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.

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Experiencing the Broken

I caught a glimpse of brokenness.

What I remember most vividly was that she was right-handed; all the scars were on her left arm.

“Nice to meet you,”

It only took the momentary glance that I got as she reached out to shake my hand to notice the dull red lines covering the inner side of her forearm from the wrist all the way up to the elbow.

Brokenness.

I haven’t met many people in person who have or do self-harm–I certainly had never before seen the aftermath firsthand; it blew me out of the moment. I’m not saying it shocked me, per say. It gave me a fresh dosage of the reality of what I’m supposed to be doing here. By here I mean alive.

Because when it comes down to it, it doesn’t matter how much you talk, write or think about it. You won’t ever understand the brokenness of people until you see it first hand.

I said you won’t ever understand brokenness until you see it first hand.

I don’t mean whatever pains you went through personally was in vain, that you can’t understand that. We are all broken in some way. But until you see the brokenness in someone’s eyes, behind the daily facades of smiles and pleasantries, until you hear what their heart says over the words their mouth forms…

Have you ever read a dictionary definition of the word facade?

 

fa·cade

 [fuhsahd, fa-] ( I know, I still will say it wrong – don’t bother me  )


noun

Facade
1.
Architecture .

 a. the front of a building, especially an imposing or decorative one.

 b. any side of a building facing a
public way or space and finished accordingly.
2.a superficial appearance or illusion of something: They managed somehow to maintain a facade of wealth.

Because you’ll never know what’s on the inside of that house unless you go there.
I say this because I don’t really know. All I saw was the scratched paint on the siding. But the more evidence I see of brokenness, and the more of a reality it becomes, the more my heart breaks for the suffering, the afflicted, the broken.
And if your heart doesn’t break for the broken, I can only wonder if you’ve ever understood the brokenness that Christ endured so that the broken could be made whole again.
An unbroken body mutilated to make our self-inflicted wounds whole–to not only piece our hearts back together, but to re-create them entirely.

Tears (Encounters I)

Crimson tears were all she cried. They fell to stain the dirty carpet of her room. It was all she could do to forget–or was she simply fighting the comfort of feeling? Her brother was dead. Her sister also; she died in her arms–the poor fragile thing. She had tried to stop them but in the end the only gain had been more scars, and blood which was not her own. And then they had raped her there in her sister’s blood. Her father was beating her mother when he wasn’t drunk, and beating her when he was. Her mother blamed her, continually reminding her that she had ruined this family and caused the death of her siblings–nobody would even say ‘murder’. But she couldn’t leave, and that’s what no one understood; she just couldn’t.

I don’t want to die–

I want to feel alive.

Her eyes were dry and she wept all the more, the dirty-yellow streetlamp outside the window casting an ugly yellow glow onto the floor in front of her. Oh for just one touch of the cold moon. But there was nothing left now. She didn’t want to die; she wanted to be alive. She had lived this way for as long as she could remember, sometimes living at home, sometimes on the streets, sometimes with her uncle who had taken her innocence and damaged it almost as often as her own father had. She pressed the blade a little further and though she winced a little, the pain never lasted long. She was desperate; she needed to feel.

I don’t care anymore–

No one even knows my name.

It was getting late–even for her. Sleep rested heavily on her tortured eyelids and threatened her waking conscious. But she wouldn’t sleep, not now. She needed to wrap the fresh inflictions she had opened; the blood had already begun to dry. she would do no more tonight, but had it ever felt good–relieving–fulfilling. Relief existed only in each cut. It didn’t take long to wrap her arms. She ran her fingers over the thin bandages and the scars of various ages. She didn’t care who saw anymore; no one even knew her name.

Lauren–

Show me your scars.

“April.” She started, hurriedly pulling the loose sleeves of her hoodie–a form of apparel Webster’s still hadn’t given the proper assertion to–down over the bandages and the scars. “Lovely April…” She was sitting in the middle of the floor facing the door, yet the speaker was behind her. She didn’t turn around.

“But no one knows my name?” It was a question to herself and she only thought it, but the calm male voice from behind answered all the same.

“I know your name,” he whispered, seemingly almost from within her head. Still she did not turn around, but subconsciously was glad for her hair which covered the scars across the back of her neck. “Lauren April Mason… Show me your scars.”

I can’t let you see–

Then let me show you mine.

She turned around finally, slowly at first. Young–somewhere in his mid-thirties, she guessed–he was kneeling but a few feet behind her, dressed simply in a light plaid long-sleeved button-up t-shirt, and weathered blue jeans. His skin was rough but his eyes were kind and something else–love? She had never seen eyes like that. “Show me your scars,” he repeated himself.

“I can’t let you see,” she replied, pulling her sleeves down further. That look in his eyes, it went right through her, but she couldn’t wear her scars in front of the one who knew her name.

“Then let me show you my scars.”

By my wounds, Lauren–

Not your own.

Till now she hadn’t taken notice of his hands, but now he moved them toward her, gesturing, and she couldn’t help but be a little curious. There in the center of each palm was a deep piercing which may have gone even completely through his hands. And then she looked up to his face and saw now–though she had not before–the marks on his brow and the scars where the flesh had been torn away. And now he took her hand in his much larger and she felt the scar in his palm. And he brought her hand gently to his side and she felt the ancient wound there. He rested his hand on her shoulder.

“You’re alive by my wounds Lauren… not your own.”

You know my name?

I created you.

“Who are you? How do you know my name?” she inquired, unable to take her eyes off the scar in his hand. “You don’t know me directly, but I’ve known you all my life–and it’s been a while,” He smiled warmly, and she thought she caught a comical twinkle in his eye.

“That doesn’t even make sense–you’ve got to be like thirty years older than me,” She thought he must be crazy.

“Not to you, but it’s true all the same,” And she knew it was. “I know all about you Lauren. I know your name because I created you.”

I’ve seen everything you’ve done–

Now let me see your scars.

She shrugged his hand off her shoulder. She’d heard things like this before growing up in Sunday school, but now she wasn’t sure what to think.

“Where have you been when I needed you? Where were you when my sister was dead in my arms and they came after me while I was still soaked in her blood? When I’m on the street? Where are you when Uncle and my–my father are…” he brought his finger to her lips in a gesture of silence,

“Whether you believe it or not Lauren, I’ve always been with you. I’ve seen every moment of your life from the time you were conceived to now. I’ve seen all the things that have inspired those wounds. I’ve seen everything you’ve done. But you live in a broken world, and you don’t see me as I want you to see me. But I came to give you an opportunity to see me as I would have you see me always–and forever! Now… let me see your scars,” he replied tenderly. She turned around again to face the opposite wall. She wanted to–maybe–but she couldn’t. She wouldn’t be that weak.

I just want to hold you…

I just want to be held!

“Lauren… let me heal your wounds. I mean only the best for you,” she glanced back at his face; his eyes were entreating–pleading with her to break—and she wouldn’t. How could she? Her only comfort, her only measure of being alive–of living–was the pain and the blood, and yet she was ashamed to stand before her creator with these selfish mutilations. How could she open them up? She couldn’t. “Stop fighting it Lauren. You are accepted the way you are–I accept you… I just want to hold you!”

“I just want to be held!” her will broke and she turned around. Tears like tiny crystals welled up in her eyes though she tried with a last standing effort to keep them back.

“Let them go Lauren, they are your healing.”

I’m not just your creator–

You’re my Father.

She fell on his neck; she couldn’t help but. He embraced her, his huge arms encompassing her; she had never felt so safe. She clung to his neck and wept on his shoulder. It came hard at first; she wanted to fight it, to stop these tears, but the more that the warmth from his heart radiated into her, the less control she had.

“It’s alright, let it all come out,” his voice was even softer now in her ear, and the tears only came harder and more freely.

“Please don’t leave me,” she choked, the tears finally slowing a little.

“I will never leave nor forsake you, Lauren, my promise hasn’t changed even in two thousand years,” he soothed, “be still now.” Her sobs slowed and she raised her head to meet his eyes with hers. “I’m not just your creator, Lauren…”

“You’re my Father,” she declared quietly and then, “Okay… I’m ready.”

What about your scars?

Forever.

She slowly pulled back both sleeves of her hoodie to reveal the bandages and the scars. He stroked her black hair back from her face gently, revealing the countless marks of abuse.

“The men in your life have hurt you; your spine was out of place and would have caused you much pain because of what they did to you. It is better now,” and she had felt the vertebrae coming together into their correct places once again. Lovely Lauren. “Your healing begins,” he said, “Your scars will heal–”

“What about your scars?” she cut him off

“My scars will never heal; they will remain forever, to remind you of my love for you–I do love you, Lauren.” Forever? That meant forever loved. Forever.

You’re beautiful–

Don’t be ashamed any more.

He touched her arm, felt her scars. She wanted to pull it back, hide her shame within her sleeves. He laid his other hand on her shoulder,

“Stop fighting it. I accept you, Lauren. I accept you with your scars, new and old, self-inflicted and those given you by others. I made you. I never wanted this to happen to you, but I have a new body waiting for you without spot or blemish; the body I purposed you for.” The tears began to seep from the corners of her eyes again, and he wrapped his huge, strong arms around her again. “You are safe. You are free. You are beautiful–don’t be ashamed anymore.” She wept with full abandon, no desire left to control it. This was healing; this was life.

Don’t leave me alone!

I never have.

She knew it. With him she felt it could be true; she could be beautiful, if not for these scars… but perhaps it was like he had said about his own. Perhaps the scars were only a reminder of what she had overcome; the healing that she had only begun. She could almost feel the shame melting away within her, and she was free. Completely free!

“It’s time for me to go. You are beautiful Lauren, my love makes you so. Remember that,” he said, lifting her head and stroking back the hair again from her small face. She looked into his eyes. Love emanated from those eyes.

“Please don’t leave me alone,” she pleaded. He smiled.

“I never have Lauren, not once.”

He was gone, and she only now noticed how much brighter the room had been while he was there. I never have Lauren, not once. Could it be true? And then, yes… She knew it was, just as she had known every word he had spoken was true. And she could almost hear his voice now,

“I’m always here with you Lauren,”

Always