Decisions, Decisions (2 Years Sober)

There comes a time in everyone’s lives where they have to make a decision. To pursue a promotion, to marry the girl, to hit the gym more, to find a new church, to invest more in family, to drink less, or maybe even…to stop looking at porn. Some decisions are easier than others, but nevertheless it is the man that has the courage to make the decision and see it through that is brave. Not the one that excuses himself from trying on the basis of habit, indifference, and lack of thought-out trajectory. For every man will be held accountable for the lives they have lived, even if they have not really lived at all.

Brave isn’t exactly an adjective that my friends would have used to describe me growing up. It’s probably not one many would use to describe me now, but perhaps that is because they don’t know my whole story. I’d argue I’m far braver than I’ve ever been (even though I still let out a yelp when I see a spider crossing the bedroom floor in our apartment while I’m stretching). Thanks to Brene Brown’s “The Gifts Of Imperfection” and “Daring Greatly”, Doug Weis’ “Steps To Freedom”, Steven Furtick’s “Unqualified”, Mark Batterson’s “Chase The Lion” and a community of men at my church committed to pursuing purity and excellence in all they do, I have found myself more vulnerable, known, and loved than I’ve ever been in my entire life. I admit when I’m scared. I call my wife when I’ve messed up. I openly cry on the phone with other men and seek the Lord in prayer for their redemption and for mine. I scheduled a meeting with a pastor I respect about pursuing a dream and found myself humbled. Is it a dream or is it a whim – is it the pure love for the process or the glamour of the end-result?

“Embrace the process,” they said as I entered a 12-Step program in the late Fall of 2016 to wage war against a battle that had ravaged my soul for probably as many years. 12 steps for the 12+ years that I’d allowed my heart, mind, soul, and body to be pillaged by the enemy. Allowing him to plant seeds of doubt and insecurity all throughout. I was worthless, a monster, mean, unlovable, ugly, needy – that’s what satan told me I was anyways. And I believed him. I believed him far more than I believed I was worth loving.

I hated the process. The process was hard. The flashbacks were painful. The spiritual warfare was uncomfortable and terrifying. I wanted freedom and the enemy didn’t want me to have it. He’d convince me to tell half-truths; that social-media like Snapchat and Instagram wasn’t “that bad” – that some stories were better left untold. The process taught me that all of this was untrue. Not only untrue but that it made things all the more painful. But it was also, just part of the process.

Addiction is such a painful thing. I have so much empathy for anyone else that’s ever struggled with a sex addiction, drug addiction, alcoholism, or whatever it is that you may struggle with. Mommy issues. Daddy issues. Insecurity issues. Money problems. Power struggles. These all sound like generalizations and lazy attempts to relate, but I just have so much love for anyone that struggles with anything.

Did I mention that I hated the process? I wanted to be free from the addiction – to stop searching for content that created the high I was looking for. I wanted to stop hiding behind humor and the escapism of other things. Looking back on my struggles, I see where I struggled the most was ownership and the lie that I was always a victim. “I’m impulsive and a creature of habit” I told myself, so somehow that made it “okay” if I slipped up every now and then.

I remember two “turning-points” throughout my experience with addiction-recovery. One came when I had to confess my social-media relapse to my wife. I’d been following accounts I should’t have been for reasons that I knew were wrong. Owning this mistake and recognizing that some restrictions (like deleting Instagram/Snapchat) were healthy for my development. I no longer look at them as a punishment for wrongs done but more like wearing my seat-belt every day when I’m driving – it’s just safer that way. The other turning point was the completion of Steps 4 (Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves) and Step 5 (Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human-being the exact nature of our wrongs). Up to that point in my life I don’t think I’d ever been more honest with myself. It is so easy to see the mistakes other people make and ridicule them but it is far harder to hold yourself to a similar standard. Even more difficult when you allow yourself to remember the wrongs you’ve committed and instead of hiding them away or numbing the pain with a drink or a movie, you write them down on paper to ask God for forgiveness and to share them with someone else. The man I chose to share my Step 5 with quickly become a member of my inner-circle. I trust him, I love him, I respect him; that level of vulnerability and strength gave birth to a friendship I’m very thankful for.

It was around the point that the friendship blossomed and that I admitted to myself and to Jesus just how much I needed Jesus to change my heart and my life that everything changed. I told my wife everything – even the “not-that-bad” social-media stuff. I deleted the accounts (or started wearing my seat-belt every day, so to speak). And I decided to walk in integrity and truth the rest of the days of my life. I’m honest to a fault. So honest it hurts; but I’m my whole self, all the time, and I’m no longer hiding my heart behind a screen. No longer suffocating under the weight of “being found out”- no longer living in the constant, continuous fear of satan’s whisper.

I am known and loved. I am faithful and supported. I am uniquely gifted and outrageously normal in the same breath. I am humbled and observant. Ready and cautious.

I am also just days away from 2 years of sobriety, by God’s immense power and grace.

I am more alive than I ever was; freer than I ever thought I was while “living in freedom” to the whims of the flesh.

I am truly free. All because I decided; to do something, to go somewhere, to talk to the friend, to ask for help.

We will all face the day where we need to make a decision. Will you have the courage? Will you be brave enough to make it? I’m praying it’ll be a little easier for you, because I was brave enough to tell you I had to do it too.



What Everyone (And No One) Is Talking About – Guest Writer

It’s been a while since I’ve written anything. This week my wife was feeling a stirring in her heart to share some of her own thoughts on issues that we are both passionate about. I’m super proud of her boldness and ability to articulate from an honest, compassionate, heartfelt standpoint on a controversial issue that continues to be such a joked-about, casual, pop-culture reference. Maybe we aren’t the ideal problem-solvers, but perhaps her and I can get the conversation started. Without further delay, I introduce you to my beautiful bride, Allie Meyer, and her writing in the form of a guest-blog post.

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then what’s a video worth? Video is pictures frame-by-frame that flash by so fast, they appear they’re actually moving. So, does that make a video worth ten thousand words or even a million words? Sometimes I wonder if it’s worth nothing at all. When the things that you’re seeing and watching can cause you to stumble, is it worth it?

There is a topic that has been looming around in my head lately and it’s a topic that simultaneously is both never talked about and always talked about is pornography. It’s a topic that people freely joke about with friends or is alluded to on the radio but yet also is kept in secret and like a skeleton in our closets. I suppose it’s also a topic that rarely gets any air time with parents talking to their children or people reaching out to ask for help when they feel like they’re trapped in it or it’s consuming them.

I grew up in a Christian home, but I also went to a public high school. I of course had the uncomfortable “birds and bees” talk at home and the “how to not get STD’s” talk at school. But a topic that wasn’t ever discussed in either of those was porn and the complications that it can add to your life. The stress it can add to your relationships. The shame, depression, and anxiety it causes to your overall well-being, and not to mention, the isolation it will eventually produce.

Now let me set this straight: I’ve honestly never struggled with any of these things nor have I ever sought out any type of pornographic content. I have however, been subjected to Hollywood’s decision to include some kind of sexual content in every movie. That’s not necessarily porn, but in the end, was it necessary? (This is a whole other post, but a good point nonetheless.) I digress…

So needless to say, porn wasn’t something that ever crossed my mind. It wasn’t until someone close to me opened up about their addiction to it and their struggles that I ever really understood what it was. Here it is – a billion-dollar industry in our world, and I literally had little idea it existed or what it even consisted of. In the moment I played it off as though I knew what they were talking about, but deep down I felt so naïve and like this was a foreign place they were talking about. Unfortunately, it’s something that I’ve gathered more knowledge about and learned why this addiction is so rampant in our world. It’s rampant because it’s so readily accessible by literally anyone. Think about how easy it is to search things on YouTube, or how hashtags have changed the way you browse social media. Teenagers can have unlimited access to content that they shouldn’t with just a click of a button. This causes there to be millions and millions of people out there consumed by lust and this addiction, but likely there are also millions who are naïve like I was.

Why is that?

I think it all goes back to awareness. It never was mentioned growing up. Not at home, school, church, etc. All of my friends could have been struggling with it for that matter and I could have never known. I think that we, as not just Christian people, not just one political party, not as one gender; we just as people need to talk and do something about it. What that something is I don’t know, but we can’t continue to allow people to fall into this trap of lies and loneliness.  How can we as humans rally together to create awareness and support those who are struggling, those who are directly affected by it, and those who haven’t been exposed but can be spared the turmoil and heartache?

I believe that personally my heart is drawn to those who are just bystanders. The people who are spouses of addicts. The people whose relationships are fragile because their partner used to struggle with it. The kids who might learn what porn is from some jokes shared at school and never hear what terrible things that this new addiction could lead to. I feel led to find ways to be a listening ear to those who feel they can’t trust their spouse as well as be an advocate for those who might not know what problems it can cause until they’re in deep.

I often pray for those struggling and ask God why can’t he do something about it. But I feel like God is asking me “What can you do about it?”. So here I sit, not a writer of any sort asking you to help me find ways to bring attention to a topic that has been in the dark for far too long and how to bring it into the light. With the dark being such a lonely place, the only way out is through relationships and Jesus. We ALL have to be vulnerable if we ever want to beat this thing head on. When we bring things into the light others can be praying and guiding you. Let’s unite together to leave those movies worth no words in the darkness, and bring all people into the light.


Faith Takes Action: An Expectant Church

I’m a man of many words, but am I man of action? Do my words deliver the passionate lifestyle that my passionate speech and writing would encourage and inspire in others? That’s a loaded question, isn’t it? Have you cross-examined yourself in such a manner recently? It’s hard.

We do not usually enjoy having our motives questioned, nor do we quite appreciate being critiqued. Hasn’t it always been said that “we are our harshest critics”? I think it’s true. But, I also think that many times I’ll critique the living Hell out of myself and then just sit there, in my own personal Hell. “Yep, I’m overweight. And yes, I’ve been a bit too lazy and undisciplined.” And then what? I sulk. I sit there in my own disgust. And I feel sorry for myself.

Problem solved, right? Obviously not. The problem still exists and I’ve done absolutely nothing to confront it, other than admit it’s there and then let self-inflicted wounds immobilize me, while satan takes advantage of a man down for the count, due to his own blows.

As a society, we tend to have a way of bringing problems to the surface through cynicism, humor, and other means. We may order one drink too many and then comment, “Guess I’m an alcoholic,” looking for a few laughs, rather than thinking for a moment, and realizing that we may actually be on our way down that path. Someone laughed, so it can’t be that bad, right? I can put off fixing  that issue for a while, then, right? Once again, “obviously not”. It should be addressed, whether it is a spiraling-out-of-control physical relationship, an unquenchable desire for alcohol, substance-abuse, or any other concoction of demise.

Faith takes action. I can sing, “Let Your name be lifted higher”, all day long, but ultimately, if my actions do not lift Him higher, do I really mean that? If His name is lifted Higher and if He is a God of hope and healing, then shouldn’t I have hope and shouldn’t I seek healing? The pastor last night said, “If God is not a God of hope and healing, then what are we all doing here?” Think about that for a moment. If He does not have the power to heal, to redeem, to restore, then why do we gather?

So let’s say for a moment that you’re teenager that has recently become addicted to pornography. Your beliefs dictate that you believe in a God of restoration and so do your social-media updates, as you post the latest Bible study notes, and tweet things like, “God is good.” But do your actions dictate that He can restore you? Have you sought healing and restoration? Have you brought that sinful hindrance into the light and asked for the breaking of chains, so that you may be free? Do you walk in freedom, or do you walk in shame? I pray, today, that you would walk in freedom.

Are you seeing my point?

If you speak of freedom, do you walk freely?

If you speak of hope, are you hopeful?

If you speak of submission to God, do you live under spiritual-authority, or avoid it at all costs?

If fellowship is necessary, have you dived into community, or remained in isolation?

Our actions reveal our truest intentions. Think about that for a moment. You and I could say all day long that we want to be the best basketball player, but if we’re kickin’ it on the sofa all night, eating potato-chips, and avoiding exercise, do we really intend to become the best basketball player? In the same way, we can say, “I want to honor God in this relationship (or in this job, friendship, ‘season of life’)”, but our actions will reveal our true intentions. Are we following God, or following the lure of the satisfaction of our desires? If we wanted to be the basketball player, we’d train harder than anyone out there. If we want to surrender our [everything] to God, then we’d seek Him continually, for [everything].

At this point, I will assume that you are all on-board. “Justin, yes, let’s take action! Let’s back up our encouraging words with encouraging actions and lifestyles.”

Now, what do we expect? Do we expect God to actually work all things out for our betterment?

If you study the Old Testament church and the church in Acts, you will find at least one thing in common with them. They BELIEVED. They prayed for provision and then wrote checks they could not cash, based upon their belief that God would come through. Men were threatened with a fiery-furnace, being torn limb-by-limb by the mouth of a lion, and the entire Egyptian army, yet they did not falter, as they BELIEVED God would save them. People gathered in homes, praying and believing, despite the potential for secret-police to discover their meetings and bring them before a ‘court’, that could ultimately lead to their hanging. Why? Because they were expectant of God’s deliverance and wanted to see the Holy Spirit move themselves and others to faith. They were desperate for His glory to be revealed. They believed.

Do we believe? Are we expectant?

The prayers of an expectant church would change the world. Sure, there’d still be opposition. But, think of your church, right now. It’s already doing great things: praying with strangers, meeting the needs of the poor, healing broken hearts through counseling, and the like. But, is your current church expectant? Take your church, then multiply its’ effectiveness by infinity, as God’s resources and reach are in incomprehensible–that would be the result of the prayers of an expectant church–a church that takes actions, then expects God-sized results. 

In conclusion, faith takes action and is expectant. It does not live in defeat; it does not profess truth and then live in lies. If our churches, bible-studies, life-groups, and personal lives reflected God-sized faith, Christ-like character, and the prayers of disciples that believed–revival and times of refreshing would uncontrollably break out–the enemy would be dismantled and dismayed. I want that. Do you?


First Love

I can still remember the day I laid eyes on You

My heart skipped a beat as I knew you were True.

With a spirit of tender love, and selflessness

Opposing Your captivating beauty, I was helpless.

Whenever in Your arms I found rest.

Through borrowed strength; I could withstand any test.

With eyes on You, I could climb any mountain

Our relationship grew deeper than any well or fountain…

I can still remember the day I left You

Wouldn’t admit it, but on came ‘the blues’

Depression lingered despite numerous views

Thought pleasures of this world could amuse…

I drank and drank the world’s Kool-Aid 

Made me happy for a minute but was only a band-aid

That delayed the reality of deep, hurting pain

Dry and desolate in need of cleansing rain.

I can still remember the day I returned

Ashamed and eyes filled with tears; they burned

Thought certainly I had lost You for good

Instead you proposed to me with arms wide-open; hands nailed on wood.

“Welcome to my family, child, you’re the Church, my Bride

It’s time to lift your veil; you no longer need to hide…”

You see, I’m loved; bruises and all

And I’m lifted up, every time I fall

Not a single need that can’t be met

As a fisher of men; He fills my net.

The purpose of my life has been revealed

And my scars are continually healed

It’s so great to be refocused on things above;

Christ, the King of Kings, is and forever will be, my first love.