Deliverance from Porn
The freedom of forsaking sin and walking in truth. by Joyce Barnhart
I was dusting the top shelf when I found it: a brown paper bag resting neatly on top of a row of theology books. Ironic, in hindsight. Intrigued by the mysterious bag, I lifted it off the shelf and examined the contents. I froze in horror, gazing at a scantily clad female in a provocative position my mind will never forget.
I knew my husband had entertained a minor preoccupation with pornography in the past; he had openly confessed his temptation with me. Even though I was disgusted by his lust, I often humored him by playing along with his sexual fantasies, requests, and activities, such as viewing sexual technique videos with live models or creating our own nude videos with me as the star. I always felt uncomfortable and degraded but rationalized the whole thing by telling myself I was doing it for my husband because I loved him. And besides, our activities were just between the two of us. We weren’t hurting anyone else or were we?
I stuffed the magazine back in the bag and placed it on the top shelf. My young children were napping. I didn’t want them to wake up and ask questions.
Rather than immediately confront my husband about the magazines, I pondered the situation over the next few days. I thought about the destructive sexual patterns we had created for ourselves even before we were married: my husband (then boyfriend) initiating sexual advances and I, resisting, but finally giving in, without enough spiritual backbone or esteem to stand up for myself. I felt dirty and used, but I rationalized every encounter. I thought of years earlier even in childhood when I became a slave to masturbation, having been introduced to the practice by a friend. My boyfriend had a similar story.
Now, miles down the road, with Bible college and seminary under our belts and my husband working for a prominent Christian college, I thought we were past that perverse phase of our lives. We were a good family; I didn’t realize we were both still trapped in lust. The sinful roots ran deep. We had really done nothing to extract the poison that threatened to ruin our relationship and our family.
We had planned a trip over the weekend, so I rehearsed how to confront my husband about the magazines. It was time to take a decisive stand; I would not let sin destroy our family.
One evening while we were away, my husband and I took a drive by ourselves. In the stillness of the night, I blurted out from the passenger’s side, "I found the magazines."
I glanced over at my husband. His face was red. He’d been caught something he had been so good at avoiding in the past. But somehow I got the feeling he was almost relieved this time.
He said nothing, so I continued. "This has got to stop. You know that, don’t you? We claim to know and live for God. We’re trying to rear godly children here. Besides, do you know how it makes me feel when you look at those girls? Threatened like I have to compete. Like you don’t love me. Like I have to be and do like them for you to be pleased.
“Well, I’ve had enough. It’s either them or me; it can’t be both. When we get home, I want you to dredge up any and all magazines and burn them!"
The remainder of the weekend was spent in studied silence, both of us processing the situation in our own way. I yearned to get home to bring some resolution to this long-standing issue.
Fire of surrender
Finally, the night came. The kids were safely tucked in bed, so I unearthed the pornography problem. I knew in my heart that my husband wanted to purge this area of his life, but he needed help. I encouraged him to take the first step.
We went outside. In the blackness we stood before an open campfire we had prepared together. We had done this many times before as a family for fun and devotions. It seemed fitting now to stand before it as a couple offering ourselves and our sin to God. Having collected all the magazines, we slowly threw each one into the fire and watched as the flames consume them. With heads bowed, we stood hand-in-hand exposed before God, alone in the black stillness. Our sacrifice (and I say “our” because in many ways, I contributed to my husband’s preoccupation with sex) flew heavenward as sparks floating on the breeze.
There was a sweet surrender to the moment a beginning. But we also felt a sense of finality as if porn would never again be the problem it had been. And with God’s help, through the Bible, much prayer, accountability partners, and refusing to frequent stores that sell porn, it hasn’t been since.
Accountability and safeguards
Now my husband allows me to hold him accountable every day to live a pure and faithful life. He checks in with me by phone to tell me he loves me and me alone. He refuses to use gas stations that sell pornography. He asks me to preview magazines coming in the mail in case they may have any offensive material that might lead him astray. When we are traveling and he sees a billboard with a provocative image, he immediately turns away and begins to pray for the person represented. He says that praying for her and her family helps him view her as an individual God loves, rather than simply an object to covet.
Furthermore, my husband surrounds himself with other godly men who pray for each other regularly and ask each other how they’re doing in this area. He meets once or twice a month with one other accountability partner to give updates. He attends Promise Keepers every year to renew his commitment to God and me. He has lowered his sexual expectations of me, and I have worked harder to meet his needs, with a new appreciation that the sexual union represents God’s mysterious and beautiful love for me as His child. We are careful about the television programs and movies we watch, and we block porn on our computer.
A better way
Following these helpful guidelines is certainly not a full-proof way to guard against pornography, but they help greatly. I no longer worry about my husband viewing pornography. I turn my concern into prayer.
Almost twenty-five years have passed since the burning ashes of porn flew heavenward in sacrifice to a better way. The security and assurance of a greater love and freedom replaced porn’s shackles for both my husband and me.