May 31, 2013

From Porn's Grip to Jesus's Arms: A Woman's Confession

I hurt. I heal. I get bent but I am never broken beyond God's repair. 

There, I'm exposed. Authenticity is so important to me as a regenerated Christian. You see, I believe that every struggle I endured, every burden I carried was so that someone else would not go that route. Our testimonies, hidden sin, and anything that holds us in bondage and away from God’s will, plan, and purpose in our lives are meant to be shared because God’s strength is made evident in our weaknesses (2 Corinthians 12:9). Our strongholds can help someone else. With that said, come with me as I recall a season of darkness in my life and how it changed me forever………

This blog has been mentally written at least 25 times with constant revisions. I was embarrassed and ashamed initially, but then I had to remember this sin was conquered on the cross and to keep this to myself was selfish and not honorable to God. Our testimonies are meant to be shared because they help others. While conviction gnawed at me last night,  as I was perusing Twitter, I saw a retweet on a blog Lauren DeMoss wrote on the pornography (hereon out known as porn)  industry in 2012 and how it not only hurts the addict but those who love the person as well.  As I read her entry, my heart started churning as I had to relive the pain and agony of my dark, treacherous past.

My first encounter with porn was in the movie House Party as a child. I can recall the scene so vividly. Though no skin was shown, this “fat” guy was in a bed making this woman scream. I knew it was painful but she was not resisting his movement. The thought stayed in my mind and the noises turned me on, as a six year old. Weird, I know.  Sadly, the seed was planted. So imagine coming home one day from school and seeing porn on the television screen. Yes, someone had left their filthy habit for me to see and infiltrate my mind to only disillusion me for most of my life. 

Even as a little girl, I became curious with the act of sex, not fully knowing what it was but knowing the “sounds” did something to me.  When I began living on my own, I desired to know more about sex, so porn became my result. Over the years, I watched it more and more. Then I got married and because my husband was in the military and gone often, I felt porn was necessary to keep me afloat. Fidelity was never an issue with me (or so I thought but when you watch porn it replaces your spouse and that is infidelity and when you are a single Christian watching porn, it taints the image of your future spouse as porn creates unrealistic expectations of intimacy).

Fast forward to a year of marriage and my husband notices a change in me. I began to watch porn more and discovered that I wanted my sex life to be “that way” so I pestered my husband. He was uncomfortable and wanted to love me in a softer more passionate way but I was insistent that the only pleasure I could receive was the porn way. The seed had grown bigger – porn had diluted intimacy for me. And it showed.  And as my husband deployed to Central America, so did my love for him. It is not rocket science, porn is sinful – period. Porn had jaded me and I began to take my eyes off my husband and placed them on another man who told me he could “give it to me like I wanted.” And I fell for the enemies trap. Just like that. I was baited. I did not flee temptation at all. I ran to it and it cost me – A LOT. 

I had slipped into an affair before I realized how far gone I was.  But that is what sin does. Let me break it down for you.  Porn creates lust. Lust causes you to be covetous. That covetry caused me to take my eyes off my husband and robbed me of my purity which led to adultery. And eventually divorce.  Is that not major? How do you think my husband felt that he could not measure up to some guy on a computer screen? Better yet, how would you feel? Guess what? That is exactly how your loved ones feel. Porn doesn’t just destroy the addict; it destroys the lives of those who love them as well. I have to live with my sin every day, though I know now God has forgiven me for it because I truly repented.

You see, porn is murderous. It murders the purity of the mind and body and it is also covetous as it robs the body of what intimacy really is. Porn is ravenous, malicious, and ostentatious.  It causes men and women to get extreme pleasure in an ungodly way. It taints purity and intimacy to the point where sex becomes a fleshly battle constantly warring against a senseless affliction of a pretentious display of love. Your spouse will never compare to a porn star in your eyes because you begin to desire what you see behind the screen instead of who God has placed in your life. And it hurts that person extremely bad that you would rather give more of yourself to a fake than the real.

I never knew I had a porn addiction because first of all I was a lukewarm Christian; I was doing what the world was doing and I thought the world was right.  Holiness and righteousness was not taught nor preached to me. Porn was never discussed in the pulpit and most Christians I know watched it, loved talking crudely about sex, and was having premarital sex. And that is sad of the moral stain and perversion porn has on our lives. It is NOT God’s norm and standard.  

What the world justifies and condones is what God rebukes and condemns.  I was so addicted that I had my favorite sites and videos. And guess what, I wasn’t the only one. They were viewed by millions –everyday. I was so addicted that I knew the actors and scenery by name and detail. And when the sites were down because of extreme viewership I would sit by the computer waiting or result to other sites to get my fix. I was drowning in sin – lust was my bait and I had caught on to it effortlessly.  After each episode, I would emerge back into reality, empty and dissatisfied. Until in 2011, I realized I was a porn addict and it was time to let it go and  I stopped – cold turkey.

Why? It’s not that easy you say. Maybe not for you, but I imagined my Savior Jesus Christ on that cross and I realized THEN that I was not crucifying him again. I LOVED JESUS MORE THAN I LOVED SIN. And sins of the flesh has consequences – many consequences. I ran to God in my moment of despair and shame. Like Paul I cried out to Him, “God please remove this thorn from my flesh. I no longer want to kill my spirit and hurt my family with this addiction I have. Please God, take it away. I love you more. My heart hurts that I idolize porn and gave it all of me when you deserved the best of me. God, please, help me. Please God. Take my hand and hold it.”

I admit that I backslid and watched porn once a few months after that but I felt so bad and finally I gave it up. I can proudly say that I have not watched porn in almost two years and I do not have the desire to. I began to hate the things that God hates and my Abba Father hates sin. It is said that, “Sin should be a stench in your nostrils,” and that is so true to me.  The mere thought of willful and intentional sin makes me want to vomit. I get nauseous just thinking about it. That which I used to love, I now hate, detest, and loathe. The emptiness and voids that porn left me with are now replaced with a fullness and wholeness in God. Nothing else will ever compare to His unconditional love. I chose God over porn.  But that’s me and my relationship with God and conviction of the Holy Spirit.  For some it is not that easy but I will offer advice for any struggling with porn addiction:
  • Flee temptation.  Paul warns us to, Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body”  (1 Corinthians 6:18). Did you see Paul’s verb usage (insert silly English teacher excitement here)? He did not say walk, crawl, or look back at. No. He said “flee.” That means RUN? GET OUT! Pretend Freddy Kreuger, Bloody Mary, Candy Man, Michael Myers, or Jason is after you!
  •   Guard your heart, mind, and thoughts“The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is?” (Jeremiah 17:9). Stop it. Do not watch porn. Burn all the DVDS and computer archives. Destroy your computer if you have to. Remember the husband from the movie “Fireproof?”  He beat his computer with a bat to get rid of it since it was the source of his porn addiction. Yes, it is “that” serious. Your soul is at stake. Don’t allow women to send you provocative pictures. Unfollow ungodliness on social media (Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, etc). Delete apps like Kik, Keek, Skype, Oovoo, etc. You can not afford to desire to have many women or men in your life if you struggle with lust. It will lead to porn in some form. Get rid of it. Paul said “flee” temptation, remember? Get an Obama phone and get rid of your smart phone and all of its advances that makes porn so readily accessible.  True, you can get filters but you cannot filter sin. A filter is a preventive measure on your phone or computer.  Initially that is great but the real defeat of sin is when it is before your face, WILL YOU FLEE TEMPTATION?  I truly believe technology is great and yet a bane on society. It makes sin that much easier and tempting with all the numerous ways one can indulge in an affair, watch and view immoral things. Also, turn your face from women who cause you to lust. Don’t read books, watch movies or sitcoms, or listen to music that flares your flesh.  If you know you struggle with lust then STARVE your flesh and stop claiming your struggle and start beating that sin into the ground.
  • Find an accountability partner to confide in but do not replace them with God. Many people “depend” on someone to help them flee temptation. But as Jesus was tempted by the enemy three times while in the desert, there was no Paul or John the Baptist there to save him. All he had was God and the word. And when he was tempted he used his sword – the Bible (scripture) to defend him against the enemy. We have to stop acting as if God has not already equipped us to fight against sin because He has. Your accountability partner should be an addition to your prayer life and Christian walk –not a replacement for God.
  • Know the Bible and scripture.  Fight temptation with scripture. Jesus did it and so can we. We have dominion over sin. Understand temptation is not the sin. Falling into temptation is sin. In the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-11) when Jesus was tempted three times by the enemy, he did not cower out and cave in – he boldly cited scripture. That is the point of being a Christian – to know the Bible and have an intimate relationship with God - to love him more than we love the things of this world. I love when the enemy asked Jesus to bow down and worship him and Jesus replied, “It is written that we are to worship God and serve ONLY him” (Matthew 4:11).  So when that image pops up on your computer screen while you are searching for vacations, declare, “I have hidden your word in my heart so I may not sin against you” (Psalm 119:11) and press the “X.” Don’t give in to sin. Jesus didn’t and his dying on the cross indicates you are no longer victim to the aggrandizing of it.
  • Pray.  Prayer is the most intimate moments we can share with God.  It is communication with Him and perfectly fine to be vulnerable and broken before Him. God desires to make us whole. How can He do that if we refuse to talk to Him? 1 Thessalonians 5:17 tells us to, “Pray without ceasing.” So go ahead and pray to God. Tell Him everything and He will heal you as James 5:16 declares, “The fervent prayers of the righteous availeth much.”
  • Seek  Godly counsel/outreach. Entrust a pastor or Christian friend who is secure in his/her faith. The weak can't help the weak. Seek strong people in faith. Join an addiction ministry or outreach program. God Over Porn is an excellent movement and XXX Church both offer amazing support and accountability for those who desire and are recovering from porn.
After reading this, many may say, “Wow! A woman who was addicted to porn?” Yes, we exist but some religions and churches prefer to sweep issues as such under the rug as if it is mundane and nonexistent. And that is a crutch. Sin kills and destroys people and families.  I lost a good man to porn. And the truth is when I had the affair, the grass was NOT greener on the other side. Not at all. It took a crash and burn for me to realize that. I am since redeemed and I do not hold my life’s lens to who I was in the past. Paul proudly tells us in 2 Corinthians 5:17, Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!”  I am a new creation in Christ Jesus. And you can be, too.

Porn leaves you empty. And you feel dirty. It will never satisfy you. That’s what sin does. It offers temporal pleasure but no eternal value.  But God’s love is eternal and Jesus Christ has an eternal gift for you – salvation. If you have not accepted Jesus as your Savior, read Romans 10. If you are lukewarm and have backslid, please know that until we become honest with ourselves and realize that the same sin and afflictions that occurred in the Bible, we endure today, we will continue to underestimate God’s power.  

If you are reading this and you love someone who struggles from porn addiction or any addiction, this is no coincidence that God allowed you to read or stumble upon this blog. Don't give up on that person or allow them to give in to sin. Support them through it. Point them to Christ. The blood of Jesus covers a multitude of sin. Please show them love:  Above all, love each other deeply because love covers a multitude of sins(1 Peter 4:8).

The Bible boldly proclaims that. All of the answers to life’s struggle lie in the Bible, but if we don’t know the Bible we will never be free from the bondage of sin and if we are slaves to sin then the enemy wins every time.  I freely tell my testimony because I want the shackles of sin to fall off of anyone who struggles with this sin or any sin. There is freedom in knowing Christ. Will you go to him today and lay your addiction, whether it be porn, drugs, sloth, social media, lust, pride, gluttony, jealousy or whatever it is that binds you, at his feet? He’s waiting.

May 25, 2013

A Woman's Worth

Rachel and Leah. Those names sound familiar right? Those are the two women who were trying desperately to woo Jacob and gain his eyes and/or his heart.  Physically, Rachel was the "it" factor. Rachel had "a beautiful figure and a lovely face" (Genesis 29:17) while the only thing mentioned about Leah was "there was no sparkle in her eye"(Genesis 29:17). Before you say or think, "Poor Leah," remember those are physicalities and since beauty is in the eye of the beholder and it is indeed more than meets the eye, let's take a deeper look at the personalities of both of these ladies:

  • Rachel had Jacob's heart and felt she was trying to keep it. Leah wanted Jacob's heart and felt any means could get his attention. 
  • Rachel was barren and could not conceive children (a sign of God's displeasure) while Leah was extremely fertile, as she birthed half of the tribes of Israel (a sign of God's favor). 
  • Rachel was idolatrous as she clung to her father's idols. She stole them and worshipped them. Leah constantly prayed to God for children (though she and Rachel both had manipulative tactics to gaining Joseph's attention. Rachel felt Jacob would love her more if she bore him sons. Leah just wanted Jacob to love her so she bore him more sons and a daughter - Dinah).
  • Rachel envied Leah and was jealous of her, but there is no Biblical account of Leah being jealous. 
  • Leah mastered contentment while Rachel always complained.
  • Leah birthed the tribe of Judah. Jesus descended from Judah.
How are we like both of these ladies in our quest to get what we want in life? We all try to undermine God's hand or we look to someone else to aid us in our journey. Maybe Jacob was just being the man but whatever the reason, God doesn't want us to get our identity in a person, bank accounts, relationships, family, sin, children, physical attributes, careers, idols, etc. 

Rachel lost focus along the way, but Leah never took her eyes off of God. Leah was the unloved and unwanted. Jacob overlooked Leah's worth but God did not and despite Jacob's deception over his brother, Esau, (he wrongly inherited Esau's birthright) it was Leah who birthed Judah. And we all know Jesus is a descendant of the tribe of Judah. And in Jesus is where our identities lie.

 Are you like Rachel? So caught up in yourself and what you want that you forget to focus on God? Are you waiting for a Jacob to realize your worth? Desiring desperately to cling onto an idol that you neglect the one who created you - God? Or are you like Leah, so lost in God that you pray and cry out to Him in the midst of mayhem?

As I read each chapter, I envisioned each scripture mentally and I realized that the people in the Bible are not characters or movie stars - they are human beings, real people with real issues like us. The Bible is relevant. Those same people had identity crises just like you and I.

In the past, I sought human validation, but over the course of a year, God stripped me of those Rachel desires and began renewing  in me a heart like Leah's - one that is soley focused on Him. As I read Rachel and Leah's story,  I was immediate taken back to an incident in a grocery store as a child. This lady looked at me and said, "You are so pretty with your knock knees. You're a different kind of beautiful." I remember looking at her in amazement because rarely was I called "beautiful" as a child.  I am sure Leah didn't get called beautiful as much, either. 

 Initially, I thought the Bible was telling us Leah was an "eye sore" but if you research you will see that was not the case. Leah had weak eyes and that was the only trait the Bible mentioned about her. I have weak eyes, too. My vision is horrible; it's tipping the negative scales as we speak. But what I will say about my weak eyes, is the fact that my sight is failing,and it causes me to use other body parts more. I listen more, my heart is kinder, my words softer, my touch gentler, etc. I may not catch a wordly man's attention because I dress modestly. I don't curse or yell.  I try to be meek and mild in most verbal interactions though I can fail miserably at times. I rarely wear make-up or dress like I stepped out of a fashion magazine.  I used to be that woman but finding Christ changed the Jezebel spirit in me to a spirit like Leah's.  

One day I would like to be like the wife in Proverbs 31 and in my eyes, Leah was like that woman despite her shortcomings.  Having a weakness is a sign of  humanity because we all know God's strength is made perfect in our weaknesses (2 Corinthians 12:9). Weaknesses also cause us to rely on God. Leah needed God to love her since her husband did not. Leah's identity was in God, not her circumstances. Leah did not worry about how she felt. She never allowed her emotions to be a distraction. Leah prayed and despite being unloved by Jacob, God still loved her.  Ironically, Leah's eyes were weak but she never lost sight of God. Leah's worth was in God. God defined Leah.

Like Leah's life, my life has been a series of slammed doors as I tried to find my identity. I, too, wished men would acknowledge me. I tried to make many "Jacob's" love and notice me. But we have to see if people do not view us as God views us, then they will never see us. You can't tap into the spiritual if you can't lose site of the physical. There is more to every person than their outer layer. And no matter how many distractions or idols you put before God, they all will fail you because you can't put a human or object in a God-sized void. Your identity and worth is in Christ. It is not in a night club, sex, the heart or arms of a Jacob or Jezebel (read men or women), gossip, friend, celebrities, hairstyles, clothes (or the lack thereof), shoes, music, career, children, etc. The true definition of self lies deep in the bosom of Jesus Christ. We are there. And that is where we find wholeness - at his feet. So sit there and rest because God says you are worth it. You are fearfully and wondrously made (Psalm 139:14) in Him.  A woman's worth is not found between her thighs or in her clothing size. It is best measured by the size of her heart and the size of her love and admiration for God. 

If you struggle with worth, God has a message for you, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:28-29). Allow God to define who you are. He created you, so he knows you best.

May 19, 2013

When God Isn't "Good" Enough

Living a Christian life is amazing and it can also be a very lonely road, especially if you are sold out to Christ and truly content on taking up your cross and following Jesus. The more you study his character and who he was, the more you try to become like him. And that's when I think the issue arrives. In trying to become more like Jesus, I think I failed as I was trying to do the work instead of allowing his love to permeate my being and take full control.  I wanted to be holy and set apart but I lost focus on him and it became about me. Thus, I took my eyes off the focal point - God and began to place them on self and humans. And Luke 14:26 clearly states, "If you can not hate your own life then you can not be my disciple."

Before long, I started to depend on people for things I normally depended on God for. When I wanted to talk and pour my heart out to someone, God wasn't enough. That's sad, I know. I needed to hear a voice and I needed to "hear" and know someone cared at that moment. But guess what, not one single friend would answer the phone when I called or I would text them to call me but they were too busy with their lives to respond. This caused me to get upset with friends and I even lashed out at one because isn't a friend supposed to understand and connect with you to know when you are hurting or you need them? Isn't the connection supposedly so spiritually deep that a friend "feels" you? Or so I thought. I was wrong and once again, God proved to be that faithful friend, always there when I need Him as He took me in His arms and just held me close in my moment of weakness and brokenness. Psalm 34:18 tells us, "God is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit."

You see, God is a constant friend, unlike humans who will be close to you for a season and then drift away for whatever reason. God doesn't do that to us. He is ALWAYS there. Never leaving nor forsaking us. The world can turn its back on you and forget about you but how amazing is it to know God never does that. And when you cease to love God or He is not enough, He doesn't judge you for it or abandon you. It is then that God extends His arms for you the most to return to a love who is waiting there. 

That night, when no friend was there for me, was the night I was reminded (yet again)  that no matter what, God is there and close to the brokenhearted. Like a little girl, desperate for her Daddy, I ran outside and looked into the sky and just held my hands up proclaiming, "God, I'm sorry. I am sooooo sorry that for a moment I forsaked you. I placed humans on a pedestal they should've never been on. I even got upset at a friend. I pray that person forgives me, but most importantly, I need you to forgive me, God. This is not minor because I put others before you and that is idolatry. And I don't desire to have anyone before you, God. I truly don't."

"MiMi," He whispered, "There is not a single person on this Earth who can take my place. Not a friend nor a parent, not even that precious daughter I blessed you with. That's why Matthew 10:37 says, "If you love your father or mother more than you love me, you are not worthy of being mine; or if you love your son or daughter more than you love me, you are not worthy of being mine."  No one comes before me, MiMi. Not one single person. I created you so I know everything about you. I am the only one who truly satisfies and completes you (Psalm 103:5). You have to be complete in me and not rely on humans for what only I can provide. And you see the way I talk to you, that is how you should talk to people when you feel they are wrong - with love. Your God, the one you call Abba Father is love. God is love."

I felt so convicted because I can be pretty harsh with my words and I had been. I felt so guilty, so spiritually broken and erupt. So often we think seasoned Christians have it all together, but we aren't perfect either. We ALL fall short of the glory of God every single day. No matter how "strong" people present themselves via life, social media, or any other platform, these people struggle just like you do because they too, are human. And I feel it is only fair for me to get spiritually naked (transparent) before you to allow you to see that.

And that's when it hit me how easy it was to make someone or something an idol in your life. Prayerfully, no one intentionally does this but it happens. We say often that God is enough but at any moment if our flesh takes control that can diminish and we rely on the unreliable. This is not to say that humans are not good enough but it is to say that they are not GOD enough. Only God can love us as we should be loved - unconditionally. And that is because He created us and only He sustains us in our darkest hours and deepest despairs.

That night, I learned an invaluable lesson. Well several:
  •  I still need to surrender my emotions to God. 
  • The past hurts from being abused as a child needs to be  TOTALLY surrendered because that is why I rely on humans for verbal acknowledgement.
  • People are not perfect so don't EVER expect them to be.
  • Friendships aren't replacements for Godship.
  • Grace people with the same love God graces me.
I used to think I had it all together and that I had "few" struggles but the thing about dying daily results in daily revelations about self, too. We are always works in progress and that keeps us in need of a Savior - every single day of our lives.  Christians are not perfect and every time I think of all the time I spent in the world, it breaks my heart to look at the residual damage it did to my soul. I gave the devil nearly most of my life and it tarnished a lot in me but I have since returned to my Creator and God fixes "gently damaged goods" everyday. Please pray for me as God softens my heart because I realized that I am hardened in some areas and God can't get through a hardened heart. 

Please realize that we will never be perfect, so stop trying to be. Allow God to do the work in your life. You take a backseat because you aren't equipped to change yourself. Only God can do that. If you are left with conviction after reading this blog, please accept that as you being a mature Christian or person and do not get upset. Yet, get on your knees and cry out to God to be with you and help you die to self. You are  broken and hurt and in dire need of a healer and God is the ultimate healer. Do not put a bandage on a wound that needs a surgical procedure. Allow God to piece you back together. Apologize to anyone you may have hurt and forgive yourself, too. In our quest to be more like Jesus and God, we should remember the key value and token is LOVE and GIVING IT. Always.

"For God so loved, he gave....."
John 3:16