My mission on Dadding Depressed is to be a “match for men in the dark.” Regardless of religious views, I believe every man is susceptible to mental health issues, and no two stories are the same. I’m extremely grateful to Noah Filipiak for sharing this post. His views do not necessarily reflect those of DD. No matter your background, I hope you can put aside your biases and appreciate Noah’s transparency. This is a story about a man. Let’s unite with a voice that speaks against the dark of mental illness.
I’m a dad of three daughters, ages 6, 4, and 8-months. My wife and I both work full-time jobs; I’m a pastor and she is a teacher. I also suffer from depression, which began 12 years ago when I started my church. I was 23 years old and the mental and emotional burden of starting a church from scratch overwhelmed me.
Fast forward to today where I am my 4-year-old’s ride to and from preschool, my work day now chopped down to 9am-3pm. Not to mention I have my baby and 4-year- old home with me on Wednesdays. For a driven guy who likes to get things done (and has a lot to get done), this is another significant mental challenge. Throw in our 8-month- old’s continual ear infections and it’s made for quite a difficult season of life.
Seeking More Than An Escape
For a lot of guys, the challenges and responsibilities of life, let alone the addition of being a dad, lead us to want an escape. While this will vary from man to man, for many the escape desired is sexual. For some it’s pornography, for others it’s fantasizing about being married to a different woman or about being single and promiscuous, and for some, they take action and cement these fantasies into reality.
In my own journey, I have found that the surface-level, symptom-based solutions to these
allures simply don’t cut it. I can tell myself all day long to “bounce my eyes” and to behave, but what good is it if I still have the burning desire within me to want these things? You can only keep that beast in its cage for so long. It will eventually find its way around the internet filter, lie to the accountability partner, and get tired of being told to be good.
Behavior modification won’t cut it, we have to go deeper. I began to ask myself, why do I have these fantasies and desires? If you ask yourself this question, you may be tempted to give the knee-jerk response that you like sex, you like breasts, etc. so of course you’re going to want to look and think about these things. But that’s missing the question. Let me phrase it this way: have you ever fantasized about a nude woman who rejects you? She’s naked and beautiful and she takes one look at you and in disgust tells you to get away from her. She yells at you, insults you, and degrades you. I guarantee that no one has ever had that fantasy. What turns a guy on isn’t simply the naked body, it’s the fantasy that this woman wants him. That this beautiful, naked woman, who men worship as valuable, has declared that you are valuable. She declares it by accepting you, embracing you, having an orgasm with you, etc. This is what you are fantasizing about. This is your escape. Someone valuable thinks you are valuable.
We Are Wired To Seek Validation
The truth is, we are wired to seek validation. The lie is that we can find this validation in women. Most men realize by now that after its initial rush, the feeling that porn brings is empty. Most who have taken that fateful step and had an affair will testify that the reality didn’t deliver what the fantasy promised. A promiscuous, single guy can tell you the same thing. It’s the reason he has to go from woman to woman to woman because the feeling never lasts.
I’ve known the good news of Jesus my whole life. That Jesus died on the cross for my sins so that I can go to heaven. As if heaven and an afterlife were the only things that this act accomplished. I praise God that in the depths of my sexual temptation, he graciously connected the dots between my desperate chasing of women and the unlimited validation, acceptance, and approval he has for me on a second-by-second basis in the gospel of Jesus.
I lived the first half of my marriage with an incredible sense of entitlement. My wife and I were both virgins when we got married and afterward, I felt like God had given me a raw deal. I was told if I saved myself until marriage, my marriage would be a sexual utopia. I didn’t have the words for it at the time, but I believed that my wife would validate me, accept me, and approve of me at the deepest of levels. What I was actually doing was looking for my wife to give me what only God could, which is never a good formula. My wife isn’t God and never will be. So I started flirting with women and dabbled in porn again. Looking for validation, acceptance, and approval.
What a surprise that none of these avenues could give me what only God could either.
I also realized that I was killing my reality because I was always investing in my fantasy. The grass was greener on the other side of the fence because that’s the only place I was watering it.
My Entitlement Turned To Gratitude
When my life really began to transform, and when I found a deep peace that quenched my thirst for sexual temptation, is when I realized God doesn’t owe me a thing. I realized that I should never pray to God and ask him to give me what I deserve because what I deserve is death and eternity separated from him. This may sound like a soapbox or drudgery to some readers, but I hope you don’t miss how freeing this is. You see, realizing what I deserve is only half the battle, the other half is realizing what God gave me instead. Remember that good news of Jesus I mentioned earlier? It turns out it’s a lot deeper than simply a ticket to get me into heaven. It turns out that instead of giving me the judgment and punishment I deserve, God gave me his mercy, something I could never earn and definitely don’t deserve.
My entitlement turned to gratitude.
Not a lot changed in my wife or my marriage, except that I stopped demanding that she be God for me. I found that I could run to Jesus for my validation and approval needs, being filled up on his love so I wasn’t always hungry for it from my wife, from porn, or from other women. I found that the validation and acceptance I got from his love was enough to get me through the good and the bad times in my marriage, without needing to look elsewhere.
I also found that the gift of Jesus’s mercy extended to everything he had given me. That I don’t deserve the chair I’m sitting in, the water I’m drinking, or the air I’m breathing. Now each one is an incredible gift from a gracious and merciful God. And most importantly, so is my wife.
Everything you are looking for, you already have in Jesus.
Stop expecting your wife to change and let the gospel change you. It can and it will if you let it.
Noah Filipiak is the founding pastor of Crossroads Church in Lansing, MI. He’s the author of Beyond the Battle: A Man’s Guide to his Identity in Christ in an Oversexualized World. He hosts the Behind the Curtain Podcast and blogs at atacrossroads.net.