I remember a time when Laurie and I were checking in with each other, asking how we can support one another specifically in our areas of sexual brokenness.
We do this fairly frequently (at least once per week). Usually, I am grateful to share how well have I been doing. However, there have been times when I was in the middle of a season of struggle. I hadn’t fallen into my temptation to look at pornography, but that I was having to fight it harder than usual.
In these conversations, we find it helpful to rate our struggles on a 1 to 10 scale to give an easy-to-understand measure of difficulty. If we say we are at a “1,” this means things are going smoothly and the struggle is not a very prominent part of our lives. If we are nearer the “10” side, we need immediate backup to keep from giving into the temptation.
Since my confession to Laurie over 3 years ago, my struggle has maintained somewhere in the “3” range. But in the few weeks before this conversation, I felt increased intensity toward the 6 or 7.
I wasn’t feeling desirable. A little voice reminded me how easily I could get rid of that uncomfortable feeling. “You know where to go with this. There’s an easy fix for the loneliness you are feeling. Just a few clicks and you’ll feel fine…”
But the reality is that with a few clicks and I wouldn’t feel fine. I would feel guilt. I would feel shame—as well as conviction. As enticing as those old memories can seem, I know the pain and isolation engaging in this past coping mechanism brings.
As we have come to learned to do with one another, Laurie asked a deeper “why” question rather than simply stating, “Well, be good! Don’t screw up! Put those boundaries up!” Instead she asked, “Matt, what do you really need?”
This made me consider my core, God-given longings for purpose, affirmation, worth, desirability, love, uniqueness, safety, etc. What am I really craving, God? What do I really need?
God began to show me that while my sinful nature wanted to run to a relationship with a woman (real or virtual), what I really needed wasn’t a romantic relationship at all. Yes, I needed to seek God’s love for me, but I needed people to help me along this journey. I needed friendships. Healthy, male friendships.
I needed the brotherhood, the camaraderie, the kinship, and belonging that comes in friendship. That is what I was missing. Not pornography, but instead God-honoring brotherhood in the Lord. That is the cure for the shame and isolation that I was feeling at that moment, not the quick-fix of pornography
I was grateful when this lightbulb of realization clicked. I want to be known and seen as desirable—and that goes beyond the beautiful connection I have with my wife, and it serves as a tangible representation of the knowing I have in Jesus. I need healthy, male friends who can know me and support me.
I know it takes effort on my part to make those relationships happen. It might mean driving across town on an evening when all I want to do is go to sleep. It might mean volunteering to help at church when I’m hoping for an obligation-free weekend. It might mean being vulnerable and letting other guys know when I’m struggling even when I don't know them that well--yet.
These are things I haven’t been very good at in the past, but God has been teaching me new things all year, so why can’t I grow in this area, too?