I always hated the sex series at youth group. Undoubtedly, during the three-week event, there’s a time where gender separation occurs. The girls talk about self-image and modesty while the guys dig into the heart behind pornography and masturbation.
I confess that I’ve always wanted to go with the guys.
My sin is a “man’s sin”. My sin is a secret.
For the past seven years, I have struggled off-and-on with addictions to pornography and masturbation while simultaneously maintaining a “model Christian” reputation.
You see, I was raised in a Christian home, the kind of home where your parents are in church leadership and the weekly Bible study is hosted at your house. My family’s foundation is built on Christ. Not only is it part of the makeup of my family, it became a grounding part of my own story when my parents divorced and I ran to Jesus. From that point on, I continued to run to Jesus in times of pain, loss, celebration and growth. I’ve sincerely built my life around the values and relationship Jesus expresses.
If faith is like a house in which God asks you to surrender all of the rooms to his plan, my house was his to use… except for the basement where I hid my secret addiction. I bolted all the doors. I locked the windows. I removed it from the floor plan of the house altogether, but it still existed. It haunted me.
Between the upkeep of a “perfect” image and the disgrace of struggling with something that the Church had reinforced as a masculine sin, I shriveled. I didn’t know how to ask for help. My pride held me in the prison of my shame.
I felt like a hypocrite.
My sin multiplied as I hid from the light of confession. My shame became worse as the contradictions in my life pushed me to question my identity. How could God love someone who lived a double life? How could I be a Christian if I preached his name to others and sinned when alone? Why couldn’t I just stop? Why was I struggling with a “man’s sin”?
My questions swirled around, pushing me to a point of utter hopelessness. I wanted to die. I felt that would be the only punishment worthy of my actions. I felt like trash, knowing I could never accept that Jesus had paid the price for my choices.
To be honest, I’m not sure what the Holy Spirit did, but in my darkest moments, He met me there. I didn’t stop sinning, though. Knowing He was there and that even then, I chose sin over Him brought me to a place of humility. I realized I needed help. Taking James 5:16 to heart and motivated by supernatural courage, I opened up to my closest friends.
It was the scariest thing I have ever done. From that point on, I began the very slow process of opening up to those who had earned the right to hear my heart.
I asked for help.
Asking for help from the church was tremendously hard because the resources I needed were hidden behind image upkeep and fake authenticity. I needed someone to honestly address my addiction with me. I needed someone to call it by name. I needed someone to speak truth into my heart when I felt alone. I needed the church to stop maintaining an image and instead help me see Jesus at work in my life.
Like me, there are many women in our congregations who hide their double lives from the light of grace because of the anticipated shaming by the people who are supposed to be models of God’s unearned grace. Grace and truth should be our identity as believers.
For those of you who understand my story personally, let me assure you healing takes time. There is no immediate change. Quitting “cold turkey” is unrealistic. Today, I celebrate three weeks of purity, but I am tempted nearly every day. I thought changing was a feeling, but it is a choice. It is a hard choice and one that needs to be made every second of every day.
God is rewriting my story, calling me out of the old, destructive patterns I had hidden. He is doing it in the context of courageous community, trust, and humility. Change is not possible without humility. I pray God would humble you and you would let him. It starts there. There is healing. There is hope. There is grace for you, for me. For God is good and there is no other.
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