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.

What’s in a testimony?

What is your testimony?

As a Christian, you may have had several people ask you this. But what does it really mean to share your testimony?

I could tell you something along these lines, “Well, I don’t have much of a testimony. I grew up in church and never got into too much trouble. I did struggle with porn and masturbation throughout the majority of my childhood, but God has set me free from that.”

I would have a pretty boring testimony, and there is something about it that bothers me.

It bothers me because there are others who have gone through much more in their lives; involved in drugs, alcohol, sex, and just living a life of destruction. Their testimony seems a whole lot more interesting. They have had all kinds of horrible things happen and look at how far they have come.

In comparison, my own testimony is bland and uninteresting. In the past I have almost been embarrassed to share with anyone how pleasant my life had been thus far.

This mindset is wrong. The only reason I or anyone else might be thinking that our testimony isn’t worthy is because we are focused on the wrong person. Instead of focusing on Jesus and sharing what He has done, we are focusing on ourselves. We want to impress people with how messed up our lives used to be and if we don’t have a terrible story to tell we are embarrassed or even embellish our own stories to make them more interesting.

What is the true purpose of a testimony? To bear witness to something. Something greater than all of our own stories and messy lives. To bear witness to the beauty of a God who would send his Son to live among us and die for us. A savior who would take on our sin, conquer death, and rise again to be with us for eternity.

The Bible makes it clear to me what I should focus on concerning my own testimony.

“Anyone who believes in the Son of God has this testimony in his heart. Anyone who does not believe God has made him out to be a liar, because he has not believed the testimony God has given about his Son.  And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.” 1 John 5:10-11

Everyone may have a different story, but we all have the same testimony to share. None of us have a boring or unimportant testimony. If Jesus has touched our lives, what we have to share is just as important as the rest.

I shouldn’t try to make my past worse than it was and neither should someone else dumb theirs down. If we are giving Jesus all the glory and pointing to Him as the one who saved us from it all, each of us will have something to offer.

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.