This a guest post by Bruce Hughes, Ph.D. Bruce is the founder of Broken Snares Unlimited, a speaking and writing ministry to those who have been caught in immorality of all kinds, such as pornography or any sin that keeps someone from having the joy God intended. He speaks from personal experience and says he enjoys a new life of freedom after claiming the victory found in Psalm 124:7, “Our soul is escaped as a bird out of the snare of the fowlers: the snare is broken and we are escaped.”
There are numerous references in Scripture to people being snared by Satan. He is sometimes referred to as a “fowler,” or one who catches birds with a snare or a trap. Once ensnared, they could seldom break free. However, when this concept is applied to people, there is one major difference: God has made the way of escape if we place our trust in Him. The following story is my account of how God freed me from Satan’s snare.
On September 28, 2005, I sat in a Federal courtroom waiting to hear my sentence after having pleaded guilty to one count of possession of child pornography three years earlier. It had taken the government that long to decide what to do with me. I was part of a group of approximately 8000 people who had been detected visiting a free website that contained child pornography. The FBI had come to search my house and take the hard drive from my computer in November of 2001. I admitted that I had visited the site in question, but I had never downloaded images into a file nor printed them nor in any way tried to “possess” them. I had no idea that viewing images from a free website could be considered illegal. I knew that what I had been doing was immoral, but never did I believe it was illegal. I soon learned that even if you have an image on your computer screen for a millisecond it is stored on your hard drive forever, and that is considered possession, even if you cannot retrieve it.
After seven months of negotiation I finally agreed to plead “guilty” to one count of possession and pray for God’s mercy to prevail. The day after my plea my case was headlined in all the local papers and I had to take immediate early retirement from an excellent job. Some of the others charged decided to challenge their arrests due to technicalities in the search warrants. I decided not to challenge, but rather to let others do it while I waited to see the results. My case was placed on hold for three years.
As I sat in the courtroom in 2005, waiting for the proceedings to begin, my thoughts and emotions ran from deep despair to peace and comfort: Despair over the fact that I knew that a highly successful and public career had ended in total devastation and disgrace, and that because I was known for my Christian testimony, the cause of Christ had been dealt a serious blow. I felt peace from the knowledge that God had forgiven me, and I was reassured by Psalm 37:24: “Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down: for the Lord upholdeth him with His hand.” I felt comfort because my wife, two adult sons, other family members, and a close friend sat behind me, reassuring me that they too would stand by me in my hour of greatest need.
My thoughts flashed back to more than forty years earlier, when I had been sexually abused by two older teenage boys during a camp outing, when I was twelve. They threatened me and called me worthless. They repeatedly called me that name over and over in school the next year. I had fought that label over the years by trying to achieve excellence in all that I did. Once I accepted Christ as my Savior (at age 18) I thought my suffering was over. It didn’t take long before Satan was working on my mind again, and I started believing his lies about me. On that infamous day in the courtroom, I thought, “They have finally won. They have proven that I am indeed worthless.” I had believed that I was living a lie all through life, and everyone was about to know it as well.
I had lived under the threat of 3-5 years of incarceration for over three years. The judge acknowledged the receipt of numerous letters of support on my behalf, as well as a letter from my Christian counselor urging leniency. He asked if I had anything to say to the court. I had waited over three years for that moment. I thanked my family, my church family, and many friends who had stood by me over the trying times. Most of all, I acknowledged my thanks to Christ, who had sheltered my family and me through the whole ordeal, and I expressed my regrets and conviction that I was looking to God to lead me into some new path where I could be of help to others who may have made wrong decisions in life and who were suffering the consequences. I committed to becoming a better person for having gone through this experience. The judge and the prosecutor each made complimentary remarks about what I had to say.
My sentence was three years of probation (no incarceration), a $6000 fine, and the requirement to register in our state under Megan’s Law for ten years. At first I was greatly relieved, but as the day progressed, a heavy feeling settled over me: The fact that I had to register as a sex offender for viewing pornography at home overwhelmed me. If I had only known about Covenant Eyes in 2001, my whole ordeal would have been avoided.
In the next part of my story, I will explain further about my life with regard to dealing with the sexual abuse nightmare and the specific events that led to visiting pornographic websites.