Have you ever been to an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting? If you’ve been or even heard of what goes on there, then I’m sure you’ve probably heard how each person introduces themselves when he or she gets up to speak. “My name is [insert name here], and I’m an alcoholic.”
It doesn’t matter if they quit drinking yesterday or 20 years ago; the introduction is the same.
They recognize that it would only take one drink to get them back into the habit. Only one drink to shatter their lives once more.
Drug addicts are similar in their meetings and understanding of how precarious their sobriety really is. It is said that someone who has been off drugs and begins again doesn’t start back slowly. Oftentimes they start back with even more than they quit with.
I experienced this hard reality when I was in preaching school. A good friend of mine had been clean for years, but with the influence of another student got back into drugs. I didn’t know until I had to go visit him in the hospital because of an overdose. Thankfully The Lord spared us all from having to mourn his death.
There is another addiction people struggle with even (maybe especially) in the church, but no one seems to be talking about it.
My name is Jonathan Dobbs. I’m a preacher, and I struggle with pornography.
The first time I ever saw inappropriate images such as these was the day after church camp when I was a boy. Those images have never left my mind no matter how hard I try to get rid of them.
When I went to Harding University (a Christian university), I got really exposed. There was a computer lab in the physics building that didn’t have a firewall or filters, and a row of computers didn’t face the door. Plus, no one hardly ever went into the physics computer lab at Harding when I was there. That opportunity coupled with the influences of the young men in the dorm all around me allowed me exposure to things that rid me of whatever innocence I had left.
I understand the urge to look even against my better judgement. I understand the feeling of disgust after having participated in such viewing. I know the dark places my mind would go when I went on a pornography binge. I understand the mental gymnastics used to justify such actions. I know that it only takes one weak day to take me back to those places of mental, sinful bondage.
Such things are rarely talked about in churches, yet this particular sin affects almost every young person today and in many generations recently past. We talk often about homosexuality, abortion, adultery and “shacking up” yet many more people are participating in a much more harmful sin. The problem with porn is that it is so subtle in the ways it destroys you that many people believe it’s not hurting them at all.
Porn addicts are much like alcoholics and drug addicts. They need accountability. They need to be away from the temptation. If they fall back into the habit they often fall hard. Porn addiction controls its victim.
As a church we need to be people who understand this problem. We don’t need to shame people for having struggles with this – they feel shame enough. We don’t need to sit in condemnation for their sin is no worse than yours. We need to love them and befriend them and hold them accountable.
As I’ve been in recovery there are a few things that have helped tremendously. First, I immersed my life in the presence of God and his word. I strategically placed key verses around my computer like Philippians 4:8. I made sure that I had purpose for the time I spent on the computer. The most important thing I did, however, was find accountability partners. The most important accountability partner I have is my wife.
This struggle isn’t just for dirty boys. It’s for men and women. It is for singles and married people. It is for young and old. Just this week I read an open letter to Christian churches by an 18 year old girl recounting how her first experience with porn was at age 8. I’ve personally known of children not much older than that who struggle with pornography. Don’t be deceived. It is everywhere, and we as a church need to be a place of recovery.
If you struggle with porn you are not alone. I can help you find resources to battle the temptation, and I am an understanding ear. If you don’t struggle with porn, then present yourself as available and accepting to those who do. You make an excellent accountability partner. I pray for the women and men exploited by this industry. I pray for the church as she learns to deal with this issue in a more open way. I pray for you in your struggle. Please pray for me as I continue to overcome. Don’t keep your struggle a secret. You are not alone. Jesus still loves you, and so do I.