I have a confession to make. Although I have been in the ministry for most of my life and have been a missionary for many years, I have struggled with the sin of lust and pornography. I hate what it has done to me. I have been a hypocrite — teaching one thing, but doing something else. This secret double life has often led me to despair. Countless times, I have vowed to the Lord that I would never look at sensuous images again, but month after month, year after year, I gave in to this grave evil.
It all began when I was a teen. I spent the night at my cousin's house and he showed me a stack of magazines that belonged to his older brother. Those lusty images were burned into my brain. From that day on, I was often temped to pull a magazine down at a drugstore and leaf through the glossy photos.
While I was in seminary, I was somewhat removed from temptation. And when I got married, I thought my problems with lust would be over. But that wasn't the case. Whenever I would pass by a magazine stand and notice the "men's" magazines, it seemed as if they had a magnetic pull, making resistance impossible. One night, I stayed up late and discovered a provocative movie on television. I had discovered one more way to feed my insatiable appetite.
The years went by and along came the Internet. It made viewing the prohibited that much easier. My dark secret got darker and darker.
I remember taking the Lord's Supper in church and fighting those images in my head. I would promise the Lord I would never again look at anything impure. Sometimes, I could go for a few weeks or even a few months without looking, but eventually, I would end up going back to the slime pit of pornography. Oh how my sins haunted me and pulled me away from the One I claimed to love the most!
I minimized my actions and deceived myself with various lies. I never called it pornography, just pictures of naked women. I wasn't really doing anything wrong. I wasn't hurting anyone. Nobody else was involved. I never spent any money on it. I made so many excuses for my actions and found so many ways to justify my sins.
Yet, in my heart, I knew it was displeasing to God, our Father. If what I was doing was not so bad, why was I so careful to cover my tracks and make sure no one found out? I was very careful to erase the history on my computer so that nobody would know what I had been doing. I hated my double life. But who could I tell? How would they react? What would they do? How would they view me? Who could forgive me? I'm the one who is supposed to be a man of God. How could I be guilty of such evil?
The spiritual battle within my soul raged on for years. I don't know why I never took action sooner to put an end to this ongoing sin in my life. All I can say is that I could not take it any more and I had to find a way out. My soul longed for freedom.
Four years ago, I finally put my pride aside and confessed my sin to an older brother in Christ. It was a good first step. I will never forget telling him that I could not imagine breaking the news to my wife. I told him that she would be devastated. Then he replied, "Well, the Holy Spirit is devastated by your sin!" He asked me if I had ever masturbated after looking at the pictures and I was forced to admit that I had. I felt so ashamed, as I knew I was sinning against God and bringing condemnation on myself.
I did not look at pornography on the Internet for several months after talking with him. But I allowed myself to view provocative images on the television. I've since come to understand that there is no such thing as partial purity.
Since I was living overseas and the brother to whom I confessed my sin lives in the U.S.A., we could not keep in close communication. I began to feel less and less accountable. As my accountability dwindled, I slowly drifted back to my secret sin.
Then, two years ago, when I could not stand it any longer, I began to look for help online. I found several sites and began keeping a daily journal on one of them. I found an online accountability partner. I started taking more responsibility for my actions. I could see that objectifying women in any way, shape or form is wrong and deplorable.
Finally, five months ago, an online friend convinced me that it was essential for me to confess to my wife and ask for her forgiveness and help. It was extremely difficult for me. She has always thought very highly of me. And, to be honest, the news hit her much harder than I ever imagined. I knew she would be hurt and disappointed. But my sin had left me so self-centered and lacking empathy that I never imagined how she would feel knowing that her husband had gotten turned on looking at pictures of other women. It made her feel ugly, unattractive and undesirable.
And I never stopped to think about how, by my actions, I was treating every woman in every picture as an object to be used for someone else's selfish pleasure. What a warped, wretched world I had become involved in!
I was proud of the fact that I had never so much as flirted with another woman. Yet, before God, every time I lusted after a picture of another woman I was committing adultery with her in my heart. My wife says that, for our whole marriage, she has shared me with thousands of other women. She has never been hurt so deeply. The pain she feels is the same as if I had actually been in the arms of other women. She described it as a dagger plunged into her heart.
I'm happy to say that my wife is willing to try to work this out. She says she will stay with me as long as I never go back to it again. I'm so grateful to have a second chance.
I'm writing this today because I fear that I am not alone. I know that other ministers and missionaries struggle with the sin of lust. It is a deadly sin. It enslaved me for over half of my life. Breaking free is not easy. And like me, you may not know where to turn.
My advice to you is this: Take drastic measures immediately! You will not beat this alone. God will help you, but you will also need the help of brothers and sisters in Christ. This is a sin that thrives in the darkness and it can only be killed by bringing it out into the light. Please, find a mature Christian brother and confess your sin to him. It will be embarrassing and give you reason to be ashamed, but it is a necessary step IF you really want to find freedom from this black hole. And, of course, if you are married, it is essential that you tell your wife. She deserves to know. You have deceived her for too long. Trust her to love you and help you in your fight against the devil.
This may be one of the hardest things you have ever done, but it is the only way out. Trust me. I know. Don't be a fool like me and let this drag on and on, year after year after year.
No matter how much this costs you, the price will be worth it. For what can a man give in exchange for his soul?
P.S. — I pray that you will not use the pain that my confession caused my wife as another excuse for you NOT to confess your dark secret. For too long, I told myself that I could never tell her, that I would beat this alone, and that she could be spared the pain of knowing. Now I know that NO ONE can break free until they have the courage to look into the eyes of the one they have disappointed and bring this ugly sin out into the light.
Six months after my confession, my wife is still hurting, but she is doing much better. She is committed to our marriage. Our communication is better than it ever was. No topic is off limits. Both of us are working very hard at making our marriage be the best it can be. We understand each other better than before and our love is growing day by day.
This has been a nightmare, especially for her, but we can see blue skies on the horizon.
Ever feel like you need to wear a mask to cover up who you are? Are you concerned that, if people knew who you really are and how you really felt, they wouldn't understand?
One minister, two jobs and the family that's at the top of the list. The number of bivocational ministers, those in full- or part-time ministry who carry an additional job, is estimated by some researchers to be as high as 30 percent of ministers nationwide.
"You should see the church they attend," Lucille said, armed with bulletin and newsletter. Creases formed across my brow as celebration gave way to comparisons a trap that had sprung too many times.