Tag Archives: temptation

Thoughts from Being 10 Months Porn-Free

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I didn’t plan on this today; I thought maybe I’d write something about how I was doing once I reached the one-year mark. But today is my ten-month mark of being pornography-free, and I have a lot of thoughts about it. I spent some time in my journal last night, wrestling. I would like to share that journal entry.

This month was probably the hardest temptation-wise out of all ten so far. I’m not sure why, but I’ve had to be extra proactive and cautious with myself lately. I fought for this month.

Here’s what gets me: in ten months of freedom, you’d think I would know what was working, would know why I’m doing well and what got me here. But I really don’t. And people ask me, and it feels weird to not have any answers.

I don’t want to invalidate my addiction story; I truly did do things I didn’t want to do, repeatedly/routinely, and I still face repercussions. It was real. But I also don’t want to tell people that grace, candor, and hard work will cure their addiction. I know it is not that simple. It’s just all I can pinpoint that has contributed to my own recovery. I really do not know how I got here.

Though I am so grateful for the way things have worked for me, I understand not everyone who does the same things I’m doing fares the way I somehow have. I don’t have the explanation for that. I fully believe God heals and restores all who come to Him, that He is strength in our weakness, that He shows absolutely no partiality. I trust His timing for everyone. I just don’t know why some of us find visible healing sooner than others, why the timing varies from person to person. Or why I get to be one of those who is seeing my healing already.

Not that I don’t still face temptation, as this month especially has proven (though I can’t exclude the other nine, either). I do face temptation, often. I don’t have it “easy.” But I know I have it easier than many. Maybe I caught my addiction in earlier stages than most who enter recovery.

tiny buds and bloomsI think that’s what I want to stress most: recovery doesn’t stop.

“Porn addict” is in no way part of my identity, and never was. But it’s something that has been/is part of my life. And recovering from being a porn addict and remaining in that recovery? It is an almost guaranteed lifelong process. This is something that will probably always be part of my life. I believe it gets better. But as long as I live in this skin, I have potential to act out of it and I have a lot of choices to make.

I truly do believe in full recovery. I am just not naïve enough to tell anyone, including myself, that there’s a point of arrival. God heals, and He also doesn’t take away our freedom of choice. It’s constant; it’s maintenance; it’s abiding. And I am also not so privileged as to believe people who do what I’ve been doing are guaranteed to see the same outcome I’m seeing. It is different for everyone. Honestly, I really wrestle with that sometimes. Timing is so beyond us, and I don’t understand it.

I think finding the balance of celebrating where I am while commiserating with those in an overwhelming place in the struggle is something I will have to work through for a while. Today, I don’t feel like celebrating, though I know it would be okay for me to. I know the highs and lows of this process, and I want to honor everyone in every stage of it. I am still learning how.

I’m so grateful for these ten months. I don’t take it for granted. I know it’s a gift I don’t deserve, one that puzzles me to be in possession of sometimes.

To my brothers and sisters who are in recovery– be it day one, month ten, or year five– you are in the midst of something holy. He is proud of you. He is working in you. He is there in the mess of the process with you, day by day. And if you have to start over again? Nothing about this changes. There is nothing you can do to change the love He has for every bit of you. Lean into that.


[This video on recovery/sobriety is so eloquent and echoes a lot of my feelings, and also carries some solid encouragement. I highly recommend it.]

The Fuel of Temptation: On Shame & Grace

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DSC05087I haven’t had to carry shame like what I’ve carried this week in such a long time. It’s been so loud.

This time last week, I had just told the world about my struggle to fully remove pornography’s influence from my life. Many were kind and life-speaking in response, and I’m so grateful for that; some had a harder time. I love them all, and this is still true: I heard once that if a person makes you feel fear or shame, it’s because that’s what they’re carrying. I think I believe that. And some accidentally passed shame and fear on to me when they said what they did.

When I stumbled and looked at porn three weeks ago, I was broken over it. Then I went to my Father, He held me close, and we started moving forward again. I was doing okay; I was focusing on things that were good and healthy for me and He was doing work in me. But after hurt-filled conversation about the fact I even had to recover from this… I started feeling afraid.

I felt so close to stumbling again, constantly on the edge, even though I had no desire for it. I began standing stagnant where I’d left off; shame was crippling my ability to move on, but more than that– the fear of stumbling was pushing me closer to actually stumbling. When I let fear and shame live in me again, they told me I was weak and dirty. It led me to believe I was likely to continue stumbling, because it was part of who I was; I was too weak and dirty to be different. I was incapable of doing better, they said.

Fear and shame never tell the truth. They were (…are) lying to me. The truth’s words are so much different.

Truth says that God loves to enter weakness; He has even been known to refuse the removal of weakness so that He can show His power through it. Truth says that God has led us to put on our new selves, and that He renews us consistently. Truth says that fear cannot live inside perfect love. Truth says that my judgement day has been moved from the future to the past because Jesus stood in my place and declared me holy and clean. This is the gospel. Anyone who believes shame has any place in me doesn’t know that shame cannot live in God’s house– or that I am that house.

At church this morning, I was in the worship service, and began remembering what worship services used to be like for me. I remembered how scared I used to be that I wasn’t meeting the standards God expected of me or that I was still far from Him whom I loved. And I realized that I used to struggle so much more frequently and intensely when shame and fear were part of my daily baggage. When I believed I was filthy and unworthy even after repentance, I stumbled much more often; I despised myself even more often than I stumbled. Shame was the fuel for my temptation. Just like what I experienced again this week.

When my focus shifted and I began to believe in and abide in God’s love for me, I stumbled remarkably less. I felt more full of life. And when I stopped believing God could be more proud of me and in love with me than He already was, I didn’t have to fear anything anymore. Nothing could touch who I was. God declares no shame for me, so none exists for me; He is God and He establishes what is true.

My mission was no longer removing my sin so He could love me; it was resting in His love so He could remove my sin. I’d had it backwards. I feared my sin, when I could have told my sin to fear what was being done in me.

The focus has to be grace. Anything that gives a “but” to grace doesn’t know what grace fundamentally is. Grace doesn’t follow any rules; it follows love. And love is what God is made of.

I am done with the false, finger-wagging, works-based god that was handed to me. Give me Jesus. Give me the healer and redeemer and lover of humanity, who doesn’t say “get out of that place” but “I will take your place.”

Yes, God wants the best for me; yes, my life should be lived in a manner worthy of the gospel; yes, I need to put in my best effort to overcome my struggles. But what I do is secondary to what He does. What I do cannot and will not save me. Christ and only Christ stops the flesh. It is all grace. All of it. We are not saying effort has no value. We are saying grace is of infinite value. Grace must be the focus. It must. Where you place your focus is what you walk toward.

When my focus is that He loves me and has my best in store, I am no longer afraid; instead, I rest. And He works in me, and when He asks me to do something I do it. But I no longer try to do everything. Because He tells me I don’t have to. I just listen and obey. And because of that, I no longer face anxiety but intimacy.

This week, I am going to my Father. I am going to submit to His work in me, for that is my work. And instead of drowning in the shame and fear others might try to place in my hands, I’m going to swim in the grace He’s given me to carry in it’s place.

“Grace is God’s best idea. Rather than tell us to change, He creates the change.”  -Max Lucado

 

A Scale Peeled Away

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illustration of EustaceI’m certainly in a time of refinement right now. A lot of things inside me are being rearranged and even removed, but it reminds me of what happened to Eustace in Voyage of The Dawn Treader: with each scale that Aslan tears off, it’s difficult, but I’m becoming a person again; no longer will I be a dragon marked by greed and selfishness, but instead a real person with a new heart. And that’s exciting. Jesus has been speaking loudly and lovingly, and I think that one of the things He shared with me can mean something to you, too.

About two weeks ago I was ready to go to bed. I turned out the lights and laid down, but in an instant I saw something in my mind: a hideous face sporting an evil grin. I knew this picture was only in my head, but it still made me short-of-breath scared, because I saw in every aspect of that creature’s expression it’s desire to have me. I tried to think of pleasant memories and lovely places to block that image out, but when I would, it would be there, behind me, carrying that same disgusting grin. I prayed. I prayed and prayed for help, to be released of it. Suddenly, a verse entered my mind in the midst of everything else:

Sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it.

This verse is Genesis 4:7. I know that because it was the first verse I ever underlined in my Bible that actually meant something to me; I was probably nine or ten, and after an argument with someone, I randomly opened my Bible (I never purposefully opened it back then) and found it. It simply spoke to me, calmed me down a little. I’ve known and treasured this verse for many years, but until recently I never realized the true depth of it.

I see now that Jesus wasn’t just speaking about my anger in that little situation; He was telling me what was really going on in my life. Seeing that hideous face behind me in all of my memories suddenly became a vivid picture of my life.

That face belongs to sin.

All my life, in so many places, it has been lurking right behind me, seeking to overtake me. But now– there’s a chance. I can master it! I can rely on God’s strength, and it will leave me more scared than I was of it’s face at first.

That night still encourages me, but more than that: it keeps me in check. If I am tempted in any way, I remember what sin truly looks like; I remember that it is evil and disgusting and wants to hurt me. And that makes me desire Jesus even more than I already do.

Thank you, Jesus, for peeling off these scales. I can’t wait to see what a real Tessa looks like. You are wonderful, and I love you.

Temptations, Running, & Realizations

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I’ve been learning about temptation lately. It was the topic at Bible study last month and the tools I got there were too impactful to forget; I’ve been using them daily. What stuck out the most? These little notebooks we decorated and entitled “The Anatomy of Temptation.”My notebook (and my kitty, in the corner!)

Grandma Edie (our leader/unofficial grandma/awesome lady) gave us the main points, and together we sort of brainstormed the various pages between, like a flip book. I would love to share it with you; it’s intense and eye-opening to me:

  1. You have an unsatisfied hunger/longing in your heart. Acceptance. Being heard. Someone who cares. To feel loved. Value. Success. Anything, really…
  2. The enemy sends you a temptation to fill that unmet need/want in the wrong way. He preys on your feelings. He loves to send you an ungodly guy [or girl] to confuse you, to make you think, “This is better than what I have.” He wants you to be all about the quick fix.
  3. The enemy whispers that this will give you something you lack. He says, “This will ease the pain…”; he says, “This will solve your problems.”
  4. You have no chance of resisting– without Christ. He knows what it’s like! He is the only one who can fully resist. He’ll help you! He will fulfill your desires in the best way– HIS way, in His perfect timing.

After I got home from Bible study the next day, I decided to create a second section in my notebook. I called it “Fighting Temptation”, and every night I would dedicate a page to record and comment on the temptations I faced during my day. I thought it was a great idea– until I actually started doing it and I had to own up to all the ugliness I faced every single day. It doesn’t give me a chance to even think I’m doing nothing wrong; I see daily that I need Jesus incredibly close to me, or else I’ll get stuck in something. I’m forced to analyze my thoughts and decisions. I see patterns in what tempts me the most. I see the things that are usually the reasons I give in. When I don’t want to write an entry, I know I’ve messed up. It holds me accountable. And you know what? I am so thankful for my little book.

Sometimes after I write the day’s entry, I look back at the first half of the book and review the anatomy of temptation; it reminds me that willingly giving in to temptation means I’m willingly obeying the enemy. That is TERRIFYING! Why would I ever want to do that when I am on the Lord’s side? If I’m His bride, how can I betray Him?

Last night my devotions were in Numbers 5. In verses 11-31 are instructions for Old Testament priests concerning adultery; they stuck out to me. You can read the whole thing if you want, but the gist? If a man suspected that his wife had cheated on him, he would take her to the priest. The priest, with a bowl of holy water and a little dust from the ground of the tabernacle, would lead the woman in an oath; this oath basically said that if she was faithful to her husband, she would be safe– but if she was not, the water would curse her with great stomach pains and barrenness. The priest then wrote the curse down, washed the ink away in the water, and had the woman drink it. Her deeds would soon be evident depending on the effect of the water. As I read these instructions, I heard: “Would you be willing to drink the water right now?”

Ouch.

If Jesus played by these rules, I would be cursed countless times. He is right to call me an unfaithful bride; He knows how easily I’m led astray from His heart. YET– everywhere in the Bible that mentions us as an unfaithful bride, the ending is always along the lines of, “I will love you despite that.” He doesn’t curse me; He purifies me, forgives me, leads me to the right path, STAYS WITH ME. And why would I devalue that in my heart? Why would I ever want to run from that? The next time I am tempted, by anything, I will ask myself: “Would you be willing to drink cursed water after this? Why do you want to leave Him who truly loves you?”

We run. But He runs, too, chasing us. We cannot escape His love.

(Listen to the full song here!)

Seeing: What Jesus Taught Me in April

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Lesson 1: You can’t see what’s going on deep in someone’s life when you’re only looking at the surface. One of my dear, dear friends approached me with tears in her eyes and asked me for a hug; this was the beginning of a time of release for both of us. I offered to listen if she needed to talk, and she took me up on it, filling the next ten minutes with her secrets and confessions that almost no one else knew and that I had never expected. I’ve known her for most of my life, but I didn’t know that things like these were happening in her life. It made me wonder where I’d been. I consider us good friends, so how did I not see this? What could I have done to help if I had been paying more attention? I know now that no matter how well I think I know someone, there will be something I can’t see. That doesn’t mean I should try to find everything out or that I can’t trust anybody; I think it just means that I need to pray for the people I encounter. The people we think are well put-together could be falling apart. In middle school, before I was very close to Jesus, my classmates called me Smiley because they thought I was happy all the time; little did they know the battle going on inside me at that time! Pray for everyone you know, because you never know what they are facing right now.

Lesson 2: Obedience is not about what makes sense; it’s about love. I read “Perelandra” by C.S. Lewis this month, a very cool book! I love that Mr. Lewis disguised his philosophy books as fantasy! A line from it really spoke to me and what was going on in my heart at that time, so I’ll let it tell the story:

“In all these other matters what you call obeying Him is but doing what seems good in your own eyes also. Is love content with that? You do them, indeed, because they are His will, but not only because they are His will. Where can you taste the joy of obeying unless He bids you do something for which His bidding is the only reason?”  -Dr. Ransom

Lesson 3: Giving in to temptation is so easy, but NOT worth it. I fell into an old sin that I thought was long gone, and it tore me apart inside. It’s the kind of sin that only hurts me and Jesus, but it hurt us greatly. I knew it would, but it was so easy! I wondered why, but I soon heard Jason Gray on the radio talking about his song “Remind Me Who I Am”; he said that in the times when he falls into sin, he realizes that he needs to be reminded who he is– remade, holy, God’s child. I saw that in myself. Feeling down on myself and not as passionate about loving God as I had been, it was easy for the enemy to get to me. But not anymore! I will attack him right back with my Bible and my faith in it!

Lesson 4: “He who is in me is greater than I will ever be, and I will rise.” I was having a stressful week, and one day in particular I let it all pile up inside so that I just had to cry. I didn’t know what to do. After I finished crying, I turned on the radio and sat down at the dining room table to study for a history quiz. I cried again, but this time, it was because I was being filled with joy. God played “Rise” by Shawn McDonald for me, right when I needed it to describe my feelings and give me hope! God knows what you’re going through. He sees you and understands, and is reaching out to you. Hold on to Him!

Lesson 5: When God calls you, it’s exciting, not scary, because HE is the one who makes it happen. I went to Acquire the Fire (a youth conference) with my beloved Bible study group! My favorite part was sharing it with them and seeing The Afters in concert. I’m not sure how to explain this lesson, but I’ll try! During worship I felt a BIG tug on my heart that told me, “You are meant to do this, too.” I knew that He meant performing music on stage, and that utterly terrified me! Don’t ask me how I understood all these things; I just did. I heard them in my spirit. Now, I absolutely love music! I’ve always known I was meant for it and it was meant for me, but I never considered actually performing it. At the most, I wanted to be a songwriter and recording artist, but I did NOT want to perform. That was the pipe dream I never thought would happen. I get so nervous to do anything in front of people, and singing is the biggie, because I don’t even know if I’m good! God had to work through all these doubts and assure me, “Tessa, I’m not going to ask you to do something too big for us to handle together.” He gives me the peace that, if He’s called me to do it, it will work! Now it’s not scary; it’s good news, because I know this dream can come true! It will be all Him, because I know I can’t do it myself. If you can accomplish your dream on your own, it’s too small. Dream BIG, because our God is big!

Lesson 6: God can’t fill what isn’t empty. I’ll admit: the above was the only thing I felt at Acquire the Fire. Everyone around me was so into it, and I tried to be, but I wasn’t. It just didn’t work that way. This is something I’ve struggled with before, and I always tried to figure out what I was doing wrong. Why didn’t I get filled like everyone else? It took the eyes of a youth leader to see the truth! A mom from my youth group named Judy, knowing I’d gone to Acquire the Fire, asked me how I liked it, and I had to reply honestly and say I was icy and didn’t feel anything (which I think is weird; I kept telling myself that, but as you just read, that wasn’t the case! Hm…). She said right away, “I don’t think you’re icy, you’re just good at getting fed on your own! You probably have your own conference in your bedroom everyday!” I had never thought of this! I’m just used to God’s presence and communicating with Him, so I don’t react the same? I think this calls for some action: if I’m full, then there are plenty of things in me that need to be taken out so there’s more room for Him! Thank you for the encouragement, Judy!