My Secret Struggle

"I was so ashamed. I knew I needed help."
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The noise of the car's air conditioner seemed deafeningly loud. It was the only sound filling the awkward silence between me and my best friend, Travis*. I asked him to lunch to talk about something, but now lunch was over and I still hadn't gotten the words out.

Honestly, I didn't know where to begin. I just knew I needed to say something. The last several months had been really difficult for me. I hadn't been myself. I wasn't reading my Bible. I rarely prayed. And I'd lost my joy—often snapping angrily at loved ones, feeling lonely and fearing everyone was out to get me. I felt trapped in a dark pit and I didn't know how to climb out.

What I did know was how I got into that pit. It'd been a long, gradual slide downward. For years, I'd been masturbating. No, that act alone didn't cause all of my problems. Instead, it was a symptom of the selfishness, lust and pride built up in my heart. I tried to convince myself masturbation was harmless—a normal part of sexuality. But really, it allowed my weaknesses to take a hold of me. When I hated myself, masturbation was an easy way to feel wanted and loved. When I felt out of control, my fantasies were a place where I could control anything—or anyone. On top of all this, I felt intense guilt and shame for my actions.

For months, I felt God urging me to tell someone about the stuff I wrestled with. In fact, everywhere

I turned, I read or heard Christians talking about accountability partners. The problem: I had no idea what that meant. One day, Travis mentioned he had an accountability partner at his church. So, I thought I'd ask Travis about accountability stuff.

But, as his air conditioner fought the summer's heat, I had no idea how to bring up my secret struggle. To my surprise, Travis cleared his throat and said: "So, I wanted to ask you something. My accountability partner is moving and I need someone to help me with stuff."

I laughed. "Man, I've been sitting here trying to figure out how to tell you that I need an accountability partner! I need to talk to someone. I'm pretty messed up."

"You don't even know what 'messed up' is," Travis said. "I've got things in my life I'm so ashamed of. But, I know I can't keep it secret. I need someone to ask me questions, push me, and keep me accountable to the life I want."

"So, that's what accountability partners do?"

"Yup," he said. "They're just devoted friends who talk about personal stuff. No one can follow Christ alone. So, they team up to live out their faith and fight off temptation."

"Man, I've never had that," I said. "I used to think I didn't need anyone else—as if I could take care of my life myself."

Travis looked at me and said, "You can't. And you don't have to anymore."

e agreed to meet once a week to talk about what was going on in our lives. But as I drove to the park where we decided to meet for the first time, I was freaked out. Sure, Travis said he had messed-up stuff in his life, but I knew it couldn't be as bad as lust and masturbation. I was really worried about actually saying those words out loud. In fact, I was starting to regret this whole "openness" thing.

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