It came through one of my social-media platforms. In the close-up, a young woman had posted a photo of her voluptuous breasts, barely covered, with one hand reaching into her top. It was definitely not the standard fare that my friends generally publish. Hmm.
As the mother of four sons, there were many years in which such a photo would have triggered an avalanche of feelings, not the least of which was contempt twisted up with fear and shame. This toxic stew would have swept my feet right out from under me, leaving me in despair and horror. (Please note–as a wordsmith, I choose my words as a stonemason chooses his stones; i.e., very carefully and with intention.) Now, though, I looked at it with curiosity, wondering, “What is she trying to tell me? How might other people be judging it?”
Recently, we listened to a gentleman who founded a ministry for men trapped in the addictions of lust and pornography. The statistics he quoted that day were unsettling. According to him, 70% of Christian men admit to a porn addiction. That includes 58% of pastors and 65% of youth pastors. This (remember?) is in the church.
The solutions he presented were the ones we’d always heard, many of which my husband and countless other men had tried. Accountability. Filtering software. Coaching. Surrender of self to God. The list was pretty much the same, and as he spoke, I could feel the despair of those in the room who’d tried it all and were still trapped. Still striving. Still exhausted. Still defeated with wives who were feeling the same.
As a wise son of ours observed, he being in the throes of physical therapy post knee surgery, “If doctors were getting those kinds of results after surgery and therapy, would they accept that?” Would they accept that great a failure rate? It was inconceivable to him and to us.
As I’ve told you before, I am a survivor of sexual abuse that happened in a religious setting where modesty was paramount. What my experience taught me was that wearing the *right* clothes and wearing *enough* clothes didn’t protect me at all. It wasn’t just the abuse, though, that left nearly-indelible scars. It was the shame, confusion, and contempt surrounding the body itself. In a video on trauma that is soon to be published, you’ll hear me explain what my takeaway was about bodies, growing up in a Plain culture. We were taught to view the body with, at the least, suspicion and, at the worst, with contempt.
The body was largely sexual. Over and over and over, this lie was perpetuated by the church. And over and over and over, it was reinforced by the world. Two sides, same coin, the body’s sexual.
The suffering that this belief has caused cannot be calculated. It’s taught many of us women to hate the skin we’re in because it “invites” lustful behaviors, and it’s taught men to hate/distrust women who are the apparent source of their temptation. And cue the gender wars.
Learning to accept and appreciate my physical body has been a long, arduous journey, but an important one. A key component of it has been to start desexualizing my own body. To see it differently with renewed eyes. It’s the only way to begin seeing other people’s bodies as they are–images of God, not temptations from which we must bounce our eyes or file reports with coaches.
I know it is possible to learn a different way because I’ve seen my husband do it. When he dropped the sexualized view of the human body, he began walking free.
“It’s amazing how much more space I have in my head!” This is his personal testimony. “I see people now, not body parts.”
I know it is possible to learn a different way because I’ve seen my sons doing it. They no longer believe the lie or sexualize women. They, too, are walking free. I am grateful.
I know it is possible to learn a different way because I’m doing it. Recovering from sexual and spiritual abuse, recovering from shame, recovering from actual fear of sexuality (both of ours and others) takes time. It’s painful. It is hard and holy work that’s worth doing.
I hope you’re doing this work. It’s the kind of work that alters the course of future generations in powerful ways. If we can do it, you can do it, too. The Bondage Breaker stands ready and willing to help.
“As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” – Joshua
Other quotes from Mr. Schrock:
• “The lie of pornography is that the next one will satisfy. Then the next one, and the next one…”
• “I realized I was looking for an emotional connection.”
• “Women are visual, too. It’s not just men.”
• “I just don’t look around and notice physical features anymore. I see people!” (this on a grocery-shopping trip once)
• “I feel like I can go anywhere without temptation because I’ve already chosen Christ.”
• “I want you to be free, too, hon.” (speaking to shame, fear, and insecurity)
• “You’re perfect.”