Sex and pornography are not the enemies, but we are in a fight.
A quick timeline, for those of you who might be new here.
1996: A youth pastor I trust sexually violates me. Also my first introduction to online pornography, which later becomes a compulsive behavior. (Compulsive sexual behaviors are not classified by the DSM as addictions – at best, they’re hypersexual disorders, which still doesn’t define what I would consider pornography addiction to be. Anyway, carry on.)
2001: A friend opens up to me about her pornography habits, masturbation, and lust. Her choosing to “go first” gave me permission to share with her the shame I carried. Over the course of a couple years, we take a holistic approach to recovery.
2007: I speak for the very first time to a youth group and on a radio station in Dallas on how porn’s not just a guy’s problem.
2008: God finds my fear of public speaking humorous as more and more speaking requests come in. I’m now visiting churches, colleges, and conferences with this story while working full time at a church.
2009: My first book comes out and my speaking schedule is enough to keep the bills paid. I’m now a full-time self-employed author and speaker. This continues for the next five years.
2013: After speaking at youth camps over the summer, I write a letter to parents about what they don’t know about their kids and sex based on the experience. By the end of the week, 1.5 million people read the darn thing. I am asked to speak even more about pornography and freedom.
2014: I’ve had six speaking engagements on this topic and five of them I’ve been sick for. I’ve gone to the ER three times the week before these talks. That’s how sick I was. One I was so sick for I had to cancel and reschedule it. The first time, I chalked it up to bad luck. But now…in 83% of my speaking engagements only on this topic I’ve been tempted to cancel because of illness or injury? I am starting to feel like there’s a target on my back. (It should be noted that I rarely get sick. The last time I got really sick was in 2010.)
I don’t write this blog post from a state of fear (okay, maybe a little bit…!) But instead, it has only clarified to me the need for discussions to happen. I spoke at a high school night at a church in town last night. I was handed about 10 index cards with questions from the students after I was done speaking and one girl was insightful enough to say, “Why are these conversations about lust generally directed toward guys when women struggle with it just as much?”
Good, honest question. I responded with “Yes, girls are frequently left out of this conversation, but most churches don’t even touch this with their guys.” More churches are, and I’m thrilled. But most churches are not.
Here is my challenge to you, my manifesto, the hill I will die on, and also what I instructed the girls to do last night.
Make a ruckus. Make your leaders talk about this.
We are in a fight. We frequently point blame to the media and to pornography and to sex as the enemy. These things, especially sex, are NOT the enemy. Sex is a beautiful thing that we’ve been given to express love to our spouse. The media and pornography are simply tools the enemy uses to break us down, to addict us, to cause us to carry shame instead of strength and hopelessness instead of hope.
Our enemy is Satan. Plain and simple.
The reason I think we are in the heat of the fight is because I know I’m feeling the heat. And if I’m just one person out of many who are sharing this message that freedom and hope are both possible and necessary, I know there are others who are fighting to speak up, too.
Here’s what you can do:
- Pray. Pray always. Pray for your family, your church leaders, and the people who are called and committed to sharing the message of God’s grace and hope to those broken by addictive behaviors and our children who are slammed with images and easy access.
- Know what your family’s doing. Have conversations that are uncomfortable. Set limits and boundaries on the internet and even how your child will respond to pressure when you’re not there. Have you made a plan with him or her when someone else brings over their phone at school that has an inappropriate image on it? Have that talk.
- Fight. Statistics tell me over half the people reading this are in a battle of their own. Please get help. Tell someone. Tell just one person. Do whatever is necessary, even if it’s extreme, to fight for freedom.
- Love your enemies. We can’t get angry at the media or the pornography industry. We also need to pray for the people trapped in there. Statistically, a lot of them don’t want to be there. Pray the love of God is so bright that darkness doesn’t exist anymore.
- Talk to your church leaders. Whoever is in charge of what is talked about at your church, ask them about this. Heck, relentlessly ask them about addressing this topic with adults, with students, and from a parenting point of view. Engage your church in a prayerful revival expectant on God to deliver those who are trapped and to use others who aren’t to heal. WE NEED EACH OTHER.
- Learn. I’ve created two resources pages for you with books I’ve read or trust enough to recommend. First, 20 Resources for Parents (you need to scroll down just a little) and I’m working on a new resource page with some nerdy brain books I love as well as some other books on pornography and women and talking to kids. You can get to that page here.
Please join me in this fight. This is one where denomination doesn’t matter, socioeconomics don’t matter, your age doesn’t matter. We need to link arms as the body of Christ and fight the enemy from stealing so many precious and good things from us.
We got this. And God’s got us.