It was early this morning, before the sun began to shine, and the faint light from my husband’s desk lamp shone into our bedroom. I saw him there, studying the Word of God. A sight I love to wake up to. As I lay there, our son (2 years old) sat up and started to crawl out of bed. He had been sick last night so we let him sleep with us so we could keep an eye on him. I told him, “Samuel, lay down.” And he looked at me with his big, sweet brown eyes and said, “I want to talk to Daddy.” So he got down and waddled over to where Gavin was reading. I couldn’t hear what he was saying over the whirl of our bedroom fan, but I could see my husband looking into his eyes and listening intently. I assumed he would just say good morning and send him back to bed. As I looked on quietly, I saw something that filled my heart with unspeakable joy…
Gavin reached down, scooped Samuel up in his arms, and embraced him. For what seemed like forever. He just held him, rocking in his office chair, nuzzling against our boy’s head that was laid gently on his shoulder. Every few minutes Samuel would pop his head up, point to a picture or a book, and Gavin would explain who or what it was. Then Samuel would lie back down and snuggle some more. Gavin never took his eyes off him. Never put him down so he could get back to work. He reveled in the moment of affection and tenderness with his son. And as I watched, I realized that these are the moments that will teach Samuel to be the man God created him to be. Not teaching him how to play baseball or change a tire or tie a tie. Sure those things are important in a practical sense. But Gavin is teaching our son something that will impact his life and the life of his own wife and children in a much more dynamic way. He’s teaching our son the value of tenderness, affection, physical touch, and intimacy.
So many men who have been ensnared by sexual sin suffer from a dysfunction of intimacy-- emotionally, physically, and spiritually-- and most of them have been deeply wounded by their father in some way. Whether from physical, emotional, or sexual abuse, lack of affection, being distant and silent or absent, or being a sex addict themselves, fathers leave scars on their sons (and daughters) that sometimes seem too much to bear. Fathers often mold their sons into men who feel like failures, inadequate, incapable and ashamed of showing emotion or fear, lazy or unable to take risks, indecisive, power-hungry, angry, controlling, unable to cope, or turning to addictive behaviors. Each man responds to his woundedness in a different way, but the result is always the same. A broken man who has a broken marriage and who eventually raises broken children of his own. It’s a vicious and sad cycle. This is why so many men who struggle with sexual addiction have fathers and grandfathers and great grandfathers who also lived a life of immorality and infidelity. Generation after generation is affected by sin and a warped perception of love and intimacy. Godly masculinity—the heart God created for man-- is cheapened and mangled into something unrecognizable.
In John Eldredge’s book Wild at Heart: Discovering the Secret of a Man’s Soul, he describes that men, created in the image of our God who is wild at heart, desire three things… a battle to fight, an adventure to live, and a beauty to rescue. But so often, because of their brokenness, men feel unable to attempt or follow-through with one or all of these life desires. “You see, even though the desires are there for a battle to fight, an adventure to live, and a beauty to rescue, even though our boyhood dreams once were filled with those things, we don’t think we’re up to it. Why don’t men play the man? Why don’t they offer their strength to a world desperately in need of it? For two simple reasons: We doubt very much that we have any real strength to offer, and we’re pretty certain that if we did offer what we have it wouldn’t be enough. Something has gone wrong and we know it.” Eldredge makes the argument that because of Adam (who failed humanity by doing absolutely nothing as the Serpent tempted Eve… “he didn’t risk, he didn’t fight, he didn’t rescue Eve”) and because of each man’s wounds, generations of men carry in their hearts Adam’s failure and repeat his sins. Daily. It’s a sad reality that there are very few men in this world who are nurtured and loved by their fathers and raised to be image bearers of Christ. This chain has to be broken.
When it comes to pornography (which my husband was addicted to for 16 years) wives always ask “Why?!” Why is it that pornography has such an addictive effect on my husband? And because we take sexual sin personally, we often assume that it’s all about boobs and butts and orgasms (which do play a large enough role in the grand scheme of things). But the truth is, pornography somehow brings validation and a false sense of intimacy and masculinity to the man who has been living through his woundedness. It’s very difficult for wives to understand, but Eldredge explains it like this, “… the deeper reason is because that seductive beauty reaches down inside and touches your desperate hunger for validation as a man you didn’t even know you had, touches you like nothing else most men have ever experienced. …it is mythological. Look at the lengths men will go to find the golden-haired woman. They have fought duels over her beauty, they have fought wars. You see, every man remembers Eve. We are haunted by her. And somehow we believe that if we could find her, get her back, then we’d also recover with her our own lost masculinity.”
My husband has often tried to help me better understand this aspect of his addiction. Gavin’s father wasn’t abusive, he was distant. And when he had interactions with his father, they were plagued with disappointment and a general lack of affirmation and affection. Gavin can literally name the few times he felt affirmed in his life, none of which were by his dad. His perception of intimacy was warped by his father’s blatant immorality and he learned at a young age that women were objects, something to find selfish pleasure in. He grew up feeling inadequate, never good enough. Not only that, but he learned that there was no point in putting forth effort or making a commitment because no one would appreciate it, or worse, he’d fail. But looking at pornography, starting at the young age of eleven, something inside Gavin changed. When he saw the beautiful women on the computer screen, enjoying what was being done to them, he found comfort in their eyes. He looked into their faces and imagined that he was the one making them feel good. He told me that their expressions would say “…just watch. You don’t have to do anything. There is no commitment. You don’t even have to know my name. And at the end, you’ll feel good about yourself. You don’t have to have what it takes. You don’t have to prove yourself. You don’t have to commit. No expectations.” Somehow looking at pornography gave Gavin a false validation as a man, and it never made him feel inadequate or like he wasn’t good enough. After all, masturbation always ends the same way. It was something he could control and make happen. But the truth is, after it was all over, he felt anguished. It wasn’t real. It was back to reality, a world filled with expectations. Filled with real people with real needs. Filled with people who were seeking comfort, love, and validation… from him. His wife and children who desperately needed something from him that he felt unable to give. And it became a relentless cycle that tormented him for years.
Gavin has spent the last 15 months working through his wounds and learning what it means to be a real man. A man that God created to bear the image of Christ. But it hasn’t been easy and there are still bumps in the road. He still struggles when he sees disappointment in his father’s face. He still struggles when he doesn’t have the close relationship he longs for with his dad. And I can see in his eyes, when he looks at our son, how he desperately wants to keep Samuel from ever feeling this kind of pain. He wants to teach him, nurture him, love him, affirm him, be affectionate with him, and help him become the man God created him to be… This morning after Samuel got down off Gavin’s lap because he wanted to go “watch a bad guy movie” (which means Spiderman defeating the bad guy—see, a battle to fight already!), I got up and hugged my husband. I told him how I’d watched him interact with our son and how honored I am that he is the father of our children. I told him how blessed Samuel is to have a dad who is teaching him the value of affection and intimacy. And Gavin just hugged me tight and said, “I want him to be a better man than I am.”
Walking in Freedom,
Tags: wounds ""john eldredge"" ""wild at heart"" healing
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