The first few years of Desert Stream had been defined by same-sex strugglers; that began to change as the word got out that men and women were digging a deep well of mercy in West Hollywood.
Three particular groups of people broadened the scope of our offering. The contribution influenced the formation of the ‘Living Waters’ program.
The first group was sexually addicted men. At that point, no one used such language (the term ‘sexual addiction’ was first coined in 1984). Yet so many men in our fellowship and in the greater Los Angeles area were bound to compulsive sexual sin. They could get off drugs and booze in 12-step programs but failed to find a safe context to work out their sexual problems.
They found a safe place with us. And they made the group a lot healthier for the guys who would readily develop immature bonds with other same-sex strugglers. We welcomed traditional idolaters! Their very presence pulled up the dividing wall that created the false categorization of ‘gay’ and ‘straight’; in truth, we were all bearers of God’s image, seeking to overcome barriers to whole heterosexual relating.
The second group was victims of childhood sexual abuse. Annette led the way here. She had been violently abused as a 4-year-old girl. In the first years of our marriage, she realized that she needed some serious healing for its effects.
Through a good therapist and a small prayer team of friends, including myself, Annette experienced significant healing that opened closed doors in her heart—entries to God and the merciful care of others. The healing process was a crucial, life-changing part of her following Jesus.
Our groups began to include the abused. One woman who for years had been molested by a neighbor sat alongside a man who had abused a girl years before; he admitted his sin but downplayed the impact it had on the kids. (He had already served time in prison).
Fighting tears, she turned to him and simply said that he had no idea of the devastation he had wrought. ‘The girl you abused will bear the mark of your perversion all her days’, she said quietly.
The man broke and both perpetrator and victim wept together. She invited the man into a deeper reckoning with his sin; he asked her forgiveness for his dullness. Through His mercy, Jesus removed another layer of shame and perversion from her. God was pulling up dividing walls.
The third group were family and friends of the sexually broken—those devastated by the sin of others. Annette ran a group for wives of sexually-broken men for the first ten years of Desert Stream. As these women began to get the help they needed, it became clear that they had relational problems too, ones that preceded their husband’s infidelity.
Our early versions of ‘Living Waters’ thus began to include men and women in need of personal healing in order to make good their vows to each other.
God was expanding the boundaries of our groups to include the breadth of His broken ones. He longed to extend mercy to all in need.
Mercy flowed from the cross, and established level ground in which ‘gay and straight’, husband and wife, victim and perpetrator, could find healing. Jesus in truth had become ‘our peace, having destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility’ that separated us, so that ‘in this one body He might reconcile both parties to the Father through His merciful work on the cross.’ (Eph. 2: 14-16)
‘As You have shown us mercy, O God, in the desert places of our lives, would You show mercy to the beleaguered state of marriage in the USA? As the Perry vs. Schw. case wends its way to the National Supreme Court, prepare for Yourself a victory. We shall render to Caesar what is Caesar’s but we shall prayerfully fight for what is Yours, O God. Prepare the hearts of each justice, especially Justice Anthony Kennedy, to uphold marriage according to Your merciful design. Remember mercy, O God.’