Restored By Grace [Pornography, Part 2]

“My Grace is sufficient for you–“

Early on as I realized just how deeply I’d become entrenched in pornography and masturbation I stumbled across Paul’s story of his thorn in the flesh in 2 Corinthians 12 and I instantly connected.

And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me,“My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.”Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

-2 Cor 12:7-10

I’d grown up in church but so much of the Bible was completely new to me at this time, even though I’d read the entire New Testament out of what I thought was fervor but really was only an attempt to one-up my church peers. That’s another story. When I stumbled over this encounter of Paul’s it blew me away almost as much as reading Galatians for the first time (wait a minute, he can’t really mean we aren’t saved based on what we do!?). But I took it to heart and I held on to it, even though I couldn’t grasp how I could possibly be strong in my weakest moments; I felt like the most disgusting person in the entire universe of existence in those moments.

Eventually I began to look for resources to help me, even though I was loathe to. All the stigma surrounding my addiction actually warded me off of looking for help because I felt that no one really had my solution or knew what I actually needed. But it started with a short little quiz I found on xxxChurch that would tell me if I had a sexual addiction or not. My results came back positive, of course–not that the results mattered in the end, I already knew I was hooked. But the affirmation was somehow almost a comfort because my issue was now valid and legitimate.

Years later I finally signed up for a course called The Way of Purity from Setting Captives Free at the prompting of a friend I’d grown considerably close to at that time. There were daily lessons that would take anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour for me to complete, and at the end there were questions which would be forwarded on to the volunteer accountability partner the program assigned me. Grounded on replacing my addiction with a fulfilling relationship with God, I found the course was almost exactly what I’d been searching for, and I experienced considerable breakthrough during the time I spent with it.

However, I never completed the course. When the questions came at the end there would be one that would ask if you’d fed on the Word and in prayer since the previous lesson, then there would be a couple that would ask if you’d looked at pornography since the previous lesson. If you had, your accountability partner would reset you to day one and you’d have to start the course over again. I did well for a while; the course and my accountability challenged me to actively put up barriers between myself and any source of pornography. It was from one of these lessons that I finally was convinced to start using an internet filter called K9 Web Protection–because it was free and I couldn’t be convinced to spend money to help myself. But then I slipped up and it was back to day one. I made another attempt at it, failing again. I was ashamed every time, but I was also tired of taking the same first lessons over and over, the material was getting boring and I just wanted to keep going–I thought if I could just keep going instead of starting over all the time I could achieve complete freedom by the end. So I lied on my lessons when I had a little slip, and I gradually let myself go.

I ended up admitting what I was doing and repented to my accountability partners. I dropped out of the course with a shame that became bitterness as I blamed my failure on the repetitiveness of the course and being made to start over even though I’d pleaded with my accountability partner to let me keep going. It was an unfortunate ending to what was essentially a solid resource.

I went back to trying on my own. I phased in and out of believing that I could just ignore it and let it fade away. But it got so bad that I was experiencing demonic dreams and presences while I was away from home for a house-sitting job and it culminated to a point that I had to let my parents back in on what was going on.

They gave me a book called Every Young Man’s Battle by Fred Stoeker and Steven Arterburn, and I literally devoured it. It was primarily Fred’s story of sexual addiction, and it made me feel like I wasn’t alone anymore after all these years; these guys knew exactly what I was dealing with, and showed me how to fight. I enjoyed it so much that I went out and purchased both the sequels, Tactics by Stoeker and Arterburn, and Hero, written by Stoeker and his son Jasen. Even more than Every Young Man’s Battle, Tactics gave practical game-plans to being an over-comer, and Hero showed me the legacy I could create for my family. But as great and as encouraging as those books were, I still struggled.

Some time in the middle of all this I had an encounter that I didn’t grasp at the time, but still is changing me today. I had just slipped up and God spoke to me, much like he had to Paul about his thorn. He told me,

“It’s not about your purity…it’s about Mine.”

And I got it, but I couldn’t believe it. “You mean, it doesn’t matter that I’m dirty, it just matters that you’re clean?” it agreed fundamentally with what I knew was true about God’s love and grace, but it was too good–and it didn’t fix me.

But I get it now, I’ve learned a lot since then. The bottom line is, it’s not about me, or what I do. It’s about God’s grace for me. The New Covenant is all about finding our sufficiency in Christ–he is everything I am not. He wasn’t telling me that my sin was okay because he was perfect, He was telling me that because of His grace, I could dwell in his purity, and mine wouldn’t matter anymore because His is so much better, anyway.

The struggle is still real. But the more I focus on it instead of Jesus, the stronger it becomes in my life. And what I’ve learned–what I knew a long time ago but could never put into words–is that I don’t have to try to stop. I’ll fail every time. But when you look at Jesus, everything else disappears, and when you become rooted and grounded in Him, He becomes the only thing that captivates you. So here’s my answer from one sex addict to another–and what I believe to be true of any addiction: stop trying so hard. The more energy and attention you give it, the more energy it will take from you to fight back. You’re focusing on the wrong thing; your addiction is just a side-affect of your deeper heart issues, and only Jesus can heal those. That’s where your answer lies. That’s where this generation’s answer lies, in the grace and love of the person of Jesus. It’s not about your effort, your perfection or your purity, it’s about His. His grace is sufficient for you.

Not What You Think [Pornography, Part 1]

I’m coming out.

Yes, again. I’ve done this a few times already, probably the most momentous being that time in like 2007 when I wrote a blog post about my pornography addiction and depression and shared it with my parents for the first time. Yeah, that was pretty scary.

I’ve been considering the matter of this particular post for some time now as I’ve watched the issue of pornography being raised to a new level across the internet recently–or maybe it’s just who I follow, but either way, it’s been made a little more prevalent in my corner of the internet, and I’ve decided it’s time to share my struggle. Again.

I grew up in a good–albeit as humanly messy as any other–Christian home. I know, that’s the stereotypical way to start this out, but it’s true, and I was happy. And then one day something switched in my brain. It was like I just woke up one morning and it dawned on me; I didn’t really have any friends. That was the beginning of my descent into a dark depression. Not long after that I had an equally memorable introduction to pornography, and it quickly became the drug I could not get nearly enough of to fill my recently devoid existence.

I was either 10 or 11 and to be honest I’d only heard the word ‘pornography’ once before from a ‘joke’ of sorts between two of my older siblings. Upon asking for an explanation of the word, I got an answer that totally perplexed me, but I passed it off. “After all,” said my innocent pre-teen mind to itself, “Who’d want to look at pictures of people naked, anyway? That’s gross.” And I still thought so upon seeing those first few images–but I couldn’t look away.

And that was just the beginning; those first years were so innocent compared to later years as I entrenched myself deeper and deeper. I had questioned at first whether what I was doing was even wrong; no one had ever bothered to tell me anything about my sexuality, and certainly nobody talked about it in church! But my guilt and the discomfort I felt convicted me without influence from anyone else.

After the initial depression which lasted no more than a couple years thanks alone to the providence of God, I sought help. I had already come out to my parents as well as to trusted friends, and I began to look for practical measures. I wanted to be able to just stop and never go back, and many resources took that approach with grace, but I knew behind it all that wasn’t a realistic goal, and when I began actively trying to stop, the struggle became a hundred times more real.

The truth is, the struggle is still real, and has been all throughout my teen years. And to those who would say that pornography and masturbation are completely healthy and have no negative affects–many of who are ‘professionals’–You’re wrong. For me, you’re wrong. I’ve been damaged beyond human repair by this addiction, and without the grace of Jesus I can only imagine how many more problems I could have right now because of it. I once confronted someone who did indeed identify as a mental health professional and who claimed pornography was completely fine – by her response (yes, a woman with a ‘professional’ opinion on a man’s experience) I realized she–and possibly a majority of the professional world–are totally oblivious to the struggles of men in an over-sexualized culture that insists porn is okay despite every person, relationship, marriage and family that ever faced down pornography and lost.

I have a very deeply grounded opinion and belief on this issue, and I feel totally justified.

The truth is, I’ve seen the affects of pornography first-hand, albeit very subtly. My mind has been conditioned to only see one thing, and at some points this conditioning became so strong that I couldn’t even look at women without immediate images flashing into my mind. It was at those points I felt the most monstrous and disgusting. I had a nearly constant fear at one point that one day I might act on my impulses and do something regrettable. But the most prevalent effect, now that I’ve been married for nearly two years, is that the struggle is still real to choose the real thing over a synthetic copy. The funny thing is, I thought my sexuality was out of control and that my drive would come out strongly in marriage. But I recently came to realize thanks to a brilliant teaching from Mark Gungor, I never really knew what sex was, and I can’t make myself desire the real thing with my own wife because I’ve been on a counterfeit supplement for too long.

I don’t really know where to go from here without encroaching on my idea for the next post, but I’ll leave you with this: pornography is absolutely a relevant issue. People need to talk about it. Families need to talk about it. The Church needs to talk about it. Young men, and young women, need to hear us talk about it, and know it as the entrapping deception it is. Porn is the new drug.

P.S.: What do you think of my blog’s new look? Let me know in the comments below!

What Jesus Would Say

My heart is heavy.

The rest of the internet is celebrating, and my heart is breaking. And honestly, I’m not completely sure why.

I read the news this morning. If you’re part of the crowd that has no idea what’s going on, the Supreme Court legalized gay marriage nation-wide for our friends in the south. I’ve always almost prided myself for being detached in regards to anything to do with homosexuality – no need to shout my opinion from the rooftops or rave self-proclaimed truths on the internet, but this? Something is different tonight.

Something feels deeply.

I’ll be honest. It might have something to do with the tragic movie I just finished watching. But I’ll be honest. I don’t think that’s all it is, or even the start of it.

I’m still treading softly. Many of my dear friends are among those celebrating this historical monument. My facebook news feed is plastered with either people lauding complete with rainbow-tinted profile pictures, or blogs and pictures making what feel like feeble attempts to stay the good Christian course. I don’t really think I fall into either extreme on this one, but I’m not still on the fence.

So why is my heart heavy?
Because I love people.

I love people. I love people that support the LGBT community. I love people that don’t. But me? I’m black-and-white, and I’m fine with that.

And don’t get me wrong. I’m still not advertising my opinion, but I still know why I know that gay marriage is such a distorted, twisted mess of how the human race was created to be. I also still know why I’m dreading going to church on Sunday and why I don’t want to hear today’s news in Sunday’s headlines. My heart is heavy not only because I see the darkest victory of a lifetime but because I see the bitterest response from people who just don’t….don’t. I don’t know how to say it any better than that. My heart is heavy because I know Jesus’ love for a twisted, perverse generation, the kind of love that doesn’t pass over a twisted, perverse person like me irregardless of how long my recovery process takes.

And right now, I feel like I could be the last person on earth who thinks my race is going in such a tragic, tragic direction.

Well, I don’t know what Jesus would say. If that’s why you’re reading, I’m sorry. But I know what I will say to anyone who identifies as a part of the LGBT community–and how’s this for equality because it’s the same thing I will say to anyone else. I love you.

I love you.

love you.