But My Flesh Still Lives [When You Know Your Heart is New]

I’ve been having a difficult time with this one. Because it means admitting something that I’ve been fairly transparent about in the past, and honestly it’s a little difficult to talk about it still being a “thing” – it’s not easy, it feels like I’ll put my reputation and my responsibilities on the line to say, I’m much, much less than the porcelain facade of perfection. Or maybe I’m being over dramatic and presumptuous about how people already see me – maybe I’m just sounding more like a broken record than a broken human.

But I’m talking today, of course, about pornography.

See, I read an article the other day about Selena Gomez’ speech at the AMA’s and one of the author’s conclusions was,

“Gomez has been open about her Christian faith and desire to follow Christ. She regularly attends branches of Hillsong Church and she recently wrote and performed a worship song titled “Nobody” at one of her concerts in the spring. That doesn’t mean she’s a role model or a perfect example, but it does mean she’s in the same spot as all of us–broken and in need of a Savior.”

And no offense to FaithIt, but first of all there is no perfect example this side of Jesus Christ, and second of all if Selena Gomez is the same as all of us and still can’t be a role model, who the hell can? Where are these superstar Christians that you’re looking up to and expecting to provide a perfect role model example?

But it’s this stigma that says ‘imperfect people can’t be role models’, etc., and the knowledge that this is such a ubiquitous sentiment in Christianity today–‘ I’m sorry, you aren’t perfect enough for us today, come back when God changes you ‘

So with enough beating around the bush to get all three birds… I’m not completely free yet. There are still fingers of this 10+ year inner conflict hanging on to me… I’m still an addict.

I guess part of this comes from a video I watched recently from a Youtuber by the name of Katie Gregoire titled “5 Steps to ACTUALLY Battle Pornography” in which Katie gives some pretty good advice about practically going ‘cold turkey’. And part of me goes “Yeah, good advice!” and another part of me goes, “But that doesn’t nearly cut it,” because you can cut off a habit but you can’t cut off a desire until something more powerful than yourself changes your mind–or maybe that’s just my experience.

But there’s been a question in the back of my mind for a long time and that is, ‘If I have a new heart, when do I start to actually see a difference?‘ and ‘Why do I keep doing things I don’t want to do?’

I’ve come to this point in my life where I know my heart is changed–I know my heart is changed–and it’s tired of doing what it hates to do, but there is still a ‘law at work’ in my body, a law of rebellion and addiction and filth, it’s just as automatic as it has always been. But my heart is changed and my mind is renewed in Father’s love and every part of me longs for Father–

–But my body is still addicted.

And this is when things become clearer to me about living a new-covenant life; greater is He that is in me than [me] that is in the world (1 John 4) O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? —Jesus Christ our Lord! (Romans 7) and so I have a new heart; I know that now more than ever because my heart isn’t in the game and even my body doesn’t respond the same way to pornography; it’s going through the motions because that’s how it gets something–something, but what? Almost nothing anymore. The high is never like the first high – it gets lower and lower. But my heart is fixating more and more on the Most High and when that happens, all the other highs start to lose their flavor. And it happened in a very sudden and sinking moment when I realized, My body isn’t even engaging in this anymore,’ and ‘What am I doing?’

I didn’t really know what Paul meant when he said, “For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do.” or “O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?(emphasis mine)

So no, FaithIt, I’m no roll model.

But I’ll try and be a little more direct about what I’m trying to get across here. My desires have changed, even more fully to be Holy Spirit’s desires–my body is just a little slow to follow, and I can feel the drag on it.

And that brings me to another full stop because I realized something: Father will change me in his own time, not mine. But he is faithful, and disbelieving that he will finish the work he started in me, is doubt in the finished work of Jesus Christ.

Am I still a proponent of trying to quit? Sure. There are strategies and tactics and it’s fair to say everyone should do what they can – the Bible says flee from sexual immorality. But there’s something that has to happen in this body before the process is fully complete and it’s not going to happen until Father says ‘Okay, let’s take care of that thorn in your flesh.’ Are you striving? Stop. Paul strove, he begged God (2 Corinthians 12) and God told him ‘No.’ And there’s only one reason that makes any sense to me why God would turn Paul down about his struggle: because God knows how much bigger He is than post-cross problems, and He’s not finished with me yet – I’d be content at that to wait even until eternity begins.

But what till then? Only this: ‘My grace is sufficient for you; My power is made perfect in weakness.’

Detoxing Bad Culture

[Why I’m Not Going to Watch Deadpool]

 

I don’t think it’s any secret to the Internet that the Deadpool movie just came out – we’ve been bombarded for months on facebook by expectant fan posts. And up until a few days ago I was among them; even after finding out about the R-rating and what to expect content-wise, I had planned to go see it – the trailers were promisingly funny and, well, why not?

I’m not sure when exactly I changed my mind, but I decided not to go see the movie in theater and eventually, not ever. And here’s where I’m coming from. I can remember right off the top of my head when I consciously made a decision to allow less filtering in what I watched; I asked to go to a movie night with my older siblings and my parents basically left the decision up to me with the stern and unheeded warning that the movies I chose to watch would influence me. I’m paraphrasing from memory, of course. I was somewhere in the vicinity of 10-12 at the time, and still thought picking up bad language from a movie was the worst thing you could have happen to you (and was pretty sure I was too good to have my vocabulary influenced by movies anyway). Ten years later, I wish I would have chosen differently then, and continually.

See back then the very worst swear word I knew was ‘damn’ or ‘shit’ and they only came once in a sentence. Back then I didn’t really know what people looked like under their clothes and while getting hooked on pornography is a totally different story, the kind of movies that are ‘okay’ now for someone like me are chalk full of at least soft-core porn. ‘Okay’ because I’ve seen it all before – it doesn’t matter the fifth, twentieth, hundredth time anymore. Violence, gore, things that shouldn’t be celebrated or made light of. And once I decided to say one thing was okay it was just a downward spiral through filthy, senseless language, horror/thriller, increased blood, gore and violence, and soon enough pornographic content everywhere. We’re desensitized. am desensitized. And my condition hasn’t remained only within the limits of what I watch.

And I’ll tell you something else. Being desensitized to pornography–and maybe nudity in general, but namely pornography–is a serious deal. Your body doesn’t (can’t) physically react to normal, real sex the same after years of being trained to react to pornographic sex. I don’t think anybody makes a big enough issue about real affects of this kind of stuff because we’re so busy trying to prove things on moral grounds and reasoning. When I was thirteen and drowning in a newly-discovered pornography addiction I never thought that there would be a time when I would be more concerned about the affects of pornography saturation on my marriage and how I view and think about women in general than my moral condition or what God thought of my addiction, but now is that time.

And I’m shooting at probably the most obvious target more than anything, but when I was making that decision to step outside my parents’ filter system and get some dirt on my own filters, if I had heard one sentence from present-day me, I don’t think I would’ve believed it. Because words are such a little thing and I never would’ve thought then that eventually I would include such completely useless and derogatory words in my vocabulary, but I’m desensitized now and hearing more is just ‘okay’ and another day at the office. And I can just hear what some people would say – “That’s just the way society is, you’ll go to work on any given day and hear all the things,” (and I do) “You may as well just get used to it; people aren’t going to change and you should accept how they are; don’t be so sensitive!”

That’s not okay to me anymore.

It’s not okay that I go to work and it seems like every third word out of almost anyone is a swear word. It’s not classy or cool and frankly it makes a gross atmosphere. It’s not okay to me that so much null and negative energy is socially acceptable in the way we talk to each other. And I’m not making this a Christian or even moral issue on purpose; anyone can argue against Christian or even moral arguments and when it comes down to it, your filter is your own. I’m just not talking about what’s right or wrong; I’m talking about what makes me a more creative, productive person in every single thing I do or say naturally. I’m talking about real issues that I know I am not the only one to have because of being desensitized to false experiences.

And I’ll just talk to Christians for a second to say you’re so over-saturated in critiquing teachers. Every Christian teacher has a whole crowd of people vehement over even just one idea, and you’ll argue and debate till the second coming. I can’t believe how vicious Christians get toward people who teach something even a little different than what they believe personally. Someone I sincerely suggested a book to wouldn’t touch it–because they didn’t agree with some of the things the author said. But who’s getting vicious about today’s ‘entertainment-only’ books and movies? Why does it take a few words to send you ballistic over a Christian teacher, but you can go to the theater and watch any movie without batting an eye at the most obscene suggestions? Can I tell you something? You’re giving grace to the wrong things. 

So back to Deadpool.

For anyone who thought I was just being prudish, I didn’t just decide that the movie content was ‘not okay’ for me to watch. I didn’t decide not to watch Deadpool because I thought it was too high on the scale of wrong. Instead, I decided not to watch because I realized I don’t want to be desensitized to cinematized sex, violence and filthy language. I decided that I don’t want the kind of content you’ll find in Deadpool–and so many of the movies that have come out over the last decade and more–to be ‘okay’ anymore. I imagine a world where sex is too sacred and powerful and pure to show on a movie screen – where words mean enough to be used with tact – where negativity in any form isn’t mass-produced, wrapped in plastic and put on a shelf to share with everyone.

I want to detox all this bad culture.

I want to re-sensitize. I’m not saying that I’m giving up on the 99% of TV and movies that include obscene content. But I’m not saying I won’t. I want to say, “Well, there could be exceptions if the movie is good enough…” and maybe I could justify that against re-sensitizing. I mean come on, I’ve got a long way to go and everyone knows you can’t just go cold turkey on this stuff.

Or maybe all these pre-recorded tapes going off in my head are the reason everyone is still going along with it. Maybe it’s time to totally restructure how I think about the content I choose to saturate myself in. Because it’s still my choice what I let through the filter, and it always has been.

And I won’t judge or look down on you for what you choose. Yes, it makes me really sad to see my younger siblings over-saturating themselves in all this crap and becoming so desensitized. It makes me sad that what I never would have dreamed you could see in a movie ten years ago is ‘totally okay’ for teenagers to go to the theater and watch. But even at that, your filter is your filter. It’s your choice. But I’ll still be here to make sure you know what it looks like not to be saturated in the toxicity of what’s socially acceptable. I’ll still be an example to my future kids, because I’m the generation in my legacy where being desensitized isn’t okay anymore; this ends with me.

And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.    -Philippians 4:8

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!