No More Games, by Dominick Santore
NOVEMBER 10, 2015
Let me tell you story about a young boy.
This boy, at a very young age was sexually abused by two separate family members, one male and one female. Both were old enough to know they were doing something wrong, but young enough to not be considered adults. This young boy was made to think that he was playing a game and it never dawned on him that there was anything wrong. Though it stopped short of anything occurring that might be considered medically harmful, it was emotionally and psychologically damaging for him as you can imagine. “It was a game and people liked him”, thought the boy. They wanted to spend time with him. In some weird naive sense, it made the boy happy. Then, it stopped. The boy doesn’t remember the exact details of it, but he just knew that it stopped and it left him with a weird feeling inside. For sure, it was good that it stopped, but this boy being so young, didn’t know how to process that. From here on in, like a curse, the boy and his view of intimacy would be forever slanted by his experience.
Well, the boy grew older and with age comes autonomy. This means the boy was, for long periods of time, without supervision. He hung out with friends that like to play the kind of games he remembers, though maybe the rules changed a bit. And that’s just what the boy did. He played and played those games. They were hidden secret games and no one ever found out about them, because by then, he knew these weren’t the kind of games you bragged about openly. Unfortunately for him, those games stopped too. The boy again felt confused and lonely. He became somewhat focused on these kinds of games as a result. But, for some time, the desire to play these games lay dormant, mostly out of necessity because he had no one to play with.
Well, the boy grew older still and became a young man and this young man began playing these games again and did so quite a bit. Because of the confusion brought on by the initial abuse, this game was played with any kind of partner(s). The only thing that mattered was that the young man had an outlet for his game again and thanks to the wonders of the inner city and a new messenger job that took him on occasion to the seedier parts of town, it wasn’t hard to find players. By now though, he was well aware of how wrong he was in what he was doing, how dangerous it was and how sinful it was. He grew up in a faith, though I wouldn’t say he had a faith at that time, but as a result of his upbringing, he certainly knew enough to know right from wrong. He was never one to play around with absolutes, he just didn’t live a life that cared for them.
Though much older now, this boy, now a man with forty plus years behind him, recognizes that the struggle not to play these games has never completely gone away and probably never will. Though his primary outlet on occasion is regulated to a computer screen, the struggle is there just as much now as it was all those years ago. This man now calls himself a child of God, with a shaky faith in Christ, but a faith for sure. He often feels like Peter perpetually stepping out of the boat, walking on the water towards Jesus and then sinking in some sin and needing Christ’s rescue. The man has confessed his struggles with mixed emotions and reactions and has heard for the longest time that sin loses all its power when its brought into the light and he wish it were true, as he wrestles again and again. He can claim more victories, but it doesn’t negate the losses, even if it’s just one. As a Christian, this man has been taught that victory over struggles–like drugs alcohol, pornography–are a guarantee if you just grab a firm hold of them. Again, he wishes for that reality to be true.
The man, now older, realizes the losses are not simply what he clicks on with a mouse, but how that struggle has affected his entire life. The confusion and attention that came with his abuse at such a young age, makes it tough to form solid relationships with family and friends. In addition, all the rules in the world won’t, and right outward behavior can’t, change the most difficult struggle that occurs in the mind. The struggle is against condemnation that (unceasingly) says, “You’re filthy and unworthy of anyone…You have nothing important or helpful to offer anyone…Just hope for death, everyone would be better off.”
Despite the constant battle to silence those voices, there is another voice that beckons. A voice that carries over the others. A voice that is a comfort to this man, and tells him, despite his struggles, you are not this unlovable, disfigured creature.
This voice says you are a sinner and you will struggle, but it is in this struggle where you can cry out like Paul when he said, “who will deliver me from this body of death?” “Who will rescue me from drowning?” Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ, there IS no more condemnation for Paul and there IS no more condemnation for this abused boy, now struggling man…this man, who has been able to forgive his abusers, this man who has been able to see more victories. This man who can say to his family, despite their reactions, “I am a sinner but I am forgiven and stand no longer condemned.” This man can now say, “I have failed” and then trust that when he comes to God in those tears of repentance, he is not only restored, but was never cast out in the first place and never will be. This is always the hope this man has. Not that he won’t sin anymore but that he is forgiven forever and that is my hope as well.
It is in that hope that the game he has been playing all these years, begins to lose its allure…
No Darkness Too Dark
We’ve all been hurt. In numerous ways. Most days, we don’t want anyone there: not those who claim to love us, those who claim they won’t run; not those who are professionals who deal with such events and trauma that we actually pay not to run; we don’t even want to be there ever, because we’re too busy running from it.
And, if we’re totally and completely honest, we don’t want God there either…because how could a beautiful, holy God enter into that mess, into that disaster, into that shame, guilt, regret, and grief and not shy away, appalled, disappointed, disgusted. How could He not say, “I can deal with so much of the stuff you’ve done and experienced, but this…this is beyond me” and leave us there, naked, humiliated, and ashamed.
“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1:5)
This is the amazing, wonderful, downright radical thing about Jesus Christ, God of very God, light of very light. He touched the dirty and made them clean, he un-ostricized the ostracized, He uncondemned the condemned, He made the dead living again. He is the light that the darkness cannot overcome…never ever. There is no darkness too dark for Jesus Christ to enter into and be overcome, because the darkness has been overcome once and for all in Him. “For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace” (John 1:16).
And that’s what this series is all about: real stories about real darkness and real grace (upon grace!). We wanted to create a resource of testimonies about radical encounters with His light in our darkness that could be shared with others who are suffering in similar ways (we’ll have a variety of stories). We all have stories and testimonies to share, and we invite you to share them here, if you feel so led: Click Here to email your stories.
So, please, read these stories humbly presented by broken and beloved men and women. And I pray, I pray that these stories would draw you closer to Him, that they would give you courage to go there, into that darkness with the good, good, Shepherd who loves you—all of you—so much that He laid down his life for you.