I was in St. Charles, Illinois at a men's sexuality retreat, offered by an organization called The Crucible Project. I was introduced to TCP seven years ago. With fear and trepidation, on the recommendation of my counselor, I traveled to Texas to attend a Crucible retreat. As I look back on my life, there are only a handful of experiences that I would classify as life-changing. That Crucible weekend is one. In those three days I found freedom I had never before experienced--freedom to be real, to be honest about my brokenness, and to love myself as God loves me.
I long for others to experience that same freedom. That's why I lead Finding Father's Love retreats. That's why I wrote my book, When Father is a Bad Word. That's why I'm writing this blog. That's why I have become a part of The Crucible Project staff.
We all carry wounds of one kind or another. They are the inevitable results of living in a broken world. What we need are places to go where we can openly identify and find healing for those wounds.
One would think that the safest place to be honest about our sins, our struggles, our fears, our failures would be God's church. Yet for many--especially those who wrestle with issues that are sexual in nature-- church is the least safe place.
In many of our churches, the topic of sex is taboo--verboden (forbidden) as my stern-faced Dutch ancestors would say. It is not to be talked about, joked about, dreamed about, or thought about. It's as if the moment Adam and Eve covered their naughty bits after sinning in the garden, sex became the source of sanctified shame.
When clergy do broach the subject of sex, most of them are not using modifiers like beautiful, wonderful, pleasurable, and gift from God. Instead, they attach to sex adjectives like lustful, sinful, abominable, and shameful. Rather than speak of the positive spiritual benefits of sex they focus instead on the grisly results of violating God's commands on the subject. You could get an STD. You could go blind. You could have body parts fall off. You could lose your marriage, your family, your reputation. You could get kicked out of the church. And, worst of all, you will experience God's judgment. And not the kind of judgment that is given to those who commit "lesser" sins like lying or stealing or killing dozens of people in a murderous rampage. But the kind of judgment reserved only for those whose sins are sexual in nature.
This hellfire and damnation approach to the topic of sexuality will never lead to a decrease in sexual sin. It will only serve to drive those who struggle with it deeper into their shame and often, deeper into their sin. And the number of those who struggle with sexual issues is rising exponentially.
With the internet fueling the fire, sexual sin is burning out of control in our world. Rape, sex trafficking, sexual assaults, sexual misconduct, and sexual abuse are all on the rise. The statistics are even more frightening when we consider that only a fraction of these offenses are made public.
Perhaps the most common sexual sin that still remains secret today is the use of pornography. According to SafeFamilies.org, in a typical month, 70 percent of men under the age 35 look at porn. While some may be shocked by that statistic, all it tells me is that approximately 30 percent of men under the age of 35 also have a problem with lying.
The struggle, as they say, is real. Men--even men in the church--are battling the demons of porn addiction, same sex attraction, compulsive masturbation, the fear of intimacy, the trauma of childhood abuse. And because shame has built a wall around their hearts, most are keeping their issues to themselves.
In a world where God's beautiful, wonderful, pleasurable gift has been twisted and distorted, not only by a Godless culture but by God-fearing Christians, we need places where we can talk about our sexuality openly and honestly. For me, Crucible weekends are that place.
The Crucible Project provides a sanctuary where men can learn about sex as God intended it to be. A place where men--young and old--can dare to share the truth about their sexual struggles without fear of judgment. A place where the bonds of sexual sin can be broken; where the oppressive cloud of shame can once and for all be lifted. A place where God's grace embraces every soul, no matter how sordid our past.
The result of these weekends in the woods? More and more men are walking with integrity. They are owning their sinful behaviors. They are finding healing for their sexual wounds. They are learning what it means to treat their wives and themselves with respect. They are openly teaching their children that sex is a beautiful, wonderful, pleasurable gift from God. They are basking in the freedom that comes from being fearlessly and completely intimate with a Father who knows everything about them and loves them anyway.