Yes, you read that right.
There is a storm before the calm.
There is a storm before the calm with regard to our journey out of compulsive sexual behavior.
When you spend years cultivating a pattern of indulging your sexual appetites, during what has been — mostly, if not entirely — a hidden, double life, you have to weather a storm in order to get free.
You’ve made serious choices that bound you to darkness. You’ve lied to people. You’ve got to expect that things will get messy when they hit the fan.
This was true in my story. Everything came to light in a conversation one evening with my wife, and nothing was the same for nearly a year. Truthfully, nothing has been the same since, actually. It’s just that now we aren’t caught in a raging storm as we were then.
It was brutal and ugly. But it was the right path because it was a path that took me and my true self into the light. It was painful, but it was the right kind of pain.
In short, i was doing the right stuff to journey toward wholeness, freedom and purity, but the remedy felt worse than the disease.
Even for those who don’t hide to the extent that most men do, there is still no easy path out of that darkness. The path is real, and it’s absolutely available, but it is no stroll in the park.
Recently, at one of our Intentional Warriors gatherings, a brother was sharing his realization that the freedom he seeks will require something of him in his daily choices. Effort will be required if he is going to find the life he truly wants away from near-daily porn use.
The sober-mindedness that came over him that night was powerful. Some realities were falling into place.
There is a path, and that path takes you through the storm before the calm.
i think often of that phrase the late Dallas Willard used to say:
“Grace isn’t opposed to effort, it is opposed to earning.”
In other words, we should not be surprised that in the spiritual life, as we follow Jesus, we will need to exert ourselves in some measure to get the life He offers. It’s true, Jesus’ offer of eternal life is free, but He made it clear in the Gospels that he spoke in parables to his audience in order to create — as Eugene Peterson translates it in The Message — readiness among His listeners.
Jesus deliberately refrained from speaking in absolutely plain terms and chose stories instead because He wanted to capture the imaginations and the interests of those who heard Him. It was a way that Jesus drew people in and then left room for those people to take some degree of initiative.
It’s the effort part. There was nothing to be earned, but there was everything to pursue. And pursuit requires effort.
This is true for us generally, and it is true in specific ways for those of us who seek to walk to health and freedom from our sexual compulsions.
Without experiencing the Storm, namely, the disruption of either voluntarily coming clean or the agony of being exposed, we can never know the calm of a life that has tasted real freedom and is growing ever deeper in that freedom.
Without experiencing the Storm, namely, the hard work involved in practicing honesty; consistent counseling appointments; real accountability; and the journey deep into our wounds, we can never know the calm of a whole life in which we are no longer scheming to hide some part of ourselves.
Without experiencing the Storm, namely, the bold and brave walk into the chaos of our trauma and shame, we cannot know the calm of real rest.
Our lives are stories, and we all know the trajectory of the great stories. At some point in the story there is a crisis or conflict where things get dire. From there, the characters must walk through the mess, the fire, the Storm in order to reach a peaceful conclusion.
The stories of men on the journey to life and freedom from compulsive sexual behavior are like the great stories because, well, they are themselves great stories. They are connected to The Great Story that we are all invited into: the redemption of our lives and the restoration of all that is good, beautiful, and right.
There is a storm before the calm, and we all must walk through it.