recovery in Christ when life is broken

If You Knew My Secret, Would You Even Like Me?

 

As I sat in church in 1997 reflecting on the events that brought me to this point in life, no one would have believed the pain I was feeling on the inside. I sat lost in my emotions. Many didn’t understand the cold feelings sent my way by my wife, even though we enjoyed fellowship with a few other couples in the congregation. I was experiencing success on the job, moving up in my organization with new and exciting opportunities coming in regular intervals. We lived in a beautiful house located in a recognizable community. Our children appeared to be flourishing. I was being groomed to be the next president of our congregation, while leading small groups of Christians who respected me. I enjoyed an active lifestyle in the local golfing community. We took family vacations to the beach each year. Growing up in a violent and addiction ridden home, I was often told that I beat the odds. I considered myself a survivor...All of this, because I kept secrets!

Everyone only knew the public me, not the “behind closed doors” person. That person was very insecure and afraid.

I met my wife during a period of time which I had been free from the demons in my closet. I thought I had beat them in 1995 when we married. Free for over a year, I was living a healthy and focused life. We met through a dating service, and hit it off from the start. Dating only 3 months before tying the knot, we both felt we knew what we were looking for, and found it. Thank God for his grace!

About a year into the marriage, things weren’t as rosy as I had hoped. My wife’s two daughters didn’t take to me as I had imagined they would, pressure at work had placed demands on our time, and I felt a distance from her that scared me. I turned to pornography as comfort, this was my secret. When she caught me, the pain was way more than I anticipated. I had deceived her, and hurt her more than I ever thought possible.

My wife was willing to stay with me, even though we were just existing. There was a cloud hanging over me that I couldn’t get relief from. I was addicted to pornography, and now she knew my secret.

Soon after, we moved to Tennessee and found a church. After taking the membership class, they suggested we get into a small group. This was the last thing I wanted to do! I had kept my secret for years, and had no intentions of bringing it out of the closet. We continued to struggle, just existing as husband and wife. I thought it would only be painful for us to bring it back up. Well…really, I didn’t want to cause ME any pain, because I was rebuilding my image in a new place. And, I couldn’t bear to see the hurt that I had caused in her eyes again. But, she wanted to join the group, so I agreed.

Though I kept my secret from this group, I met a mentor who would disciple me for the next 5 years. What a blessing! He had a heart for people like me—a Christian, who didn’t know how to have a relationship with God. Through his guidance, I was able to lead some church groups. Because of my service, I was asked to be part of a team that would bring recovery to our church. Our pastor asked if I could go with him to Dallas to meet the leadership team for re:generation.

I was in wonder from the moment I met the people from re:generation. Their freedom from the same addictions that bound me up was intoxicating. While there, I was asked twice “Why are you here?” or “Why are you passionate about helping others?”. I answered with very broad and unrevealing answers—still guarding my secret. But, I left knowing that God loves me in spite of what I had done, that sin would not define me if I chose to be honest and turn from it. For the first time, I felt that freedom was possible.

In 2014, we launched re:generation at our church. In a last-minute schedule change, I became the speaker on our first night. I was afraid as I prepared my testimony, but I wanted that freedom more than I wanted to guard my secrets. No one (including my mentor) knew all the sin that was about to come out. I wasn’t sure if the church would even want me around. The enemy had convinced me that if people really knew who I was, they wouldn’t want anything to do with me. With about 100 people in the room, most of them leaders in our church, I shared my story authentically for the first time.

To my surprise, when I finished, I was met by the pastor with a big hug. For the first time, I was truly free, and still didn’t realize just how free for some time after.

It brings tears to my eyes when I look back on my journey since that night. I’ve continued to share my story weekly for the last three years with our newcomers to re:generation at our church. I’ve even shared it from the stage on Sunday in front of 1500 people. For me, it is still difficult, but each time I share is just as freeing as the first time. God has used my testimony to open so many doors to help others know that through Christ they can be fully known, loved, and free from the pain of the past. I can’t imagine keeping God’s work in my life a secret ever again. He uses my mess as His message of freedom.

Galatians 5:1 says, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by the yoke of slavery.”

I had a secret that kept me enslaved…now, I know true freedom in Christ.

 

- Rich Riesz, Director of Care and Recovery, Grace Fellowship Church, Johnson City, TN

Why Should I Share a Secret Sin?

 

From the time I was eighteen years old it took root. As the days passed it grew. I held secret a sin, believing that no one would understand. Early in my life, I didn’t know Christ and most of my friends didn’t know Him either. When I shared a struggle—which was rare—I was told to get over it, move on, you’re crazy, you got mental issues, or come on man!

Though I had accepted Jesus Christ as Lord of my life, I was still isolating. The longer I isolated, the tighter the enemy gripped.


“But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ.” (2 Corinthians 11:3)

 

I would share bits and pieces of my struggle of insecurities with others, but not all of it. The real truth was buried away deep inside.

 

“Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.” (Proverbs 28:13)

 

Isolated and insecure, I devalued myself by comparing myself to my own perceptions of others. This greatly affected my relationships. When I dated a woman, I wanted to know about her past boyfriends: how they looked, their careers, their ages, etc. I needed to stack up. I needed to be better. This rabbit hole led me to dark places of sexual insecurity. I would imagine my girlfriends with men of their pasts. Pornography acted as gasoline fueling this fire, searing false images, jealous thoughts, and crazy ideas into my head.

I believed I could fight this battle myself, that my insecurity would eventually disappear—but it didn’t. Two years into my relationship with Christ, I was still keeping secrets. I knew Jesus was calling me to live in the light (to expose sin), but I was afraid to reveal the real me (John 3:20). I wanted to maintain an image, so I concealed my sin and shame, like Adam in the garden trying to hide behind shrubs. But who can hide from God’s sight? I was wasting away.

 

“For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away, through my groaning all day long. For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer.” (Psalm 32:3)

 

When I began re:generation. I told myself, “I will be open, but not with this struggle. I’m taking this to the grave.” I told God, “You can’t have this one. I won’t confess this sin, this embarrassment.” But God continued to press me until my secret sin became a burden too great to bear. One evening, I finally confessed to my re:generation group. I confessed the exact nature of my sin (Step 5). I didn’t just give them a nugget. I gave them all of it. In that moment, the weight of the sin lifted.

 

“Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” (James 5:16)

 

I was met with love, care, kindness, and understanding. I proceeded to confess to other Christians and my mentor. Finally, I was fully known and loved. I was free from the burden of sin and shame.

 

“If we say we have fellowship with Him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.” (1 John 1:6-7)

 

To this day, secret sin and insecurity no longer control me. Now, I experience freedom by living in the light with other Christians. God showed me that His grace is enough for all of my sin. The fact that Christ chose me and died for my sin, defines me more than any sin. When I fully trust in the work of the cross, I am secure to be known in my weakness, and the power of Christ rests upon me.

 

“…therefore, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)

 

- James R.

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recovery in Christ when life is broken.