Colin's Testimony - Part 1, Salvation and Pornography
My name is Colin and I struggle with a porn addiction.
My Mum became a Christian when I was 9, and she dragged me along to Sunday School and Youth Group pretty much right from the start. I hated it, actually, but I was smart and I liked learning about God from the Bible.
In year 11 Mum wanted me to get confirmed, and at the start of the confirmation course I had an interview with, I don't even remember who, but she asked me a very important question. She said "Colin, if you died tonight, do you think you'd go to heaven?". Now, I had already learned from the Bible that heaven was like a big party with God, and I had a picture in my head of a big mansion, God's house, with lights on and lots on people inside having a great time, and music and laughing and all that sort of thing. And God himself is standing at the front door as I walk up to him out of the night.
But as I approach him, I realise that there's nothing that I can say that will make him let me in. We're not friends, we have no relationship of any kind, we don't know each other at all. Oh sure, I know lotsabouthim,and he knows everything about me, but we don't know each other personally, and you don't let people in when you don't know them personally. And if I wasn't getting into that house, if I wasn't going to heaven, well, there was one other place I would be going.
And the reality of my situation hit me and I became very afraid. Knowing about God isn't enough, I needed to know him personally. So I started turning all my knowledge about God into an actual relationship with him, and when I was 17, the bishop finally came and led the special confirmation service, and it was my turn and he asked me "Colin, do you turn to Christ?" and I said "Yes" and I meant it.
Maybe a year or so later, I decided to have a look on the internet to see if there was any porn there. On one level it was really just out of curiosity, but on another level I felt very insecure in myself and in my masculinity, and porn promised to make me feel like a real man. Well, I discovered very quickly that even in the early nineties the internet had alotofporn, and I got hooked pretty much straight away.
Now, I was definitely a Christian at the time. I really had given my life over to Jesus, and I was even doing Children's ministry at Sunday school, and other ministry stuff as well. I knew looking at porn several times a week was wrong, but I kidded myself about it so I could keep going. "It's not that bad, at least you're not looking at that really bad porn over there." But 6 months later that really bad porn was the only thing that would do it for me. "But it's not so bad, at least you're not paying to look at porn, only serious addicts do that". But 6 months later, that's what was on my credit card statement. I was even starting to have a closer look at the phone numbers of escort agencies at the back of the newspaper, and imagining what would happen if I called one of those numbers.
I could see the progression very clearly, and I realised that after 4 years of porn addiction, I was probably only a few months away from calling one of those numbers, hooking up with a prostitute, and having sex with an actual person. Except this time, I couldn't kid myself any longer. I knew that the only way I could bring myself to do that, was to deliberately walk away from God forever.
Now, I am not suggesting that anyone who sleeps with a prostitute cannot be a Christian, but I know that's what was at stake in my heart. I was right on the brink of leaving God's party, walking out of the house into the dark, and never coming back. And I became very afraid. Because as much as I couldn't imagine how I could live life without porn, because I needed it so bad, even that would not be as unbearable as living life without God. I needed him even more.
"But God" I said, "what am I supposed to do? I've been trying so hard to stop, and the best I could manage was 6 months, after which I went back even worse than before. And I've been asking you for 4 years to take this temptation away, and you haven't. If I can't do this on my own, and you're not going to do anything about it, what am I supposed to do?" And he answered me very clearly.
It was as if he'd said "Colin, you need to make a promise to me that you will never look at porn again. But I know that you can't keep this promise, so you have to trust me that I will keep your promise for you. Not that I will help you keep your promise, but that I will keep your promise for you."
Now, I was not happy with that answer. But he knew what he was doing, promises are a big deal to me, especially a promise to God! But I tried to ignore him and pretend it hadn't happened, but you know what God is like. When he really wants you to do something, he puts this pressure on you, and after about a week I couldn't take it any longer. "All right!" I said, "Fine. If this is what you want me to do, I'll do it. I promise to never look at porn again, not in any form, ever. And if I do, that's my responsibility and my promise that I've broken. But God, I can't keep this promise, I'm just not good enough. Please, you have to keep this promise for me."
And God was very faithful to that promise, because overnight, I went from looking at porn 4, 5, 6 times a week, to 3 or 4 times in the first 3 or 4 years. Now, make no mistake, I wanted to look at porn. It wasn't as if the desire had gone away, but now I was trusting God in a way that I never had before, and somehow I was able to say no to temptation in a way that I never had been able to before.
Colin's testimony - Part 2, same-sex attraction
My name is Colin and I struggle with same-sex attraction.
I've already shared my struggle with porn and how God brought me out of it, but what I haven't shared is what kind of porn I was using. Actually, the porn I spend four years addicted to was of men.
And I looking back, I can see three factors that really contributed in a major way. I never felt that my Dad cared about me, I never felt accepted by the other boys, and I never felt like I had what it takes to be a man.
I have almost no memory of my Dad when I was growing up. He was there, my parents hadn't separated or anything, and I have vivid memories of my Mum and many other things, but for some reason, Dad just isn't really there.
But I have many memories of my Dad from when I was a teenager, and they're pretty much all negative. I remember never being able to do a good enough job for him. Like the time I got 98% in a maths test one day at school, and where Mum would say "Congratulations, that's terrific!" Dad would say "So what happened to the other 2%?" I remember him giving more affection to the dogs than to me, and I began to build up a tremendous amount of resentment towards him and the way he treated me.
I was also teased relentlessly all the way through school. I wanted to do things with the other boys, but I was "weak" and "stupid" because I couldn't play sport very well. So I would take refuge with the safe girls, which only made the teasing worse, because now I was also a "girl" and a "sissy".
But I had one friend across the road. Almost my only friend. He was a year older than me, and he'd found his father's stash of porn magazines, straight porn, and when I was 9 he wanted to act out those scenes with me. It seemed strange to me at first, but I thought "I guess that's just what friends do." And how was I to know? At least it was better than being teased. So eventually I went along with it.
The next year my family moved away and I never really saw him again, but I missed the sexual feelings. And so, to my shame, I tried to start up that same sort of relationship with another friend of mine. At first he was willing, but before we'd gone anywhere near as far as I'd wanted to go, he said he didn't want to anymore, because it was "wrong". That really surprised me. "Wrong?!" The thought had actually never occurred to me. So we stopped, and I didn't try again.
At my new school, I was still teased, but not as much, and I managed to form some healthy friendships with some of the other nerdy boys. But the boys who were athletic and popular and confident, they seemed to have something profound that I didn't have. I didn't know what it was, but I wanted it so badly."Maybe if I had their muscles, and maybe if I was as good at sport as them, and maybe if I was as masculine as them, then they'd accept me." Of course, I knew that could never happen. I'd been told all my life that I was a failure in my masculinity, a stupid girly weakling, so I started fantasising about it. Usually about kicking the goal that won the game, to everyone amazement, and finally accepting me as one of them. But before too long, partly because of puberty and partly because of my previous experience, those fantasies started becoming sexual, being accepted in a wholly different way.
This attraction to men continued all the way through school. It wasn't what I wanted, but there didn't seem to be any other option available. But after becoming a Christian, I took the risk and told a youth group leader. He didn't know what to do, but he listened without judging, he offered his support, and he prayed for me. It was such a relief to know that someone was on my side, and I felt like a huge burden had lifted off my life. Maybe it would be OK after all. But for reasons that I will never understand, that same night I searched for gay internet porn for the first time.
Of course, I found it, I got addicted, and eventually God brought me out of it. But that wasn't the end of the story, because I still had major issues with my Dad, my self-esteem, and my masculinity that God needed to address, and that the porn had only been making worse.
He taught me that actually I was good at some things that mattered, but more than that, he esteemed me. He taught me that his love for me wasn't the tough love that my Dad had for me, but that actually he was fond of me. He valued me, and his opinion was the only one that mattered. It made such a difference to not be afraid of what people thought of me anymore.
But it took a few more years to address my relationship with my Dad. One day he asked me, yet again, to do a completely unreasonable and meaningless task that I deeply resented, and suddenly a question, clear as day, came into my head. "How would you feel if your mother asked you exactly the same thing?" I thought about it, and answered honestly "Well, that wouldn't be so bad." And with horror I realised that if that was true, Dad wasn't the problem in this equation, I was! And as much as he had done the wrong thing, I had done the wrong thing as well with my twisted resentful attitude towards him. So I resolved from that day that if he wasn't going to reach out to me, I was going to reach out to him, and as much as I was able, I was going work towards making our relationship better. And I'm glad to say that, although he's still not a Christian, our relationship is much stronger and more encouraging than it has ever been in the past.But God still needed to deal with my sense of masculinity, or my complete lack of it. Over the years he taught me that I can be fit and healthy and athletic if I put in the effort, but that real masculinity isn't about the size of your biceps and your six-pack abs, it's about being like Jesus. And he taught me not only that I was his son, but that I was his man. A real man, who belongs to him, and learning those things was life changing. But your life always changes when you stop listening to who you or who others say you are, and you start listening to who God says you are instead.
Colin's testimony - Part 3, Marriage
I'm married! To a woman. So how did that happen to a gay porn addict?
Well, Jo met me long before I met her. I was directing a church musical that she auditioned for, and I gave her a lead role because she was good, but that year was a really tough year for me, full of busyness and burn-out. She seemed friendly, but I really wasn't interested in starting a relationship. With anyone. So she was just another girl in the musical.
I'd had a handful of girlfriends in the past, being terrified of being single all my life, but freaking out at the reality of what being a husband meant. Apart from the sex, which I didn't think I'd be able to do anyway, being a husband meant stepping up as a man, and I was still very insecure in my manhood, and I didn't think I could do it.
I had tried to go out with a girl that year, and it really hadn't worked out well. But the experience taught me that maybe, if God wanted me to be single for the rest of my life, for the first time, that was OK. And I saw myself at 55, still single, on my own, but if that's what God wants for my life, I can trust him, and so that's OK. So I gave my future over to him, and I spent the next month in a state of peace about my future like I never had experienced before.
And then after the musical Jo invited me to a party at her place, and I thought "Oh no! She must like me! No, but don't panic. God wants me to be single, so I'll just have to make it clear that I'm not interested, and I'll be fine." But I got the distinct sense that God wanted me to consider her more seriously. And I was not happy. "I thought we had a deal! I was going to give my future over to you, and you were going to make me single! What's going on?" And then he answered me very clearly. It was as if he'd said "I don't remember making a deal with you. I remember you giving your future over to me. So, have you given your future over to me, or not?"
And he was right. He always is. And she was nice, I guess I liked her. But I didn't love her, and I wasn't attracted to her physically or sexually, and I didn't think she was beautiful because I didn't even know what that meant. But I eventually plucked up the courage to ask her out, and she said yes in a flash.
But I didn't tell her about my history, and after three months I felt like our friendship was built on a lie, because she didn't know who I really was. I'd reached this point with girlfriends before, and I'd tell them my whole story and explain "That's why I want to break up." But this time, I don' t know, I just didn't want her to leave. But I had to tell her, because it was eating me up inside. And so I did, the gay porn and everything. And I was a mess with tears as I told her "I don't want you to leave, but if you do, you know, I understand, that's OK." And she looked at me and said a most profound thing. "But Colin, it's just like any other sin, isn't it? Why would I want to leave just because you're not perfect?" That was true, but how did she know that? Precious few people understand that, so I knew she was someone special.
But I still didn't love her, and I still wasn't attracted to her, and I really didn't know what to do. I knew it wasn't fair to her to be going out forever, so every few weeks I'd ask myself the same question. "If you had to choose right now between breaking up or getting married, what would you choose?" At that time, marriage and sex and being a husband was way too scary "Break up, no question". A few months later, same question. "Hmmmm... break up." A few months later "Ummm... I think I'd break up." And even I could see the progression. It was over a year later when I realised the answer was "I don't think I'd want to break up... Crap! If I don't want to break up, then I have to marry her!"
It took 6 months to build up the courage (and get a ring), but she said yes, and we were engaged for another 6 months. And during that time, God was so kind to me, because I started realising things I hasn't seen before. "You know what? Jo is kind of beautiful. And you know what? I think maybe I might love her. A bit. Sex is still pretty scary, but I think maybe it's not as scary as it used to be."
So finally we got married! And very quickly I learned that all my fears about sex were completely unfounded. Such a relief! But those first two years were still a challenge. They are for every marriage as two different people learn to live together, and give up their lives for each other, and work through problems rather than running away from them, and like every husband, I had a lot to learn about sex as well. Let me tell you, everything that porn teaches you about sex, gay or straight porn, is a lie. And much of that learning process was undoing the damage that porn had done to me.
But God, as always, has been very, very good. The love he has given me for my wife is deep, and it grows more and more every year. And God has truly made her to be the most beautiful woman on the planet, both inside and out, and she is also my greatest ally in my ongoing struggles. God didn't have to lead us to each other, but I am deeply thankful to him for the kindness he has shown.