This week I’ve been asked to talk about pornography on two separate occasions, and it made me realize how rarely this issue is being discussed in the church. I am reposting two blogs I wrote a few years back, and I hope it continues to fuel healthy, life-giving conversations.
Part of the curriculum for my eighth grade religion class was watching a movie called Sex Has a Price Tag. The boys watched it in one room and the girls in another, because words like sex and porn and masturbation made our little faces turn red and pink and white all over. I don’t remember much of the movie, except it confirmed what I heard my whole life—sex is bad. After the movie, a female teacher talked to the girls about loving their bodies and a male teacher talked to the boys about being addicted to porn (since women weren’t supposed to struggle with porn and men weren’t supposed to struggle with their bodies).
Porn was a man’s issue. Body image was a women’s issue. And sex was bad.
When I was in high school, a woman spoke to us in an assembly about how she and her husband were both virgins when they got married. She compared their relationship to a white rose and then talked about a soldier who died in battle protecting a handwritten letter from his wife. I’m not totally sure how it all made sense together, but it was a compelling speech and I remember thinking, I want to be a white rose when I get married. I want to be sexually acceptable to my husband. I want to protect the handwritten letter God gave me.
As I listened to her speak, flashbacks from a past of sexual abuse began to surface and I realized I was not a white rose—not because of something I did, but because of something that was done to me. I was tainted. I was ashamed.
Everyone deals with shame and sexual temptation differently, but I turned to pornography. I didn’t trust any real human being, but I deeply desired intimacy and acceptance. Pornography was a cheap and temporary fix, and I bought into the lie that it was satisfying for over three years.
I felt trapped. Nobody could know.
Porn was a man’s issue.
No man would want me.
I was used goods.
God wouldn’t want me.
I ruined the gift he gave me.
I carried the weight of these lies and a distorted view of sex with me throughout high school and into college. I was confused and lonely and trapped in shame. This is where Jesus met me, and while I did not know it at the time, meeting him meant being healed by him. Meeting him meant being crucified with him. Meeting him meant being raised to life by him. Meeting him meant my past would not drive my future. Meeting him meant I mattered to someone. Meeting him meant I was a white rose, after all.
I fell in love with Jesus when I was a senior in high school. I had an insatiable hunger for his Word and I remember thinking, I can’t believe I get to talk to him all the time. This is still one of my favorite seasons to look back on— I had the purest, uncomplicated affection for him. He saved me from the religious, good-girl games I had been playing my entire life. He rescued me with a kind of love I cannot begin to understand.
Jesus loved me and I loved him with my entire heart.
I was completely and utterly addicted to pornography and masturbation.
I was self-obsessed.
I had an eating disorder that drove me to lose over thirty pounds in three months.
I lied about almost everything in order to cover up the truth of who I was.
I was wrapped up in toxic shame.
And in it all, he called me redeemed.
If I could go back and talk to myself at this point, I would say two things:
1. None of these truths negated the other. Meaning, I truly loved the Lord, he truly loved me, and I was truly addicted to porn. I was seriously self-obsessed, and Jesus seriously called me redeemed and sought after. My sexual sin did not (and does not) negate the affection God had for me. I had deep shame in my early years as a Christian because I was convinced that if I really loved God I would not struggle with sin. That is not reality, though, as we are commanded to continually put to death what is earthly in us: sexual immorality, impurity, anger, slander, covetousness (Colossians 3). To battle with sin is a part of being human in a fallen world. To lose in this battle is to rely on your own strength. To win is to depend upon the Spirit and grace of God.
2. I was not alone in my temptations, sexual abuse, and shame. It still makes me sad to think about how isolated I felt for those years, even though many people around me had similar stories. It never crossed my mind that another woman could be addicted to porn. I thought I was the only person who had been sexually abused. I was certain nobody else had masturbated. This thought pattern was a tactic the Enemy used to silence me, though, keeping the truths of my addiction and even parts of my redemption in the dark. The real truth is that I was not alone, I am not alone, and you are not alone. It does not matter what your temptation is, you are not the only one.
If you are currently addicted to pornography, masturbation, lust, self-obsession, food, or shame, hear this message: Jesus saves and you are not alone. Do not buy into the lie that you are isolated in your sin. This is a way that Satan is trying to keep you from walking in wholeness and redemption. I am in tears as I write this, because I so desperately want you to understand that you can be free. You can have a voice. You can tell somebody the real, honest-to-goodness, ugly truth. You do not have to live in the dark. You do not have to be covered by shame. You can be free, you can be free, you can be free.