“For it is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret.” (Ephesians 5:12)
“I have become its servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness— the secret that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the saints. To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this secret, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” (Colossians 1:25-27)
Another friend has been found out. Strip away the Christian happy face façade, and pull the curtains back to reveal just another guy addicted to pornography. It started with Playboy Magazine as a teenager, and all those salacious centerfolds. It continued with the Internet, where instant fantasy is only a mouse click away, and you don’t have to hide anything under the bed.
You just have to hide it from God, and your spouse, and yourself, never quite admitting what you know to be true, always caught in a losing battle between what you know to be right and good and the incessant, leering demands of lust, always being led by your head, but the wrong one. And now all hell has broken loose. His wife is angry, hurt. He is ashamed. Their kids are confused. And his life is in a terrible place of reckoning.
I feel great sympathy for my friend. There are only two kinds of men when it comes to pornography – those who have indulged in lust, and those who lie about it when they tell you they haven’t. It’s the American way. But I have a great sense of hope for him at the same time. I don’t doubt that he feels terrible. I don’t doubt that his wife feels terrible, and I have great sympathy for her as well. But his secret is out. All the guilt he has carried around for decades, all the mental and emotional energy he has expended in hiding and rationalizing his secret sins, can now be brought into the floodlights of God’s grace and mercy.
But they are floodlights. And they seemed damned, uncomfortably bright. Those images that he looked at furtively on the computer monitor are suddenly displayed on a big projection screen, and it seems like the whole world is looking on. And the temptation is to run away, to deny, to rationalize, to blame. It takes a man to admit that he, and no one else, is a royal fuckup, and that’s not the American way.
More and more I am convinced that addiction is the great American affliction. It may be the great human affliction; I don’t know. But somehow I can’t imagine the natives in Papua New Guinea bookmarking the porn sites on their Internet browsers for easy reference and retrieval. We live in a culture that offers instant pleasure, and if you can’t find it through digitized sex, then you can find it more directly through a bottle or a joint or a line or a pill. We do anything and everything to stifle the great, yawning void of another grey February day in the cubicle jungle of corporate America, another thankless day at home, stuck with demanding kids, another night of nothing more adventurous than Dancing With the Stars or Survivor. And we think we’ll do a little something to ease the pain and the crushing boredom, and the little something ends up doing us.
My friend is not a bad man. He’s a good man. He loves his wife and kids. He’s kind, caring, giving. But he’s in a terrible place right now. He’s lived a double life, this Agent 777; on one hand sincerely desiring to love and serve God, on the other faced with the constant awareness that there is a corner of his existence that he wants to wall off from God and others. It was just his little secret.
But he has another little secret, one that gives me hope. He serves a God who loves assholes, and died for them. It is true for him and it is true for me. And he serves a God who is in the business of change, for whom it is never too late to turn around, for whom redemption is not just pie in the sky, but right now, today. It is an amazing thing to be guilty, guilty, guilty, and forgiven, and filled with the hope of glory.
And so I have hope for him. And for me. I cannot provide any personal details, but if you’re the praying type, I’m sure he and his family would appreciate your prayers.