This is written by a spiritual son, and I am so proud of him and his journey to freedom.
“I was first exposed to pornography in the 6th grade when a friend at school passed around a dilapidated nudie magazine he probably found rotting in the street somewhere. I had never had a personal conversation with an adult regarding sexuality up to that point, and public school sex education in the early 90s was pretty much solely focused on anatomy and function. Needless to say, when my turn came to take the magazine home, I sat on my bed, electrified by entirely new feelings of wonder, excitement, danger, and shame, which produced a healthy blend of irresistible fascination and self-loathing. Shortly afterward, I was exploring the basement of our house one afternoon and came across several hidden boxes of decades-old pornographic material. This reinforced a couple of beliefs that had been developing in my subconscious – that every person with a penis had a raw hunger for sex that would never be satisfied. And that the only thing worse than living with this unshakeable burden would be to open up and talk about it with someone else. The years that followed are a blur of cognitive dissonance in memory. At church, I was captivated by the message of God’s grace and acceptance. At school, I felt desperately insecure about how I (didn’t) fit in socially. And at home, I buried myself in isolating and self-destructive behavior, firmly believing that anyone – family, friends, strangers, Jesus Himself – who learned what I was really like would turn away in disgust forever. After high school, I moved across the country for college in hopes of a fresh start. While I grew in self-confidence and self-expression, my sexuality remained stunted and a source of shame, allowed to peek its head out only in the company of a computer screen in the darkness or in pushing boundaries in dating relationships that were never explicitly acknowledged or discussed. I felt increasingly compartmentalized between the good things I was being exposed to and challenged to pursue and my hidden life of sexual shame, to the point where I began to have regular nightmares about the house I grew up in, the basement in particular. The dreams varied in detail, but the theme was always the same, and each time I woke up uneasy with a sense of dread from someone having entered or trying to enter my house with a clear intention to do harm. I continued to have these dreams consistently over the next fifteen years. In my mid-twenties, I finally gave up on hoping for a magic bullet from God to fix my broken areas overnight and opened up to some friends about my struggles with sexual purity. To my immense relief, I learned that I wasn’t alone in this area, and we decided to meet weekly as a group. Relief soon turned to puzzlement and resignation as we quickly realized that none of us had any idea of how to actually help each other. Our friendships deepened through the experience, but none of us got any healthier. Several years, a few moves, a couple of other men’s groups, and a wedding later, I reached the point of moderately successful behavior control. I hadn’t grown in any healthy level of sexual purity, let alone come close to the kind of freedom Jesus and Paul gush about in the New Testament, but I was managing to ‘act out’ only once every few months. I joined a men’s group at church called ‘The Whole Man Project’. The very first night I walked into the room, I heard a message of freedom being preached from a place of conviction and experience that I’d never thought possible, and I left wondering if I dared to hope for true freedom for myself. I joined a small group and started on the gradual but upward journey of uncovering and processing the hurts, pain, and false beliefs stored up over a lifetime that was underlying my lack of sexual self-control. In my mind, I began to switch from fighting an unending defensive battle just to avoid stupid behavior to fighting to take ground in how I wanted my life to play out. Taking one step at a time toward the abundant life Jesus promised His followers. About six months after I joined The Whole Man Project, I was chatting with a mentor one morning, which turned into a ministry session where she led me through revisiting some painful experiences. The memory of the day I discovered the pornography collection in the basement was brought to mind. She instructed me to ask Jesus where He was at that moment and write out what He showed me. I saw Jesus in the corner of the room as I was about to open the closet, and I asked Him that if He was there, then why did He let me open the door? I felt Him say that He would never take away the freedom to act and to choose from either myself or those around me, but I felt His fierceness towards the closet. I felt Him say that the enemy wanted to plant something in me, but He had already planned the path to conquer it in advance. She then led me through prayers of forgiveness and generational reconciliation, encountering the heart of the Father, and receiving the equipping and empowering of the Holy Spirit. I realized that I had been waiting for God to chauffeur me to the promised land of freedom while I helplessly sat in the backseat when He had been inviting me to sit up front and take an active role in partnering with Him to move forward together. After that day, my recurring nightmares about the house I grew up in stopped completely. The truth is that we have been reconciled to the Father completely through the work of Jesus on the cross, but that is the starting point for abundant life, not the finish line. Each day, He extends an invitation for us to journey with Him towards wholeness and freedom; how far we want to take it is ultimately up to us.”