“You can be haunted by the Internet and it can take over your life,” he said. His wife Veronica added, for him, “Probably one of the most liberating experiences was getting found out.”
It’s a sentiment that Dan Deyling agrees with. “When you fight a battle with somebody, it strengthens your relationship,” said Deyling, the Children’s Pastor at Foothills Christian Church in El Cajon, CA.
A Present Darkness
Throughout the first year of his marriage, T.D. would frequently have marathon sessions, watching porn from 10 p.m. to 4 a.m. Veronica was aware of it very early into their marriage, but instead of confronting him or seeing it as his problem, she internalized it, thinking it reflected a flaw in her. She had struggled with bulimia in college, and turned to it again to “fix” herself.
When Veronica was confronted by a friend about her eating disorder, she finally spoke up. “I walked behind T.D. one night and said, ‘I know what you’re doing,'” she explained in a 2009 podcast.
Pastor Deyling believes removing the veil of secrecy and having honest conversations are the first steps to freedom. Foothills Christian Church has a younger population, reaching out to youth and bringing on young adults as staff members and interns. As the Internet continued to evolve and spread, he and the other pastors noticed that these younger members often struggled with porn. “The church tasked me to find a solution,” he said, “and I found Covenant Eyes.”
Piercing the Darkness
For both Deyling and the Bentons, accountability was crucial to true transformation.
For T.D., it helped rebuild trust. Veronica explained that sometimes she would still feel suspicion that T.D. was backsliding, “but we’ve got Covenant Eyes, so I know it’s going to come through on the Report.”
Veronica, meanwhile, was also being held accountable for her eating disorder. Her accountability partner would ask outright, “Did you throw up today?” This very direct approach helped her heal. “Accountability is huge,” she said.
“It’s the best feeling of all time,” T.D. added.
Deyling’s use of Accountability at church, meanwhile, spread into his own home…and revealed hidden struggles. Deyling is the father of two sons, ages 17 and 19, and he explains with frankness that by the very nature of being teenage boys, his sons had been exposed to porn. Especially as smartphones have grown in prevalence, he said, “Young boys have no defense against this.”
When Covenant Eyes started revealing his own sons’ temptations with porn, he recognized that he had to deal with it. “When you go through hard things with forgiveness, it opens and strengthens relationships,” he said. In his family, it has fostered an environment of openness and trust. Now, he said, his sons come to him when they have problems.
Lighting the Path Forward
As T.D. overcame his struggles with porn, the same time period of his addiction–10 p.m. to 4 a.m.–were filled with dreams instead. The scenes and characters eventually coalesced into his touring group, White Collar Sideshow, which performs using a combination of video, live music, and theatrics to illustrate the entrapment of pornography. “All of the characters [in our performance] stemmed from my personality, dealing with different things in my life.”
While Veronica was supportive of T.D.’s vision, it took some prayer before she was ready to become actively involved. “All my life would have been about was a big bank account and a four-bedroom house and my 1966 Austin Healey,” she explained. She set that aside to be a part of this performance.
“Every single time we have a show, we end up talking and praying with people,” she added.
As Deyling has increased awareness of pornography and other Internet risks in his church, he has also seen an increase in his ministry. As smartphones have become more prevalent, young boys especially have no defense against porn. Parents, he says, are the first line of defense; and as he has promoted use of Covenant Eyes among them, their eyes are opened to the fact that even their kids are vulnerable. “It surprises and shocks people,” he said.
He’s also seen an increase in counseling since he and the other pastors started actively talking about porn and Internet issues in their church. He sees this as a good thing. “When you stab a boil, junk comes out,” he explained. “It brings things to the surface. It’s good. Not fun, necessarily, but good.”
Deyling and the Bentons were the grand prize winners in the Covenant Eyes Video Contest. Both won two years free of Covenant Eyes services. You can see White Collar Sideshow in their new performance, The WitcHunt.