The first memory I have of watching pornography is when I was 11 years old. It’s amazing that I didn’t even have the vocabulary to describe what I was witnessing, yet the innocence of my brain and body were gone in an instant.
I didn’t know it then, but my body and mind were awakened to a world of sexual stimulants that I was never made to endure. According to an article by the New York Times, 93% of boys and 62% of girls are exposed to online pornography during their adolescence. This is an issue that goes beyond the church walls.
Porn addiction is more than mere videos or online seductions. Pornography is defined as the “printed or visual material containing the explicit description or display of sexual organs or activity, intended to stimulate erotic rather than aesthetic or emotional feelings.”
It can be easy to say, “Well, since I don’t watch these videos or go to these websites, I don’t have a problem.” Wrong. How many times have I written off the absurdly graphic sexual encounters described in various books as pure literature or even worse, entertainment? They are stimulants that create a very real reaction.
My sexual education came from an awkward 5th grade class, an even more awkward 8th grade health class, pornography, and friends who were sexually active. The only times I can remember hearing about sex in church were once in a Sunday School class where the teacher said she could tell just by looking who has had sex, and a few relationship/marriage talks.
As the good Christian girl, I pledged to stay abstinent until marriage. However, my seemingly perfect chastity was made murky by the secret I kept.
When I was 19, I had an encounter with God that changed my life. Long story short, I decided enough was enough and I had to give my life to Jesus—my entire life. I knew I would be different from that moment on. I mean, Jesus had my heart so all of my bad habits left immediately, right? Wrong.
A few months after that, I found myself in a room by myself watching porn. Although something had changed… I realized there was a pattern for why and when I watched porn.
Shame. Fear. Control.
There’s an amazing ministry called Restoring the Foundations. They are trained to identify and help mend different hurts one collects as a byproduct of being a human.
One of the things they examine is the cycle of shame, fear, and control. The cycle goes something like this: A person feels shame for something they’ve done, they’re afraid of being discovered, so they try to control the situation themselves.
The clearest example of this is Adam and Eve in Genesis. They ate the fruit they were told not to eat, they were ashamed, they were fearful of being discovered, so they tried to control the situation by fashioning for themselves makeshift clothes to cover their nakedness.
Shame, as opposed to guilt, attaches itself to a person’s identity. It’s the difference between saying “I made a mistake” and saying “I am a mistake.” This is how I approached pornography.
There would be a trigger, mainly an emotional trigger, something that made me feel lonely or afraid. Then, I would engage with porn. Afterwards, I was ashamed.
I wasn’t the good girl everyone thought I was. I tried to control the situation myself. I tried so hard to be perfect on the outside to veil the mess that was inside. I could only control the situation until another emotional trigger set the cycle off over and over again. This pattern also illuminated that porn was just the symptom of a bigger problem.
Where do we go from here?
- Learn your triggers. After I recognized the triggers that sent me running to the counterfeit embrace pornography offers, I could preempt my reaction to run to porn. Instead, I ran to God.
- Ask for help. This will never get old. The thing about shame is, it breeds in darkness. It festers in your deepest thoughts. It feeds off of the lies you believe about yourself. Identify safe people you can ask for help. You weren’t made to live life alone. Above all, ask God for help. The same power that raised Christ from the dead lives in you. That’s a pretty stacked deck.
- Accept the fact that you are loved. I elevated the shame I felt over the truth of God. According to Him, nothing can separate me from His love that is in Christ Jesus (Romans 8). According to Him, I am chosen. According to Him, I am forgiven.
For more statistics and help with combating porn addiction, visit fightthenewdrug.org.
The Church is supposed to be a haven for people.
It is often said that the church house is like a hospital, and the believers are the patients searching for healing. If you believe that to be at least somewhat true, then I think we should talk about what spiritual services are—and are not—being provided in the church.
We often talk about how to deal with finances, sickness, employment issues, death of loved ones, and even relationships, but one of the things that we rarely, if ever, talk about in church is sex.
Of course, the church has a biblical interest in advocating that sexual relations occur within the confines of marriage. However, church folk have gotten so good at phrases such as, “just say no,” “not until you’re married,” and “save yourself for that special someone,” that when Christians do get married, especially young couples, some may find that members of the church are at a loss for words about what to tell them when they have questions about sex.
So many people, especially young people, who wait until marriage to have sex get to their wedding night, honeymoon, and beyond and have no clue on what a healthy, sexual relationship with their spouse looks like. (And that’s not even considering the weird, sexual comments and questions that church people do feel strangely comfortable discussing. I can’t tell you how many times church folks have asked, “So when are you all going to give us some babies?”…as if our children will be theirs. It also seems as if they should dictate when we should have offspring and as if when my wife and I do decide to try for children – which involves sex – is any of their business! But I digress…)
Plenty of married couples have problems in their sex lives and want to talk to their pastor about it or have a forum about what sex means for their Christian walk. But, too often, neither the pastor nor the church want to talk about it.
Believe it or not, sexual intercourse could be considered a holy act between a husband and wife. Sex has the power and potential of drawing the bride and groom closer to one another and to create life. If that isn’t holy, I don’t know what is.
So why should the church have responsible conversations about sex? Here are a couple of reasons:
Sex is natural. It doesn’t have to be a dirty word.
Too often when people try to bring up sex, the inclination is to tell them to stop talking about it because it’s “taboo,” “dirty,” “fast” or (worst of all) “unholy,” and it quells a much-needed conversation. However, these conversations need to be had – or avoided – at the appropriate level and age of those in question, including teens.
The church has to realize that if we’re not educating teenagers and young adults on godly principles about sex, then someone somewhere is educating them about sex. And, more than likely, God has nothing to do with their teaching.
We do married couples a disservice when we avoid talking about sex.
Many church people have no problem talking about and encouraging married couples to have babies, but they like to pretend that the magical decision to start a family comes without sex. Well, it doesn’t.
In fact, many would argue that sex is just as much a part of the list of marital issues as budgeting, child-rearing, career conflicts, intimacy, not spending enough time together, bad habits, and other common marital problems. Of course, sex conversations, like all other marital conversations, should be initiated by the couple. However, if they have an issue that they raise with other members of the church community, we should be willing to tackle it—including sex.
Ultimately, sex is one thing about humanity that I don’t imagine will go away anytime soon. (And if it did, we’d be in trouble.) God created and ordained sex as a blessing for married couples and we shouldn’t shy away from that. Another thing that I don’t think will be going away anytime soon is sin. Yet, I think that the church needs a reminder that sex itself is not sinful. Sex is blessed and ordained by God and too often we foolishly conflate sex with sin and we shouldn’t.
Why do you think sex continues to be a topic that’s off limits for married couples in the church? Share your thoughts below.
Valentine’s Day is just around the corner, which can sometimes be difficult for single women who are still waiting for their “Boaz” to come along and sweep them off their feet. The story of Ruth and Boaz is arguably one of the greatest and most popular love stories in the Bible. It’s the story of Ruth, whose heart was broken after the death of her husband but healed by her faith in God. Ruth met the wealthy and kind Boaz while working in his field to “glean behind the harvesters” (Ruth 2). In addition to being protective of Ruth, Boaz admired her loyalty to her mother-in-law and her love for the Lord. As hardworking women of God, so many of us often dream of meeting our hard-working, loving—and sometimes wealthy—Boaz, but what are we doing in the meantime? Here are several things you could be doing while waiting on your own Boaz to arrive:
Complete Unfinished Projects
We all have them. Whether it’s that book you’ve been meaning to write or the new business you’ve been planning to launch, now is the perfect time to regain your focus and get it done.
Enjoy Time with Family and Friends
While in a relationship, it is so easy to spend all of your free time with your partner, leaving little room for time with family and friends. Call up your loved ones for a fun movie night, an impromptu girls night, or even a weekend road trip. Tomorrow isn’t promised, so spend those precious moments with your loved ones while you can.
Personal and Professional Development
There is always room for personal and professional growth, so why not start now? Sit down and make a list of all of your personal and professional goals. Perhaps your goals include going back to school to get your college degree, strengthening your relationship with God, receiving some sort of certification in your industry, or losing weight. Whatever your goal is, it is important that you also write down the list of tasks that must be completed in order to achieve those goals.
Read a Book
Yeah, we know. This may sound like an easy task, but in this day and age, taking time to sit down and read a book is easier said than done. Not only does reading serve as a stress reliever from our day-to-day lives, but it also allows us to educate ourselves on a variety of topics that we may have never taken the time to explore had we not been single.
Spend Time with Yourself
When was the last time you took yourself out to dinner? What about going to see a movie alone? Perhaps you should give it a try. Spending quality time alone is actually a great way to build self-confidence in addition to changing your mindset about needing a partner in order to have fun.
Take Time to Explore What You Really Want
Before jumping into your next relationship, now may be a good time to sit down and really figure out what it is that you really want in a partner. There’s a reason why none of your past relationships worked out, so perhaps it’s time to hit “pause” and really figure out what it is that you not only want in a partner, but what you actually need in a man.
What about you? What are some things you recommend doing while waiting on Boaz?