It’s a simple question that can range across the board: How Much?
When this question popped into my mind in the early morning hours it wasn’t about money, or time, or anything with a risk attached to it. I asked myself, “How much?” because I am pondering how much I love Christ. How much I love God. How much would I give up for what I know he is calling me to be, to do.
I’m of the belief that everyone has a vice. Every person I know, and don’t know, has something in their lives, public or private, that does nothing but take from them. To me, a vice often, but not all the time, can and will harm your soul. In the Christian world we label this vice as ‘sin’. There are times when this vice/sin comes and goes. For some it is an addiction. It can be something that we must choose daily to not say “yes” to at any point because we know that saying “yes” to this vice leads to destruction. I’m not saying that everything crumbles, but a piece of you falls. When you fall it’s as if you feel as though you are not good enough. It can make you feel worthless or less than what God has created you to be. I believe scripture teaches us that with the redeeming power of the Love of Christ, this isn’t our truth. Our truth is found in the resurrection.
Thinking about that question floating around in my head: when we choose something that we know will hurt our spirits, we answer with extreme clarity “How much?”.
There is a little thing cruising around the internet called porn. I’m not sure if you are aware or if you have even heard of it. It’s there and for many men and women it sucks them in with an efficiency unlike anything else. It is baffling how many places you can find lurking well disguised, waiting to be opened by the unassuming or the relentless seeker.
I usually never do this, nor have I ever wanted to be so transparent in the blogging sphere but I feel compelled to share this piece of my journey with you. A disclaimer: if you don’t want to read about my life, stop now. I will not be graphic but simply honest. We often prefer the plastic spiritual leaders with stupendous amounts of spiritual discipline that causes them never to fall. This is not me. I’m a husband, father, uncle, cousin, brother, son and lover of all things here on this earth. My soul cries out for the marginalized, the outcast, the downtrodden. I’m passionate about challenging people to think about God, life, love and everything in between on a level much deeper than the surface and to seek out their salvation for themselves in community. I long for the day when I am able to solely tell the stories of the untold and give a voice to the voiceless using my gift as a photographer and storyteller.
I will not portray myself as a man who has it all together and has the correct interpretation of the sacred scriptures. Rather, I will speak my heart, fail at being an adequate communicator and I will Love my God with all of my being.
If this is not conducive, please close this blog.
My story with porn begins when I was very young- my guess, to best recollect, is around the age of 7 or 8. We had moved into a new house just down the street. When we moved, my brother and I often went from room to room to see which one we might could snatch up first. My parents were amazingly generous and often gave us the largest room. I have no idea why they did this other than they are incredibly selfless people. During our exploration we found a small hatch of sorts in the floor. The house was an older home and it had a crawl space under the floor where I assume a handyman might crawl to go inspect a busted pipe or fix something. Can you tell I have no clue about home repair? Ha. Back to the story. Being curious boys we lifted the small square door and found a stack of magazines staring at us. I can’t recall how many there were but I do know that it wasn’t one of your more “tasteful” porn magazines. These were the graphic, nothing covered or hidden type of pictorials. Now that I think back about this, I realize that the previous owner of such magazines must have been incredibly proud to hide them in such a secret spot. They were hidden under the house! You don’t hide what you’re proud of, you hide what you know is not healthy. The previous owner had a secret stash and didn’t want anyone to know.
You can probably guess the rest. We took them out, hid them and would marvel at the images contained within the pages. This was my introduction.
As time went on they disappeared. I never gave much thought after they vanished to be honest. I go through life as I did before. Puberty hits and with any pubescent boy there comes a curiosity about the sexual world. There wasn’t porn involved but lots of speculation and talk with friends. Thankfully, high school rolls through with what I would consider minimal exposure and then college comes along and with it – the internet.
It was baffling to see how fast my first email inbox was filled with porn spam. I don’t think I ever clicked on it, but the temptation was there staring me straight in the face. Those emails gave me the unconscious affirmation that porn is here if you need it. For the first 3 years of my college experience I lived it as one my think a stereotypical college partier might. It was full of drinking, the occasional joint, girls and porn. It was as if porn was part of the college experience. Ridiculous! Right?!
My life was transformed in January of 2000 and I distanced myself from all things that had once consumed my old life. I gave up alcohol. In fact, I didn’t touch alcohol for over a year and a half. That was the easy one. I distanced myself from terrible relationships based purely on the physical attraction of the opposite sex. And, I moved myself as far away from internet pornography as possible.
Then somewhere along the way, it came creeping back in slowly. It wasn’t a surprise party, “HERE I AM!” It was rather a slow blip here, a nudge there. I didn’t even notice it coming.
Along the way I fell back into the mix. Whether I realized it then or not, I now know that it has been a constant battle from the beginning. There are times when I don’t think about it or it isn’t even a blip on my radar. Then, other times, it is as if I’m being covered by an avalanche of porn temptation. Regardless of it being blazingly in my face or subtle, I must decide if I look. At any moment, any where in the world, anyone can view pornography. It is not selective. The porn industry does not care who views the product but I do. I do not want to choose porn at any point in my day, but sometimes I do. There are times when I fall flat on my freaking face. I have been defeated to the point that I kill myself with guilt. But we must remember the victories. Above all we must remember the Love of Christ, the resurrection, and the hope found in Him. We have hope not because of our victories but because He loves us. No matter what we do or how we see ourselves, HE LOVES US.
We must strive to see ourselves as God sees us. If we are forgiven, we must cling to the hope that comes from such redemption.
I asked you earlier, “how much?”. This is what I will be asking myself every time I am faced with the decision to choose my vices or to choose my pursuit of my God. It will happen in someway daily. It may not be your “big” sin but you will be faced with a decision to build up the world or to tear it down. Sounds drastic I know but our decisions in some shape or form effect everyone around us, whether we like it or not.
We often look to people and don’t want them to be so transparent, but I feel I must. This subject is one that can and will wreck relationships and marriages. One of my mentors has struggled with pornography for years and it is ripping his world apart. I see and hear porn talked about and discussed on television, morning radio shows and beyond, all the while it is done with little care and often it promotes the industry.
Sexual content is everywhere. We will not be able to go through life without seeing it or hearing about it. We won’t be able to always guard our kids from it. Why? Because as the saying goes – SEX SALES. It’s a terrible reality. Don’t fool yourself into thinking that this is a 20th/21st century issue. We could be living in ancient Rome where people went to temples to have sex with priests and priestess in full view of the public.
Sex is supposed to be a beautiful act. The human form was meant to be a representation of our God.
what we have turned sex in to and our twisted view of sex, and the human form, is degrading and it rejects every ounce of beauty it was created to contain.
As an art lover, there is a huge difference to me in the nudity of Michelangelo’s David or the sculptures of Aguste Rodin, and the nudity of today. One celebrates humanity, the artistry of form while the other exploits and objectifies. My spirit is crushed by this side of our world. I hate that we would rather intake pornography than the beauty of Auguste Rodin’s Sorrow No. 2.
We may not be able to avoid pornography or sexual references but we can know where to move when the suggestions slap us in the face. We can move toward a different kind of life that answers the question “How much?” in a way that exhibits the importance and the love of our Creator.
Everyday, we must answer the question, “how much?” We must answer with passion. With Love.
The moment the question goes unanswered is the very moment we shout to the heavens where our heart rest.
For me, there our countless choices that can answer How Much in such a way that gives adoration and love to my God. Some of these decisions are easy, while others require sacrifice. For those of us struggling to live a life that looks like the life of Jesus, these choices will almost always go against the grain of culture and at times going against the grain of “Christian culture” as well.
But, if we will remain in Him, if we will choose life, as cliched as that sounds, we can grow closer to knowing Jesus. We can grow closer to living a life as He did and still desires for us. Your decision matters – even the little one.
Today, I will answer “How Much?” with all of the Love and Passion, all of my Hope and Adoration that I can muster, by choosing to intake the beauty of this world in a way that proclaims the restoring power of the Gospel.
We must not choose destruction. Life is far too short and too precious to waste on anything that will tear you down.
Today, may you look within.
May your heart be moved to speak, to change.
May you share your story with the world.
Your story needs to be heard.
The obvious tragedy is what we allow the guilt of falling to do to our spirit. The unseen tragedy is choosing to fall.
Much Grace & Peace