Earlier, I shared some thoughts on the whole Fifty Shade of Grey phenomenon that seems to be sweeping the country currently. If you haven’t yet read that, head back over here (see 50 Shades of Grace Part 1 ), to start from the beginning.
I shared my experience with the fact that acceptance of entertainment like this as romantic, skews our view of what real love and romance is. See, unlike the relationship in the movie, real love is sacrificial, not self-indulgent. Real love puts God first, because God tells us how to correctly treat our spouse, and he will never tell us to hurt them.
I have already spoken about violence however, so now I’d like to say a word about pornography and what that industry has done to destroy God’s definition of love, including sexual love.
Some of you are under the illusion that pornography is only absorbed by the eyes of men. The world will tell you it’s acceptable and permissible for the most part, but there are many who still consider viewing pornography as cheating. I am one of them. I know I’m not alone either. Many women, would be angry to discover their husband was secretly viewing pornagraphy, but porn is never a one time occurance. It’s an addiction that funds a very lucrative industry. On the outside, it may certainly look appealing, but in recent years the seedier parts of the industry have been brought light. There’s sex trafficking, underage prostitution, drugs, abuse, and a whole slew of sexual, emotional, mental and spiritual trauma that often terrorize those caught in it’s web. And it goes far beyond those involved in production of movies, photos, and websites as well. It sends a ripple effect to the families who’ve fallen victim to the illusion that it is harmless, and before you know it, relationships are damaged, marriages and trust are broken, and families are destroyed-all while our children watch. And we expect them to break the cycle?
Here’s where it gets up close and personal. When I was a teenager, I was a committed follower of Christ who was serious about my vow of abstinence until marriage. When my abusive biological father finally abandoned us, I was left angry, hurt and confused. A few years later at 18 the guy was unofficially engaged to marry suddenly called off our whole relationship out of the blue, that did some real damage to me. He was battling a pornography addiction, and despite my willingness to keep him accountable, and plans to move out of state to go to school with him, He still ended up seeking a relationship with someone else that I never knew about until after the fact. Obviously I had some abandonment and trust issues there, as would anyone. But instead of taking some time to allow God to show me how He saw me, and working on my self esteem to heal emotionally, I did more damage to my own self. I sought out relationships with people I barely knew, went on I don’t know how many dates and met countless people from the internet-it’s a wonder I didn’t get picked up by a serial killer! The point is, my point of view was skewed. Instead of allowing God to heal my hurts, and trust His timing, I decided that I needed a relationship to feel loved and accepted. That meant sacrificing the values I had always clung to, because after a few dead end dates, I determined that guys were only after one thing. And if I wanted someone to love me, and stay with me, I was going to have to sacrifice my values to get that. There were a few very short term relationships (in my mind) with people I thought I loved (at that point, I had lost any sense of what love actually was-again skewed reality) and who I thought might love me. Some claimed it at the time, and I naively believed it, not fully realizing that these young men were not actually loving to me. If I had been closer with God at the time, I could have clearly seen that, but I was blinded by all the worldly smoke and mirrors. Eventually, God had mercy on me, and brought me a good man-my now husband of nearly ten years) because otherwise, I would have likely continued on a path toward destruction and devastation. Still, I can’t exactly claim total innocence from that moment forward. Two months into a relationship with him, we got pregnant with our now nine year old daughter. We barely new each other, but we did know God intended for us to be together. Thank goodness that he can work all things together for our good because she’s been one of the biggest blessings in our life. And while we have never had a perfect marriage, I thank God for knowing exactly what man I would need and over all these years working in him to make him that guy.
In the beginning of our marriage, I’ll be completely transparent here, my husband and I occasionally viewed pornographic videos together. It was a short lived thing, and for me, I really was never actually interested. But I assumed since I was married and we were together and committed, anything goes, right? (Wrong.) I wish back then, that I had known 1 Corinthians 10:23, which I’ll come back to in a moment.
Now, fast forward several years into my marriage, at a marriage conference no less, my whole world was rocked when my husband confessed to me about a decades long pornography addiction that started when he was really just a child. At the time, I remember him being embarrassed and ashamed, and somehow, God allowed me to meet his confession with grace (some wise advice: don’t judge someone for sinning differently than you. Confessions like these take a tremendous amount of faith and courage, so do your best not to act out in rage.) I have never seen him so broken, but that confession and admission of struggle has only drawn us closer to God and each other. By God’s grace alone, I was able to forgive him without a second thought. However, real damage had been done, and it could not be undone. Heaped onto the scars of a past I had pushed way down and ignored, was new hurt. More self esteem damage. More distrust. Despite sincerely forgiving him, over the last year and a half, I have continued to work through and process the damage and how it has played out. Men are very visual, and every man struggles with lust. They have eyes drawn to the feminine form-that is part of their makeup. It does not however, excuse taking in sexual visual and verbal illustrations that feed the ugly monster. And it is ugly. When men view pornography, their reality of normal sex is skewed (are you seeing a pattern here?). We as wives end up hurt, embarrassed, angry, feeling worthless, unearned guilt and shame, and a whole slew of unfamiliar emotions all at once. Even wives that justify it as normal, and commonplace, have husbands who still feel the need to hide their addiction. That should say something about the actions that by worldy standards are acceptable and commonplace. Where sin stays hidden, it can grow and grow. Eventually, we allow it to take such a hold on us that we let ourselves remain in bondage to it. We justify it, and yet we hide it. See, there’s something about sin, even if we pretend it’s okay, that the spirit within us knows is wrong. Otherwise, we would not feel the need to hide anything. With secret sin comes guilt and shame and not just for the one doing it-often it’s for all involved.
So in the aftermath, I began to internalize every little thing. How could I compete with those girls? Sure my husband said he loved me, but I could never look like that. And wasn’t that the whole point? I no longer was the sole object of my husband’s desires because I wasn’t good enough, pretty enough, thin enough… He was not satisfied by me, so he went looking elsewhere. Instead of seeing myself how God made me-beautiful daughter of a King, wonderfully made, in God’s image…- I began to accept this view that maybe I was just unattractive. Maybe I somehow should have expected him to seek out something other than me, because I wasn’t good enough. Maybe that was all I deserved. Or maybe I was incapable of being a good enough wife. That’s a dangerous place to go, emotionally, and you guessed it, once again it’s a skewed reality. None of those lies were from God, but all from the great deceiver, satan. He’s masterful, too. To this day, I’m still working on the self esteem damage done from many of the men in my life. I fear inadequacy. I fear intimacy. I feel shame and guilt over actions that weren’t even my fault. I developed feelings of resentment and bitterness, distrust, and even some paranoia that others knew and talked about me with pity or judgement. I fell into my worst depression episode ever, and although that was not his fault, those feelings only perpetuated those hopeless/worthless feelings that come with longterm depression.
And our experience is not uncommon at all for couples that have dealt with this. You may be perhaps feeling bad for me now, after reading this. Don’t. It’s our story, and it’s all a part of the tapestry of grace God freely offers us. I’m working on owning it. I really do have a hard time sharing this with others, but as my husband told me last week, I shouldn’t. That sin has no hold on our marriage anymore, although it does not mean we aren’t ever tempted.
In fact, the flip side is that many women are hypocritical about this issue. If they discovered their husband shamelessly flirted with other women, mentally undressed women in his mind, and when he felt unfulfilled turned to porn-they’d be devastated. And rightly so. The marriage bed is for two people alone, and he invited someone else into it. She’d feel betrayed, confused, and inadequate- and that’s just emotionally. And yet, many of these same women read books like Fifty Shades, with no sense of the fact that they are doing the same thing to their marriage. We don’t want our husbands to act is if they are unable to overcome some barbaric he-man lust tendencies, and yet we emotionally chip away at our marriages too. When we conjure up mental images of what should be a beautiful spiritual bond between two people, and reduce it to carnal desires and tingly feelings. We watch tv shows solely for the hot guys (I can admit I have done this in the past), and then smack our husband’s arm when he happens to notice the girl with the shapely figure across the restaurant.
What I’m getting at here, in my own long drawn out way (don’t act surprised…) is that our marriage is to be built up. If it’s not building up our relationship with Christ, if it’s not building our marriage up and let’s be honest about that one, then why do it?
Remember when I said I’d come back to that verse?
One translation of 1 Corinthians 10:23 says, ” ‘Everything is permissible,’ but not everything is helpful. ‘Everything is permissible,’ but not everything builds up.”
If the movies we watch, if the books we read, if the music we listen to, doesn’t in some way, build up-then what are we doing????