Sometimes Daddies Fall
I remember the look on Karry’s face as we walked along the beach back in the summer of 1995. It was a look of hurt and betrayal. What was most disturbing was knowing that I had been the one to cause that look on her face. Our little boy, Ian, was just three years old. We were walking along the rocky beach, and the little guy kept tripping over the rocks. I picked him up and put him on my shoulders. Karry, in a reflexive way, said, “Be careful, don’t fall.” “Mommy, daddies, don’t fall,” said Ian. At that point, my heart was utterly broken. “Yes, Ian,” I said. “Sometimes, daddies do fall.”
I need to go back to when I was nine years old. This time was when it all started. My family lived in Pennsylvania in a little farm town called Mainville. My father was an active alcoholic and had a penchant for belittling me and making me feel as small and weak. It was at that time that he discovered some old Playboy magazines that he had bought. He gave them to me and told me I should enjoy them.
In 6th grade, I went through a most traumatic experience. I was the kid in school that everyone picked on. I was beaten up on a routine basis, rejected by all the kids, and was rejected by my father at home. But I found comfort. No, it wasn’t the comfort of a loving God. It wasn’t the comfort of a family. It was the false comfort of the magazines my father gave me.
My obsession with pornography grew as I grew. Even though I transferred to a Christian school, I kept up my obsession, stealing magazines from newsstands or from my friend’s fathers who had magazines. Sure I heard the Gospel at the school, but it wasn’t a Gospel of love and forgiveness. It was a gospel of guilt, legalism, and shame. The more I heard what they preached, the more I felt ashamed and low. The more my father, and now my sister, tormented me at home, the more I retreated to the only thing I knew that would give me comfort, the magazines.
Skipping ahead to 1980, I was in 8th grade. We had moved to Clinton, a small college town in upstate New York. There I abandoned all restraints of Christianity. I took up playing the guitar and hung out with fellow musician friends. Pot and alcohol were regular items at our jam sessions. But something kept tugging at me. Something was drawing me to church. Even though I never went, I wondered what I was missing. This behavior continued until the spring of 1981.
In the spring of 1981, a friend of mine invited me to a youth meeting. He told me some really pretty girls went. I thought that he had a good idea, so we went. It tuned out to be a Campus Life Youth For Christ group. Yuck! Not Christians again! But there was something different about these folks. They cared about kids. They accepted kids for who they were and where they were. They knew the lifestyle I was involved in, but they loved me regardless. Most importantly, they told me that God loved me.
In July of that year, the YFC group took a trip to Ocean City, New Jersey. It was during this time that I heard for the first time how there was a God who loved me, how he sent down His Son to die for my sins – to take my place, how my heart ached at this. I couldn’t give my life to God! He would just betray me like everyone else in my life. But something (I now know to be the Holy Spirit) kept tugging at me. On the last night, a call was given to all those who wanted to receive Jesus as their Savior. I was crying uncontrollably, but I would not go forward. Late that night, I was still crying. It was on July 1st. A friend of mine, who knew that I played guitar, had me listen to a song by a brilliant Christian guitar player, Phil Keaggy. The song he played was called Rejoice. The chorus to the song went:
All the Angels in Heaven above
Rejoice when there’s a soul saved
All true saints of Jesus Christ
Rejoice when there’s a soul saved
My heart was finally melted. I gave my life to Christ. Even though I was raised to mistrust everyone and everything, I knew that God would never betray me. Also though my family were not believers and ridiculed my faith, I knew that God would always accept and love me for who I was.
Through High School, I grew in my faith. The YFC group discipled me in the Word and the Faith. I graduated and went to Gordon College. In the second week of college, I met this wonderful girl from Franklin, New Hampshire. Karry turned out to be the love of my life. We dated all through college.
In the spring of 1987, I was finishing up a co-op experience and looking to graduate the next year. However, I began to notice that I was waking up in the middle of the night in cold sweats. I was frequently tired and fatigued. I also had developed this lump on the left side of my neck. I went to the doctor’s, had a biopsy of the lump, and received the diagnosis – Hodgkin’s disease, a form of lymphoma. Cancer. I went through surgery and six months of radiation treatments. Sure, I was scared, but I was young, and death wasn’t something that I considered.
I made it through the treatments and married Karry in June of 1988. In September of 1990, I started Nursing School. Through the two full-time semesters at Nursing School, I was working 32 hours 3rd shift at Beverly Hospital. It was an exhausting pace. By the spring of 1991, I was utterly burnt out and looking forward to a summer of just work.
Karry and I were taking a walk along Good Harbor Beach when she said to me:
“Gregg, I think we need to think about becoming parents.”
“Sure, Karry. After I finish school, we can…”
“No, I think in 9 months, we need to think about becoming parents!”
Wow! We were going to be parents! It was a time of rejoicing – but there was one thing that kept us from truly rejoicing. A lump had formed in my neck again. 2 weeks after we found out that Karry was pregnant, we found out that the Hodgkin’s disease was back. This time I would go through chemotherapy. Last time, cancer was surreal, scary, but surreal. This time I was angry. I was bitter. Here I was, a father to be, in the middle of school, and God was going to hand me this! God had finally done what I thought he would never do. God had done to me what my father, the Christian School, my sister, and my peers in 6th grade had done to me. God had rejected me and had betrayed me.
This despair started a three year downward spiral of self-abuse, anger, and bitterness. At the center of all of this was my old friend. A friend whom I had not abandoned, even though I had become a believer. A friend who followed me through college and into my marriage. My friend pornography. I went headlong into it. I went through cycles of indulging, feeling guilty, purging, feeling better, and then starting all over again.
Years earlier, I had joined the Catholic Church. The reason for this, I thought, was theological. But in actuality, it was because I could not grasp the concept of Grace. I was indulging the pornography and then feeling guilty. I couldn’t believe that God would just forgive me. I didn’t even consider that God would heal me because that would involve admitting it. I had to do things for God to accept me. I had to go through rituals and liturgy, and then God would forgive me.
But now that God had finally rejected me, I was free to embrace pornography with a new passion. Yes, I got through cancer. My son was born, I graduated from nursing school and got my RN, but I was still enraged at God. To compound the anger, when I graduated from nursing school, the only full-time nursing job I could find was in a nursing home. This nursing home was very poorly run, and it was one of the hardest jobs I ever had. I was miserable, I hated it, and My anger and addiction to pornography deepened.
In the spring of 1995, I started a new Nursing job in a drug and alcohol detoxification center. I loved this job. I felt like it was finally something I could do well. During this time, I was in a purge part of my cycle. I was starting to hear about Promise Keepers and the call to integrity. I thought that this was pretty cool, so I bought a new Bible and started to try to memorize scripture. I say try because it wouldn’t take – I couldn’t keep scripture in my head! I remember one summer day driving to work, and I was trying desperately to memorize a passage. To this day, I still do not remember which one. I t was then that God told me that I needed to get my life together. I needed to let Karry know what I was doing. I needed to repent, but not just repent – but accept His forgiveness and be healed.
So I told Karry everything. She was angry, hurt, and betrayed. But this confession started a long process of healing. We started going to a new church, one that preached the Grace of Christ. I started meeting with the pastor, developing an accountability relationship. Karry and I went to counseling to heal the wounds. In all of this, I found that God had never betrayed me. He had never rejected me. He only loved me and wanted to heal me. However, I was comfortable in my pain, and my bitterness; I never bothered to let Him show it to me. I still struggle with the temptations. But God is gracious. He has given me His Holy Spirit, who gives me the strength to overcome. Yes, sometimes daddies fall. But it is through our Heavenly Daddy that we can have the power to overcome and find joy.