Sunday, March 4, 2012



This is Part Three of my personal, post-conversion story. If you need to catch up, follow the hyperlink back to where you left off, or start at the beginning.


In my story so far, here I am, a Christian who had carried tons of filthy baggage from my pre-Christian life into my life as a Christian. Not only did I have sinful tendencies to engage in sexual and violent fantasies and act them out, I had a host of other serious issues connected to my pre-Christian life, among them, I am one who, as a young child and teen, had been sexually sinned against by other men and peers. I totally lacked any intestinal fortitude to say "no". Sexual abuse left deep, ugly scars that severely impacted my life. I also had a history of substance abuse, including addiction to LSD and other dangerous drugs. As a result, I believe my brain's chemistry got all screwed up, and I had a very poor memory among other cognitive problems. 

It's hard to draw the line between effects of drug abuse verses sin, but nonetheless, I was deranged, dysfunctional, hostile, prone to outbursts of anger and rage, and lacked basic common sense. I was also very aware of my own mortality, and that I could die unexpectedly at any time under any circumstance. I didn't necessarily want to live because I hated myself, but I didn't want to die either. And although I would deny it at the time, I was very confused, anxious, and depressed about the world in which I lived and the circumstances of my existence as a human being.

For the first few years after I became a Christian I was simply amazed that the Lord would save a foul beast like me. I was truly living out the Christian Hymn "Amazing Grace" every day because my salvation was so sweet and the Lord was so merciful and kind to save me.

But I harbored some ideas about God that were not biblical, and this lead to some real problems down the road. (That is why doctrine matters!) I didn't know much about the doctrine of ADOPTION, so even though the Lord rescued me from Hell, I failed to believe (or I just plain forgot) that He actually loved me and enjoyed me like a father or mother would love and enjoy their adopted child. I held the opinion that God was angry and disappointed with me when I sinned, and that I had better try harder not to sin or He would not bless me. This also stemmed from my failure to understand the doctrine of IMPUTATION.

Because of my faulty understanding of God and the Gospel, my actions did not reflect the Christian liberty is mine under the Gospel banner. Now that I have a better grasp of the Gospel, I see the legalism lying underneath these actions. Here are five examples my legalistic tendencies...
  1. As a new Christian, I told my wife Valerie that I was concerned that she was watching episodes of the television series "Friends", because it contained material that was immoral.
  2. After reading a Christian book critical of the popular Harry Potter book series, I refused to let my children have anything to do with Harry Potter books or movies.
  3. Before I became a Christian I used to collect gaming cards called "MAGIC: The Gathering". This is a fantasy game with all sorts of evil, pagan creatures involved. I had an enormous collection of cards. Boxes and boxes and boxes. I began to think God would not be pleased with me if I continued collecting cards and playing the game. So one day I took all of my cards, dumped them onto the fire pit in my backyard, doused it all with gasoline, and burnt everything to a crisp. Those cards would have been worth hundreds, if not thoudands of dollars today!   
  4. My children were very, very stubborn and would never listen to me or obey my request to follow through with any task I set before them. Therefore, my relationship with my children was strained and unhealthy because I failed to give mercy and grace when they misbehaved, and I failed to love them unconditionally as Christ loved me. I fell into the debtor's ethic of , "When you are obedient I will have greater love, affection, and approval of you than when you are disobedient". That is completely contrary to the teachings of Scripture.
  5. I stayed away from rock and roll, and other genre's of music I deemed "secular" because the content of the songs and the lifestyle of the musicians didn't reflect a Christian attitude.   
So for the first few years as a Christian I had it together pretty well. But I had some legalistic tendencies. And in the spirit of gaining more control over my life and my family because of the residual sin in my life, I tried harder and harder to gain control. It seemed like I always has a self-improvement project going on, beginning each effort with a positive, "I can do it" attitude, only to discover I would fail again and again and again, and each failure made me more and more disgusted with myself.

Here are some examples of my attempts and failures at self-improvement. Keep in mind that I had memory issues, attention deficit issues, other cognitive issues, and these issues were only getting worse. So every self-improvement project I began, I would either forget that I began the project, or I would simply lose interest because I wasn't succeeding....
  1. THE ATTEMPT: I have never been able to keep my vehicle clean and well maintained. And as an attempt to get control over that area of my life, I started keeping a place to put my garbage. I also started to keep a maintenance log on services performed on my vehicle. THE FAIL: I would start this self-improvement project just like all the others, with a positive, "I can do it so get it done" attitude. But it wouldn't take long, a few weeks or months, before my car looked like a garbage dump once again with crap everywhere. I failed to upkeep my maintenance log, so oil changes would be long overdue and other service needs would be neglected. I forgot what was done to my vehicle and what needed to be done, and in the end I was overwhelmed with the entire idea of maintaining my vehicle.   
  2. THE ATTEMPT: Ever since I became a Christian I wanted to have regular family devotionals with my children; reading the Bible, prayer, covering a particular devotional book, and openly talking about issues. THE FAIL: My children held absolutely no interest in family devotionals. While devotions would usually start out positive, they would usually end in my frustration because of my apathetic children. I wouldn't be uncommon to end the devotional in a unending, harsh rant and stern prayer pointed at them about how they failed at keeping up with their scheduled duties. Family devotionals became less and less frequent. I either would forget to do them or had no interest in doing them.   
  3. THE ATTEMPT: I started my Christian walk with a very dedicated Bible reading schedule which I would faithfully do on a daily basis. I also kept a list of prayers; each day of the week I would tackle a particular prayer theme. Fer example, Mondays I would pray for my own family, Tuesdays I would pray for persecuted Christians across the globe, Wednesdays I would pray for those in political power and those in authority over us, Thursdays I would pray for the unsaved people I knew, etc, You get the idea. and when I started attending Redeemer Bible Church, I also faithfully attended Wednesday night prayer meetings. THE FAIL: Here is an example of how my best efforts to control aspects in my life that were particularly Christian ended in frustration. The Bible reading schedule was too long and tedious and took up too much of my time, so eventually I gave up on that. Systematize prayer list? It wouldn't take long before I started forgetting, slipping, and eventually I just didn't follow through with it anymore. Wednesday night prayer meetings? Fail. It came to a point where I would rather stay at home and indulge in what I wanted to do, and not do what was best for me and my family. 
  4. THE ATTEMPT: I started my Christian walk as a reformed alcohol abuser who hadn't taken a drink in fifteen years. I thought that my desire to drink would never become a problem again. THE FAIL: About seven or eight years ago I started having an occasional beer maybe a couple times a year. Things snowballed and I started drinking more frequently, and also increasing the amount of alcohol I drank. I was falling into my old pattern of abusive drinking. Since then, I have gotten smashed out of my gourd several times; I'm talking blackout, falling-down drunk. 
  5. THE ATTEMPT: Quite a few years ago I attended a para church ministry called, "Every Man;s Battle For Purity". Mostly dealing with issues of masturbation that Christian men struggled with, but it also addressed other sexual problems. Since I had a serious, daily, ongoing problem with pleasuring myself, I decided to give it a try. I was successful in that I abstained from pleasuring myself for several months. THE FAIL: Sadly, it didn't take long for me to slip back into my old habit. However, it was successful to some degree in that the frequency of pleasuring myself was greatly diminished. 
  6. THE ATTEMPT: I was concerned about the lack of exercise in my life, so I initiated various plans to exercise regularly, and was motivated in carrying it out. THE FAIL: Each attempt to initiate a different exercise plan into my life would become another failure at following through. 
I could certainly provide you with more examples, but the examples given above are plenty enough to give you a working model of the big picture involved. This is Back-Door Legalism, pure and simple. In all those self-improvement projects, I was not believing the Gospel, I made my own set of rules and set standards that I thought I could keep, but soon discovered that that was is impossible to do. And by the way, I would frequently attempt to tackle all of my failures at the same time and get back on track, so to speak.

I have analyzed this vicious cycle and I can explain it to you...
  1. It always starts out with examining my success or failure at being a person of good behavior, well organized, and having accomplished a regular pattern of of things I ought to be doing as the head of the household, a father and husband, as a Christian, and all the other odds and ends like house and vehicle maintenance, money and finances, regular health and dental checkups, family devotionals, and on and on.
  2. When I judged whether I was being successful or a failure, I was always a failure. This lead to guilt, shame, depression, anxiety, despair, and self-loathing.
  3. Now, being thoroughly disgusted and ashamed with my inability to run my life, get organized, and maintain a regular routine that would never fail I would try again. I would make a list of things I had to do, or develop a mental list of improvements to be made, and I would enthusiastically embark on my mission to be successful this time. [yet deep in my mind I was exhaling deeply, closing my eyes, and wagging my head back in forth in expectation of probable failure sometime in the future]  
  4. I would begin my self-improvement project of trying to better myself, every day thinking, "I gotta do this and I gotta do that, and if I don't keep it up I'll begin the downward spiral once again".
  5. After a few weeks of marginal success, my enthusiasm would wear off, I would forget to do the things I set out to improve upon, and being burdened and distracted by many other stresses in my life, the whole self-improvement project would end up in complete flop. At this point I would end up at #1 again.
So it was 1,2,3,4,5 repeat. 1,2,3,4,5, repeat. 1,2,3,4,5 repeat.........

By now I have been a member of Redeemer Bible Church for a few years, and was being well fed spiritually, but I still didn't "get" the Gospel, I still didn't understand what it meant to "rest in Christ". I still wanted to improve, and was sorely disappointed in myself at my failure to get better. And even more profound was that the stress of trying to improve and then failing again and again [the vicious cycle] was building. This, I believe, had a cumulative effect on me. At this point my memory and my mental health in general started to decline even more. 

So in past two to three years things started to go haywire. All my life I had the organizational skills of a fifteen year old but now it seemed that I was regressing, going backwards to the organizational skills of a ten year old. I was completely overwhelmed with all of my life's responsibilities.

I couldn't remember how much I got paid at work, I didn't understand my insurance and benefits. I didn't know a single thing about paying bills or our financial investments. [And if these things were explained to me, I would literally forget the next day!] I failed to help with my children's homework and organize fun things to do together as a family. I was stressed because I would put off making regular dental appointments and office visits with my doctor...

...I would neglect house maintenance and helping around the house. Family devotions were sporadic at best and I could never finish with a single devotional book or biblical theme before moving onto something else. My exercise programs never panned out. Failure. My drinking became more and more pronounced. Failure. The quality of my performance at work declined and was I prone to making more mistakes. Failure....

....My brain just wasn't working as it used to and I would do things like put the milk in the cupboard and forget to shut off the stove burners before leaving the house, and I constantly forget where I put things. I would get names mixed up and address people by names that were not their own, and I would forget what I was talking about in the middle of a sentence. I basically lived day by day because I couldn't remember anything that happened the day before. My overall demeanor was one of depression. I didn't like being around people, my sense of humor was gone, life wasn't as good and exhilarating as it used to be as a new Christian; in fact, I became like Eeyore in Winnie The Pooh. ["Don't Be a Donkey"? And why do people become Eeyore's?]

Eventually I went to a neuropsyscholgist and had a lot of testing done to see if something serious was going on. And the only conclusion they came up with was that I had an alarming amount of anxiety that ought to be treated with drugs and psychotherapy. Unbelievably, I denied I had anxiety problems to that degree. I didn't do the psychotherapy, but I tried various medications, but I didn't like the way they made me feel and I certainly wasn't getting any better, so I quit taking them.  

Ultimately my life became paralyzed by my failure after failure after failure. I had way too much on my plate, and my brain could handle only one tiny morsel at a time. I was drinking more and more, and I became apathetic about doing anything constructive any more; after all, why should I try to improve when it would only end in failure? And even worse, there was an underlying attitude of bitterness and anger directed at God. My reasoning was, "God, you saved me, you rescued me, things were really going great that first few years as a Christian, I was effective in ministry and doing your work, and now you are taking away my memory, my life, and turning me into a vegetable? Why would you do this to me?"

Every story has a turning point, and my story is no different. I'll get to that in Part Four of my story. Don't you just love cliffhangers? Stay tuned in!


  1. Thank you for reminding us all that Christians do fail but that Jesus is a great Savior who forgives sin and is faithful in lovingly disciplining His children. I too struggled with a form of legalism. It was legalism attached to how I performed when it came to serving the Lord. The idea was that I had to do more and more to please God. I had a long list of things I needed to do in order to be a missionary, which is what I believe God called me to, but there are a lot of "rules" out there as to what constitutes a good missionary. I did not come close at all to meeting the standard, because I just could not successfully get much support from people. I was passionate about the task but most people thought I was not suited for it (too shy, not good enough working with children, not very popular, did not have many skills, not the right personality, etc). I had my own "to do" list and ended up being bitter, angry, depressed, etc. since I could not ever be successful in preparing for the mission field.

    Even worse, early in my Christian life, I sinned by attempting some mystical practice, was convicted about it and repented, but the following Sunday my self proclaimed prophet-teacher said that someone sinned in such a way during the past week that God will punish them by never using them in the way He originally intended. I immediately thought that he was talking about me. That was about ten years ago and God recently opened my eyes to see how much this has impacted my view of ministry and Him. It is second nature to think that nothing I do is quite as "successful" as it would have been. It is hard to serve the Lord joyfully when one thinks their efforts would not amount to much. I am still in need of healing from the effects of that false prophecy. It seems like the prophecy was true since I turned out to be unsuccessful in mission field preparation and even by the fact that I still do not have a job after graduating last May. I sometimes despair thinking that my life would not be worth living if that were true...But God graciously got me out of my spiritual pit three years ago and is using this jobless situation in my life to open my eyes to other legalistic things that have done me great harm. More importantly He is opening my eyes to see that He is a most merciful and loving Father. Praise the Lord for that!

  2. CC, thanks for the long reply and thanks for sharing. I know this stuff hits home with many of my readers, but we all have pride and are not willing to gladly accept our moral failures or share them with others. We have a tendency to suppress our badness and make excuses for our badness. We think we are the only ones who have a problem with masturbation or looking at children and teens with less than pure motives. By being open, honest, and transparent, maybe that will help others adopt the same attitude and confess as well. It is liberating in that we have absolutely nothing to fear from other people because Christ already knows every moral flop about us, and He receives us gladly and loves us anyway, despite the very worst in us. As you will see in part four, God uses pain and suffering for our (Christians, that is) own good. And it is my prayer that through my story others would see the Lord working through their own pain and suffering as well. Blessings, Casey