My Journey (so far)

by Jeff Watros

I grew up in what on the
surface appeared to be a fairly normal family; white, middle class,
church attending, dairy farmers in upstate NY. Though there is no
perfect family, I didn’t find out until many years later that there were
a few flaws in mine.

My “introduction” to sex began when I
discovered my dad’s carelessly hidden porn magazines at age 9. I was
immediately confused, curious, and ashamed and excited, all at the same
time. But since my family did not discuss matters
relating to sexuality, nor did we normally express our emotions in a
healthy way, I was on my own to find some answers to this mysterious
phenomenon called sex. To me, sex was a dirty word, an avoided
subject. And as my dark and secret obsession with pornography deepened,
so did some unhealthy activities, including compulsive masturbation and
an ever-increasing fantasy world…

By my early teens I had already
cultivated a distorted and perverted concept of the opposite sex, plus
being insecure and confused in my own identity and sexuality. I soon
after turned to alcohol, also in secret since my parents didn’t drink;
to further numb the pain, fear and anger I (wasn’t) feeling. My secrets
drove me further into my private world of bondage with my
already distorted view of reality, ultimately culminating in drug use,
sexual promiscuity and fornication (false intimacy). Yet another
escape mechanism for me was listening to endless hours of rock music!
About this same time my dream of playing professional baseball came to
an end, along with hopes of making it as a lyricist/songwriter, setting
the stage for more rebellion.

To most observers I appeared to be a
pretty together guy, but on the inside I felt miserable. I was living an
empty, lonely existence and thoughts of suicide began to emerge from my
world of hopelessness. I’d already had several short-lived
“relationships” by my early twenties, most of them physical in nature,
yet unfulfilling. Without realizing it, my emotional and sexual wounds
were hemorrhaging uncontrollably. But, somehow I knew there had to be
more to life than drugs, sex and rock-n-roll
. Little did I know
(since I didn’t know Him personally at this time) that God
was orchestrating events that would totally change my life.

In the spring of 1977 my mother was
diagnosed with ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease, a neuro-muscular
disease that is always fatal. Along with my initial shock and anger at
God, plus the realization that my self-centered lifestyle would be
greatly diminished, came some unexpected “blessings.” But first, my
acting out increased to the point that I came to the end of myself. In
the meantime, my mother was having a spiritual renewal of her own and it
became increasingly obvious that God was a major focus in her life. And
in some ways my family was growing closer due to caring for my Mom
during her illness.

On New Years Eve 1980 I used my last
drugs and a few weeks later my final illicit sexual encounter. My
alcohol consumption was rapidly diminishing. The porn had stopped the
previous year. About the same time, I was drawn to a record album
released by Kerry Livgren of the rock group Kansas, called
“Seeds of Change”
Unbeknownst to me, the songs were documenting
Kerry’s recent conversion to Christianity. Meanwhile, while my Mom’s
physical health was quickly deteriorating, conversely her spiritual life
was excelling and God was using her example to speak into my life. (She
was now confined to a wheelchair and unable to get out much. So, when
the rest of my family would go to church on Sunday mornings, I’d stay
home with my mother as she watched a multitude of Christian TV programs.
She had me change the channels, further exposing me to God’s truth! What
a wise mother I had. J

Then on August 15, 1981,
as I was preparing my Mom’s evening meal, a familiar song caught my ear
over the airwaves of her always Christian programming-tuned
radio. [Is anyone familiar with the song “Dust in the Wind?] It
seemed as though I went into a trance as I laid on the floor with my ear
and heart glued to the radio. Pat Robertson of the CBN 700 Club
was interviewing Kerry Livgren and Dave Hope, two members of the rock
group Kansas, about their recent conversion to Jesus Christ. The
next thing I remember, I was kneeling beside my bed asking Jesus to
forgive my sins and come into my life. (I later learned that I had been
born again!) One of my greatest thrills was being able to tell my
mother that Jesus had become my Lord before she went to be with Him on
December 12, 1981.

Now began the process of facing the
emotional pain I had accumulated, avoided and denied. Not to mention
replacing the lies I believed with the absolute Truth of God. The
Lord was faithful to bring some mature Christians into my life. I grew
tremendously through YWAM’s (Youth With A Mission)
DTS (Discipleship Training School) and SOE
(School Of Evangelism).
There in the process of
knowing God more intimately
, I began to deal with some of my
underlying, unresolved issues like anger, pride, unbelief, insecurity,
fear and shame
that were still fueling my diminishing but still
active fantasy thought life and accompanying masturbation.

As I went back to complete
my undergraduate degree and then onto graduate school, I sought out and
God provided wise, caring friends and professors who I could be
accountable with to share my intimate struggles and victories. I still
maintain regular accountability and mentor relationship(s). Some among
those who have been mentors/influences after YWAM were/are: Dr
Glenn Martin, Dr. Joseph Seaborn, Rev. Bob Burchell and Chuck Mealy at
Indiana Wesleyan University; my counselors Heinz Schoenhoff, Peter Payne
and Marilyn Akerson, and Drs. Moon, Rhodes, Black, Simone and Marks all
at Regent University; Katherine Allen @ Sought Out; and here locally,
Rev. Jim Delp, Rev. Luke Weaver, Dr. Bob Reichard, Michael Mallory and
Mark Sensabaugh. The Lord continued and still continues to take me
through His healing process. (Consequently, there has been forgiveness
and some healing and restoration in my family of origin.)

At the same time God was preparing me
in at least two areas that would greatly impact my life. By far the
highlight was meeting and eventually marrying my beautiful wife Wendy,
when I was 38 years old, proving God’s perfect timing and faithfulness
to fulfill the desires of my heart. Two other sources of exceeding
great joy in my life are our sons, Daniel (10) and Christopher (5).

Secondly, my counseling
experience and training brought me face to face with people carrying all
types of sexual and relational wounds. As my burden for this area of
ministry deepened, I sensed the Lord wanted me to go beyond just one to
one contact with the sexually abused, addicted and confused and provide
a healing/discipleship group environment for men. Thus, HOPE FROM
THE HEALER: Breaking The Cycle Of Sexual Addiction
was born and
offered for over two years in Virginia Beach and continued when we moved
to the Shenandoah Valley in September 1997. However, God apparently had
other ideas, since the group did not really catch on here. In January
1998 I was introduced to Chip Leatherman and the board of what was then
Day Seven Ministries. Then in April, Wendy and I attended the
Exodus International
mid-Atlantic Regional Conference at Massanetta
Springs. There God greatly expanded my vision and deepened my burden to
minister to a broader scope of people struggling in brokenness and
bondage. And out of the heart of God, Greater Hope was
conceived and birthed.

Without the Lord, none of
this would be possible or worth pursuing. But, with God all
things are possible
. As we continue to fix our eyes on the
Author and Perfector of our faith, we expect to see multitudes of
prisoners and captives released from bondage to serve our true Greater
Hope, Jesus Christ!

Jeff is a Licensed Professional
Counselor and Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, and an ordained
minister through the Evangelical Church Alliance. He is a member of
Grace Covenant Church and serves as executive director of Greater Hope,
a ministry dedicated to equipping people to walk in sexual and
relational wholeness through Jesus Christ. Jeff is married to his best
friend Wendy and they reside in Weyers Cave, Virginia with their
precious sons, Daniel and Christopher.

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