Monday, March 24, 2014

The House on Haunted Hill

We sat together in my office looking at one another in silence. The perfunctory discussions about the weather and jobs having been completed, nothing was left except to get to the heart of the matter. The opening came with the words “I don’t quite know how to begin. . .” and then the dam broke. What followed involved the pain-filled story of one man’s struggle with porn. It began when he was young, a chance happening upon his father’s Playboy stash, and blossomed into a raging Internet addiction which was consuming hours of his time and fraying the very edges of his soul. As his story gushed forth, it became very apparent that I wasn’t his first stop. I was his last grasping effort. The man before me was drowning and he was reaching out to me before he went completely under.

It wasn’t that he didn’t know the damaging effects of porn. A good bit of his story involved the receiving of good teaching about God’s intentions for sex and how porn worked against God’s best for his life. It just wasn’t enough. It wasn’t that he hadn’t tried to quit. He had tried and tried, on multiple occasions. He had all the software and multiple accountability partners. He had numerous people who knew of his struggle and were building into his life. It just wasn’t enough. It wasn’t that he didn’t respect women. He knew that women were created in the image of God and that he was obsessing over girls whom God loved and desired so much more for them than to use their bodies and to allow men to abuse the images of their bodies. It just wasn’t enough. He had tried everything and nothing was enough. With desperation and the flickerings of resignation in his eyes, he finished with these words, “I lead my small group every week and then I go home, turn on my computer, masturbate, and then I cry because I am so full of shame. . .I just can’t stop.”

I wish that I could say that this man’s story was the exception. The reality is that his story is becoming the rule. I suppose I could rehearse the statistics. Some 70% of men view porn every month. 1 in 3 visitors to pornographic websites are women. 47% of Christians report that porn is a major problem in their home and 56% of divorce cases involved porn addictions. We could rehearse these and more, but they are not enough and that is really the problem. There are countless people for whom nothing seems to be enough, enough to free them from that which brings them guilt and shame, freedom from that which isolates and forces them to keep portions of their lives in the shadows. Friends surround them. Structures support and protect them. Teaching exhorts them. . .but nothing seems to be enough. The tendrils are too deep and they cannot and sometimes do not wish to be free. Shame has become familiar and freedom an inconceivable reality.

The story out, we sat together for a while, silence once more permeating the room and our very lives, and then we began to speak. We began to speak about how Jesus was enough, enough to fill this man’s soul with a sense of hope and renewal. Jesus was enough, enough to provide companionship when he was lonely and wanted to feel loved. Jesus was enough, enough to provide pleasure and excitement that was both necessary and desired. Jesus was enough. Enough. Enough.

Our discussion ranged far and wide as to how Jesus was enough, but we came back to a single point. Jesus was enough, but for him to be enough there had to be a choice, a simple but powerful choice. The choice had to be made to pursue Jesus as enough. It was a simple choice, but one which could not be made in a moment. It was a choice that had to be made in every moment. In the dark moments, Jesus could be chosen to be enough. In the lonely moments, Jesus could be chosen as enough. In the hurting moments, the desirous moments, the empty moments that needed to be filled, Jesus could be chosen as enough. It was in those chosen moments that freedom would be found, not all at once but moment by moment as slowly and surely Jesus filled every moment of this man’s life and made himself to be enough.

A fellow traveler,


What’s my next step?

We encourage you to consider engaging in the following as a way of handing off faith in your family.

Discuss sex and its proper role as a family:  We live in a culture saturated with mixed messages about sex. Consider taking some time to explain and sort through these messages so that your children develop a healthy view of sex and their sexuality as a wonderful gift from God. You might use conversations your children initiate to engage in this important discussion.  You might also initiate it yourself by purchasing magazines like Men’s Health or Glamour and discussing the difference between what these magazines portray and what God says about sex.

We encourage you to consider engaging in the following as a way of deepening your own faith.

Memorize Psalm 23:  The struggle with pornography or any sexual issue can be embarrassing and overwhelming. Many of these struggles begin small and quickly grow to the point that they consume our lives and force us to live duplicitly with those we love the most. The root to many of these struggles is the failure to realize that God is enough, a reality we see in our grasping onto the lives of others and the pleasure they provide us to fill our beings with a sense of pleasure, enjoyable activity, and worth. Experiencing freedom from these ways of being is a journey, a journey that begins with the every moment decision to approach Jesus as enough. One way you might pursue Jesus in this way is to memorize Psalm 23. Once this psalm is memorized, it can serve as a moment-by-moment prayer offered to God, affirming our choice to pursue God and his willing desire to be enough.

1 comment:

  1. Until God gives him the power to break free, he (along with those who are trying to help him) has the opportunity to learn how wide and deep is the grace of God in our weakness. Beyond our imaginations. His grace is enough. Every. single. time. I learned that as a new Christian from praying with a Christian friend with a marijuana addiction in high school. For most of the year we prayed and still every Monday he would come back to school defeated. I remember watching him bending his metal fork in the lunchroom as he fought the desire. Then, suddenly, miraculously, one weekend God took away the desire. Why did God wait? (My friend had done nothing differently.) I think he needed to know that God's love and grace would still be there to catch him no matter how many times he tried and failed. And those of us that walked that road with him also learned that lesson. That man is a pastor now. It was an important lesson to learn.