I wonder what would happen if my forty something year old husband stood at the front of the church one Sunday morning and disclosed his past pornography addiction and the freedom he has received from it through the healing of God and his recovery program.
Would there be the same cheers that accompanied the announcement of the anniversary of another church member’s sobriety from alcohol? Would there be the same compassionate call to prayer as there was for another member who relapsed in their drug addiction after being sober for nearly a year?
Would there be the same acceptance that was given to the courageous teenager who recently shared how God had freed him at youth camp this summer from his struggle with pornography? I sat in church that morning, trying to interpret the reaction of the congregation, knowing that my perception was subjective, and not necessarily truth.
I was proud of that young man’s willingness and ability to boldly stand before the eyes staring back at him, not knowing exactly what those faces would display. I didn’t hear any horrified gasps, or coffee cups dropped in surprise. Neither was the room filled with an uncomfortable silence or an air of judgement.
My church family seemed to easily accept this admission. Perhaps because it was accompanied by a victory story and did not challenge them to do anything more than pat him on the back and say a few hallelujahs. Perhaps because this was a well-liked, good-looking, intelligent young man from a respected family involved in ministry in the church and community. Perhaps because he did not embody by age, appearance or status the preconceived idea of what a porn user or addict would look like. His testimony appeared to be non- threatening to most of the people who heard it. But it should have shaken everyone.
It made me uncomfortable. Not because I didn’t want to hear it. But because the smiling faces seemed oblivious to the accompanying message being presented to them. Statistically speaking, it is highly unlikely that young man and my husband were the only two people in that room battling the darkness and enslavement of pornography.
I was concerned for that young man. Freedom from pornography use or addiction is possible. But it takes work. Intentional steps need to be taken, a plan formed, to overcome the temptation and sin. God seldom heals a heart by an instant removal of the symptom, but rather provides a way to conquer it as He brings healing to the root issue. To me, the celebration of victory over sin by everyone that morning was blissfully deceitful in its ignorance. The real triumph was his desire to acknowledge and confront his bondage and to introduce the topic in church. That made me smile with hope, that unlike my husband, he will potentially be able to avoid years ensnared in the harmful effects of pornography.
My spirit remained unsettled. Feeling like our church family missed an opportunity. For this young man. For my husband. For me. And the others that are sitting in our pews wrestling with the damage caused by their own or a family member’s pornography use. A door was opened a crack. But no one knew what to do with it. Or wanted to open it wider. The responsibility given solely to his parents. And now with each passing week, the splinter of light diminishes. The warning forgotten. Ignored. Denied.
But just because the monster has been returned to its hidden place in the darkness behind the stacked chairs in the basement crawlspace, doesn’t mean it won’t emerge again. The question is more likely to be when and who. Pornography destroys. All ages. Both men and women. In all social, economic and religious demographics. But it doesn’t have to. I would like to be ready for it next time. I would like my church to be prepared to fight and conquer. Be proactive rather than reactive. When the porn addiction of the twenty to ninety year old is confessed or exposed, it won’t be as easy to accept and dismiss. There will be consequences. People will squirm. God will convict some hearts and push others to their breaking points. I want to be a part of God’s combat team. To defeat the enemy, and to rebuild the broken lives and marriages.
Our pastor knows our story of brokenness and redemption. Of two lives and a marriage transformed. My husband and I have offered ourselves as mentors or resources should any other person or couple come to him for guidance through their own sexual betrayals and infidelity. In the past three and a half years, we have never even been asked for the name of our Christian sexual addictions recovery therapist. And that causes my heart to ache because I don’t believe the reason is that no one else in our church community is struggling or suffering. I believe the shame and stigma surrounding sexual sins and addiction is keeping them alone and silent in their pain.
There is a conflict in my heart. An overwhelming desire to loudly proclaim the proven hope and victory we have found through God’s amazing, redeeming, restorative, healing, saving, supernatural power. And then the balancing of the very real need to cautiously protect my husband and our family from the judgement and consequences of the broad misunderstanding of sex addiction.
The shame and stigma continues. Pornography use remains hidden. And sadly, so does the hope of healing when no one feels safe to talk about it. I want that to change. I want the porn addict to be able to celebrate their sobriety as freely as the alcoholic or drug addict.
I dream of that time. That’s all it really seems to be. A far away dream. But maybe if enough of us dare to dream it, we can open the door together and shine the light a little brighter.
Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results. James 5:16