John Piper – Porn

I was pleasantly surprised to hear John Piper in this voice clip acknowledge that women do often struggle with pornography. He focused on it even longer than I would have expected, and hopefully opened the doors in the Christian community for women to realize that this is not just a male issue.

I agreed with the majority of what he had to say on the issue of being addicted to pornography. The main point he made was that “getting right with God precedes getting our pornography issues fixed.” I completely agree with that.

What I don’t completely agree with is his solution to getting to know God: to read a book on theology and increase your knowledge of God. I agree with him that there is so much more than our “Sunday school knowledge of God.” And I get that he is trying to give you practical ways to do that, but no book (other than the Bible) is going to increase your knowledge of God in the ways that you really need.

The book he recommended is called “Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine” by Wayne Grudem. It is a 1,100 page book about theology and doctrine. I am not saying there is anything wrong with this book. In fact, it could help someone have a better grasp of what Christianity looks like in the church, but it doesn’t solve the issue of getting to know God better.

John Piper spouted off a list of books, all of which are probably amazing books that I would even recommend if I had read them, but that as a solution to knowing God and ending your addiction to pornography is not good enough. It will fail.

I have known atheists who know more about God and theology than most people do in a lifetime, but they still don’t know God the way I know him.

Is there anything wrong with theology and reading books to know more and grow? Absolutely not!

But the way I have gotten to know who God really is didn’t come from books. It comes from living life with Him. Telling him about every sorrow and every joy. Asking him for advice with every problem I encounter. Taking time to listen, pray, and read His Word. Receiving my daily bread from the only one who can sustain me.

I could just leave it at that, but I have one more point to make.

What about all of the people who don’t enjoy reading or who can’t? What about the woman or man who struggles with pornography and was never taught how to read and will never get the opportunity. If John Piper is right, they have no chance of getting to know God better and will probably never overcome their addictions because of it.

John Piper is a teacher, so it makes sense that his automatic answer would be read and grow in knowledge. But for those people that I just mentioned, hope dies.

Books and teachings may assist in the pursuit of knowing God, but until we are truly living life with God we will never know Him.

How do we live life with God? I would love to hear your thoughts on what you think it means.

Talk to kids about porn

I was 10 years old. My dad wasn’t home from work yet and I was on the family computer by the door. Curiosity isn’t always such a good thing. I typed in the word sex. I scrolled through some pictures and clicked on one. My dad came home and saw what was on the screen. I don’t remember anything else about that moment in my life.

It is kind of crazy that my memories of being caught viewing pornography at such a young age don’t involve any kind of punishment or conversations with my parents. I don’t think it was ever brought up again until I decided to tell my mom what I was going through in college.

I don’t have kids yet, but if you are a parent that is reading this please just understand that your words and actions could make such a difference in your children’s lives.

Things could have been different as I was growing up if my parents had talked to me about sex at a very early age. It isn’t just Christians that are guilty of this. I have talked to people at work who are scared that their kids are going to start asking them questions about where babies come from. Why would you be scared? What a great opportunity!

As children, we learn about sex. Whether it is from parents or friends, classmates, or the internet, sex is going to be something we know about. If that is the case, wouldn’t it be best coming from the people that are most involved in our lives?

It would have benefited me greatly to hear a biblical view on what sex is before I turned 10 years old. In fact, it would have benefited me to know that there was such a thing as pornography and if I ever happened to stumble across it (which is statistically likely) I could talk to my parents without fear. The problem was that I had fear and shame and embarrassment and it didn’t seem like they really wanted to hear about it. If instead of ignoring what had obviously occurred, my parents had sat down with me and discussed what I had just seen and how I felt about it and what my thoughts were, things might have turned out differently. But they didn’t.

Let me get one thing straight. I love my parents and I know they love me. They didn’t ruin my life because of this, but it sure didn’t make it any easier for me. I thought I was alone for the better half of my childhood and couldn’t talk to anyone about it, not even my parents!

When I have children, I plan to answer their questions and not make them feel weird for asking them. I plan to let them know that there is a world out there that talks about sex, and that we are parents that talk about sex. I want them to know what the Bible says about it, that it’s a good thing. And that one day they might have to make a decision on what they are going to do with what the world has to offer them.

Some people believe that children are too innocent to have such discussions and we should wait until they are older or just let them figure it out on their own. That is terrible advice.

Sex should no longer be a hush hush kind of topic. Why do you think there are so many secrets and things hidden in the dark in Christian circles, typically having to do with sexual immorality?

Not many of my generation’s parents were willing to make this a topic that is no longer taboo. I am praying that our future generation won’t experience the same thing.

Viewing Porn Today

As I was searching through my wordpress reader the other day, I came across something I wasn’t expecting.

The title of my blog is somewhat blunt. It is pretty easy to find on wordpress if you type in masturbation. When I first started writing this blog, I could search that term and find a couple things here and there. There were some disturbing entries that I skipped over, but for the most part nothing that was too inappropriate. Things have changed.

I probably should have known better. This is the world we live in. Sex and porn creeps into all of our social networking systems one way or another. I was searching through my reader trying to find a blog to read, when photos began to show up. With a search term like masturbation you can easily guess the kinds of images I was exposed to.

With my past struggles with pornography, what I saw would be considered mild. But it has been so long since I have viewed any kind of sexual material, that I knew if I kept trying to search in that category I would be in trouble. I immediately typed in “Christian”, and switched to looking for wisdom from fellow believers. My mind shifted, and I was no longer focusing solely on those images. But it was still in the corner of my mind just waiting for the right opportunity. I could sense it and knew I needed prayer.

Just then my husband called me to tell me he was on his way home from work. I immediately told him about the images, that I was fine, but I needed him to pray for me. He prayed, I felt peace, I told him I loved him, and I continued on with life.

There are many reasons as to why I didn’t fall to temptation. Jesus is at the center of them all. He is my rock and my refuge. The more I dwell on him, the easier it is to tear my thoughts away from something that would have once held me captive. It is moments like this that remind me of what He has done for me. I was tempted just enough to know that without him I would have ended that experience the same way I had before I began to lean on Him.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” – 2 Corinthians 5:17  

Why I Told My Boyfriend

In my last entry, I shared the story of how my husband ended up finding out about my past addiction to pornography and struggles with masturbation.

I really think that for anyone who is currently single or dating there are a lot of important things to glean from that particular story.

First of all, I really don’t believe it is something that you should keep to yourself until after you are married. Sharing it will even help you discern whether or not you can live your life with that person.

If your boyfriend’s reaction to you sharing your past is negative in any way, there is something wrong. Either you aren’t as close as you thought, or he doesn’t love you the way Jesus does.

The idea that you should keep something this important from the man that could one day be your husband is somewhat deceptive. If, for some reason, he were to take issue with you having been addicted to porn or struggling with masturbation, it really isn’t fair to surprise him with this information after he has committed to you. Should he get over it and love you anyways? Absolutely! But starting a marriage based on deception is never a good idea.

Being able to communicate your fears, struggles, tendencies, and issues when it comes to sex is not always such a bad thing before marriage. A lot of churches tend to make you believe that sex is a topic that should never be discussed before marriage. It’s true, it can be harmful, but it can also be very beneficial for the first year of your marriage. There were things that I knew I wouldn’t want to do right away when I got married because of what I was exposed to in pornography. Instead of my husband being confused on our honeymoon and wondering why I wasn’t enjoying something or why I suddenly got upset, we were able to discuss it beforehand and have an understanding of what we were comfortable with.

Communication in general makes for a much better sex life, but communication before you even get married can make for a great sex life starting on day one!

Of course, you will have to use discernment and only share what is necessary for both of you to hear at this stage in the relationship. But I really do believe that not sharing it at all could be a recipe for disaster.

How I told my boyfriend…

“I’ll have to tell him before we get married, but I just don’t think I can tell him yet.” Those were my thoughts when it came to telling my now husband about my previous addiction to pornography and struggles with masturbation.

The way it all turned out just proves that God has a sense of humor. At least when it comes to my own life.

My husband and I had been dating for several months now and I was thinking that I would just wait until we were engaged to tell him. We were pretty confident we wanted to get married at this point. We were sitting in church one day when the pastor said, “Girls, on the very first date you need to be asking the guy you are with if he is addicted to pornography.” I sighed inwardly thinking that if he had been dating me a year and a half ago he would actually need to be asking me that very question. I was still too nervous about telling him though and figured it could wait until we were engaged.

I had never shared my past or present struggles with a guy before. I had no idea how he would react. Would he still love me? Would he be angry or disgusted? I had finally gotten over the idea that I was horrible and unique in this area of sin as a woman, but the idea of having to face my boyfriend’s rejection was too much for me.

We often drove about 45 minutes away to visit his parents and on our next trip there, he turned to me and told me he had been thinking about what the pastor said. “No, no, no I don’t want to hear this yet. I am not ready to tell you” was all I could think about. I already knew what he was going to tell me. The statistics of guys viewing pornography made it pretty likely that he had looked at pornography. I didn’t care about that, but what I did care about was that I was now going to have to reveal my ugly past to him. I immediately burst into tears.

He was confused, thinking that I was horribly upset by the fact that he had been addicted to pornography before. I explained through sobs that that wasn’t it at all and I had to tell him something too. I was shaking and crying and finally managed to let him know, through a mixture of him guessing and me saying random words, that I had been addicted to pornography and struggled with masturbation.

His reaction was the opposite of what I had feared. Some of his comments were things like, “At least we know we will probably have a pretty good sex life” and “Well, that’s a relief. I thought you were going to tell me you have homosexual tendencies”.

The funny thing is that the whole time he was trying to tell me his past, I could have cared less because of what I had to tell him. And the whole time I was trying to tell him about mine, he could care less because I didn’t seem to be bothered by his own.

We had several more conversations and still do concerning this issue, but it was one less burden for me to carry. I was so happy that I had to tell him sooner than later. I can only imagine the dread and anxiety I would have experienced the moment he proposed to me. “Oh no, I have to tell him now” would have been my first thought after he bent down on one knee instead of being joyful and thrilled.

Although I thought I knew better than anyone when I would need to tell my future husband, God knew much better than I did what was best for us. I really should have known better looking back on how most of my plans tend to work out.

Masturbation: It’s Not Disgusting

I mentioned it before in A Breath of Fresh Air, but I want to focus on it for this particular entry.

I had a really hard time even saying the word masturbation when I first brought what I was dealing with to my friend. Even after that I felt awkward and weird saying the word. My friend said it with ease and basically forced me to use the word just so she knew that we were on the same page.

Recently, I had a young woman share her past and present struggles with me. She was a reflection of myself a few years ago. She felt like she was the only one dealing with masturbation, but when it came time to tell me the truth she couldn’t say the word. She kept telling me how disgusting it was. I wasn’t trying to be mean, but like my friend, I forced her to use the word.

After I talked to her, I wondered why I followed in my friends footsteps. What is the importance of becoming comfortable using the word masturbation?

There are a few reasons that I came up with, but only a couple that I find are really important.

First of all, it prevents miscommunication from occurring. Until you actually define what it is you are dealing with, people you share your life with aren’t going to know how best to pray for you. Using words like “struggling” and “lust” aren’t going to get the point across. Do you know how many forms struggling and lusting can take? You will ensure that the prayers you receive will be as general and vague as you are. And you may run into a few people praying for things that don’t even apply to you!

More importantly though, being comfortable with the word erases the link of shame that you have placed on it. Masturbation is real and most people deal with it at some point in life. You may not have realized that until now, but it doesn’t change the fact. As a Christian, it may not be beneficial for you, but it isn’t disgusting. If you have masturbated, you are not a disgusting person.

Let me repeat that. You are not a disgusting person.

If your desire is to stop masturbating, telling yourself that you are disgusting and worthless and imposing self-hate will get you nowhere. Those are lies, so stop believing them! You may lack self-control, be out of touch with the Holy Spirit, or simply bored and not doing enough with your life. All of which can be corrected.

Words can have power, and sometimes that power is negative. In years past, I was allowing this one word to wreak havoc in my soul and tell me I was something I was not. Don’t allow it to do the same thing to you.

Masturbation: A Sin?

If you have read any of my posts thus far, you may have come to a conclusion: that I believe masturbating and viewing pornography are sins.

Yes and no.

I have been avoiding this particular train of thought for several reasons. But before I even brush the surface of my opinions on this, I want to make two important distinctions.

  1. Viewing pornography is a sin. It is unjust to those involved, harmful, lustful, addicting, and the list could go on. There is no doubt in my mind about where I stand on this matter.
  2. Masturbation is a little bit more complicated than that.

Most of us know that lust is a sin. Jesus even says that those who lust in their hearts have already committed adultery. That is tough, but truth.

“But what if I masturbate and there is no lust?” I have had people ask. I can’t really give a definite answer. There is no biblical evidence that it would be considered sinful. Masturbation in and of itself is not a sin.

The problem arises when masturbation is linked to other things that are sinful. Lust is one of them. For me, that link was strong and there was no separating the two. When I masturbated, I was lusting.

There was maybe one time when I gave in to my desires that I didn’t feel like I was focusing on someone or something else and being lustful. So, for those of us that fall into that category on a more regular basis, what do we do with that? The answer is simple. You go to Jesus. Ask him what he thinks about it. Does he believe it is beneficial to you or harmful? Are you showing self-control or being tossed around and controlled by your every desire?

I guess what I am trying to say is that I don’t have all the answers. Only God does, and because it isn’t very clear in His word where He stands on this particular issue, you have to seek His voice on this one. The Holy Spirit will guide you and show you what is truly beneficial.

“’I have the right to do anything,’ you say—but not everything is beneficial. ‘I have the right to do anything’—but not everything is constructive. No one should seek their own good, but the good of others.” – 1 Corinthians 10:23-24

Paul isn’t saying that we have the right to do anything that is against God’s commands, but there are things that God hasn’t really said yes or no on, like masturbation. So, do you have the right to masturbate? As long as there are no other clear sins linked to it, then yes. But is it beneficial or constructive for you? Is it helping you seek good for others or just good for yourself?

Let Us Encourage One Another

So I have been walking in freedom for 2-3 years now when it comes to my struggles with masturbation. There really isn’t any reason for me to share my experiences with other people anymore. They will be weirded out and think differently of me. I mean writing on this blog is one thing, but talking to people personally is quite another. I think I could get along just fine without mentioning my past to another person that knows who I am.

Did anyone feel uncomfortable with what I just wrote? Something is off about it. And yet, I feel like that has to be the attitude of so many Christian women to make a topic like this one so secret.

You have all seen the statistics now. If not, just look at my first entry. There are more Christian women out there that have dealt with this/are dealing with it than many of us are lead to believe. So, why was I left in the dark and all alone?

There are several possible explanations. Perhaps it is that you are still holding on to that sense of shame and embarrassment that has ruled your decisions for so long. Or maybe you don’t think that your past is anyone else’s business. It’s true; your past isn’t for most people to know, but there may be some who would benefit greatly from what you have to say.

Every time I hear God telling me, “It’s time to tell them about your past” I get a little bit nervous. What if they don’t get it? What if no one here is dealing with it? All of the doubts and questions pop into my mind, but each time I share because of His prompting, I have never been disappointed.

If you are wondering where I am talking about masturbation and pornography to people, that is a good question!

So far, I have talked to girls in my youth group, women in my small group, and certain individuals.

God may tell you to do something really scary, approach someone you don’t even know and tell them your past. But most likely, your chance of sharing with others is going to occur when you are in community with others.

I have noticed that Paul likes the word encourage. It is in almost every book he has written to the church. One verse that really sticks out to me is in 1 Thessalonians 5:14. The NIV version puts it like this, “…encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone”.

Encourage the disheartened? I wonder how many women are disheartened by their fight with masturbation and/or pornography. You have been through it! You can encourage them!

I hope and pray that I have been able to encourage someone through this post to speak out. Maybe you have heard from the Lord recently, and He wants you to share your past. Don’t be afraid. He will be with you. The reward of encouraging the disheartened and helping the weak is greater than you can ever imagine.

A Breath of Fresh Air

I called my friend up after a while and told her I needed to talk to her about something serious. For anonymity’s sake, I will call her Angela. I still didn’t want a soul to know what I was dealing with, but I couldn’t ignore God anymore. Angela sounded a bit confused on the phone, but was more than willing to have me over for a chat.

As I sat on her living room sofa, I couldn’t help but feel embarrassed about what I was about to tell her. I said every vague phrase I could think of to try to get her to understand what it was I was dealing with. It was easier to tell her that I had been addicted to pornography because that was now past tense. But to tell her that I was continuing to masturbate and having a hard time seeking the Lord because of it was like pulling teeth.

I circled around the word for a little bit until she finally just asked me, “Are we talking about masturbating?” I sighed and said yes.

“Oh, well I have struggled with that for years, ever since I was young” she said.

There was no condemnation in her voice, no embarrassment, no disgust. I could already feel what I had hidden for so long in my life getting a breath of fresh air. Perhaps I wouldn’t have to do this alone anymore.

I began to open up more with other people as well. It turned out that there were several people whom I respected and loved that dealt with the same things I did. If I hadn’t talked to Angela, I may have never come to know this. I would have had no other human being to talk to; no one to lend a sympathetic and understanding ear.

It has now become a part of my testimony and God has shown me that those who love him know how to respond to my experiences. Not everyone I have shared this with has been through the same things, but they have responded in love and praise God with me for all of the victories in my life.

I wrote the previous post because I wanted people to understand the reality Christians face. One person can prevent a scenario like the one above from occurring for years or a lifetime. Reacting negatively to this topic can essentially stunt growth in a Christian woman and keep them from being exposed to the light that they need.

And if you are one of those women who have overcome, don’t keep your testimony and thoughts all to yourself. Be honest and open like Angela and you just may change a young girl’s life forever.

Three unhelpful reactions to masturbation/pornography

So far, I have only talked about the negative reactions I got concerning masturbation and pornography. That’s because, for the most part, those are the typical reactions among Christian women. Or at least they are the reactions that the ones desiring to share their struggles expect to encounter.

Unhelpful reaction #1: There is the reaction similar to my mothers’; that of embarrassment. I do not blame people for having this kind of reaction. The reason they never went through the things I did is likely due to not ever having been exposed to it much, but reacting this way only increases the guilt and shame already felt by the confessor.

Unhelpful reaction #2: Then there is the reaction of disgust like my friends had at the college presentation. This one can be particularly devastating to a Christian. Although you may not be intentionally condemning the people around you, merely saying how disgusted you are by it can drive a friend away from bringing their struggles into the light.

Unhelpful reaction #3: The worst reaction I found was when I made a search on the web trying to find information for young Christian girls struggling with masturbation. Unfortunately, I only found one encouraging testimony and the rest was mediocre. I found several Christian sites giving tips on how to masturbate and how there was nothing wrong with it; this would not have helped me since I felt convicted by the Holy Spirit for my actions. On the other extreme, I found websites that condemned it to the point that I wanted to find the person that wrote it and shake them!

In fact one of the websites I found was so convincing that I thought it was an actual blog. It turned out it was on a website that makes fun of certain types of Christians by mocking the way that they talk about things. The sad part about this is that I couldn’t tell the difference until I looked further into where this blog came from.

Here is a sample of the response:

Masturbation is another form of pornography that will infest your daughter’s mind and serve as a gateway to far worse sexual activities….

So first, have a talk with your daughter and pray with her. Pray all that sinful desire of masturbation right out of her heart. Throw the device away, and then enroll her in some abstinence counseling sessions. These will teach your daughter the value and need of respecting her body until marriage. Masturbation is very unnatural and by taking proactive steps to get this bizarre behavior out of your teen’s life, you’ll ensure she has a better future

It really saddens me that this mocking take on Christians is actually something that I have seen in reality on other sites and heard in conversations around me.

Don’t let your reaction to these topics be like the three examples above, especially the last two. For in what way is that considered loving?