Getting to the Root of Lust

Confessions of a Porn Addict

I still remember my first brushes with pornography. As a teenager I occasionally slipped off to take a peak at a calendar girl. Our cable service also delivered an adult channel (very scrambled) to our TV on occasion. In my teen years these photos and videos were like a portal into another world, providing a powerful catalyst for my already budding fantasy life.

In college a full-blown pornography addiction developed. Working at a local video rental store gave me access to a large collection of smutty skin flicks, free for the taking. This eventually turned to an exploration of the Internet for photos of women to add to my mental harem. It amazes me when I think about the countless hours I’ve spent over the years looking for pornography.

Over the last three or four years I’ve experienced a powerful, but nonetheless gradual, deliverance from the grip of porn. Each step of the process was like peeling away onion layers: every seeming “arrival” only revealed another core sin hiding underneath.

So while it has been a long time since I’ve intentionally sought out pornography online, the root of that sin is still very evident to me, still lurking in the hidden crevices of my heart. To the best of my understanding, this is how I can describe that root . . .

The Idol of Fantasy

When I find my mind drift into lust, I’m continually shocked that it doesn’t first draw from the seemingly endless pool of pornographic images I’ve foolishly built up in my brain. It might eventually get to those images, but that’s not where it often starts. Instead, I turn to something more primal, more basic.

Back when I first started fantasizing about women, the sexual nature of my fantasies were fairly benign (comparatively speaking). They were more like relationship fantasies. I would cast my latest crush as the leading lady in the movie of my mind. There she would read the script I gave her. This movie was more about me than her. The theme of the movie was more about my attractiveness, how she saw me, how “irresistible” I was.

I believe this was the foundation upon which my pornography addiction was built. Porn only supplied me with a new cast of characters and a variety of settings. The outward attractiveness of the woman on the screen was only a prop that made this fantasy of personal validation complete. In these movies I was the star, the desired one, a character who was treated the opposite of how I perceived I was treated in real life. Bitter at a world that refused to revolve itself around me, I created a new world in the theater of my mind.

Real Sex

Real intimacy between a husband and wife has nothing to do with this fantasy world. In the movie of my mind, sex was a symbol of my worth and merit. In that world I could depersonalize women into trophies, showing an imaginary audience how incredible I really was. This is the lust underneath the lust—the worship of self.

God designed sex to celebrate and create oneness between a man and a woman. Healthy sexuality in marriage moves a person away from self-worship and drives a person to give, to connect, to know another. Pornography only drives a man inside himself. Real, healthy sex drives a man to be totally present with and for his wife, and not just in the bedroom.

Oh sure, it is just as easy to use our spouses to feed our fantasies. Ask a married Christian man who has a past of viewing pornography. It can be so easy to have a split mind amidst a moment of intimacy: One half is attempting to be totally present with his wife (and physically he is present); the other half is far away, reliving an old relational/sexual fantasy.

Getting to the Root

Single men and married men alike have the same task before them—unearth the root of our lust. For me (and I suspect for many men), the root is a worship of self, a desire to live in a universe where we are our own god, where we are the ultimate desire of others (specifically women).

How do we do this unearthing? What do we do when we see such a sin?

First, I find it very helpful to be constantly reminded about how sinful I really am. Sin has a self-deceiving effect. Sin will gladly let us attack surface issues if it means that it can thrive beneath the crust. While we are busy hacking away at porn, sin will be delighted to nurture a deeper lust. Never underestimate the depth of sin. Guard yourself against sitting under any influences (even preachers) who encourage you to believe that you aren’t as bad as you really are. Only when man is truly wretched, is the gospel truly beautiful.

Second, I have learned that this sort of unearthing of root-sin is done in the context of God’s people. As priests of his Covenant, we are called to mutually confess our sin to one another and pray for each other (James 5:16). As fellow sojourners we are called to speak and listen to each other in such a way that we can help one another see how sin is operating at the deeper heart-levels (Hebrews 3:13). Those trapped in habitual sin are given the gift of Spirit-filled leaders who can help carry their burdens, mentor them, and mend their fractured hearts like a good spiritual surgeon (Galatians 6:1-2).

Third, I have learned that the Spirit of God works through the Word of God to show us our sin. We are meant to look into God’s perfect law, and like a mirror, let it shed a light on how we (never) measure up to its standards (James 1:22-25). We are to read God’s words of instruction and notice how it provokes in us our most covetous desires, showing us the utter sinfulness of our hearts (Romans 7:7-13). The Word is God-breathed—God’s breath is still warm coming from the page. That living Word has power to expose the deepest of sins, even the thoughts and attitudes of the heart (Hebrews 4:12-13).

Last, as we see these sins unearthed, repentance is the only path we can take. Right after Paul expresses the futility of living under his sinful urges (Romans 7:14-23), he asks, “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?” (v.23-24). His answer: Jesus Christ our Lord (v.25), who sends the Spirit of God to set us free from sin (8:1-4). As we find that corner of our mind that is still hostile to God (8:7), we turn from that rebellious attitude and set our minds on the desires of the Spirit (8:5), giving ourselves over to the worship of God (12:1-2) rather than the worship of self.

We worship our way into sin; we worship our way out of sin. As sure as self-worship is the root of lust, Christ-worship is the root of godliness. As we unearth the hidden idolatries that drive our surface sins, we must be committed, burying those idols, and instead gazing into the beauty of Christ.