A Change of Pace

I have been writing this blog for nearly a year now. Almost every single Sunday, I have posted something that I hope has been beneficial to my readers and glorifying to God. But I have hit a wall. I have prayed about it and sat staring at the computer screen trying to think of something to write. And I end up with nothing. I mean I have thoughts, but none that seem significant enough to put out there. I feel like I am in danger of writing things just to write, of being repetitive, of trying to do this without the Lord.

I know there are plenty of things to be said in regards to pornography and masturbation. Both topics are equally unique but a huge part of who I am today. They have both caused me endless hours of frustration and anguish, and at the same time have given me perspective and understanding in a culture that becomes more and more sexualized with each new day. I desire to write about these topics, but I feel like God is telling me to wait and to dig deeper.

But I don’t want to let my readers down! Even the few that have been helped by this blog are important to me. Are you really finished with me concerning this topic, Lord?”

I don’t think He is finished. I think this may just be the beginning, or at least I am praying it is. But I may not have posts every Sunday like before. I may have to enter a season of research and talking to others. I need to gather data and stories and in turn share them with the world.

I know some of you reading this have your own stories and your own thoughts. I encourage you to take the opportunity I am presenting right now. I want you to write for this blog. Of course, I would have to approve of your writing, because let’s be honest here, I am trying to reflect Christ and can’t allow anything that would be dishonoring to Him. But I want to have different perspectives and other girls, teens, and women who just need to get some things off their chest and out in the open. I want this to be a place where you can release the pain that porn may have caused you. The frustration and confusion masturbation has granted you.

All I can do is ask. It’s up to you whether or not you answer. Until then, I will be seeking out what God would have for me with this blog. I am praying it will be far better than anything I could have dreamed of. I push on not because of my own strength, but because of Him who saved me from my sin and gave me a new name and a pure heart. I can never repay Him and I never have to. So I will press on until he would have me finish.

Stephanie: An Open Book

Submitted By: Stephanie

I didn’t know what was going on with my body or what I was feeling. I didn’t know what to call it. I didn’t know if it was wrong or if it was normal. At first, all I knew was that it felt good. I wasn’t even a teenager yet.

It was years before I even heard the word “masturbation” and some years more before I put it together that that was what was going on. Up until that realization there had been a kind of indescribable confusion and regret that existed, but after a label was applied to my actions the shame and humiliation that followed was immense and drove me into further secrecy. For years I tried to fight it off, to end it, but it seemed there were triggers all around me sending me back to that act I despised naming.
I truly believed I was the only one I knew who struggled with it and I dare not test that hypothesis by asking questions; Lord knows I sure didn’t hear the word “masturbation” in church. So I kept it to myself, at least I tried. Something in me felt I had to tell someone and the scriptures that talked about confessing haunted me. So I decided to admit to some very close friends that I struggled with “lust.” That’s what I called it because lust, well everyone struggles with that and it was a broad enough label that I felt safe behind it; God could have His way and I could have mine. Although it wasn’t enough, not because it wasn’t enough for Him, but because it wasn’t enough for me in my own heart.
One night a younger girl on a youth leadership team pulled all the female leaders into a private meeting where she boldly confessed to us all her struggle with pornography; she just had to get it out in the open. Little did she know what that would start. Her confession gave the rest of us courage to open up and open up we did. Turns out every single one of my friends, who served in leadership positions with me, struggled with masturbation at some point in their life. We all had thought we were alone all that time.
I was in high school when that little saving grace occurred. Confessing to my friends gave me strength to stand up to something I hated; it made a lot of the shame go away and I found myself enriched with a boldness to lay my struggle out there for other girls so that at least they wouldn’t feel so alone like I did for all those years. But there was still some shame hanging on, shame that I wouldn’t be free from for another 4 years when I finally gained the courage to tell my mom.
See, when God made me, He made me an open book; I naturally share what I go through and I don’t have a lot of shame about it- it’s how I’ve always been. But what masturbation did was it robbed me of that. With masturbation being in my life suddenly I had something to hide, suddenly I had shame. So, for me, confessing was what was necessary to bring me back to me. I don’t think that masturbation was the great sin that needed forgiveness. I think the bigger “sin” was me not being who I was created to be and allowing something to muddle core parts of my being. I think that broke my God’s heart more than the act itself; having to watch me be robbed of the true nature He Himself had put within me. I have come to believe that God cares far more about us than He does about what we do. Whether that be the great and holy things we can do for Him or the hurtful and shameful things we can do despite Him, He cares for us. He cares about us.

Modesty in a Sex-Saturated Culture

I think it is safe to say that the topic of modesty is a difficult one. There are people with all kinds of different opinions on it and most people cannot come to an agreement on what the guidelines should be for girls and women of this day and age.

I have heard so many different arguments as to why women should be able to wear whatever they want. “Guys should be able to control themselves” and “Women in other countries don’t always even wear clothing, so I am actually doing pretty well.” I understand if you are someone who is tired of being judged for what you wear, but could you at least come up with some better arguments? Or maybe it is just that there really aren’t any good arguments for your selfish desire to get what you want regardless of the consequences to others.

I don’t know if everyone else realizes it, but our culture is sex crazy. I don’t just mean we encourage sex, we worship sex. It is in every aspect of our culture from seemingly innocent television ads to easily accessible hardcore porn. Now before you get all defensive, I am not saying that you personally, as a Christian, are sex crazy, but the culture you live in is. You have to accept that to understand the rest of what I have to say.

There are tribes around the world that do have a vastly different dress code than we do. It is perfectly ok for Himba women to walk around shirtless. Nothing is odd about it. It sounds quite freeing doesn’t it ladies? I would love to not have to worry about what bra or shirt I am going to wear that day. But there is something else that they don’t have either. They don’t have the billboards that are encouraging men (or women) to go see these topless wonders. It is not often that they have time to just sit and watch a movie where the camera lingers on a woman’s cleavage and lets you watch as she slowly, seductively peels off her top. So to see a woman’s breast in that kind of culture isn’t quite as titillating to the everyday viewer.

Jump back into your own culture and the same thing can’t be said. Everywhere you turn, the world is telling you that certain parts of your body are tantalizing. That you can control a man with them and that every man wants to see them. So, is that why you want to show yourself off? Because regardless of the real reasons for why you want to show off your body, that is what everyone else will think you want. You can whine and complain that it just isn’t fair and everyone else is judgmental and guys should have more self-control, but it won’t do you any good. The truth will still be the same. The more you show, the less you are in control.

I will delve more into this in future posts, but if you haven’t heard this from me already, here it is. Porn is an addiction. Porn is everywhere in our culture and very easy to access. Porn is something that nearly every single man in your life has seen. Porn rewires people’s brain to view women as objects to use instead of people to share life with. So, the closer you are to being naked, the more you reveal your body to the world, the more you become like an object.

Let’s take it one step farther. Christian guys are no exception to the porn statistics. Once they decide to fight their desire for porn, it is no picnic. God gives them a way out when they are tempted, but you do not make it any easier for them when you flaunt yourself the way you do. It may not be your intention to make your brothers in Christ’s struggles even harder than they already are, but intentions hardly matter in this case.

You want to be intentional about something? Be intentional about dressing in a way that is above reproach. Be intentional about not asking how much skin is too much, but asking the Father in heaven who created you if what you are wearing is beautiful in His sight. Be intentional about wearing clothes that make you feel beautiful, but don’t have you obsessing over what other people think about your body.

Do guys need to have self-control regardless? Absolutely. I actually read an interesting blog post on this very thing. You can read it here if you would like. He is a little bit harsh (and I hope he wouldn’t actually talk this way to his young son), but the point is clear. Guys have to control themselves. But Christian women need to control themselves too.

You might be wondering what my specific guidelines are when it comes to modesty. I won’t share them with you, because that is not the point. The point is that if you aren’t willing to sacrifice your choice of clothing to help the men and women around you fight their battles with this sex-saturated world, then you are not laying down your cross daily and giving your body as a living sacrifice. And if you don’t even know what your clothing choices should be, maybe you should start asking the one who created you and not the world who would love to claim you.

“Then he [Jesus] said to the crowd, ‘If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily, and follow me.”

Luke 9:23

Porn Within Movies

Pornography:  the depiction of erotic behavior (as in pictures or writing) intended to cause sexual excitement.

My husband and I watched a movie the other day. It was an R-rated comedy and there were more than just crude jokes in this movie. It had two sexual scenes that lingered on women’s bare breasts. My husband looked away and I glanced over so that I could tell him if it was over or not.

Now, most people would argue that sex scenes in movies are not the same thing as pornography. I mean you aren’t watching people have sex and all you are seeing is breasts or butts. Based on the definition above though, I would beg to differ.

Anything intended to cause sexual excitement is pornography. But for women, especially married women, there is something that can be just as detrimental to viewing material that explicitly shows other women’s bodies.

After seeing this movie, I started to look at my own breasts with disgust and became slightly depressed with my own physical appearance. I mean how could my own breasts compete with the airbrushed, stimulated, perfectly angled and lighted breasts of women in the movies? I know all of this logically, but even so, subconsciously my mind goes there and I become dissatisfied. Thankfully, I have the Holy Spirit who told me to tell my husband immediately what was going through my head. My husband was able to encourage me and build me up and that was the end of it.

So, while I may not have been sexually stimulated by the sight (only because my husband takes good care of my physical needs) it was still harmful. Too often I think married women believe they are able to handle sexual scenes in movies better than their husbands can simply because most women aren’t as visually turned on. But while men might be more tempted to view more forms of porn and, in turn, sexually withdraw, women are tempted to look at themselves with disgust and sexually withdraw. Both are equally sinful.

What is my point? I think my point is that as wives, we need to stop allowing porn into our hearts. Whether it leads to the same outcome as our husband’s is not even the point. The point is that porn harms every single person that is touched by it. So whether the porn you are viewing is through videos, movies, models in magazines, or books, you need to strongly analyze the way you are treating your sex life and how those things are affecting it.

A good sex life is important for a good marriage. And while it certainly isn’t everything, it is very important. Anything you are consuming that causes you to view yourself as less desirable is not worth it. Anything that causes you to withdraw from your husband is sinful.

You may not be viewing porn as the world thinks of it, but I want to leave you with something that Jesus once said to the Pharisees who boasted about how they didn’t sin like other people did.

“You blind Pharisee! First wash the inside of the cup and the dish, and then the outside will become clean, too.” – Matthew 23:26

I don’t mean to be harsh, but the truth isn’t always easy.

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”

–          Philippians 4:8

Testimonies

So, this post is going to be short, sweet, and to the point.

I just added a page called testimonies where I will be posting people’s testimonies about their struggles with pornography and/or masturbation. Sometimes, knowing that there are others out there who have a similar story as you do (especially in the church) can help you get to the other side. We are all unique in the way God made us, but many people share similar life stories that are meant to be shared to uplift and encourage one another.

If you are interested in having your own story posted, please contact me at my email: mtorik89@gmail.com and I will respect your anonymity.

Visions From Above

All I could see was a hand reaching out of the impenetrable darkness. The people that were with me all stood around looking at the hand, but no one seemed inclined to reach for it. None of us were really sure what to do. All of the sudden, I was looking beneath the darkness that the hand was reaching from. I could make out a vague form, but didn’t know who it was. This person was holding on to some sort of light source, but was covering it so that none of it could shine to reveal who was beneath the darkness…

This was a vision I had after asking God to speak to me. I felt strongly that He wanted me to share this with my small group from church and so I obeyed his commands. Even though it has been a week after I shared this particular vision, it has still been on my mind when I have asked God if there is anything He wants to speak to me. Specifically, when I asked him what I should write about for this blog, that vision came to mind once again. So, I am writing about it. I hope God uses it to speak to one or many of you.

I would not consider prophecy to be one of my key spiritual gifts. If you were to ask me what my spiritual gifts are, I would tell you words of wisdom and that I am a shepherd. My go to has never been healing, visions, or anything that people might consider “out of the ordinary”.

Something my pastor said a while ago changed my ability to be used by God in ways I would have never thought possible. He told us that the spiritual gifts were something to be desired by all. Well, I suppose that Paul originally said that in 1 Corinthians, but I actually began to understand it after the words my pastor spoke. Paul really meant what he said: everyone should desire and ask for the gift of prophecy. And most would say that visions of the kind that I got fall under that category.

I think the key to receiving this vision is simple. I asked. I don’t think it is my strength, but I do believe that I should always be willing to allow God to use me in this way. I should be willing to build up and edify the body of believers around me. I don’t know if this is something God will make me strong in, but I do know that if I never try, if I never step out in faith, if I never make myself available, I will never prophecy.

Paul says, “Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all have gifts of healing?…But eagerly desire the greater gifts.” I think in that series of rhetorical questions the answer is “no” to all of them. But it doesn’t mean we can’t be used in ways that we aren’t comfortable with. If we are to eagerly desire these gifts, wouldn’t you think that there would be some benefit? Would God tell us to desire something that is completely unattainable? I don’t think so.

This means that not only should I continue to ask God to speak to me in visions for prophesying, but I should be asking God to use me in the other greater gifts as well. And the ones I listed aren’t even all of them! This doesn’t leave me feeling overwhelmed and helpless, but rather expectant and joyous!

We each have our part in the body of Christ. We each have our strength and our place, but sometimes God needs us to step out and desire something greater. Sometimes He needs us to fill in where others might be unwilling. Sometimes we may be used to do things greater than we could ever comprehend.

I am willing. Are you?

P.S. My husband told me I was stepping into a hornet’s nest by posting this. We shall see…

5 Reasons to Read “Sex Is Not The Problem, Lust Is”

I recently decided to read the book by Joshua Harris called “Sex Is Not The Problem, Lust Is.” I actually really appreciated the things he wrote and agreed with nearly everything he said in it.

I was surprised that we were in such agreement seeing as Josh also wrote the book “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” which got a lot of negative feedback from people I know and love. After reading his other book, I might reconsider reading his opinions on dating just to decide for myself whether or not they are worthwhile.  If any of you have read his dating book and have opinions on it, I would love to hear what you thought!

I hope to be writing more and have several ideas, but as you all know life sometimes gets crazy busy. I do have several ideas though and plan on posting more in the weeks to come! And, of course, if any of you have ideas or questions, I would really appreciate it if you would let me know! It gives me more to think on even if you happen to disagree!

For now, I would really recommend that any of you who may have questions regarding masturbation or an addiction to pornography read this book about lust. Joshua Harris makes extremely good points and here are a few of the things that I really appreciated about it:

1. He never gets too graphic when describing scenarios. Authors that give more detail than necessary often cause those of us who already struggle with lust to use what is supposed to be helpful to fuel lustful desires.

2. There is a whole chapter on masturbation, and it is extremely helpful. Again, not too graphic but enough detail to know exactly what he is talking about. It is not often that I have been able to find books that dedicate a whole chapter to this topic and I actually agree with everything that is said and the way it is discussed.

3. Everything he says points you back to Jesus and to His Word. There is a whole section in the book that has key scripture verses specific to dealing with lust for you to quote and store up in your heart for times of temptation.

4. It is not extremely long (192 pages) and is a very easy read. I have found that a lot of spiritual books will be longer than necessary and just repeating the same concept over and over with nothing new added in the mix. Joshua Harris repeats the gospel and the need for Jesus often, but adds something in every chapter.

5. It is so worth it for anyone who deals with lust in their lives, whether single, dating, or married (so, basically everyone).

The only thing that I found myself disagreeing  with Josh on was the small section about how guys and girls should interact in male/female relationships. He encouraged everyone to engage more in more in relationships with the opposite sex in order to be good brothers and sisters to one another, but didn’t specify what that would look like. I just think it could be dangerous for those who don’t have good boundaries with the opposite sex and it could encourage lust rather than prevent it. It definitely doesn’t detract from the book in its entirety though, and that is just my personal view on that.

I hope you will consider purchasing or borrowing this book from a friend or the library. Trust me, it will be worth the read!

If you want to purchase it you can get it either on Amazon or Christianbook.com.

Images II

I recently talked about the importance of choosing the images that you focus on during sex with your husband. Translation for those who are single: don’t focus on any images now that you would not want in your mind then.

But that is not why I am writing this follow-up post. In my last point, I talked about how it is difficult to visualize my husband and I while we are having sex.

Some might point out that it makes sense and it would be difficult, you can’t see yourselves! Well, as you all know, this is the day and age of technology that makes all of your wildest dreams come true!

You could record or take sexy pictures to help you get turned on easily enough. And really, there is nothing wrong with this. But my husband and I won’t be doing this. Why?

Don’t get me wrong. We like to have a visual aspect of our experiences together, but we get that through other means that are not permanent.

The trap that I see lying in wait is this: placing our desires into something that is not only inanimate, but an image of who we once were sets us up for dissatisfaction in the future.

You both will gain and lose weight as the years go by. You both will become more wrinkled, less flexible, and the list could go on, but I really don’t want to depress you. If you allow yourself to focus on a younger version or a “better” version of yourself, you will struggle with feelings of discontent and longing for what once was. Perhaps you are that person who is completely confident in how you look and this is not a problem, but I know I am not that person and I believe there are many others who would feel the same.

I don’t want to give myself any more reasons to doubt my husband’s love for me and the desire he has for who I am now. He is satisfied with me. And I choose to believe him, even after gaining a few pounds and becoming less toned than I was in the beginning. I choose to believe him.

But if I were to find him looking at the pictures I could have given him at the beginning of our marriage more often than he looked at the body I have currently, I know that would affect me negatively. What would I do? Force him to throw them away? Allow him to continue, lowering my confidence along the way?

Instead, we chose to avoid that unpleasant decision making. We chose to be delighted in each other’s bodies as they are. Through the consistencies and changes of life, through joys and tragedies, we will learn to love and desire what is true in one another. I, for one, am excited to take this journey with my husband.

Images

Sex with an actual person, that is right there with you, is a mysterious and wondrous thing. This post is directed more towards those who are married, but I do believe single people could benefit from it as well.

One thing I have noticed since getting married is that it takes a lot of practice to bring my husband and I’s sexual experiences together back into my mind. I have to fight my way to get to that place. And that is the place I want to be. Why? Because if I don’t fight to focus on him, then I will focus on something else whether I like it or not.

It is horrifying to me how easily my heart can stray, but it also reminds me of just how weak I really am.

I only have answers and theories on some of the questions I am about to ask. But perhaps it will give us all pause, examining what images we really are letting into our minds and how it can affect our future.

Why do pornographic images and scenes that I viewed years and years ago brand themselves in my memory, fighting to push to the surface, when I can’t even remember how old I was for most of the momentous points of my childhood?

Why is it that I find it so much easier to focus on other people having sex than my husband and I?

I do have an answer to that one. And I think it applies to most all women in this day and age. Viewing pornography can subconsciously start to become your ideal of what a woman should look like. Most women struggle with self-image in some form or another, so it is easier to think about someone else in place of ourselves than to think of ourselves. The self we so often criticize and pick at. The self that we don’t view as perfect.

Why is it that I remember other people’s experiences better than my own?

I have thought about this a lot. It truly is awful how the images I have filled my mind with in the past seem like they may never truly go away. I will always have to be on my guard. I can never take it back. What I can do is fill my mind with other things that I choose to think on instead.

Have you ever prayed during sex? I do. If you haven’t and you struggle with images that shouldn’t be there, then pray. There is no better cure.

As to why I have a difficult time remembering my own experiences, it is actually a beautiful conclusion that I have come to. Each sexual experience you have with your husband is new and entirely different than the last. Our bodies are continually changing, making each experience as different as you want it to be. It also leaves no room for you to hold on to a past that you can never go back to. The inability to remember a sexual encounter in such vividity is a blessing in disguise. God willing, I will never live in the past, but enjoy the present with my husband.

Instead I will focus my mind on what seems to be an ever-shifting image of my husband. I am not dependent on specific memories to be “in the mood”. The mood is created as we go.

Images. What images are you holding on to?

And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.

–          Philippians 4:8 (NLT)