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.

The House of Your Dreams

My husband and I have been looking for houses recently and I had to work on how I saw the house my husband and I decided God wanted us to be in. At first, I had a lot of anxiety concerning this house. The bedrooms were small, there were stains in the cabinets, the bathroom would need work, and on and on the list went. But this house was it, and it was worth it and it was the wise choice. Plus if we bought a newer, nicer house my husband would have been disappointed because there would be nothing to renew, nothing to fix up and make our own.

I was praying about my heart on this the other day and I felt like I got this analogy or word from the Lord. I asked God to help me view this house for the potential of it and accept it as it was. I asked him to give me vision of what it could be and love it even with it’s dirty, broken, outdated look. I mean, isn’t that what Jesus did for us?

The only way for Jesus to work in our lives is for us to be like that house. If we view ourselves as perfect and good the way we are, there is nothing for the Lord to do in us. But if we see ourselves as we truly are, which is dirty, broken, and needing improvement, then we open our doors up for the makeover to begin. God has promised to make us new, but we have to be willing to admit that we need to be made new before we can become the house of our dreams.

My Testimony II

Picking up where I left off: I began to take my sin more seriously starting in my Senior year of high school and that is also when porn/masturbation really started to take a toll on my life.

In a stretch of about three years, I became truly addicted to pornography. I may not have viewed it as often as other porn addicts do, but I had no self-control and would watch it in the family living areas on my newly acquired laptop even when my family was home. I began to despise myself and feel depressed and cried out to God like I had never done before. I wanted it to end. I couldn’t keep living life in this way.

He told me what to do: “Tell someone.” I knew that is what he was asking of me, that it was where the end of my misery would have to begin. But in so many ways that sounded like the worst idea ever! If I told someone, they would look at me differently; with disgust, shock, horror, and disdain. They might even tell other people I knew and then everyone would know me for what I was. Girls just didn’t masturbate and girls certainly didn’t watch porn. No one would understand this.

But I knew I didn’t just have to tell anyone, I had to tell a certain friend. I didn’t. I told my mom. It was the worst decision I could have made because at the two years that were the hardest, I added another year of misery to my life. My mom promptly tried to forget I ever told her and was embarrassed and the subject was not brought up again until after I got married and I was confident in who I was.

A year later, I was at an event about sex trafficking at our town’s college. They talked about how women were often trafficked and used for porn films and the people viewing them couldn’t distinguish when a woman had been trafficked. I wanted to throw up.

Some of my girlfriends started to talk about how they can’t imagine anyone viewing porn let alone any women. “I mean how could women view pornography? It’s so disgusting!” My friend that I knew I should tell was there and piped in saying that she used to look at it. What? I wasn’t alone.

I finally worked up the courage to talk to her and things began to change from then on. I obeyed Christ, and immediately found peace and the freedom that I always had. I no longer allowed my desires to control me, but prayed and studied God’s Word even more. I began to take Jesus more seriously. I still struggled with masturbation until the day I got married and it could still be a very real struggle for me if my husband ever dies or we have a rough patch in our marriage. I know that I am not immune to my body’s physical desires. But the lust is no longer there. I haven’t looked at porn intentionally since the day I told my friend and confessed my sin to another person.

Since then, I would say that I am a completely different person than I was during those three years (and I wasn’t even very bad in the outward sense). My desires are more like Christ’s desires and He has transformed what I really want from life to be more Holy. I will always have sins and issues that I need to work on, but sin is no longer my master. Jesus Christ is. Once I was able to wrap my head around what Christ truly did on the cross, I understood that every sin I had done and every sin I would commit was washed away by His blood.

And now I can honestly say that I am excited for the day that I get to be in my Savior’s presence in eternity. He is just so much better than all the pleasures that this world has to offer. Now, my greatest desire is to please God.

And this world is fading away, along with everything that people crave. But anyone who does what pleases God will live forever. – 1 John 2:17

Feel free to leave me any comments or thoughts you may have on this topic using the form below. Also, if you would like to share your own testimony, please email me at mtorik89@gmail.com and I will respect your anonymity.

My Testimony

I posted recently inviting people to share their testimony on this blog. I have a couple of people working on sending me theirs, but until then I thought I would share my full testimony. I have given bits and pieces of it in different blog posts, but never have I written it out fully.

I grew up in a somewhat typical Christian home. We went to church ever since I can remember, although my Dad stopped going when a scandal of sorts occurred with the pastor there stealing money from the church. My mom continued to take us kids to church though and I enjoyed going. I got baptized when I was 6 or 7 (to be honest all of my childhood memories blend together and to remember an exact age is a miracle). I would say that I loved Jesus, but I don’t think I really knew what it meant to follow him.

My older brothers stopped going to church with us when they reached high school. I am not really sure why they even had an option, but it wouldn’t surprise me to know that they used the argument that if my Dad never went, they shouldn’t have to go either. It never crossed my mind that I didn’t want to go to church. I just felt like I should.

When I was around ten or so, I discovered masturbation. I had no idea what I was doing, I just knew that it felt really good and I knew exactly where it was that made me feel that way. I wish it had ended there, but curiosity got the best of me and living in a house of  all brothers, you hear some things that you might not otherwise. Not only that, but I first learned about sex from a friend of mine. I didn’t know exactly what she meant by her definition, but it made me curious and the internet was very accessible for me.

I searched the term sex and saw pictures that repulsed me and at the same time drew me to them and I wanted to see more. My Dad walked in and I remember absolutely nothing else about what happened. There was no conversation afterwards, just a deep sense of shame and feeling like I had done something very wrong. I was a sick, twisted little girl in my mind.

Once you view porn, it is hard not to go further. It started out with pictures for me and then progressed into inappropriate movie scenes, which made me realize that I could look up videos of this stuff online as well. There were years that I didn’t look at porn as much, but there were also years that I looked at it a lot, especially in my later high school/early college years.

Why is all of this such a huge part of my testimony? Because I truly believe porn combined with masturbation is what stunted my growth as a believer. I was sinning and unable to break free from it. And I wasn’t turning to the Lord when I messed up, I ran from Him and covered my head in shame for weeks every time I looked at porn and/or masturbated. Masturbation wasn’t something that was done in innocence for me anymore. It was always accompanied by lustful fantasies, raunchy scenes in books, or video pornography. So whether or not I actually viewed porn, I was left feeling empty and defeated and far from God.

My Senior year of high school was when things began to turn around for me. You might be asking yourself, “Isn’t that when you struggled the most?”  Yes, it is. But it is also the time when I started to take my sin more seriously. And Satan wasn’t about to make it that easy for me.

I will share the rest of my testimony in my next post. For now I want to leave you with this:

When your struggle with sin is the hardest it has ever been, remember this: God is there with you and He will never forsake you. The fact that you are not resigned to your sin and wish to defeat it is a big deal and something God can work with. You are free in Christ. Don’t let sin tell you otherwise!

“So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” – John 8:36

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)

Communication is the Key

I had some feedback on a recent post that got me thinking about how masturbation has affected my marriage.

I won’t lie to you, my past struggles haven’t damaged my marriage significantly. In fact, I would go so far as to say that I was able to explain the things that I like more easily to my husband. To put it bluntly, we have a great sex life.

But I don’t think the real reason for our great sex life is because of my experiences with masturbation.

A friend told me a few weeks before she got married that she had never masturbated. I wasn’t too surprised, but did wonder how that would change their sex life. Apparently, not much at all. According to her and her husband, they have a fantastic sex life and it was great from day one. If masturbation was the key to having a great sex life, then how could this be the case?

Communication will drastically change a woman’s ability to enjoy a sexual experience with another person. If you communicate well, things typically go well. If there is miscommunication or a lack thereof, things come to a screeching halt.

Masturbation cannot fix a person’s inability to communicate. In fact, it will probably cause you to enjoy your own touch more than your husband’s. Let’s face it, masturbation is easier than communicating to a man that doesn’t always understand the female mind.

This friend of mine probably didn’t know much about her body and how it worked sexually, but before she got married and started having sex, she asked questions; lots of questions. She became informed and she learned how to communicate well with her spouse. If you can’t communicate, it doesn’t matter how much you masturbate as a woman, you probably won’t enjoy sex like you could.

I hear it said a lot that masturbation is necessary for people to explore their sexuality and to be ready to have a sexual partner. It just isn’t true. Putting aside what you believe about how right or wrong it is, masturbation is not a necessity for a woman to have a good sex life. However, good communication skills are.

As a married, Christian woman, I will be completely honest: although masturbation didn’t ruin my marriage or even cause many issues, it could have. My husband didn’t know exactly how I would like things from the very beginning. Sex has always been good because of communication, but it has gotten better as time goes by because he knows me, not because I know me. Like everything else in marriage, sex is better when you’re both being selfless, not selfish.

This World

Do not love this world nor the things it offers you, for when you love the world, you do not have the love of the Father in you. For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world. And this world is fading away, along with everything that people crave. But anyone who does what pleases God will live forever.

–          1 John 2:15-17

Recently I talked about how I enjoy memorizing Scripture, but need to consistently remind myself that I have to store it in my heart and not just in my brain. I have been working on memorizing the book of 1 John and I came across these verses. I have read them before but they really gripped my heart this time.

You could take these verses and become extremely legalistic and judgmental of other people. Or you could take these verses and apply them to your own life and come out on the other side craving things that will last forever. The things that are pleasing to God.

“For when you love the world, you do not have the love of the Father in you.” That is harsh. The only real way for us to obey God’s commandments is to love others and we can’t do that with our own versions of love. Only the love of the Father in us can allow us to follow His commandments. So we have to figure out what the things of this world are and what it means to love them.

“For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see..”

All this world offers us is cravings and more cravings. There is never any satisfaction with the world. We always will want more, new, and better. I know this isn’t really new information to most people. We hear it all the time from different pastors and speakers, but I think it is something that we can always be reminded of.

It is so easy for me to get wrapped up in the things of this world and forget the real reason I am here. I am not here to become really good at grocery shopping and budgeting. I am not here to have a really good career and make a ton of money, have a mansion, and live the good life. I am not here to satisfy every desire that my body may have. In fact, I am not here for me at all! I am here for the glory of God, plain and simple. If I lose focus of that, the world has all kinds of ways to distract me and take all of my love.

There is nothing wrong with pleasure, as long as we don’t depend on getting our satisfaction from it. As long as we do not love it in the way that we should be loving Jesus. It should be a small part of our lives, not the sole reason we live and breathe. And yet, I see people living life for the sake of pleasure. Everything that we crave will pass away and then we will be left with nothing.

The book of 1 John is all about obeying God’s commandments. Sometimes his commands are to do things that require us to forego pleasures of this world. If we aren’t willing to put Him above every single pleasure in the world, we do not have His love. I don’t think God’s desire is to strip us of all life’s pleasures; far from it. But if we are clinging to them and unwilling to give them to Him, we will end this life with nothing more than ashes.

I do not want to be left with ashes. I want to crave the things of eternity and find my satisfaction and delight in the one that is eternal. I will eat delicious things and enjoy sex with my husband and be delighted with the little joys of life in this world, but I will not depend on them. Those things, although nice, will not last. I will seek Jesus and trust that He will guide me in this world and teach me how to please Him.

I will do these things, only by His strength and love that He has placed in me. And I pray that I will not be willing to give His love up for anything that this world could offer me. Something that I think I will be praying daily for from now on.