For some of us, it starts easily enough. We struggle with sexual temptation or porn as a reccurring stumbling block, like an unclean spirit, that we never seem to exorcise. For others I know, it goes far deeper: there is a history, an event, and hard stories to share. And of course the shame. . .
For myself, the battle has gone on for a while and, to be honest, it is not over. Porn, even the so-called “soft” is more potent than people give it credit for. Each night can potentially be a battle. For me, it is the post-high moments when a good time is followed by downtime, boredom, and a little bit of laziness that things become dangerous. It doesn’t take much: something on TV, an image on a benign webpage. It’s just so easy. My laptop is almost like an adversary. A few links later, I’m where I’d really rather not be. But that too is the frustrating thing about it. If I’d rather not be there, then, dammit, why am I there? How many times have I read Paul in Romans 7 struggling between his flesh and spirit and thinking “Yes! Yes!” There are times when I thought I was losing my mind, splitting into two people, or wrestling between hating myself for a lack of faithfulness and just being apathetic, not wanting to feel that self-imposed guilt so strongly.
I trick myself at times. “Well, I’ll just go here, that will be enough to take the edge off.” Or, “Well, it’s not that big of a deal, it’s not like it hurts anyone.” Or, “Well, it’s sort of God’s fault isn’t it for making me a guy like this.” The world doesn’t give much help. The secular world seems to both encourage with one hand and poke fun with the other. A world full of images, both stuck in our brains, and then leading girls to try to emulate them. People joke that guys think about sex every 7 seconds or whatever some painfully unscientific study showed. Maybe that’s because we are being shown potentially provocative images every other second! I had a girlfriend once who I confessed to about my struggle with porn and related masturbation who responded “You shouldn’t beat yourself up about it (good advice), I mean you are a guy, that’s just what you guys do, right? (not as useful)” And the church can be really hit or miss (usually miss) about this. It makes you think you are the only one. And merely reminding someone of the standard we are called to just pushes it deeper in, further down. In fact the hardest part of it all is prayer. It is hard to pray to God when you have been seeing images which, almost mockingly, stay with you. There is the feeling of being dirty, or wrong, or ashamed. So far from God. Why would he listen to me? Why ask for forgiveness, again? After a while, doesn’t He just get tired of it? I would.
But I won’t end that way and for good reason. There are people who I share with, sometimes just one-on-one, sometimes a few of us. Without some Christian brothers (and the occasional sister) to share with, to pray with, to put it out there, where would I be? I’m better off now than before. I know myself and how to avoid a lot of pitfalls. I’ve learned that even what we do in private does affect our mindset in public. Yes, even if our world wants us to play its game, it doesn’t have to be this way. A lot of us guys know where that road leads, and it doesn’t feel like life. It promises something in the moment that it never does or ever could deliver. I’ve learned things about God and my own fragile will. I’ve learned to be happy for every little good choice, to not click, to turn off, and just trust God that it is better that way. And in the end, I’m learning what a God who unconditionally loves means, a Lord who, even when I’m ashamed, on the floor, fresh from my mistake, and shaking my head, stands over me and says to the growling, mocking darkness, “This one is mine. You cannot have him.”
And so it is.
— a Guy in InterVarsity Christian Fellowship