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Intimacy in Broad Daylight

Joe McManus

The hunger was insatiable. “One more time,” was my mantra.

The irony of it all is though I craved intimacy I would expose my physical body before I would ever allow anyone to get close to me emotionally or spiritually.

One Last Hook Up

I had, once again, said yes to an affair and let the excitement of a new encounter blind all reality in my mind. “This 'hookup' will be my last,” I thought, and I would be free to leave my wife and daughter so that love could win out.  

We met at a coffee shop and I brought my usual rose and the intention of finding a hotel or motel close by. Immediately, things began differently with this 'meeting,' but I pushed my ignorant feelings aside. After talking for about two hours, we decided to take a walk and I thought, “This is it! I got her!” There was just a slight difference, there was no hand-holding and the hopefulness of a sly kiss wasn’t anywhere to be found.

As we approached our cars, she looked directly into my eyes and said, “God always does this to me. He puts people in my life that need to hear from him. Right now, He's showing me that your soul is leaking all over the place. You need healing and this is not where you'll find it.”

It was as if my heart had stopped but my mind continued to race. I still wanted to bypass this 'interruption' and get us to a hotel. All I could think about was undressing her and having sex.

We talked sparingly over the next few months. Every now and then we would text and see how the other was doing. I hoped that she would have a change of heart but to no avail. One day, my wife noticed a text on my phone from 'Deb' and asked me who she was. I told her she was a friend from softball, completely lying through my teeth.

This was not the first time she had noticed a text from another woman. It was, however, the last time I would allow my phone to be left unattended and my secret life to be revealed.

We eventually stopped texting. The last time we talked was the day my wife walked out. I told 'Deb' what was going on and she responded with very little sympathy. Her words were not comforting. I needed more than a friend, or so I thought. I wanted one last encounter, the exhilarating, mind-blowing, soul craving fling that would quench my thirst. Instead, I received what I truly needed, a wake-up call and a decision to make.

Where I Began

My father taught me from an early age that walking away from problems and letting others down was the way to live. I learned that finding the arms of another woman and smoking were the best routes to take to be satisfied. My father left my mom, sister and me when I was 7 years old for booze, women and drug binges. We were unimportant to him and could not win his love no matter how hard we tried. So I followed in his path, just like my mom and dad before me, my first wife and I decided to get divorced instead of working out our issues.

The First Tastes

I initially ventured into sex outside of marriage at a bachelor party. During my separation from my first wife, I went to my first strip club and had my first lap dance. It was intense, exciting and made me feel alive. I wanted more! From that moment I was marked with what felt like the most intense and difficult sin to break free from: lust.

I unknowingly found myself in the hardest battle of my life, one that would eventually cost me my second marriage.

Strip clubs were just the beginning. There were a few times where I was given more than a lap dance. I was hooked, but the cost alone made it difficult to maintain that lifestyle. I was addicted to sex and needed to find another, less expensive way to alleviate this tension. I then discovered discreet websites that offered ways to meet married women who were looking for that same thrill and excitement in their sex life.

A Hidden, Broken Life

A few years later and well into my second marriage, I met up with a single mom and we began an affair that lasted for several months. When things became too intense, she broke things off. This led to other hook-ups and encounters. Some only happened one time while others lasted for a few months. I kept telling my wife that I was out with friends, partying it up. I found any excuse not be home because I didn't want to face what I had done.

As I watched my second marriage fail, anger, hate and self-loathing were just a few of the emotions that penetrated my soul. Learning nothing from my first failed marriage, I continued to take steps in the wrong direction. I considered myself worthless, shameful and disgusting. My greatest fear was still that I would end up just like my dad. Oh, how that fear was realized.

Several affairs and two broken marriages later, I found myself at rock bottom. My second wife walked out with our daughter, leaving me in what I felt was a well-deserved place to be: without a home. I was unemployed, broke and had very little food to sustain me.

I didn't know God yet but he knew me, and he knew exactly where I was and what I needed.

A friend, who has now become my brother-in-law, offered me a place to stay at his grandmother's home. After talking with his parents, they agreed to let me stay so that I could get back on my feet. This was the first example of God’s great love: He gave me what I needed, not what I deserved. I found a place for my physical body but my spiritual one was still waiting for that wake-up moment.

An Experience with Real Love

At this point, marriage was off the table for me. I was done messing up my life with relationships I could not make work. Women were off-limits, even the affairs. I did not want to hurt or be hurt like that again. This is where God began to take over and change my heart. One night while in the backyard, I started crying. The tears flowed so freely that I was afraid they would never stop. I looked up and I could see a bright light and a figure with arms raised to embrace me. At first, I wasn't sure how to respond. Should I reach back? Who am I reaching out to? Is this God? It was God. Without thinking anymore, I reached back and felt a love I had never experienced before. I felt peace in my heart and new direction in my life began to take its course.

A new beginning had taken place. In August of 2011, I gave my life to Christ and was baptized on Easter in 2012 at Sandals Church. My journey in faith has been one of struggle, wrestling, failures and stumbling. The biggest difference I saw between how I lived before I met Jesus and after was that I finally had the self-control I needed to say no to my wants and desires. I have grown in love, humility and grace because God never gave-up on me.

I am now remarried to a wonderfully amazing and beautiful woman of Christ. It has been a grace-filled, love-inspired journey. My wife, Michele, showed me the amazing gift of grace from God when I told her about my past. I was scared to death to admit any of what I had done. Grace and forgiveness were not things I was accustomed to receiving. However, she did not bat an eye or turn her back on me. She stayed right there with me as I poured out my guts, shame, guilt and sin.

This first real encounter with grace awakened me to how God truly saw me.

In that moment, Jesus showed me through Michele that my life was not about what I had done. Yes, my sin was real and needed to be confessed. However, there was no condemnation! Only love, grace and peace, which forever changed me, were all I needed.

A New Heart and Power

I no longer have a desire to seek affairs or go to strip clubs but this does not mean the temptation is gone. There are still times I think back on those moments and remember the excitement. However, I now have the power and love of God in my heart to challenge these thoughts.

God has turned my hurts, habits and hang-ups into a story that he is using for good. Jesus has already begun using me to help others by placing me in a group to help those dealing with sexual sin. The main purpose of this group is to come alongside men who are struggling to break free from the chains of sexual sin and help them realize God's plan for their lives.

My hope is that my story will encourage and empower men who are still in this very real struggle to reach out to Jesus. Only by his power and in his love can real freedom be found and life truly lived. My life purpose and message can be summed up in this one verse, “...but those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” Isaiah 40:31. 

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