I have to admit, I just started watching Duck Dynasty this year. It is in it’s second season and I was skeptical at first, but it’s just funny. I always appreciated the prayers at the end of the show, but lots of people pray over big meals – it doesn’t mean they believe in Jesus. It may just mean that’s what they did as kids and so it became a family tradition. It’s cool to see Phil Robertson of Duck Dynasty sharing his story of faith in Jesus.
You can buy his new book here.
When I saw this video I got a little teary-eyed at the end. People are special and we all have a story. The gangster on the subway, the business man with his laptop, the young girl in the headphones… they are lives, people on a journey, stuck in this thing called life between the temporary and the eternal. We have a small window to learn some things while we are here and what I’ve learned is that we need God, and we need each other.
Enjoy this video and maybe look at a stranger a little differently from now on. They could be dying with cancer or HIV, they may have been beaten or abused that morning, they may be rich, but still miserable or poor and unbelievably happy.
Everyone has a story. What’s yours?
My first semester at DTS I took a Spiritual Life class with Dr. Ralston. It was amazing. I took the class online and the great thing about that was we could get a transcript of the lectures. I took this snippet from one of the lectures as it changed my life and the way I thought about my ministry. I share it today because I believe it is always good to do some self-examination and find out what our true motives are when we are doing ministry.
“One of the biggest shadows inside a lot of leaders is the deep insecurity about their own identity, their own worth. The insecurity is hard to see in extraverted people, but the extraversion is often there precisely because they’re insecure about who they are. They are trying to prove themselves in the external world rather than wrestling with their inner identity.”
Macintosh comments, “The majority of tragically fallen Christian leaders during the past 10 to 15 years have been baby boomers who felt driven to achieve and succeed in an increasingly competitive and demanding church environment. Most often their ambition has been a subtle and dangerous combination of their own dysfunctional personal needs. In a certain measure of altruistic desire to expand the kingdom of God, however, because ambition is easily disguised in Christian circles and couched in spiritual language, for example the need to fulfill the Great Commission and expand the church, the dysfunctions that drive Christian leaders often go undetected and unchallenged until it is too late. A paradox of sorts existed in the lives of most of the leaders who experience significant failures. The personal insecurities, feeling of inferiority, and the need for parental approval among other dysfunctions that compel these people to become successful leaders were very often the same issues that precipitated their failure.”
You see what people are doing in Christian leadership? They’re trying to compensate. They’re trying to get the affirmation, the security, and the significance; they’re prostituting the role to their own needs. When leaders operate with a deep unexamined insecurity about their own identity, they create institutional settings that deprive other people of their identity as a way of dealing with the unexamined fears in the leaders themselves, and leaders not only embed in their organizations what they intend unconsciously to get across, but they also convey their inner conflicts and the inconsistencies in their own personal natures.
Human beings have always employed an enormous variety of clever devices for running away from themselves. We can keep ourselves so busy, fill our lives with so many diversions, stuff our heads with so much knowledge, involve ourselves with so many people, and cover so much ground that we never have time to probe the fearful and wonderful world within, and by middle life most of us are accomplished fugitives from ourselves; see the issues?” – Dr. Ralston, Dallas Theological Seminary
For most of my life I’ve wondered if God really did indeed keep his promises… I’d heard a thousand sermons. I’d read the entire Bible, but still, I felt that somehow I was being overlooked. Where are you God? It was a question I asked often.
For most of my life I’ve been consumed with myself. I spent hours thinking about me, wallowing ins self-pity and often self-loathing. Insecurity, shame, low self-esteem – these were adjectives that were graffitied on the walls of my life.
But last year I joined a community group and God brought a few other people into my life and I was shown so much love and grace through them that my blinders were removed. God was there all along. He was carefully guiding my steps, growing me, shaping me according to his will and to make me ready for his purposes. For years the very things that I thought were keeping me apart from God were the very things that actually made me see how much he really loves me.
It’s easy as Christians to think that the church and people and even God are going to let you down. It’s easy to find yourself stuck and despairing, but God is always there even when no one else is around. Those lonely moments are quiet opportunities to cry out to him, to listen, to pray, and to wait. Psalm 40:1 says, “I waited patiently for the Lord, He inclined and heard my cry.” I know there is truth in that verse.
This year I have been consumed by the love of God so much so that my heart that was once hardened to the truth – and to the Love of God – has now exploded. I have been shattered by the outpouring of love and grace that has been shown to me by others and by God. I have a new hunger and thirst for righteousness that I never had before and like Paul I boast in my weakness, because it is in my weakness that God is made strong.
For most of my life I was consumed by shame and fear, but now that is all gone. I am consumed by the love of Christ and I pray that you have the opportunity to experience that in your life.
For starters this blog is VERY frank and open. I don’t hold much back on this post because I don’t think keeping secrets really does anyone any good. We are all jacked up in some way or another, it’s why we need Christ. The views and opinions in this article are my own unless otherwise stated. Leave a comment if you want, but I delete insensitive or unproductive comments.
The Beginning of My Addiction
I was probably 8 years old the first time I saw pornography. This wasn’t just pictures of nude women in Playboy, but the real deal. It belonged to a relative and one of my cousins found the stash and showed it to me. It was frightening and made me feel sick to my stomach.
Fast-forward to 6th grade. I was only 10 years old in the 6th grade. My classmates snuck Playboy mags into the locker room. Guys would huddle around and look as one boy flipped pages. It would last for all of 5 minutes, no harm done right?
A couple years later I worked at a horse ranch at the age of 12. My boss always treated me like an adult. He let me drive his car. He gave me big responsibilities. He left stacks of porn on his doorstep.
Over the years porn would not be something that I would search for, but something that would pretty much be dropped into my lap, however, my addiction to it didn’t really begin until I was about 24. By this time I was no longer living at home or too busy with college and friends. I had settled into a job. I had an apartment by myself and I had access to the internet as well as years of insecurity and repressed desire. As a christian I knew online pornography was wrong, but hey, at least I wasn’t having sex right?
That’s what you do with porn as a christian – you rationalize and justify the sin down until it almost becomes a good thing. It is the lesser of two evils. For married men they probably tell themselves “Well, at least I’m not cheating”. There is always a reason, a justification and now it has become mainstream. When I was a kid people were ashamed to admit to masturbating. Not so anymore. Movies like “Hall Pass” talk about taking mental pictures and storing them in a “Spank Bank”. Magazines for men and women often discuss the best sites for free porn and even tips on masturbation. In an article I read in Details magazine it stated that 1 in 4 had herpes and while the article made it sound like it was a pretty horrific sexually transmitted disease, that in reality the question was not if you’d get it, but when. Porn, Sex, Masturbation STD’s – they are all no big deal… at least that is the lie we’ve been sold.
There is this constant message in our media that seems to suggest that everyone is having sex and that if you aren’t, something is wrong with you. We use sex to sell everything from cheeseburgers to shampoo and there seems to be very little understanding of romance or real intimacy. Instead the guy that shows any sort of sensitivity or romantic feelings for his wife or girlfriend is considered “whipped” – not chivalrous or masculine.
For me I justified my online pornography use even further because I wasn’t looking at “airbrushed perfection” but instead real people. I liked to go into chat rooms. I thought that there was little harm in this despite the intense shame I felt for hiding this dirty secret and even going online to seek out that type of gratification.
This issue plagued me for years. No one really tells you the consequences of porn or that it is addictive like a drug and that it wreaks havoc on your relationships and your mental health. While as kids we are often told not to do something, we aren’t always educated on the real reason as to why not. The simple answer? Because it is freaking dangerous. Online porn will MESS. YOU. UP. Don’t believe me? Read this article. Kids are becoming registered sex offenders at the age of 13 and even younger. There is an epidemic of children under the age of 17 becoming addicted to viewing online porn.
So what do we do? For starters you need to educate your children – boys and girls – at an early age. Make them aware of the dangers and let them know that it is not right and that it is like a drug. The aforementioned article says this:
‘Our research at the clinic has found that although the internet doesn’t create these problems, it can release interests which would never have surfaced otherwise.’
Meaning that when people of any age are exposed to something like meth, cocaine, heroine, pornography – we don’t know what issues and interests will surface. Will everyone that views online porn have an overwhelming addiction or want to rape and maim? No. But there are some that will.
What do you do if you are already addicted to online porn? GET HELP.
I remember going to a friend and telling him “I’m addicted. I’m almost manic with desire and temptation. I’m going to really mess up.” I had even planned an anonymous rendezvous in a hotel that I never followed through with it – less out of heart conviction and more out of a fear of STD’s. Fortunately my friend told me to go and see a counselor and so I did.
How did I overcome my addiction?
I think that for me I have to remain extremely humble in this area. As someone who was literally shattered by this sin and failed so many times I truly started to believe that it was something that was impossible to give up. I sort of loved my addiction. It was something that I craved when things got tough. Upset because I didn’t get a job? Look at porn. Just got dumped by a girl? Look at porn. Parental problems? Porn. For me porn was always my answer. It was my drug of choice followed closely by food and spending money.
Jesus is the Answer?
For me Jesus was never the answer to my problems, instead I liked to think that he was the cause. I blamed God for so many things in my life (Being Fat, Losing my Hair, Not being born rich, My skin color, Not being cool enough or smart enough…) and while I preached to others about loving Christ and trusting in him, in my own heart this wasn’t the case. I had all these ill feelings and resentments in my life and I was unwilling to truly trust God to provide for me in the areas that I was coming up short – and in case you haven’t noticed from this article I was coming up short in just about every possible area.
Finally after literally years of trying to fix this problem on my own I got help from a counselor and then later a group of guys that kept me accountable. Yeah, I’d had accountability partners in the past but I mostly just lied to them, but this time it was different. This group of guys were quality with a a capital Q. Solid men who were grounded in truth and were willing to actually listen and care. Through them I found the intimacy in my Christian faith that I had been missing for most of my Christian life. God used these guys to show me that Jesus truly was the answer to my problems, I just wasn’t willing to to let go long enough for him to step in and clean up the mess.
It Wasn’t Easy
So how did I overcome this issue? First of all I had to confess my gross past to these dudes and ask for prayer. Then I had to admit to them when I messed up. I lied a few times at the beginning, but they loved me and were so sincere that eventually I came clean 100%. I let them know when I stumbled and over time the allure of online pornography became less and less – but, the desire to masturbate, the biological need was and is still there. I’ll admit it. I’m a dude. We like sex. Duh. But is there a way to just stop masturbating and to forever go this primal urge? To that I have to say I have no idea. What I do know is that I don’t spend 10 hours a month viewing online porn and masturbating every other day. Over time I realized that my desire to self-gratify came more from the desire to escape from how I was feeling and less about sex. I find that when I have a healthy relationship with the Lord as well as my finances, diet and relationships that there isn’t a great need to compulsively masturbate.
Being a single man of integrity is not easy, but being a single man who is addicted to internet porn isn’t so great either. Eventually my desire to escape from reality to internet porn diminished entirely. This I believe is a sweet, sweet gift that I received from the Holy Spirit and is something I never want to take credit for or take for granted. Like a serial dieter I had become a serial quitter when it came to pornography and each time I gave back in to my temptation it was pure bliss… and then suddenly it wasn’t. It was strange really. I went from being constantly plagued with these desires to suddenly having this feeling of “What are you doing? You aren’t even enjoying this…” Something in me literally clicked. Like a key turning in the lock to release my chains. For the first time I truly felt free. Now in the past I have had these little breakthroughs where I feel like I’ve overcome a big addiction. I’ve lost 20-30 pounds on a diet and vowed never to return to Dr. Pepper only to give in 30, 60, or even 90 days down the road. Normally during these periods of “Break Through” I would still have a craving but I would have willpower or this great feeling of pride in my self and what I had accomplished. My Facebook status would tout my abstinence or achievement and I’d feel good about myself for my amazing willpower. That wasn’t the case this time. For me I had a Romans 12:2 moment where I literally understood first-hand what it meant to no longer be conformed to this world but to be transformed by the renewing of your mind. I understood the verse in John 8:32 about the truth and how it will set you free and finally I had a new confidence, not in myself, but in Christ and the work of the Holy Spirit and how Paul said in Philippians 1:6 that he who began a good work in me would carry it out until completion. I’m still being worked on. I’m a big fat work in progress, but now I’ve truly decided to take the easy way out and the easy way is trusting in Jesus. Before everyone told me “Oh, that’s the easy way out” when it came to porn, but in reality porn carries a heavy price with it. It traps your mind and warps your thinking. It holds you in bondage so tightly that eventually the sick strain becomes comfortable and you no longer hunger and thirst for the things that will satisfy you, but instead you have an insatiable appetite for something that is destroying you.
For me the next steps are to continue in deep prayer and connection to the Holy Spirit. I have to constantly guard my eyes and resist even minuscule temptations. In the past I allowed my mind to wander and even invited mental images that would arouse and even justify them as being “not that big of a deal”. Now I know different. 2 Corinthians says “5 We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” I love that word “Demolish”. I love the idea of obliterating evil thoughts that come into my mind. The same thoughts that would have me believe that this world and all it’s shiny trappings can somehow take the place of Jesus Christ in my life. Those thoughts that I once welcome with open arms I know want to punch in the face. “LIES!” I want to shout in the face of temptation.
Now each day I live with gratitude that my eyes have been opened to see the path of destruction that I was headed down. I am so thankful every day to the 5 men in my accountability group that have walked this final leg of my looong journey through recovery and continue to walk by my side each day in prayer and support.
Finally, I pray that you are not where I was – standing on a precipice waiting for the inevitable fall – and if you are slipping, I hope that you have someone in your life that is reaching out a hand of hope and salvation and if you don’t have that, then please shout for help.
Other Resources and Articles that I Found Helpful
I used Eddie Traughber as a counselor for a year, he was the first step in my recovery process.
Download or Read online Porn-Again Christian
Feel free to contact me directly if you need to talk or want some help.