I spent most of my life assuming that I was saved. Looking back I now know that I never truly asked Jesus to come into my life as my personal Savior. I never asked Him to forgive me of my sins until April 5, 2015.
In high school I began a process that led me down the dark and treacherous road of sexual addiction. As I grew older, the addiction intensified, and my life became completely unmanageable. College was a time that I never felt like I was running from God, but it was more like I was trying to replace God with sex, drugs and alcohol. Even though I seemed to be the life of the party at times, I was always looking for the next thing because nothing ever satisfied me. I convinced myself of a big lie: College was the time to get all of this out of my system because once I got married and had kids I would have to grow up and be responsible.
After college I pursued a career in teaching and coaching. I was dating Claire, and we were moving towards getting married. I invested a lot of energy trying to convince everyone around me that I was this good person and that I loved Jesus. There were many times that I had even convinced myself. However, I carried this dark secret with me everywhere I went. And no matter what I tried, I always slipped back into the same addictive cycles.
And no matter what I tried, I always slipped back into the same addictive cycles.
I loved Claire, and I knew that she was the person that I was supposed to marry. My hope was that being married to this person that I love would also fix the sexual sins that I could not stop committing. For the first couple of years, marriage seemed to help. We had a house and jobs, and we were heavily involved in a church and a young married couples’ Bible study. But I can remember looking around at the other husbands in our Bible study and wondering if they were battling some of the same urges and struggles with pornography that I was. During that time, the enemy began to convince me that I wasn’t good enough for God.
In 2009 we had the opportunity to move back here to Mississippi so that I could pursue a dream of college coaching. At that time, I did not know that the next six years my addiction would attempt to steal and destroy everything about me. From the outside, my life seemed almost perfect. We had two wonderful sons. My wife had a great teaching job at a private school in Jackson. I was an offensive coordinator in college and then high school. At our church we attended, Claire taught Sunday school, and I was a deacon. However, on the inside, I was completely dead and lonely.
I can remember sitting in church over the past few years and wondering if my children or my wife would be disappointed when they got to heaven, and I was not there. I just thought that the sins I was committing against my wife and my family were unforgivable. The idea of not being good enough for God had completely taken over my mind by this point. I was convinced that I’d crossed the line. The pornography had become such a huge part of my life that I thought it was too late.
I knew it was only a matter of time before Claire would find out everything, and then I would have nothing. No God. No wife. No kids. There were several times that I thought it would be better for Claire and my sons if I just ended my life so they would not have to endure the pain and embarrassment of my sexual sins being exposed to the light.
Little did I know that Claire had already discovered the depth of some of the sins I was committing against her and God. Instead of kicking me out and taking everything she could away from me, she hit her knees . . . daily. Rather than praying for an out in our marriage, she was praying for me to be completely broken so that I would recognize my need for Christ and the restoration that He was capable of bringing. After months of prayer and wrestling with God, Claire confronted me. She knew exactly what I was doing.
That night Claire told me that for months she tried to imagine herself with another husband and the boys with a different daddy, but God kept telling her that she was with the person He intended her to be with and to just trust Him. He would supply the grace she would need to walk this path of recovery and restoration with me. Through a lot of tears and anger, Claire shared some of the hurt I had caused her, but she also shared some of the prayers she had been praying for me. She was not just praying for a fixed marriage and a fixed family; she was praying for a husband who would be a pursuer of God. We decided that we could not fix our marriage on our own and needed to get on a pathway to recovery through Christian counseling.
The next Sunday was Easter. I was waiting to get ready for church and Ben, my five-year-old son, was telling me the Easter story. He went through the whole story, and at the very end he said, “And Jesus died for our sins.” Then he looked at me right in the eye and said, “Daddy, he died for ALL of your sins too.”
It was then that the Holy Spirit broke through my heart, a heart I thought was completely hardened.
It was then that the Holy Spirit broke through my heart, a heart I thought was completely hardened. Claire had prayed and prayed for my heart to change, and that morning her prayers, and the prayers of several close friends, were answered. I went into the bathroom sobbing and asked Claire to pray with me. We prayed together for complete forgiveness and that God would strip away all my sins and that I would not see my identity in my addiction, but in Jesus. I personally prayed that Jesus would come into my life and that I would completely surrender to Him. I prayed for forgiveness and repentance from the sins that had trapped me for so long.
I understood that morning that Jesus wanted me to bring Him all these sins that I thought were unforgivable. All He wanted was me exactly like I am — and then to allow Him to work a miracle in transforming me into a new creation. Since that day I have experienced a freedom that I would never imagine was possible. Through His grace and mercy, He is restoring our marriage and family. I have found community and friendships that are based on God’s design. And I am experiencing abundant life.
— Craig Bowman, Pinelake Reservoir