When I was a child, my parents owned a beach house in Cherry Grove, North Carolina. It was common for our entire family – uncles, aunts, grandparents, first cousins, etc. – to descend on this beach house one or two long weekends each year. I loved these times with my family. To this day, they comprise some of my most vibrant childhood memories.
The beach house boasted a large deck with a flight of stairs leading down to the canal. We would often spend hours fishing and swimming in this canal. Both the deck and the stairs were painted the same color: sky blue. The similar paint job meant that we teenagers often missed the first step, flying airborne- headlong – into the railing on the loft below. Upon reflection, I wonder now if our parents, aunts, uncles, etc. used to sit on the deck amusing themselves with each tumble to the bottom. Of course, none of the adults longed for a grueling trip to the emergency room while on vacation. Often, therefore, we would hear them say, “Watch that first step. It’s a doozy!”
We did, eventually, stop tumbling down the stairwell. This halt to our tumbling had nothing to do with our developing coordination or our sudden attentiveness to detail. Rather, someone (likely a parent) decided to help us identify the first step with a brightly colored welcome mat. One simple addition alleviated a multitude of scrapes, bumps, bruises and potential fractures.
With this in mind, and in hopes of encouraging the reluctant reader to take his/her first step, I invite you to journey with me into my past. Before we begin this journey, it’s imperative that I frame the vast significance of this first step. In fact, apart from this initial step, I would be unable to write – in any authentic and life-giving way – this article today. Our prayer (for it was my dear wife’s first step as well) is that you will be encouraged and know that you can and must, hit that first step. If you do not hit that first step, you may very well fly recklessly down the stairwell of your life. Landing hard. Landing alone. Perhaps this article might serve as your welcome mat, alerting you to Watch that first step. It’s a doozy.
My first step was not an easy one to take. Confession, I have found, never is. Yes. My first step was one of confession. Nearly 18 years ago I was pushed toward confessing a seemingly intractable addiction to pornography. Pushed? Yes, pushed. You see, Melissa caught me. It was awful. I did not confess freely. I still, to this day, remember the look on her face. A face riddled with disbelief, anger, shame and dismay. It’s apparent, as I look back now, that getting caught was providential. At that moment, all the hiding and pretending came crashing to a halt. At that moment, I had a choice to make. Would I own my sin and confess fully and freely, or would I blame shift and deny?
I am sure I chose a combination of both. Through the tears, pain and feelings of emptiness and broken trust, I ultimately came clean and confessed this long (since the age of 12), forbidden fruit. Melissa and I spent the better part of the next five years walking through a host of realities and underpinnings, most of which I had been unaware. We journeyed through it with a loving pastor and dear friends in a wonderful church. We journeyed through it with a gifted counselor. We journeyed through it with each other. We journeyed through it with our Lord. Eventually, trust was restored. When trust is restored, hope is renewed.
Indeed! My first step was a doozy. Perhaps your first step is neither painful or anxiety producing. If it is a step full of anxiety and pain, you are likely reluctant (as was I) to take it. I would ask you to pause and consider the alternatives to a full and free confession.Take a moment and try to peer into your future. What does a lifetime of hidden addiction look like at the age of 65 or 70?
How many bridges will you have burned?
How much life will you have lost?
How many relationships will have been tattered and strewn about in the carnage of hidden addiction?
You too can take this step. You too can be healed. You too can walk freely and wonderfully into a new life. A life in which you and your spouse might journey together into a Porn Watch Protocol. A PPW that brings life and hope – in an authentic, desire shaping way – to the children who reside with you and learn from you, even now!
This post is being distributed on Good Friday. Good Friday is a day in which the historic church reflects on the Passion of the Messiah. The term passion, used in this way, means intense suffering. Originally I considered pushing this post back a week and writing in a more deliberate fashion relative this day of remembrance. I believe, however, this article accentuates what this day makes possible: confession. I can confess my addiction because I have received cleansing and freedom from He who willingly suffered and secured hope and restoration for me. It’s not that Christ – our Messiah – makes confession easy. It’s that He makes confession possible.
Confession is the moment in our life when we admit the struggle, shame, sin, damage, suffering AND remain hopeful. It is that moment when we begin to hope, in spite of the pain and despair which clings tightly to us. It is that moment when we begin to believe that forgiveness is possible. Confession is the moment – the first step – when life-giving rhythms begin to take root.
Indeed, you can take this first – most important – step. You can because there is one who has taken the first step toward you and me. A step that has made all other steps possible, desirable and life-giving, at every level.
Melissa and I simply wish to raise awareness. Awareness of the need for an intentional approach (that begins with you) that will help protect the treasure of our hearts. We do not enjoy giving do this, and you will succeed advice. In fact, we chafe when rubbed up against it. However, we have struggled with and grown through this journey and believe we have some ideas that might be worth sharing.
At the very least, we believe you can read this and take hope. Hope in the reality that we who share this blog (Melissa and me) are not perfect. Nor do we have it all together. We are one man and one woman in love with God and each other. We fight for this love, just as other forces fight against it! We are doing our best to raise children whose desires are directed toward and shaped by the promise of the With God Life we long to live.
Perhaps you would use today – Good Friday – to take that doozy of a first step that will help shape your life, family and community in wonderful and life-giving ways.
Next week, we will begin to identify some of our PWP components. Stay with us.
Disrupting to Renew