Jesus and Porn
by Jeff *
May 2, 2000
On GLOWfriends, Rick wrote:
I've been there too and understand your pain and frustration. This time last year I was coming home from work every day and spending 30-60 minutes looking up that crap, getting off, and then feeling absolutely terrible about myself. I even responded to an ad I found on the Internet and went to a park to meet up with some guy. Thank God he never showed up, and so God protected me from myself. Seemed there was no way out at the time, yet somehow God has given me freedom from this burden -- at least for the most part. I still fall, but it's much less often then a year ago.
I believe that everybody is different and probably some of what helped me may mean nothing to you, but let me share a few of the things that helped in my fight.
First of all I think we need to recognize that this is an addiction and that denial doesn't help. You seem to be there, which is a good sign. It puts you in a place to get help. When you recognize that you're an addict, you can get rid of the excuses and justifications and deal with the real problem. You said that you never used to look at porn on Sundays. I used to tell myself that by just looking at pictures I'm not hurting anybody. When we admit we're addicted we can dispense with these lies and justifications and, perhaps for the first time, come to God as a whole person ready for healing.
Breaking an addiction is hard. I've never been completely successful, but I've been able to experience a measure of freedom. It requires some real work. But -- and I know this sounds glib because I've been frustrated by people telling me this -- when you begin to step out, God will meet you. Looking back, the job won't seem so huge as it first seemed.
I think a lot of Christians get stuck in a cycle of sinning, repenting, trying to live right, falling into sin, repenting in guilt and so on. It's a nasty, horrible cycle that feeds on itself. While our churches often teach a bit of grace, too often we live by the law and not by the grace we proclaim. I know that even as I marveled at God's grace, I found myself trying to be victorious over my sin so that I could feel more "worthy" of His love. Slowly I'm learning that will never happen.
The first thing I need to understand is that there is nothing I can do that will make God love me any more than He already does. The Bible says that God loved us while we were yet still sinners!! He loves you passionately right now -- even as His heart is broken to see what sin is doing to His beloved child.
Our society runs by rules of ungrace -- we've got to earn our keep, pull ourselves up by the bootstraps, succeed in whatever we're doing. We're judged by our successes and failures. Thank God He sees us differently. I tried for years to defeat my same-gender desires -- still am I guess, but not in the same way or for the same reason -- for the sake of achieving victory so that I could feel "worthy" of approaching God's throne. But victory for the sake of victory can quickly become an idol that hurts us more then it helps. I found myself defining my goals by the things that I don't like, ignoring God and His will in my life.
My choice would be to get rid of these same-sex desires. But, as I'm finding myself more submitted to God, I find Him working on my selfishness and pride. What I thought was the worst part of me God has used to bring compassion, patience, empathy and a deeper dependence upon Him.
So, one of the key things that has helped me greatly is simply a change in where I put my efforts. Before I had my sights set on victory, but it was such a big task, I simply could not achieve it. Lacking God's power, I kept falling into the discouragement cycle.
What works so much better for me is to first realize that God loves me even though I fall short. He's adopted me as His son and isn't hovering above me waiting till I fall so He can strike me with lightning. As a Father, He's hovering above me waiting to pick me up. As I grow in grace He's still there, rejoicing as I am able to stand on my own and continue to improve my ability to stand and then walk.
Once I begin to understand how God feels about me -- as I begin to find confidence, trust, hope and strength in His consuming and ravishing love for me -- I shift from trying to find victory for its own sake to seeking to love God. In love I begin to seek obedience. Instead of coming to the end of the day knowing that I haven't achieved victory and feeling like a failure, I come to the end of the day knowing whether I have been obedient or not, whether I have loved God or not. If not, that doesn't mean that I have missed my life goal, but rather that there is still much room for improvement. And that's okay, because I'm growing and moving forward. I'm still a toddler learning to walk. My Daddy helps me when the steps are hardest, but as the muscles and coordination develop, He sits back and cheers me on as I take one tentative, shaky step after another. (I realize this analogy doesn't completely cover my relationship with God, because, strictly speaking, I will never "walk" independent of God; He always supplies the power. But I believe the analogy does convey God's attitude towards us.)
No parent in their right mind would punish their child for falling as they try to walk, and neither does God desire to punish us for falling. Rather, parents pay special attention to their child walking, recording the day they take their first step, taking pictures or videos and celebrating together. As you choose to get up and try again -- instead of hating yourself and assuming God hates you too -- imagine your Father, your Abba, your Daddy in heaven calling out in a mixture of excitement and tenderness, "Jesus, go get the video camera! Rick is standing up again! Maybe this time he'll make two steps before he falls ... and next time maybe it'll be three, and before you know it he'll be running all over the place!"
Some would say this is a nice, warm and fuzzy theory but that it ignores the seriousness of sin. Perhaps in some ways they are right, but if I err on the side of being too easy on sin, I think I'm in good company. Jesus was known as a friend of sinners, was accused of gluttony and hanging out with the tax collectors, prostitutes, lepers and others that weren't socially acceptable. He exuded tenderness towards the sinners, but was harsh with the self-righteous, religious people. He even said "I came for the sick, not the healthy." Paul writes that where sin abounds grace abounds all the more; and in Galatians he writes that if we abandon grace to pursue works in order to earn salvation, then we reject Jesus.
Sin is serious. So serious that God allowed Himself to be nailed to a cross to pay the atonement for us. And sin is serious in our lives as well. When we sin, we're wracked by guilt and a lot of self-hatred. Sin destroys us, it tears our soul to pieces, it separates us from God and it makes us into horrible little hellish creatures.
When we repent and accept Jesus' sacrifice in faith, God declares us righteous and blameless in His sight. That's what Paul calls righteousness by faith. This doesn't mean that all our sin falls off and we become instant angels --or, as Brennan Manning puts it, "clack click, clack click - one saint, that quick." Rather God has made a declaration of what we are to become, and we must step out in faith and pursue what God has called us to. In Romans Paul talks about the importance of renewing our minds, of seeking God. So, while we are not saved by works and good deeds, we do have a role to play in our own salvation. We need to accept God's love for us, and if we really do that, it will cause us to pursue God's will and seek to be obedient to Him. It will be an obedience out of love, not fear and self-hatred.
As I was writing about grace I used the illustration of a toddler learning to walk, and I think it's a great one. But I think there can be times when the toddler gives up, or never tries to walk, or is unable to walk due to health problems. How many Christians do we know who never get past the initial conversion experience, who never pursue holiness, who never claim their position as adopted heirs of Christ?
As long as you are still trying to walk -- as long as you get up after you fall, dust off your behind and try again, as long as you are seeking your loving Father -- you are on the right road, and you can view God entirely as a loving, concerned and pleased Father. But there are times when to be loving, human parents have to be harsh and seemingly cruel. A father I know has a son with numerous health problems that have required major operations, medications and so on. Certainly for him the acts of the Father seemed cruel at times, even when it was not only necessary, but the only loving response.
So it is also with us. Sometimes we are so crippled by sin that radical actions are needed by God. Sometimes He needs to convict us, break our hearts, or put us on the operating table and tear away a beloved sin that holds us back. It seems cruel at the time, but it's for the best, and it's the only way a truly loving God can respond.
We also need to remember that we are physical beings and that we respond to certain things in predictable ways. With dealing with addictions, we need to learn that loneliness, boredom, hunger, etc can lead us into the addictive behavior as we seek to cope. We train our minds to turn to whatever behavior -- porn, alcohol, drugs, sex, for me even books sometimes -- to medicate our pain whenever these triggers occur. We need to be prepared for such times. Something that has worked for me is to determine ahead of time what I'll do next time I find myself feeling worthless or bored or lonely... Perhaps I decide I'll read a Psalm, or call a friend, or write in my journal or play my guitar, or go for a motorcycle ride or a walk around the block. Decide whatever works for you. The important thing is to begin establishing a positive habit in place of the sinful addictive habit.
I want to encourage you with accountability as well. GLOWfriends is wonderful and a great starting place, but as wonderful and freeing as it is, we still need living, breathing people who will walk with us and stand beside us. It's great to pursue an accountability relationship on the net, but down the road you will need to find someone around you that you can trust. I know that's hard (Those who've been on GLOWfriends with me know my struggles and tremendous fears about telling people), but as you find people who can accept you, stand by you and pray for you, you will discover more and more freedom. I know from experience.
Seek God, step out in faith towards Him, trusting that He loves you and wants to have a relationship with you more then you want to be loved.
A fellow traveler
* In order to protect the privacy of our contributors, most names are pseudonyms, except where otherwise stated. This essay was first written as a post to GLOWfriends in May 2000. Other contributions by Jeff are "The Cross," and "Lonely. . "
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