The Refuge of a Residential Program
I remember when the bottom dropped out like it was yesterday. I had been in the Pure Life Ministries Residential Program for about 4 months, and although I can't remember exactly what prompted me to pray, the prayer itself is still crystal clear. While standing on one of the prayer trails that stretch around the rural Kentucky campus, I said, "Lord, everything I have believed up to this point is worthless. Please teach me the truth."
That may sound like a strange prayer to the casual reader, but it came from the fact that despite growing up in the church, holding various ministry positions, and being seen as generally a nice guy, I was stuck in habitual sexual sin. My "beliefs" did not have the power to deliver me, and I knew it.
The prayer was sincere, and I have to admit that I was pretty proud of myself for praying such a courageous prayer. What I was not prepared for was the answer.
I assumed that God would "zap" me, and in a Solomon-like experience, I would receive some kind of superior wisdom and knowledge. Instead, the lights went out. I went into a spiritual tailspin. For months, I couldn't tell up from down. When I read the Bible, I couldn’t understand it any better than if I was reading it in Greek or Hebrew. Prayer was incredibly painful, because I realized I had no real relationship with the Being I was praying to. Sometimes I wasn't even sure what I should call Him.
Looking back on the episode, I realize that far from God abandoning me, He was coming closer to me than I had ever experienced. The ten trillion candlepower spotlight of His Holy Spirit pierced the darkness around my heart and showed me what I was actually like. The sight was devastating.
Why do I share this story? My point is that it was vital for me to have a safe place to go through the painful process of conviction, revelation, repentance, faith and restoration. I had soaked in the cesspool of pornography and sexual immorality for years, and I needed plenty of time and space to soak in God's presence. And I needed a place that created a natural barrier between me and my sources of temptation. How can a man ever recover from food poisoning if he continues to eat the food that is poisoning him in the first place?
It is never pleasant when God helps a man overthrow the idol of sexual addiction, because He does it through discipline. God's discipline in a sexual addict's life is absolutely needed, and it's indescribably worthwhile, but it's incredibly painful. I honestly question, if when faced with the reality of the fight ahead of me, if I would have had the strength to withstand the onslaught of one-click sex that every man faces during the course of normal American life. It would have been too easy to simply go back to pornography in order to medicate myself from the pain.
But the months during the Residential Program were like safe haven for me. When I felt like God's conviction was too much for me, and I despaired of ever finding mercy, I had a counselor who encouraged me and prayed for me. When I was overwhelmed with sexual urges, I had dozens of fellow students who were going through the same thing. We rallied together during those times. After a difficult day at work, I came home to prayer groups, spiritual videos, or wonderful worship services. No matter what time of day or night, I had plenty of space to run after Christ and learn to put my faith in Him, maybe for the first time in my life.
The book of Hosea provides a beautiful description of God's process of winning someone back from their idols. God pours out His heart to Hosea and laments that Judah has gone after other lovers. So He devises a plan. He says that He will hedge up her way with thorns and build a wall around her so that she cannot find her paths. This will stop her from being able to find her former lovers. He knows that in the pain of her isolation she will say, "I will go and return to my first husband, for it was better for me then than now."
The Lord later says that it is His intention to "allure her into the wilderness and speak tenderly to her." This mirrors my experience in the Residential Program. My life became a wilderness, hedged up and hemmed in by the presence of Almighty God. He had many difficult things to say to me, and I will thank Him forever that He chose to do it while I was in the safety of the Residential Program. He won my heart by His faithfulness, and He continues to win it more year by year.
Nate Danser is the Director of Ministry Outreach at Pure Life Ministries. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in History from Messiah College in Mechanicsburg, PA. He has served in our Media Department since he came on board in 2009. Nate is very passionate in his desire to see young people come into a real life with God.
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