WARNING: sensitive confession to follow!
This will be the first in a series of posts on the topic of mental and sexual purity. It only feels appropriate that the starting place for such a series would be to share my honest history of why this topic matters so much to me. I don’t feel it would be authentic to attempt to speak with authority on this topic without first disclosing the years of failure that preceded the victory into which God graciously and eventually led me.
I must say that this confession comes with no small amount of shame – but in that sense, it will also demonstrate the immensity of my gratefulness to God for His miraculous deliverance, cleansing, and restoration. Thank You, Jesus – all glory and honor be unto You!
Last disclaimer before I launch into my story: what I am about to share is pretty sensitive and will be delivered with transparency. If you don’t want (or need) to be confronted with the realities of sexual sin, please stop reading now, and click away from this page.
While I have shared this story verbally on many occasions with both individuals and groups alike, I have never before published it in writing, which frankly feels quite intimidating… But I do have a sense that this needs to be written down… and shared… so… here goes.
My introduction to pornography came when I was just 11 years old, and it came in the form of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue. Over the next 2-3 years, I never had to actively seek out any pornographic material; it was consistently delivered to my home via the mail and cable television. Victoria’s Secret catalogs and HBO provided all the material my young and curious mind could enjoy – and unfortunately, far more.
By age 13, I was completely addicted. I was no longer passively stumbling upon pornography just by innocently getting the mail for my family or mindlessly surfing through the channels on TV after school. I was now actively seeking it out. During the day, I was plotting how and when I could get my next fix. Checking the mailbox as a service to my family became a greedy search for the next catalog. Flipping TV channels was no longer an apathetic function of boredom – but an active search for a salacious scene.
Indeed, my addiction to pornography was every bit as strong and as life-controlling as spirits are to an alcoholic or as nicotine to a smoker. I was the servant of my own lustful desires, and I had no ability to deliver myself from this bondage. And if I’m completely being honest, from age 13-15, I had no real intention of being delivered, either.
From age 13-15, I lived two lives, mentally. I wanted to honor and live for the God who loved and saved me. I also wanted to look at pictures of scantily-clad women and feed my own insatiable lusts. By the end of my freshman year in high school, this double-mindedness had left me miserable.
I knew something had to change. And I wanted to be free in the worst way.
An active church member from birth, I knew very well what the Lord wanted for me, mentally and sexually. I knew my fixation on pornography was not in my own best interest, and that it dishonored God.
So, at age 15, I made a shift of the will. I just decided I would not lust anymore. Simple enough: I was in a prison of my own making – so I figured all I needed to do was to just break free! The naiveté of this decision is hard to overstate, for the prison of addiction is far easier to build than to escape from.
My decision would succeed for a day or two… then face-plant into failure.
Then another week of no porn would pass by… then another big failure.
Then three more days porn-free… then another huge mistake.
This defeating cycle – of (1) fail, (2) feel horrible, (3) will myself to do better, (4) do good for several days, then (5) have another huge failure – went on perpetually for the next two years.
Two solid years of willing myself to escape from my addiction, and I was worse off than when I had begun. Throughout that time, each successive failure left me lower – hating myself more – more disgusted with myself – more convinced that God couldn’t possibly stand me, let alone like me…
Only Someone outside of my prison – Someone more powerful than the prison itself – could free me from it. I knew Jesus, and I loved Him. I had accepted His offer of salvation at age nine. Even throughout all those addicted years, I had a real, earnest, daily quiet time of prayer and Bible study, and I felt genuinely terrible for the hypocrisy of my thought-life…
At age 17, I started committing my moment-by-moment thought-life to Jesus. I memorized 1 Corinthians 6:18-20, 1 Corinthians 10:13, and 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 and recited them daily (more on this in the next post).
I committed to honor God with my body. I started praying in the midst of my tempting situations. I invited Jesus into my temptations – to be with me, to strengthen me, to show me the way out, and to help me escape. The walls of my prison were finally beginning to crumble. Warm, fresh air was finding it’s way into my dungeon of defeat and despair. Within a year, I was free.
The series of posts that follow this one will be primarily devoted to explaining what exactly happened in the five years that followed after Jesus initially freed me from my addiction. Though He had secured my victory, I was still very weak and vulnerable to temptation. The five years that followed were filled with victory and loss, struggle and celebration, tears and triumphs, repentance and starting over – again and again and again and again…