The reason I share this story is to give hope and encouragement to those who have gone through terrible circumstances of abuse and exploitation. I originally posted this in August 2013.
My childhood was spent in the Tangelwood neighborhood of Carlsbad, CA. It’s one of those condo complexes with strips of attached homes backed by alley ways. My alley was Via Cascada, I’ll never forget it. On Via Cascada I had the normal gamut of friends. We played baseball in the large grass areas, and we rode bikes around the neighborhood for hours on end. I’ll never forget the countless days spent swimming in the pool and jumping off the pool supply house into the deep end. Those were good times. Normal times for a young child as far as anyone knew.
One day I met my neighbor across the alley, Richard. He was an old man, probably in his 60’s, who worked with wood and had a garage full of tools. I met him through a friend who would make cool rubber stamps in his garage. He would supply neighborhood kids with tools and teach us how to make things like wooden cars, rubber stamps, dressers, and wooden desks. I spent many days in his workshop. My mom knew him, heck, all the parents knew him. He was nice, and his garage was only 20ft from mine. All the kids would get drinks from his fridge and hang out in the workshop for hours. Then it happened.
After working in the garage he invited me inside, offered me a drink, and asked if I wanted to watch something. I sat down on his couch as he popped in a vhs and made his way to a recliner. I had seen dirty magazines before. You have to remember that I grew up before the internet so there was no widespread access to pornography. I had seen tattered strips of playboys and topless call girl number ads, but I wasn’t prepared for what happened. The vhs was porn, and this old man was watching it in front of me. He asked me if I knew one of the neighborhood girls. I acknowledged that I did, and then he told me she would regularly come over to his house and they touched each other. He asked if it was ok to touch himself. He did. I sat there, not knowing what to do. I was 9.
If I could go to any point in my life, it would be this point. I would hit Richard, grab up my younger self and tell myself it will be ok, and then call the cops. I’ve never wished anyone dead in my entire life except for Richard.
[Writing down this story is harder than I thought I would be.]
I can’t go back in time. I can’t stop what happened, or what may have happened to many other kids after me. I can’t change the tailspin of life challenges that would come from this moment. I can’t go back and tell the girl that Richard is an abuser and a pervert.
Richard didn’t touch me that day. He just sat in front of me pant-less with porn playing in the background while he recounted stories of rape and molestation. He made them sound normal. I was paralyzed with confusion. I never saw those kids the same, the ones from the stories. To hear the grotesque stories and see their faces the next day was… confusing. I never said a word. I couldn’t verbally say it out loud until I was in my twenties.
I began searching for porn shortly after. Always desiring it. Wanting to discover. This tailspin ruined my view of sexuality and stained my experience with one sexual encounter after another. In my teen years the world caught up with me and most my peers pursued sex. None of my friends knew that my addiction began at age 9 when I was trying to resolve the encounter with Richard. My porn addiction continued for years. I was broken.
In 1998, Jesus saved me and brought me into God’s loving arms. I found peace, forgiveness, love, and Christian virtue. What I didn’t find was any freedom from broken sexuality. Images were constantly before me. I twisted God’s word and made sex out to be intercourse-only so I could “not have sex” with my Christian girlfriends. Broken.
I began to find healing from shameful brokenness through great friends, God’s word, and this book. At first I felt like I couldn’t share my story because Richard didn’t touch me, but at the same time, I felt dirty and shameful for never telling anyone. I finally told a couple close friends through a pseudo-masked story, “One time… this one guy… it was weird…” I couldn’t get it all out.
God has brought me along a path of restoration. I have been freed from the enslavement to porn [another article for another day], but I still struggle in a hundred areas. When I think of the atrocity I cling to passages like Romans 8:28, and then seconds later think, “what the heck? That sucked.” Then I remember the countless times this story has fueled good within me. Like the times it has caused me to stand up for the weak, lost, and broken students in my ministries. Or the times I have related to dozens of people on a “dark night of the soul” level, and then walk alongside them toward the healing and hope found in Jesus.
Now, I’ve shared this story, or pieces of it, over the past six years. My wife will be the first to tell you that I am still broken. I have three kids now, and you haven’t met a crazier parent. I don’t let men watch my kids alone. No men, not even family. Ask how that went down with my in-laws, brutal. It took me four years to let a non-family member watch my kids. When I see men near where I drop off my kids for childcare, like Sunday school, I still catch myself praying Psalm 69, “God if they harm my kids let them be blotted out from the book of the living… uhh, I mean, protect my kids and watch over them today.” I know that’s not super pastoral, I’m praying through it. I was 9.
Obviously, I’m still taking steps. It took 25 years to write this down, but I’m here. God loves me and saved me through Jesus’ death on the cross. Sin is broken. The power of past sin is broken. The captive call from past sin to my present life is broken. Jesus won. It’s not a cliche, it’s good news about what has been done.
Have you been abused? Have you been shattered? Was your sexuality ripped into shreds? There is hope. Restoration from sexual abuse can be a long and dark road, but there is hope. Jesus cared then, and he cares now. I don’t always get it, but I can trust his goodness because I’ve seen it play out a thousand times. Do you need someone to talk to? I’m here. Just send me a note or leave a comment below. I’ll pray. Do you need encouragement? I’m here. Just send me a note and I’ll send one right back.
Share this story if you know someone who needs it. I wrote it because I needed it 15 years ago when God saved me, but it wasn’t written.
Originally posted August 2013