i want to take a moment to honor Catherine on this and am so super amped that she shared this story and know it has taken A LOT for her to do so – but both pornography and especially masturbation have largely been seen as a guy issue for so long and it was at a summer camp a bunch of years ago that i really got to see the depth of the problem and how it affects a lot of girls and young women as well – this story is so much needed and it is not without cost that Catherine shares this. but God is faithful and we trust that He will use this story to help bring release and freedom [or at least start you on the journey of it] for a number of women. thank you Catherine:
‘It was Summer Camp Justified and my first time ever at one of the BYSA organised camps down in hot-as-hell Kimberly. Looking back I know it was actually hot-as-heaven; God did some heavy refining that week in late 2008. My entire youth group had gone, and when I mean entire youth group… I mean all 8 or 9 of us. We were small but close-knit, and all of us were good friends. It was and is to this day the most amazing thing that I have ever been to. And I’ve been to my fair share of Passion conferences and Hillsong concerts!
I remember sitting as a group trying to decide whether we’d go to the mission outreach or one of the talks: Pornography and Masturbation (Brett Anderson). I was shocked to my core – who on earth talks about that sort of stuff?! Not once had I ever heard a sermon on it, read a Christian book about it and much less gone to a talk about it. I was desperate and determined to go.
You see – I had – at that stage, been struggling with pornography and masturbation since I cant even remember when. I can’t remember when it started or what started it exactly but I know that as the years went by, the burden got heavier until, at Justified, I was literally crawling and dragging myself through life with it. I wanted answers. I wanted to know for once and for all what was right and what was wrong.
Nobody knew – nobody even suspected – what I was hiding in the dark place in my soul. The part I couldn’t bear to shed any light on, so embarrassed and so ashamed I was of it. Men struggled with this I knew. This was and is the big lie: that men are the only ones who struggle with deep and dark temptations.
I wanted to go alone to the Pornography talk, so that I could hide in the audience with my guilt and my shame, without anyone being the wiser. My whole group came along. I have never been more vulnerable and fearful – like a deer in the headlights. I was certain someone would connect the talk to me and the box would be opened; all my darkest secrets and fears would come out. I believed my friends would turn against me if they knew the kind of person that I was and tell the whole world about my shame.
If anyone ever wondered how I came to be friends with Brett, it’s not because I met him after the Pornography talk. It’s because I facebook stalked both him and Bruce after the camp because they had impacted my life so very deeply. Brett’s talk on Pornography and Masturbation answered so many questions for me. But more startling to me than anything else was when other young women climbed onto stage – IN FRONT OF EVERYONE – and revealed their inner struggles, so similar to mine.
And then we were all sent outside to unload our burdens with our youth groups. Uh-oh. The last thing I wanted to do was reveal to my friends the shame I was hiding. I listened to each person unlock their secret pain and share it with everyone. Most were shocking and surprising. I soon began to realise that everyone was carrying a heavy burden. I was at war within myself: on the one hand I feared to share my guilt and humiliation, and on the other hand I was burning to unload the burden and shed some light onto a very dark place.
God’s will won out in the end and I tearfully – and quite incoherently – unlocked that secret place inside my soul, and set the truth free. It was the most frightening thing I’ve ever had to do in my life but it was also the first time I have ever felt so light and so unburdened – so free.
I have struggled with Pornography and Masturbation for years. Literature was and still is my greatest downfall. I’ve always loved books and I’ve always loved reading, but it has been both a blessing and a curse. I used to filch through my mom’s fiction, looking for trouble. I learned to do it when no one was at home and could catch me. Eventually that took too long and I turned to the internet – truly the most treacherous place for the unwary – and discovered a trove of spots where I could look for more trouble. I covered my tracks; deleted all my browsing history. Then came internet access through your mobile…. Still I carried on. I realised in the very beginning how much of what I read and saw and did, disgusted me. I loathed it but was swept up in a current of morbid fascination and uncontrollable temptation. All the time I questioned whether what I was doing was wrong, but I knew deep in my soul that it was, and I loathed and hated myself for it. I prayed constantly for God to take this burden away from me; I begged Him to set me free from the chains and bondage that had ensnared me.
Sometimes I had brief periods of respite where I was not hounded by this terrible burden. But more often than not I was watching myself fall almost everyday. With regards to Masturbation, I can barely talk about it and cannot say the word without such disgust and contempt for myself. The word itself is truly a horrible and ugly combination of vowels and consonants. A truly fitting word for the act itself. The pornography was always a means to that end. It was never really about the pornography except that it was a direct route to masturbation. If pornography is the chains, masturbation is the heavy-duty lock. It ensnares so thoroughly and so completely that you cannot see the tunnel much less the light at the end of it. I was addicted; the same way a druggie is addicted to cocaine – but knows it’ll kill them.
After summer camp I was determined to put an end to this: I never again wanted to be imprisoned. I stayed away from books except those from the local Christian book store. I never went near the internet unless someone was in the house and I knew I could get caught. I put safe-search on google and instructed my sister to lock it. I took the browsing option off my phone. I knew it wouldn’t be enough so I decided to get an accountability partner. Someone I knew struggled with the same thing. It was the worst decision I ever made. Or maybe it was the person. But they did not hold me accountable or help me in my struggles, despite promising to do so. A year after summer camp and a year after having stayed clean, I fell again.
The devastation was acute. I wanted so desperately to be free from this but it had ensnared me again: was I never going to be free?? A year of severe depression followed and I had never felt further from God. I felt that I’d been left in a black pit to rot and die and that He didn’t care about me and didn’t want to save me. I finally found my way out again and back to the God who had never abandoned me. I knew it would require daily prayer and daily perseverance. I knew what I was up against.
Its been 4 years since Justified and I still struggle. I met a wonderful man and now I have someone to struggle with, someone who holds me accountable better than anyone has. We decided straight from the word go that we would wait and remain pure until marriage. A decision that’s been incredibly difficult but one that we have stuck to despite the struggles. There is nothing perfect or easy about this life. Pornography and Masturbation are things I have to fight with on a daily basis and it never gets easier. I still carry the shame and the guilt and hope that one day God will remove it completely from my shoulders. I have no certain answers to the pain and the struggle against Pornography except these three: God’s love, God’s grace and God’s forgiveness.
There is no quick solution or easy-fix I’ve found. I know all about refinement – I’m a jeweller who works with precious metals stones – and it’s no quick process. Refinement is a long and arduous process: the bad must be burnt away from the good or forcibly separated through a series of long, costly and complicated procedures. It is the same with a diamond (my life is full of these ironies), the good must be cut away from the raw; polished until it’s the best it can be. There will still always be flaws and inclusions, but it will be what it was intended to be right from the beginning: something beautiful that shines.
I foresee future battles and pain – God is not done with me yet, he is still busy refining me through my personal struggle. But I hope that my testimony may be able to set more women free from this struggle so that they may begin their own journeys toward healing and a possible victory over this enemy: Pornography and Masturbation.’