The Thorn in the flesh. We all have it. Sometimes we have victory over it, sometimes it is our teacher, sometimes our master and sometimes the force that teaches us humility. It is universal to humanity, yet unique in its expression to each of us.
1 Cor 7:5 “Do not deprive each other except by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.”. There is great wisdom in this scripture for those of us not gifted with the gift of celibacy. You see, my personal thorn is an addiction to pornography. And, just like the drunkard or junkie, no matter how long you have been on the wagon you are never wholly clean, never wholly cured. “Hello, my name is Michael and I am an addict.” Even many years clean.
When I am home, with my love, “managing” this addiction is easy. Her love keeps me strong. But here, in the back end of no where, alone with my thoughts every evening the old demon rears his head at opportunity. I have been struggling with what great theme God intends for me for this deployment and I think I begin to glimpse it. That theme is Holiness. I long for it, I desire it greatly, I would sacrifice almost anything to achieve it.
To that end, I would like to share a treatise written by a dear friend several years ago. The topic is pornography, but the truths are applicable for any oppressive force. I don’t know my friends real name, we met on the old Ransomed Heart forum and I know him simply as Bilbo. The last I knew, he was in the Mid-West somewhere studying to enter the Catholic priesthood. I have not heard from him in a few years now, but his words echo down to me and I value them as I value his friendship. I pray you are well, my friend, and I look forward to our eventual reunion, in this life or the next.
Warriors, Brothers, Men,
If your looking for a short answer stop now. But if your looking for an honest assessment of what a pornography addiction actually is, please read on. This is only a small part of my story, but it’s a start. Its especially for those who feel like they’ve tried everything, and no longer have any hope. If that’s you, I implore you to consider carefully all that I have to say. In short, I believe that the reason we fail in our addictions to pornography is because we have no idea what we’re really up against. Christian men are primarily taught to “deal” with pornography by avoiding it, and I agree that there is some wisdom there; certainly, you must cut yourself off from the obvious paths to destruction. But listen to me on this. YOU CANNOT AVOID SOMETHING THAT IS HUNTING YOU. Pornography is not just something we seek out, it is something that seeks us, and hunts us, and revels in the anguish of our souls. Pornography is not just the various forms of smut, it is also a beast (and I intend no metaphor here) sent from Hell of the most insidious and vicious nature; it is stronger than you, and once it makes you its bitch—the object of its malicious pleasure—you remain its bitch until someone stronger than it sets you free. Men, let me ask you this, have you ever had this thought with regard to your addiction, “I am being ruled.” Its because its true; we are being ruled, but what we need to know who is ruling us—the nature of the beast—and how we came to be ruled by it.
For me, I became enslaved when I was in first grade. After school one afternoon, I went back to a friend’s house to play. Nintendo, hide-and-go-seek, etc…all the typical stuff until his older brother showed with a Penthouse. Now by this point I had heard about sex on the playground; but hearing is one thing, seeing is something completely different—especially when its graphic. That day I saw not only naked women and men, but also hardcore, raunchy, perverted, and explicit sex. And, you guys, I was ****ing spellbound by it. I was simultaneously attracted and repulsed. I felt a rush of blissful exhilaration and a rush of intense nausea that were like nothing I had ever known before; and I simply could not pull myself away from it all. And ever since that day, I have never been able to remove either that image from my mind, or the desire to see it from my heart. And so I ask, what the Hell happened to me in that moment? Do you know about the psychological phenomena called imprinting? It is a rigid attachment process whereby the viewer is irrevocably marked by what he sees; its what happens to baby ducklings when they hatch—they follow automatically the first moving thing they see whether its another duck or not. This is what viewing pornography does to the human mind; it imprints itself like a branding iron, and causes the viewer to follow after it almost helplessly. Who among you can forget the first images you saw?
Now what is so crucial to understand is that what happened to me on that day was not an accident. It was a setup, arranged by a pornographic demonic agent, and it was designed to take me captive. How? By imprinting its mark upon my mind. Hear me on this. IF AT ANY TIME, YOU HAVE HAD AN EXPERIENCE LIKE THE ONE I DESCRIBED ABOVE, YOU HAVE FALLEN VICTIM TO A DEMONIC PLOT, AND HAVE BEEN MARKED BY A BEAST OF PORNOGRAPHY. And I can assure you, there are many such demons in the world who use pornography to steal, kill, and destroy the lives of men; and what this mark does is alert all other such forces around you to the fact that you have been taken captive. It like a flashing red light in the spiritual realm which says, “He’s one of ours. This guy is easy pickings.” Thus, no matter where you go, and no matter how much you shelter yourself, you will be found. You have been marked, and it is like blood in the water which these beasts use to hunt and track you. Have you ever asked yourself, “Why can’t I just get away from this!? And why do I keep wandering back to it!?” You have been imprinted, and thus conditioned, to follow after porn; and yet, even if you decide you no longer want to follow your conditioning, you will not be able to find freedom; trust me, once the forces of darkness take note of the fact that you are no longer looking for them, they will be sure to come looking for you—you will be hunted. Men, is this making sense to you? If not, keep reading and ask yourself this. At this very moment, could Satan be stealing a seed that needs to take root in your heart?
So what is this beast like? I realize pornography—especially in the moment of temptation—sure doesn’t feel like a vicious assault. You’re right, it doesn’t, and that’s because its not designed to. But this is precisely what makes it so sinister and so destructive. Pornography is always sugar-coated and rife with short-term euphoria, intoxication, and many other gifts of pleasure; but they are all—each and every one—deadly toxins. Indeed, they seem sweet, but that’s precisely because their poisons work slowly; we know all too well that they are always bitter and deadly in the end. They leave us disabled by shame and of wreaking of anguish; and we walk around like living carrion—literally rotting from the inside out. And carrion we are for we have been ravaged, mauled, and masticated upon by deadly predatory beasts. You will not understand pornographic addiction until you get into your mind the cruelest, foulest, most rank and vicious monsters that you can possibly imagine. Read Beowulf, and let the image of Grendel take root in your mind. Think of Shelob the spider from The Lord of the Rings; her pussing bulbous body, her grotesque and disfigured eyes, her rank breath and greedy fangs, and her deadly poisonous stinger. Or think on the Nazgul (Ring Wraiths) with their deadly Morgal blades. When Frodo is stabbed on Weathtop, Tolkien brilliantly gives us an image that makes visible and physical the otherwise abstract effects of sin and evil.
Consider this. Frodo is stabbed by a blade of evil, and a splinter from the knife shears off in his shoulder—it leaves its mark. But it doesn’t stay in his shoulder; no, the true danger is that it begins boring its way through his very being, and it has its deadly sights set on his heart. The evil splinter is what is called an actualizing agent; that is to say, something that has the power to transform—to alter one’s nature. Thus, if the splinter reaches and pierces Frodo’s heart—his essential nature and the center of his being—his fate is sealed. He will be actualized; he will become like unto the splinter that pierced him; he will become evil even as the Nazgul are evil. Jeremiah talks about this specifically. In Jer 4.18, the prophet describes this process, in the lives of the Israelites, explaining that the relentless barrage of their wicked ways and deeds has caused ra`ah “evil or calamity” to naga` “reach” their hearts. Here, the image is of the sin of God’s people boring its way deeper and deeper into their beings until it finally it naga` “strikes” their hearts; again, this is their essential nature and identity. When evil and calamity bore their way through a person and strike his heart, something devastating and transformative occurs. In Jer 6.14, YHWH declares that what happens is the sheber “brokenness” of my people. And in light of this reality, the people themselves confess “It is hopeless! We will follow our own plans, and each of us will act according to the stubbornness of our evil heart” (Jer 18.12). Their hearts have been changed by the forces of evil at work within them.
THIS IS EXACTLY WHAT HAPPENS WITH PORNOGRAPHY! When we invite this crap into our lives it does not just go away when we clean up our mess and try to go on with business as usual. It marks us and it remains within us, and it bores its way through our beings lusting greedily after our hearts. And if it reaches them and pierces them, it will change and corrupt our hearts. It will begin to transform us into its own insidious nature. Why do you think the use of pornography is always progressive? Why do our longings always become darker and darker, and more and more perverse? BECAUSE AS PORNOGRAPHY RESIDES WITHIN US IT IS CONSTANTLY STRIVING TOWARD OUR TRANSFORMATION! PORNOGRAPHY REMAKES ITS CAPTIVES INTO ITS OWN IMAGE! Take this for example, studies show that nearly every major serial killer was a porn addict before he was a murderer. Now, this is not an if A then B relationship, but it is a powerful correlation. Are you scared yet!? YOU DAMN WELL SHOULD BE!!! When the Ring Wraiths are pursuing Frodo, Aragorn asks him, “Are you frightened?” And even though Frodo answers, “Yes” Aragorn replies, “Not nearly frightened enough; I know what hunts you!”
MEN! LISTEN TO ME! YOU HAVE GOT TO WAKE UP TO THE REALITY OF THIS ISSUE! THIS IS A RUTHLESS, BRUTAL, AND ALL OUT WAR AGAINST YOUR HEART THAT IS BEING WAGED BY POWERFUL DEMONIC AGENTS!!! IF YOU DO NOT FIGHT IT AS SUCH YOU WILL NEVER BE FREE—AND GOD ONLY KNOWS WHERE YOU’LL END UP! You may manage to hold your behavior in check, but you will only ever be a strong as your support system, and if that slips…yep…you guessed it…the carnage will resume. This is what you must do, and don’t bitch at me about legalism; this is not legalism its strategy; you must develop a strategy. I will offer some suggestions here that I think are crucial and effective; if you don’t like them you’ll have to develop a strategy of your own—either way you must have a strategy. You don’t fight battles like this and expect to win without strategy.
(1) First admit to yourself that you are currently a sex addict, and that you are going to continue living as one until something changes inside you—until you become something different from what you are. This allows you to get your focus off of controlling/managing your behavior, and onto dealing with your broken and manipulated heart. You don’t just struggle with addiction, you are addicted; its a part of you. This admission will take humility and grace—lots of it. You’ll have to ask Jesus for it.
(2) Begin to think about the first time you were really ensnared by this stuff; the day of your “arranged marking” as I describe it above. There is something very specific, which continues to give power to that marking, even beyond its initial imprinting on your mind. Upon that first intoxicating experience with pornography, you made a number of very potent vows—which affect your behavior even to this day. These vows had something to do with the nature of sex, with the sexual nature of human beings, and with your own sexual nature. These must be exposed and broken by Jesus. The following are the unconscious vows that I made on the day when I was captured:
-Sex is a dirty game to be reveled in.
-Women are sluts, and the best ones are the women who give themselves away.
-Real men don’t pursue women…the women just come to them.
-I don’t need to pursue women; they should just give themselves to me.
-People should be dirty…People are dirty…I should be dirty…I am dirty.
-I should be gratified whenever I want.
Men, these vows—and others like them—are at work in your life today. You must renounce them and give Jesus permission to break them. This will take humility and grace—lots of it. You’ll have to ask Jesus for it. I found that I had to renounce them as an adult, and that I had to invite Jesus into the memory of the day I was taken captive. He and I had to go back and lead the child within me to break those vows at the moment they were first made. We had to go back and rescue that poor innocent boy from the trap laid for him by the monsters of pornography. And we did this. And when we did, Jesus opened his eyes to the reality of the world he was looking into. And the deadly intoxication turned immediately into shear terror. That boy learned, then and there, that monsters are real, that they live in the realm of pornography, and that he was terrified of them. I can remember his terror now because that boy was me. Jesus and His healing power are not bound by time, and He can enter into the past and into our memories—and change them—if we invite Him. I can also remember that boy running to Jesus and feeling His love, and His comfort, and His power to keep those monsters away. And I can remember Him leading me—as that boy—to renounce those vows. It was deeply healing. The images are still there; and so are many that came after them. But now I rarely see them as I once did; now I most often see them with the monsters exposed. I see them for the shear evil that they are. And it is now a rare occasion for me to wonder, “what does pornography have to offer”; instead, I tend to see it for what it truly is—the destroyer of my heart. I do not yet place myself above reproach because I know that I am still vulnerable to the first, and most deadly, enemy that we all must face in this battle.
Deception (proper name intended) is the one who always gets the process going, and is thus the one we must fight most aggressively against. Deception is the one who clouds our minds from the true nature of pornography and convinces us to do what we know we should not. Lies are its (lack of gender intentional) specialty; it says: “This is so natural. It won’t hurt anything. It will feel sooo good. You want this; you need this; you deserve this. Just fantasize for a little while…then you can stop if you want…just enough to take the edge off. There, now. See how nice that feels. Why not go a bit further? The internet, the bookstore, the TV, the telephone…its all right there. You’re already on your way…you might as well just get on with it…at this point its inevitable.” Sound familiar guys? I feel dizzy just writing those words. That is not just you. Meet Deception. Trust me, it has some friends it would like you to meet. Whenever I take Deception’s bait, I always end up in the clutches of Lust, Sexual Intoxication, Sexual Fantasy, and Sexual Perversion (proper names intentional here too—their works reveal their identities), and at that point my fall is a foregone conclusion. This leads me to the third part of my strategy.
(3) GET ****ING PISSED OFF AT THESE THINGS!!! OUR RIGHTEOUS ANGER AT THE THEFT, MURDER, AND DESTRUCTION OF OUR HEARTS IS A POWERFUL WEAPON! I hope to God you realize now what you are up against, and that it moves you to fear and anger and rage! When that subtle suggestion comes, I pray you will now be able to expose it for the wretched filth that it is! Grendel, Shelob, the Nazgul, and worse! GET PISSED! Fly off the handle! Let your anger and your rage consume you! Show no mercy to those who will show none to you! Against such evil, your anger and your rage are powerful forces of good! God is quite in the habit of letting His righteous burning anger blaze forth—without mercy—against His foes. Why should we, in the face of such obvious and insidious evil, be expected to hold back!? Deception will try to get you to do this. “Don’t get angry. Don’t rise up. Just a few more seconds and…ahh…there now…right back where I want you.” Guys, you have to get mad! Did Wallace tell his men at Stirling, “Now, remember. We’re all good Christians here so no one get too angry in this battle. I want to see loving smiles on your faces as we hack the enemy to bits.” NO! He said, “We are here in defiance of tyranny!” And he got them flaming mad and ready to fight! Are you that way!? Do you hate sin and your enemy with a consuming passion!? Are you sick of what they do to you!? Ask Jesus to give you a holy hatred for these things. Ask Him to awaken the slumbering giant within you! And now for the last part.
(4) Prepare your defense and your offense ahead of time. Write some prayers out that deal specifically with spiritual warfare and the armor of God. These things are not easy to come up with Johnny on the spot—especially when the assault is already underway. It is really hard to pray/think effectively and clearly when we’re in the heat of battle. Here is one I pray out loud every night before bed. Until I wrote it out and put it on my bedside table, I would nearly always neglect my best intentions. I am tired at night, and I don’t want to try to think up some battle-prayer—and the enemy sure doesn’t want me thinking this way. It wasn’t until I wrote this thing out that I could consistently stay on the attack.
Galatians 5.1: “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.
Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”
Father in Heaven,
I come before You now in the name of Jesus Christ,
and at this very moment I ask that You would rise up and be my strength!
Defend me against all demonic attacks!
By the authority granted to me, as an heir to the Kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ,
I do hereby rebuke and bind
Deception, Lust, Sexual Intoxication, Sexual Fantasy, and Sexual Perversion!
And I command them to be banished from their works of war against me!
And I bring between them and between me all the power of the work of Jesus Christ!
Bring, Great Father!
The Power of His Cross with His Crucifixion
through which I am now crucified with Christ!
The Power of His Death with His Burial
through which I am now dead to my sin, to my flesh, and to all forces of evil!
The Power of His Resurrection with His Holy Appearances
through which I am now raised to a new and glorious life!
One that God now reveals for all the world to see!
And the Power of His Ascension with His Enthronement in Glory
through which I am now granted the authority of the reigning Lord Jesus Christ!
Cover me—my heart, my soul, my mind, and my strength—with
the righteous and cleansing Blood of Jesus Christ!
And loose Your mighty angels to surround me and to fight for me,
that I may be free, and whole, and sound in thought, word, and deed!
All of this I ask Great Father, in the name of Your Son, my Savior, Jesus Christ, Who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, One God, now and forever!
John 8.12: “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me
will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
Copy it, paste it, adapt it, print it out, and use it! Those last minute, “Jesus help me” prayers are not going to cut it. Wallace didn’t take a plastic spork into battle he took a Claymore! Stop whining, forge yourself a couple Claymores, and next time Deception shows up you can say, “Yes, I hear you go on…I’m listening. That’s right, I’m listening…just need to get my Claym…er…magazine out of the drawer here.” And then knock his bloody head off!!!
In this treatise, I have intentionally neglected to mention all the traditional solutions to this problem such as accountability and men’s groups. I think those things are also important, its just that they have been talked about ad nauseum; I wanted to touch upon those areas that are too often neglected. There is much more to this battle than just managing behavior.
From one who knows that the road from addiction to freedom is paved with Admission, Confession, Invitation, Exposure, Revelation, Release, Healing, Anger, and Battle, I can say with confidence that this is the road we must walk, and that we must have Jesus to guide us and empower us at every step of the way.
Strength in the Battle Brothers!