in this walk toward freedom. Now is also a good time to answer a question I’ve been asked often. Can or should your wife be your accountability partner. No.
Many guys who struggle with pornography use online reporting software on all of their electronic devices. About 30% of men subscribed include their wife on their account so they’ll receive reports about restricted site accesses or time spent on the internet. Additionally, men need the bond with other men before opening up about not only what they have done, but what they are struggling with or currently doing. You will most likely not share everything with your wife when it comes to lust or temptation. Therefore, you’re doing you both a disservice. Lastly, continuing to hear your slip ups, fantasies or lust usually scrapes off the scabs that may still be trying to heal from the initial exposure to your sexual bondage.
If you are going to open up, and I mean really open up about your struggles with sexual bondage, then the person you ask to be your accountability partner is crucial. We’re about three-quarters of the way through this victory lap and we’re still talking about coming clean about sexual sin. It’s not an easy decision. I understand. It’s not even easy to be the man holding you accountable. I had a warrior reach out through Facebook to ask what was involved in serving as the mentor. We’ll call him Peter. He admitted a brother believer asked him to be his accountability partner, and Peter said he panicked and said no. Peter wasn’t wrong for feeling afraid, but he was wrong for not explaining the fears to his friend. He said the guilt of failing to be there for another warrior drove him into a state of shame, but his pride prevented him from going back to the warrior in need and offering to accept that role.
I share this as a reminder of how high the stakes are in this war. Not only are we on the front lines, but everyone back at the forward operating base is being affected too. So, here are some characteristics to look for and ask when you are making the commitment to an accountability partner:
1. Christian who is mature in their walk with Christ. Unless you’ve become grounded in your faith, it’s possible to focus on the sin instead of the sinner. Judging someone’s actions is not what you’re seeking in an accountability partner. Brothers who have been through the struggle are often quicker to understand your needs, but may want to avoid being re-exposed to the struggles of breaking free.
2. An encouraging brother helps reinforce what you are working to accomplish. They must be on your side and takes joy in your victories without giving false praise.
3. I know this isn’t common among many men, but your accountability partner should be compassionate toward your struggles. Having someone empathize with you, or who has actually been in your shoes goes a long way toward you building the bonds of trust and transparency.
4. Not everything about being an accountability partner is tender and emotional. We’re men after all, and it’s a good challenge that gets us amped up to meet it. I’m not suggesting a drill instructor, but hey, if that’s what you need to get it in gear, then snap to attention warrior.
5. We do best when offered factual critique of our behavior. It’s often a hard balance between this and being critical, but we often skip over the chatter and get to the point. Fact, just the facts.
6. Your journey back to becoming the warrior God called you to be isn’t going to be easy. It’s also going to get muddy. For example, your emotions, regrets, hatred and lusts can get raw. You might even threaten or belittle your accountability partner because they are seen as an obstacle between you and your fleshly desires. Your accountability partner must be able emotionally stable to avoid being hurt or lashing back out at you.
7. Objective distance is vital for the accountability partner. It’s best that your roommate or someone you see daily is not involved as you may both begin to feel cramped and reject not only the accountability partner relationship, but any other levels of friendship that may exist.
8. Your accountability partner must be able to see past who you currently are and into who you will become once your bonds have been broken. This means giving constructive feedback, understanding your potential for recovery and knowing when to let off the gas to give you a break when earned.
Your accountability partner is out there, warrior, now it’s up to you to open your heart to the idea, pray that the Holy Spirit introduces you to him, and make the courageous commitment to ask him to help you break free.