In the summer of 1991, my big brother drowned in a river just a few weeks after his high school graduation. I was 12 years old.
To quell my pain and to escape the reality of my world falling apart, I found solace in pornography. Growing up in the church, I knew pornography was wrong, but I found myself lured in by the images I saw. What I saw filled a craving and an emptiness I felt at the core of my being. I was hooked.
My relationship with porn continued through my teen years, into my years of studying at Bible college, and into my marriage and full-time church ministry. I hated the behaviour, and would often vow to never go back, yet I found myself returning to pornography time and time again.
For me, even though my initial foray into pornography was to ease emotional pain and loss in my life, I soon began turning to porn to fulfill a whole array of emotional, relational, physical and spiritual needs. Over the years, many of these habits became ingrained in my patterns of thought and in how I learned to cope in life. Immense guilt and shame can cause those who use porn to hold their struggles in secret. This was definitely true in my life, and it also resulted in a low sense of worth and much self-loathing.
When I came to Journey, I found was a safe place where people were being honest about the many struggles they were experiencing, and also acknowledging some of the hurt that had happened in their past. The atmosphere of safety and acceptance allowed me to open up and confront some of the pain I had experienced in my own life, pain from my childhood that had caused me to not trust others and to medicate with various addictions. In the weekly sessions at Journey, my wounded and hesitant heart was able to slowly come into the light, and I began to acknowledge and express some of the deep longings for love and acceptance that I had buried deep down in my heart.
Doing this didn’t fix me or produce any immediate changes in my life. However, Journey allowed me the space where my frozen heart could begin thawing out and I was thus able to explore at a deeper level what true intimacy could possibly look and feel like, both with God and with those around me. Looking back, it was the start of a truly transformative experience of redemptive suffering, of experiencing what the Apostle Paul describes as sharing in the knowledge of the sufferings of Christ. My heart of stone was becoming a heart of flesh.
I can say with absolute confidence that yes, change is possible from life-dominating addictions. And even though it’s been at times a painful process, healing has been worth pursuing. Some of the most significant life transformations I’ve witnessed in individuals and marriages have taken place with people who were bound by pornography. As with my own life, God frequently uses brokenness as a catalyst for radical life change.