Continued from Part 2.
When I was in high school, my dad joined a small sex cult. He tried to pressure my mother into joining. That was the breaking point and they were divorced during my senior year.
Shortly after I graduated, the cult moved to Las Vegas and my dad and his new cult wife went with them. A few months later, I went to visit him. The cult had a large house and many of the members were living there. I was unaware of the real purpose of the cult. I believed their propaganda about the religious purposes they espoused, things like following psychics like Jeane Dixon and Edgar Cayce.
I didn’t know anything about their sexual perversions or practices. My visit had one goal: I wanted to talk my dad out of the cult. I did so discretely, only talking to him in private.
After a couple of days, he brought me a message from the leaders: they had decided to kill me. Instead of considering my attempts to talk him out of the cult, he had been betraying my words and actions to the leadership. In essence, he was willing to trade my life for sex. They said they’d let me live if I promised to leave and never say anything about them to anybody.
I have since learned that they had the means to do what they said. They had a stockpile of weapons, automatic rifles, grenades, and pipe bombs.
The leader had convinced his followers that the “Feds” were going to come after them and they needed to be ready to defend themselves, even to the death. (Sound familiar? Remember David Koresh and the Branch Davidian horror in Waco, TX in April, 1993? 76 men, women and children died in the fire that ended the standoff between authorities and Koresh and his followers.)
Many years later, I confronted my dad about that specific incident in the cult. He freely admitted that he had betrayed me to the leaders: I asked, “Did you actually betray my words to the leaders?” He responded, “Obviously!” and chuckled.
He was also confident they would have carried out the threat. I asked him if they would really have killed me. Smiling, he said, “Oh, yes! They were very dangerous people.”
He thought it was funny.
He didn’t think about the fact that he was just as dangerous, that they were only dangerous to me because of his treachery.
I can’t even begin to name the price I’ve paid or the losses I’ve suffered for what those various people did to me. It’s been 60 years since I was first sexually abused. And it still causes problems.
My healing began in 1991 at a men’s retreat. During one service, we were offered the opportunity to have time with a pastor in prayer—three pastors on the stage separated for privacy. I didn’t know it, but God had chosen that moment to rip me open—to begin dealing with the pain I had firmly closed off for so long.
If you had asked me about the sexual abuse prior to that weekend and the circumstances were just right, I might have told you. I was “stronger” and more confident in my denial. I completely believed that had been no long-term consequences. I was doing fine. I was an active Christian, a leader and teacher.
I decided to ask the pastor to pray that I could accept my wife’s love freely.
For reasons I didn’t understand, I knew she loved me but I didn’t believe it. I had to forcibly hang onto it—keep telling myself that it was real.
Sitting on a folding chair facing him, I told him of my request. He asked if there was anything else. I heard my mouth say, “Well, I was sexually abused as a child.” I hadn’t planned on saying that. He didn’t seem react to that. He just started to pray.
I don’t have any memory of his prayer or how long it lasted. The moment he started to pray, my body exploded—pain beyond anything I’ve ever experienced.
I went away. It was utterly black. No sound. No time. No physical presence.
I had no body or voice or idea where I was. I had no sense of being in a “place” at all. It was simply an emptiness.
I decided I had died and wondered what was next. I tried to imagine what “dead” looked like but couldn’t make up my mind. After a while, I heard a screeching sound in the distance. It was getting nearer. I didn’t want to meet this “thing” whatever it was; but I had no way of escaping.
When it came right up to me, I woke up. I was the “thing” making the noise.
I was curled up in a ball on the floor and there were several men kneeling around me laying hands on me and praying.
I was completely undone. I couldn’t walk or even stand up. When I was quiet again, one of the men raised me to my feet, gave me a hug and passed me on to the next man in the chain that had formed. The last man was next to a pew and I collapsed there in a state of anoesis—a state of “pure sensation with little or no cognitive content.” It was, perhaps, the closest I’ve come to that elusive Shalom.
I gradually became aware of my interior landscape. The first thing I realized was that I felt CLEAN. For the first time in my 43 years, I felt clean. It was amazing beyond anything I can communicate. There was an immense holy awe about it. I reveled in that utterly new experience.
Next I realized that it was quiet inside. I didn’t know I lived with so much internal noise until it was gone.
God let me soak in that for a little while then began showing me the reality of the damage I’d experienced. “This is why you think that.” “That is why you act that way.” There was so much information I had to start journaling to keep from losing what He was showing me.
Journaling has been my primary healing tool. I found no books on male survivors. I read several other books for women on sexual abuse before I found Dan Allender’s book, The Wounded Heart. He really understood. It almost felt like he’d been watching all along and knew how my heart had reacted.
The first counselor I went to had no idea what to do with me. I actually gave him a copy of Dr. Allender’s book. I’ve seen four or five counselors over the years, mostly when I got stuck in my healing.
There were a few memorable moments in those various counseling sessions where God opened up truth, exposing lies I’d believed, memories I’d hidden away—times where I came close to the sort of pain and illumination I’d experienced on that retreat weekend.
Even then, it’s only been in the last four years that I’ve begun to understand the severity of what I experienced. Experienced Journey Group trainers told me they were “blown away” or “overwhelmed” by my story. At a week-long counselling session in Michigan in 2012, Dan Allender told me mine was one of the worst stories he’d heard.
I continue to heal. And I am amazed that God has used my life, my story, to bring healing to others. It is an incomparable privilege to see that first glimmer of hope in a woman’s eyes as she listens and begins to believe there is healing for her, to see a man begin to tell his story for the first time as he starts to believe it is safe to speak of the evil out loud. I wouldn’t trade those moments for anything.
It is only by God’s intervention and a wife that understands and has stood by me that my marriage is intact and thriving. We celebrate 45 years in February.
It is a privilege to tell my story to the new advocates and help give them tools they will need to give hope to another survivor—to equip them in some small way to undo the work of the Evil One. Sometimes, it moves one of them to begin their own healing journey.
Because of the things those people did to me, there is a man who started working in Ecuador, at first to bring steady and dependable power to HCJB World Radio, broadcasting 240 hours each day of Gospel programming in many different languages around the world. They even have excess power they can sell to the government. Now my friend and his wife are building Christian schools in villages in the high Andes Mountains. It is a delight to be part of his healing.
God gave me the unwanted “gift” of having experienced such things. I embrace that gift with all my heart knowing the great good He has brought from it. I understand what it meant for the king in the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant to forgive that servant’s debt. The King personally paid that 10,000 talent debt, that 200,000 years’ wages debt. In forgiving, he took that price on himself.
I have accepted the losses visited upon me and my body without my permission. Not one of the abusers could repay or undo the damage. God Himself cannot undo the past. I’ve lost so very much and it is my loss to sustain, mine alone. God can redeem it and He is. But He cannot restore my childhood. There is more pain to come in my healing journey. I have more to do. But I am willing to pay the price to find the Shalom that God intends me to live.
Remember my prayer request that retreat weekend—the one about being able to accept my wife’s love freely? This healing journey is God’s answer to that prayer.
I offer my story in the hope that others will know that there is no experience—things we’ve done or things done to us—that can keep them from freedom and purity and wholeness.