this may be one of the tabooist topics [especially in the church, not a lot of sermons preached on this in my experience] and it’s time to bring it into the light.
i have a story to share and i am hoping that this will help people towards a journey of healing, restoration, self-forgiveness, hope and sexual purity.
i do wish my story went something like this – i used to struggle with pornography and masturbation and then i became a Christ-follower and God took all that junk away from me and healed me up inside and made me well… that would be a good story… sadly, though, it is not mine.
BUT during the height of my struggles with pornography/masturbation [and believe me, they were struggles] which went on for years [i would say on and off to differing degrees for close to 15 years] i was a youth pastor at two different churches and so it was often a case of mess up hectically again Saturday nite [if i mention late nite e-tv and you smile knowingly, you have maybe caught yourself out] and then go to church to preach a sermon or be part of the worship team or lead a bunch of young people towards ‘being good Christian young people’
so add feelings of incredible failure, unworthiness and hypocrisy to the mix. anyone relating yet?
for me it was usually a tv thing which is weird cos i guess i had a lot of access via computer and occasionally would stumble on a page i shouldn’t be on but i guess the internet stuff was always just a little too hectic or in my face for me and so my struggles would generally be late nite, flipping through the channels [all four we had and when late nite e-tv was one of them it was a recipe for failure] and then inevitably getting stuck on some ridiculous porn movie for ten, twenty minutes or longer leading to inevitable masturbation to relieve the sexual tension built up and then guilt, anger at myself, pleading to God to take this thing away [after years of struggling i would at times refer to it as 'the porn in my flesh' cos it certainly didn't seem like anything God was interested in removing from me by clicking His God fingers which i desperately wanted to be the case]
what was interesting for me [and i doubt this is the case for everyone] is that it never felt like the porn did anything for me – i certainly didn’t enjoy it – it always disgusted me rather than turned me on. for me it always, or for the most part at least, seemed to be about the curiosity aspect [as if there was ever going to be a good porn story script or premise but i kept telling myself that's why i watched - and we know how curiosity treated the cat] “Let me just see what happens here and the moment it gets dodgy I’ll turn it off” and so on.
then there was a time when i would have a couple of weeks success and the enemy would change his tactic and i literally would turn on the tv late nite saturday with the attitude of ‘I have beaten this thing. Let me show it how strong I am so I am going to turn on the dodgy channel and the moment it gets dodgy I will turn it off to show it who is boss.” Inevitably it turned out to be boss and i would revert back to the porn struggle which replaced the pride struggle once more.
John 10.10 “The thief comes to steal and kill and destroy, but I [Jesus] have come that you may have life to the full.”
i was living out that verse – i was having innocence and purity and reputation [at least between me and God cos not too many other people knew] stolen, my soul was being destroyed week by week and i was heading towards all sorts of deaths… the enemy is a liar and will use whatever tactic he knows will work in you – when porn lost strength he switched to pride and took me down that way
and of course maybe the biggest part of it all was that i was fighting this fight all by myself. i was a good christian youth leader – i couldn’t be struggling with pornography and masturbation, right? it’s not the kind of thing that comes up naturally in conversations – “So, who is struggling a bit with the old porn then?” and i already felt dirty and disgusted with myself and like a complete failure week after week after week, why would i possibly share that with someone else?
at the height of my addiction to masturbation i could not go a day without doing it [at least in my head] and yet there were two of the strangest things that happened – the first was that for some reason i saw Sunday as a holy day and so i never masturbated on a Sunday [bizarre that i held that belief for so long and yet didn't see the glaring contradiction that something i 'couldn't stop' i was able to stop for one day a week...] bizarre… and then in 1994 i went on a youth ministry music and drama team for a year and after a couple of months of struggling daily with msaturbation before i left for team, i went for a complete year without masturbating once…
came home, feeling victorious and pretty much got almost straight back into it. and all the guilt, anger, frustration, crying out to God etc continued…
the struggles with pornography were not as intense as the struggles with masturbation and so they pretty much came and went and because it was generally tv related was a little easier to control than if it was computer related i imagine… and despite not getting absolute victory over it i was able to identify some weak spots and put things in place to make it less likely that i would fall
one was the obvious reality of knowing when the porn was going to be happening and so moving away from the habit of arriving home late at night and switching on the tv to going straight to my room or avoiding turning on the tv at all late in the evening. i was living at my folks home at the time and so leaving the lounge door opening rather than closing it made me less likely to get caught up in it [having your folks walk in while you are watching porn a very strong deterrent.] also another eye opener and truth to people stuck in a “i can’t control this” mentality – that is a weird thing to say because you manage to control it when you are hanging out with your parents or in a busy restaurant or on the bus for example…
the devil maintains his stronghold on people in this area using a lot of subtle lies and half-truths – you are the only one caught up in this, you can’t stop it, the pride of thinking you are able to be in control and so testing that control, the curiosity aspect, the lies of the stuff of pornography being equivalent to the stuff of sex you will find in marriage one day… and more…
possibly the best piece of advice or mentoring i got from a good friend of mine, Craig Duvel, who i spoke to one baptist summer camp about this stuff [at least i think i spoke about this stuff, pretty sure i did] was to “keep a short account with God” – like a bar tab, the smaller it is, the easier it is to settle… so the more we sin and don’t put things right with God, the easier it is to keep on sinning because “ah well i’ve messed up so much anyways what is one more time?” and so what Craig told me, which helped a lot, was that sometimes he will get up at 3am and go downstairs and get on his face and make right with God when he has done something the night before – deal with it immediately with God [and then quickly with people if your sin requires you to go and make right with someone] even if that makes you feel like a complete hypocrite…
so messing up late nite saturday, it still made sense to make right with God afterwards so that i started the new day fresh and able to go and do the things of church and so on and not allow the mess-ups to build up and overwhelm me. despite the fact of knowing that i had stuffed up 99 times before not having to live with the belief that it means i have to stuff up the 100th time.
another thing i put into place with another friend of mine years later when he was struggling with stuff was to make a text message accountability [i did this with a friend of mine who was tempted to cut herself and never did hopefully partially as a result and another friend of mine with drinking stuff so a good all-round principle of friends helping friends] with the idea that any time he was tempted to masturbate he would send me a text [well it worked both ways but i don't think i was struggling as much when that happened] and i would text back to let him know i was praying for him and that he could beat it – this is a really great thing to have in place as often just the action of interrupting the temptation to write the text was what was needed to prevent the action – it does require you being able to find someone who you can share your junk with who will love you and not judge you and be available/willing to do such a thing – but i think this can be a great help.
i believe that one of the biggest principles is getting it into the light – they say a problem shared is a problem halved and with masturbation or pornography this is indeed true as just being able to share with someone that you are struggling with one of those things takes away the enemy’s hold over you in the “if they knew what you were like they would be so disgusted” department- walk the journey with someone else. it is a tough scary thing to share the first time and you really need to pick your person well [hoping that a best friend or a youth pastor or an accountability person or cell leader might be that person] so that the sharing of it doesn’t become an added burden to you.
while i am on this, let me share a great link which is helpful in so many different areas – we stumbled upon this site called ‘i am second’ which has testimonies from a bunch of different people and this one by a guy called Nate Larkin, despite being on sex addiction, resonates with a lot of the pornography/masturbation struggle [http://www.iamsecond.com/seconds/nate-larkin]
so i have some principles and tips and advice for those who are struggling with this thing – i wish i had the formula of how to stop but after years of struggling [and not quite sure why God allowed me to struggle so long without just removing it from me cos i so desperately prayed and cried out for that on occasions too numerous to count, EXCEPT maybe because he knew that me speaking out about it some day would hopefully help others start their journey towards freedom and give me the credibility as someone who knows too well the depths to which it takes you, and if that is the case then i am okay with that for sure] i had a personal miracle – i had struggled with both pornography and masturbation through the few relationships i had had with girls and sometimes being in a relationship made it easier to not struggle and at other times it didn’t [living with a no-sex-before-marriage Christ-following frame of reference while engaging in relationship activities designed to lead one towards sex in terms of intimacy and closeness didn't help a lot] but then i met Valerie [my future wife to be] and God pretty much instantly took it all away which i am profoundly grateful for.
and then i got to stand in front of close to 1000 people at baptist summer camp [times two camps] and share about my struggles and saw some other brave leaders alongside me [some who i am hoping will add their stories to mine here] sharing about their struggles with the same things, in different ways… and then witnessing God bring about such release and hope and promise of a new journey and freedom from these two things which are incredibly destructive forces. it is never a fun moment to stand in front of people and share about your biggest failures and the things that bring you embarrassment and shame. but i have been able to do so as Jesus has freed me from that shame and the enemy does not have those holds over me that he did before.
so there it is. my name is brett “fish” anderson and i have struggled with pornography and masturbation. and been freed from the grip of both over my life. there is hope and freedom in Jesus Christ. there is strength in being able to bring your darkness/struggle into the light and in the support of a loving friend or community.
if you are a pastor, small group or youth leader, or even a parent [altho that might be a trickier one - sitting down with your kids and asking about their struggles with porn or even revealing yours might not necessarily be the best way to go - altho if you can create space for them to speak and share and for you to be able to share your brokenness or point them to others who can and will that might work] reading this then i urge you to take the ‘Taboo’ out of this topic.
if i am feeling like an incredible sinner or hypocrite, if i am unclean and disgusting because of the hold pornography or masturbation has over me then your messages of who God is and what i need to be doing as a Christian and so on can become meaningless – create spaces for your people to deal with their junk, in open and honest forums – they may be messy/awkard/embarrassing conversations or meetings to chair, but the reward and fruit of doing them will be such incredible freedom that you could revolutionise the life of your youth group, or church or small group.
i have seldom heard pastors or youth leaders deal with this topic directly and yet it has such a hold over so many people – it is time to get the stories out and let the healing begin
the thief comes to steal and kill and destroy, but I [Jesus] have come that you might have LIFE TO THE FULL!