Guest Post: Porn on Paper
It is my prayer that on this day that we in the United States celebrate our freedom as a nation, that you would also celebrate a newfound freedom from the burdens of addiction and other strongholds.
Please welcome our friend Melanie McGaughey as she shares with you her own freedom story today.
Porn on Paper by Melanie McGaughey
Sex was not a word I ever remember hearing in my house growing up, yet it was in that very house that I got my education—not through my parents, but under the cover of darkness. Tucked into a forgotten cabinet, a worn-out cardboard box taught me more than I’d ever wanted to know.
Unbeknownst to my parents, as a teenager, I’d discovered soft-core pornography in the form of romance novels—the mass-market paperback kind. Someone had loaned my mom a box of their favorite mystery novels and she’d stuffed them into one of the deep cabinets in our living room and forgotten about them. Being an avid reader and a lover of mysteries, I was always borrowing my mom’s books. So one day while she was out, I remembered that old box and drug it out of the cabinet. Fishing through it, I pulled out one mystery novel after another, weighing which one to read first. Books piled all around me, I reached in again, my hand groping toward the bottom of the box, when I pulled out a book unlike any I’d ever seen in our house. I tipped the box over only to see a dozen more like it buried underneath the remaining mysteries. Pulling one out, I glanced through it, my face going hot as the words registered. Yet I sat there on that living room floor, the house to myself, and that wretched box in front of me, searching for more explicit scenes like what I’d just read. I don’t know how long I sat there, but finally concerned my mom would come through the door and discover what I’d found, I stuffed the books back in their box, piling the mysteries back on top of the romance novels. I told myself that I’d done nothing wrong. It wasn’t as if I was actually thinking about sex with someone I knew. That would be wrong. This was just fiction. It was just a story. There was nothing in the Bible about it being wrong to read a story. . . .
That was the first of many times I would open that box. At first, it was just curiosity that drove me. Then it was loneliness or grief. And then it was just . . . a necessity. I simply couldn’t stop.
In fact, each time I cracked open those pages no bigger than the span of my hand, I’d promise myself that that this would be the last time. No longer would I tiptoe down the stairs under the cover of darkness, wincing with every groan of that old house. I was done reaching into that wretched old box. I was done hiding. I wanted out.
FIFTEEN YEARS LATER
“Honey, if you have time while you’re here, you’ve got some trunks in the barn you need to look through,” my Dad called over his shoulder as he headed down the long driveway.
Walking into my parent’s barn, I saw what he was talking about—a trunk covered in dust and spider webs sat in the middle of the large open space, my initials barely visible underneath layers of dirt and sawdust. Moving all the odds and ends off of it, I realized there wasn’t just one trunk, but three. I wrestled the lid of the first trunk open, only to find old journals, yearbooks, and cards. The lid of the second trunk came open easier and I was thrilled to find all my old Nancy Drew books that I hadn’t seen since before college. Opening the third, my hand froze on the lid. Nestled amidst dozens of yellowing “Christian” novels lay an old Danielle Steel novel. Shocked at the sight of it, I stood there frozen. The sweat that had been trickling down my face turned into streams of tears at the sight of something I had tried so hard to forget.
“Damn you. Damn you.”
It was all I could think. All I could say.
When I finally came to and began to pull out more books, my hand came across the ivory cover of another novel picturing a woman wrapped in the arms of some man who clearly spent the majority of his life at the gym. Something made me turn the book over and when I saw the woman’s name, my hand shook and I nearly dropped the book. In that instant, it was like a movie. I couldn’t remember the book’s storyline, but in that moment, I saw familiar images and colors and darkness, and that old shame washed over me. It had been nearly fifteen years since I read it, but I suddenly remembered that very book. Out of the twenty or so pages that I’d read of its 300-plus pages, I still remembered that handful of pages as if it had been yesterday. Frozen by my thoughts, I prayed my dad wouldn’t see the tears and ask what I held in my hand.
How could I explain what this did to me? How could I explain what it took from me, that it still costs me to this day?
As I stood there with tears making rivets in the dust, I didn’t feel condemned by the Lord. I felt loved. I knew He had forgiven me a long time ago. But what hurt the most was seeing so clearly that He’d had something so much better and I’d missed it. I’d never know what it would mean to live without this crap having stolen my innocence. I’d never approach a relationship and not fight the images that my mind now wanted to conjure up—images I saw in the words on those pages and others like them nearly fifteen years ago. Words that could have made even a virgin wrestle with the mind of a whore.
ABOUT &*%* TIME
“Sow a thought, reap an action; sow an action, reap a habit; sow a habit, reap a character; sow a character, reap a destiny.”
― Stephen R. Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
No one ever plans to become an addict. All those years ago, I’d thought I was the one in control. I was using those books to numb loneliness, to feed curiosity, to fill something in me when I wanted to. Never did I think that I’d become addicted to what they offfered. Never did I think that what stopped the pain momentarily was costing me anything in the long run. Yet, like cough syrup, the scenes numbed the pain, but never actually fixed anything. In fact, as if putting on someone else’s glasses, they actually changed the way I saw everything: myself, men, relationships—even God.
Suddenly I was seeing life through the eyes of books that taught me to think of only myself. I was seeing life through books that simply taught me to crave the power and control to turn a man’s head—to know that I could have him if I wanted him, rather than teaching me how to encourage him or to push him into the arms of Christ. These were books that taught me to love myself, rather than to love the Lord, let alone a man. Their pages were filled with a selfish love that knew nothing about what dying to oneself looked like, but encouraged the reader to satisfy their desires, regardless of the cost to the other person. It was never about a love that was patient. It was always about having whatever I wanted NOW. There were no diseases, no sick kids, no bad breath, no miscarriages, no STDs, no memories of an old lover plaguing the marriage bed. It was all just a tortured existence satiated with sex—wildly passionate sex outside of marriage that had no regrets, no consequences, no ramifications that would carry on for generations. Any dose of reality was merely thrown in to make the reader think that this world might indeed exist after all.
As I packed the trunk back up for Goodwill, I realized that someone else would be getting those books. So I pulled every one of them right back out of the old trunk, dragged the giant metal trash bin over, and began ripping each one to shreds, the tears still falling so hard I could barely see the musty pages my hands ripped apart. And still all I could say was, “Damn you.”
Not wanting even the covers to be recognizable, I ripped the books down their spines and then tore the pages to bits until they were unreadable. When it was all done, I closed the lid on the trunk and stared down into that trashcan seeing shreds of the pictures and the pages that represented so much shame and the loss of so much innocence. I wondered what in the heck my Dad would think when he saw that I’d evidently lost my mind and starting ripping books up in the barn. Maybe it was just a case of extreme boredom? Maybe I just had an extreme dislike for mass-market paperbacks? Who knows what he thought. . . . But I’m really glad I got to rip them up. I never got a chance to before and it was about &*%* time.
Much to my horror, my precious Mom found a draft of this blog tucked into my couch just the other week. Fighting tears, she hugged me and whispered, “Honey I had no idea. I’m so sorry,” into my ear. And I got to tell her the truth—that I’m OK now. I’ve been OK for a long time. This is part of my story. Had I not lived this, had I not been down that road, I wouldn’t be able to warn others not to wander down a path I gave little thought to at the time.
The shame is LONG gone. I am redeemed and whole and pure before the Lord. Do I still wrestle with all of this? YES. But it does not have the victory. It took YEARS of fighting. It took getting to the point of desperation so great that I once dragged entire bookcases of books out of my third-floor apartment and down three flights of the most treacherous stairs you have ever seen. It took years of fighting for my life, my soul, my mind, my heart. And Christ won. HE WON.
Do you hear me?
We make getting out of sin so complicated and hard, when in truth, Scripture just says, “Stop sinning. Learn to do right.” If what is impossible with man IS possible with God, then I can stop. We CAN stop. We can stop living as slaves to addictions, as slaves to anything but Christ. The stories of our lives are to be of redemption, of freedom from every type of addiction, from every apathy that threatens to numb our souls. For some of us, deliverance may come in a moment. But for others, it may also take years of our blood and sweat and tears. But in our fight, we can hold onto what is true: what is impossible with man IS possible with God.
Do you hear Him?
Do you hear the truth? Do you hear the truth that may battle everything you have known, and everything you may have ever seen?
We MUST believe Him. We must have faith in Him, rather than in ourselves. For it is our unbelief that shrinks our vision of Him and makes those things that appear to be giants to us stronger than Him. But HE IS STRONGER. If we are in Christ, what was impossible in our flesh is not only possible, it is what we are destined for—to prevail against the gates of hell, to have victory over what once had us, what once compelled and drove us forward, clung to us, and would not release us.
We can be rescued. From even the mightiest, the strongest, the most familiar, the most plaguing of enemies.
HE IS STRONGER.
Oh how He loves you and me…..
“Can plunder be taken from warriors, or captives rescued from the fierce? But this is what the Lord says: ‘YES, captives will be taken from warriors, and plunder retrieved from the fierce; I will contend with those who contend with you, and your children I will save. I will make your oppressors eat their own flesh; they will be drunk on their own blood, as with wine. Then all mankind will know that I, the Lord, am your Savior, your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob.’”
—Isa. 49:24–26 (NIV)
This is what the Lord Almighty says: “The people of Israel are oppressed, and the people of Judah as well. All their captors hold them fast, refusing to let them go. Yet their Redeemer is strong; the Lord Almighty is his name.”
—Jer. 50:33–34 (NIV)
For I am the Lord, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I WILL help you. Do not be afraid . . . for I MYSELF WILL HELP YOU,” declares the Lord, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel. “See, I will make you into a threshing sledge, new and sharp, with many teeth. You will thresh the mountains and crush them, and reduce the hills to chaff. You will winnow them, the wind will pick them up, and a gale will blow them away. But you will rejoice in the Lord and glory in the Holy One of Israel.”
—Isa. 41:13–16 (NIV)
Therefore, brothers, we have an obligation—but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it. For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, YOU WILL LIVE, because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship.
And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.”
—Rom. 8:12–16 (NIV)
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to him be glory . . .
—Eph. 3:20–21 (NIV)