I remember it as if it was yesterday. I remember the feelings, the shame, and the desire for more. Nearly 30 years have past since that day and yet I will never forget it.
My neighbor had come over and brought with him a stack of Sports Illustrated magazines. Hidden deep within that stack was the magazine, the one that left you with a different feeling than every other magazine, the one that epitomizes the flesh of man, the Swimsuit Edition. It had nothing to do with sports, everything to do with selling sex, and I was hooked.
There we were sitting in my room, door closed, and my mom started knocking. We were busted. She took the magazine, threw it away, told us it was wrong, and told my neighbor to go home. I sat there, full of shame, knowing that I had looked at something I shouldn’t have and wanting more of it.
I didn’t understand any of what I was feeling and I never talked about it. I only let it grow. Early on I believed that lie that sharing meant getting in trouble and being shamed and hiding it, though not a great alternative, was the better option.
That desire grew in me, I looked for more of it. If I could find a Swimsuit Edition lying around at a friends house, I looked. In 4th grade a couple of us found a porn magazine in an old barn and looked at it. I got so scared that I threw it under the barn, into its crawl space, never to be found again.
Still I never talked about it. I didn’t want anyone to know. I didn’t want to deal with the consequences.
Little did I know that the consequences were already building in me. That hiding the secret was setting me up for years of sin.
God warned Cain that “sin is crouching at your door waiting to devour you.” I was letting it devour me, one small slow and steady bite at a time.
The older I got the worse it got. I rented R rated movies just to see how much sex and nudity they had in them. Every once in a while I would find a Playboy magazine and look at it. I would justify my actions by saying that I hadn’t had sex, I wasn’t buying anything, and that God would forgive me. All the while I was looking for the next fix.
It only got worse in college, when I inadvertently found that someone had looked at porn on my computer. Once again I never talked, never said a word about it. I just let it devour me.
Over the next few years, I let the sin of my own lust become more of a habit than anything else. In the daylight I pretended to have it all together and in the dark hours of the night I lived out a fantasy world. My sin devoured me.
Marriage. Ministry. Leading people to Jesus. None of these things seemed to stop me from the sin that I had allowed myself to be tied up again in over and over. Still I told no one. Until I had to.
The moment that your sin catches up with you is one of the most humiliating and freeing moments of your life. Or at least it should be. In the midst of brokenness freedom is found and a weight is lifted. But telling those you love about years of sin isn’t easy. It is devastating to tell your wife that you have destroyed all that she believed to be good and true about you. It isn’t easy to confess sin, but it is worth it.
The problem is when you fail to confess it the next time.
For me it came back and instead of confessing immediately, instead of asking for help, I went back to what I knew - hide the sin and let it devour me.
Hiding sin only leads to more sin.
For years the pattern continued. Sin. Hide the sin. Confess. Repent. Sin. Hide the sin. Confess. Repent.
I began to believe that is all I would ever be. I began to believe that I would never be any better than that.
I could sing about grace. I could preach grace. I could share grace. But I couldn’t believe it.
I struggled and still struggle to know that Christ has set me free. It didn’t make any sense to me. I just couldn’t understand why He would set me free when I kept choosing slavery.
I believed every lie thrown at me and I never found that freedom really is what Christ brought to me.
I am a sinner. I have nearly ruined everything worth anything in my life because of my sin. I struggle to understand that I really am forgiven and struggle to forgive others as a result.
I find myself condemning, judgmental, foolish, harsh, malicious and so many other things that I don’t want to be.
I find myself longing for freedom, true freedom. I find myself longing to live in joy, true joy. God gave me grace, before I knew what a big deal that is.
I gave my life to Jesus a long time ago. I decided to follow Him, no matter what and no turning back, at a young age. I’m still figuring out what that means.
I don’t want to live with shame in my life. I don’t want to ever go back to the days where I hid sin because it seemed to be the easiest thing to do.
It was killing me.
If Christ has set me free I want to live in that freedom.
If Christ has set me free I want to wake up, every day, knowing that truth.
Over the past 30 years, the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition has only grown in popularity. Our culture has bought more and more into the lie that pornography, sexual gratification, and lust are all just normal human emotions that we should celebrate and encourage. No longer should we allow our sons and daughters to be taken out by the enemy because of this “normal” activity. No longer should we idly stand by while marriages crumble, men and women are enslaved, and sexual exploration is encouraged.
I have two young boys that need their dad to teach them what God’s design for sex is. I have two young boys that need their dad to live in freedom and to not be afraid to talk with them about the same things that he has been afraid to talk about his entire life.
The freedom that Christ has given me has also given me the ability to live without fear. May His kingdom come and His will be done in my life and in yours.