crossing the river eros
One Man's Struggle With Sexual Purity
Learn more about Celebrate Recovery, a Christ-centered, biblically based recovery program for individuals and families dealing with emotional distress and addictive issues. For more information, see www.celebraterecovery.com.
A man stands on the bank of a raging river. No matter where he positions himself, icy spray drenches him as the torrent hurtles over a breathtaking falls. The man would like to cross the divide to a land that is warm and dry, filled with lush vegetation and beautiful, delicious fruit.
Though the man can see an occasional steppingstone between him and the opposite bank, he cannot imagine crossing the raging waters where many have perished. Some slipped off the rocks and were swept downstream. Others tried swimming across, but the frigid waters paralyzed them.
The man has read the ancient tales of others who crossed this river. Even though the legends describe the great peril, he wonders if perhaps the river was not as wide or deep, or if those who crossed were superhuman, not ordinary men like him.
The river has many names: lust, unbridled passion, lasciviousness, sexual temptation, the way to destruction, river of death. Yet the name Eros seems to capture them all.
Eros is an ever-swelling river, fed constantly by the runoff of a melting culture, and rising in surging currents from long hidden crevices in our souls, from bodily urges, from mental caches of secret images, and from choices made so consistently they become habit.
Many laud the river Eros as a wonderful place for recreation and entertainment. While it is true the falls exhibit a heady excitement, and daredevils riding the waves tantalize the crowds, it is also true that few return from their deadly adventure. It is certain that no one escapes unscathed, especially the innocent bystanders who become victims of relationships poisoned by betrayal, bitterness and broken promises.
How do I know so much about this river?
I too stood on the banks of Eros. I longed to cross to the other side where the blessings of faithfulness waited. I waded along the shore trying to find a shallow, safe place to cross. I started to cross, only to fall victim to the torrent, chilled to the bone by its icy waters.
Today, I am nearing the other side. Though I am cold and wet from frequent slips along the way, the far bank is much closer than the lonely shore I left behind seven years ago.
During the crossing, I was encouraged by others who crossed before me. They stood in the shallows and shouted encouragement, called out warnings, extended hands, and encouraged me that, with God’s help, I would finish the crossing without being swept away.
As I retrace my steps, please take note. If you are satisfied to play in the waters of Eros in spite of danger, you might as well quit reading now.
In December 2000, I found myself dabbling along the river’s edge, invigorated by the chilly waters. I found a relatively safe (or so I thought) pool on the Internet where I pretended to be a great swimmer. Yet each time I stepped out of the frigid waters, I felt numb. I became more and more emotionally detached from the people around me.
I returned to the pool frequently, even swimming with strangers. At first, I was a little embarrassed, but the strangers encouraged me to enjoy splashing, and gradually I forgot my shame. I often wondered if my fellow swimmers enjoyed the pool as much as I did.
One day, however, when I dove into the river, I couldn’t touch bottom; I began to panic. I sensed I was near to drowning, and my life began to flash before my eyes. In my mind, I saw my loved ones standing on the bank, growing distant. I was losing them, and they were losing me, yet they had no idea I had entered the water.
When I finally reached the surface and struggled to shore, I was terrified of the water even though I did not realize its full danger. Wet and shivering, I began to walk up and down the bank calling out for help. I soon encountered others doing the same thing.
Some leered, taking pleasure in my shame, but others offered me towels with which to dry and cover myself. I found great comfort in knowing I was not alone. I entered an online forum, telling my story to whoever would listen.
Before long, I realized the virtual world of the Internet would not help me cross. The stones were on the very edge of the river. I could step only a few feet from the bank. The rock of “online accountability” seemed wobbly at best. It was part of the shadowy world that had enticed me previously into sinful activities. I dared not put my full weight upon it lest I tumble into the icy water again.
In my search for solid footing, I turned to devices designed to protect people from the dangers of the river. These life jackets—software filters, filtered Internet providers, and accountability software—were by no means foolproof. If I wanted to get wet (which I still enjoyed in spite of my fear), I could find a way around the protective devices. It was time for the next big step—personal confession.
INTO THE CURRENT
I chose the coldest day of the year for the next step. On a frigid winters’ day, I told my wife about my swim in the river. Together, we talked to our pastor. Of the two, he found it easier to extend grace and forgiveness. After the initial shock, my wife had to deal with the emotional upheaval caused by my near drowning in the murky waters of sexual sin. At times, I thought our relationship was over—destroyed by dangerous and selfish choices.
These were the most dangerous and frightening moments of my river crossing. I faced intense emotional rapids, heart-pounding currents of feeling, and the frightful roar of intense soul-searching. Yet each day took me farther from the shore. The process was painful but exhilarating. I had stepped from the shallows of Eros into an ocean of grace. Warm, refreshing, loving water brought healing to my soul.
I thank God that my wife’s love was stronger than my betrayal. She was willing to stand with me in the backwaters of Eros with betrayal, mistrust, fear, and pride swirling around her.
Confession paved the way to the secure stone of personal accountability. I joined others crossing the river and side-by-side we waded on. Their friendships encouraged me greatly. I knew if I slipped and fell, they would reach out and help me regain my balance.
As time passed, I realized something about the water of Eros. Some of it flowed from deep within. I learned to identify the sexual currents, but other strong currents stemmed from childhood events and deep-seated inadequacies I had tried to hide. I encountered a deep and frightening pool called depression. It was the deepest point of the crossing, dark and foreboding.
God directed me to several professional guides who pointed me to the sources of the whirlpools of unresolved anger, the need for control, and co-dependency.
SEEING THE OTHER SIDE
I discovered Celebrate Recovery, and my river crossing was shared within the context of a support group. I realized that I was not alone. Crowds of men and women brave the cold waters every day—and not just the river Eros. Everyone has a river to cross. For many it is a lifelong journey.
Today, while I still haven’t reached the far side of the river, I continue to press on. I have turned my attention to helping others. I have joined others in the shallows, calling out to crossers, warning them about the dangerous holes and raging rapids.
Most important, I direct others to my heavenly Guide who, though often unrecognized, unseen, and unacknowledged, never left my side. I find comfort knowing that He, though tempted like all men, walked across Eros as if it were dry ground.
About the writer: Although he has chosen to remain anonymous, the writer has spent nearly 30 years in Christian ministry. As a result of his experience with Eros, he has become a leader in an organization that helps those struggling with addictive behavior and codependency.
Celebrate Recovery is a Christ-centered, biblically based recovery program for individuals and their families dealing with emotional distress and addictive issues. For more information, see www.celebraterecovery.com.