I am pleased to host a guest post today by therapist Matt Mulder. Until you can name the goodness of what your addiction gave/gives you, you cannot let go of its devastating cycles.
I asked her when she first started looking at pornography. She looked up at me with a thoughtful but puzzled glance.
“I was in 7th grade.”
I knew her story. That’s when the abuse started: physical, emotional, and psychological.
“How else did you escape?” I asked.
There was some more silence. “Basketball. Fantasy novels. Video games.” She stated matter of factly.
“Do you remember what kind of porn you liked to look at?” I prompted.
I was aware of how intrusive that question can feel. This silence was a little more uncomfortable.
“I looked at all different kinds, but I was mostly drawn to the porn where the couples actually seem to love each other.” There was some silence and then she shared, “There was something about that kind of porn that really gave me a sense of hope.”
As she shared the truth of her life my heart softened. Of course. Of course, she was drawn to that kind of porn. I think there is something in all of us that could be captivated by that kind of porn. We all hope to belong. We all long to be loved. We all yearn to be totally naked, completely vulnerable and overwhelmed by someone who is totally in awe of us and absolutely delighted in us.
I cracked half a smile and said, “You realize that’s your goodness sneaking through don’t you?” She was obviously puzzled. “You were a middle school kid, stuck in an abusive family, who was longing to belong and longing to be loved. Not to mention, that for the first time in your life you were experiencing sexual urges and significant hormonal changes that were new and just a little more than confusing!”
She looked down at the floor. The invitation I was offering was overwhelmed by her shame.
“I’m curious.” A short pause. “What would have happened if you didn’t have the basketball, the fantasy novels, or the video games? What if you didn’t have the porn?”
The silence was thick and the emotions were palpable. After what seemed like ten minutes she looked up at me and I saw a tear crawl down her cheek. As it hit the floor she replied, “I would have been one of those kids who had no reason to live. There was no point. It was too painful. It was either I escape or…”
As my eyes welled up I uttered the words, “Do you realize what you just said?”
“Pornography saved your life.”
We all have a story. And if we are willing and have the courage to tell our story truthfully and honestly, if we are willing to be curious about our lust, only then will we begin to understand why we are the way that we are; only then will we begin to understand who we really are. I have also come to believe that the evil one loves nothing more than to take our beauty and our goodness and twist it. He loves to take our beautiful and good longings and desires and turn them into darkness and shame.
For years this girl had been enslaved to pornography addiction and the whole time she thought it was her fault, it was her brokenness and her ugliness. What she had never been invited to see is that there was a reason she was drawn to porn. There was a reason she was drawn to two people, completely naked, faking a deep longing and desire for one another. And the reason was actually her goodness! Her beautiful longing and desire for intimacy and for freedom. For being held instead of beaten, for being loved instead of used.
Which makes me wonder.
What would it look like to be curious about your story?
What would it look like to be curious about the struggles, the brokenness, and the sin that seems to be the theme of your story?
What would it look like to stare your shame in the face and say, “Maybe this isn’t all my fault? Maybe there’s something else going on here?
Maybe there’s a reason I turn to the porn, the booze, the money, the shopping, the food?”
You may remember the bible story about the woman caught in the act of adultery (John 8:1-11). You want to talk about being exposed and ashamed?! When Jesus knelt down to the adulteress woman who was thrown at his feet, He whispered, “Woman, is there no one left to condemn you?” As she looked up from the dirt on the temple floor it was just her and her Savior. Her tear-filled eyes danced with Jesus’ gaze. “No one, sir.”
And then Jesus uttered the truth that every single one of us longs to hear: “Then neither do I condemn you. Stand up. Go. You don’t have to sin anymore!”
You don’t have to sin anymore! The belonging and the love. What you have always longed for. It’s right here. On the dirty floor of the temple, caught naked in the mess of your sin. It’s right here! In the midst of your pornography addiction. In the midst of your shame. In the midst of the mess of your life… Jesus meets you and whispers, “I see you. I know you. There’s a reason you struggle the way you do. And I know why. I know your heart.”
I love the way Jay Stringer captures this invitation in his book Unwanted: How Sexual Brokenness Reveals Our Way To Healing. He writes:
“It is my conviction that the God of the universe is neither surprised nor ashamed of the sexual behavior we participate in. Instead, he understands it to be the very stage through which the work of redemption will be played out in our lives. Present sin is the doorway to the wider work of the gospel to bring healing to the wounds of the past and comfort, even power, to the difficulties of the present. Therefore, the sooner we assume a posture of curiosity for our sexual brokenness, the more we will prepare our hearts for the redemptive work ahead.”
Our time was running out and so I gave my client some homework: “Next time you feel like looking at pornography first say, “Thank you!” because that porn may have saved your life. And then try to be honest about the reality that porn isn’t saving your life anymore. It’s hurting you. Now it’s getting in the way. And let’s just see what happens.”
Jesus said it first: “Then neither do I condemn you. Get up! You don’t need to sin anymore.”
What would it look like for you to be curious about your sin?
What do you long for? What do you truly desire?
In my first class of graduate school, my professor Dr. Dan Allender reminded us, “You are so much more broken then you think you are… and you are so much more beautiful than you could possibly imagine!”
What if our brokenness is actually the path to the one who has been pursuing our beauty ever since we were in our mother’s womb?
I’ll bet you when that adulterous woman was caught naked, having sex with another man; she never imagined that just a few minutes later she would be thrown in front of Jesus, her Savior. What she had been looking for in an affair, she found as she was being held in the arms of Love Himself!
And be kind to yourself.
Redemption is almost always messy. It’s almost never easy. But it’s always more beautiful than you could possibly imagine.
I invite you to consider the possibility that being honest about your brokenness and your sin may actually be your invitation to grace and a love that is bigger than you could ever imagine!
Matthew Mulder is a Counselor with Lighthouse Christian Counseling Center, LLC in Holland, Michigan. If you would like to contact Matt for counseling services, sexual integrity group counseling opportunities, or for speaking opportunities feel free to send him an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
You can follow Matt’s work at https://matthewdalemulder.com/