My sexual addiction almost destroyed my life. Although I became a Christian when I was 16 years old, and immediately fell in love with God, I remained completely powerless in my ability to resist sexual temptation. This led to a terrible cycle of ongoing failure in my life that repeated itself over and over. I lived in this terrible cycle for years, like a rat trapped in an endless maze. And then, quite unexpectedly, God gave me the most amazing and unusual gift – he allowed me to get caught! It was only then I began to journey on the healing path God had intended for my broken heart and life, and I made 7 key relationship changes that enabled me, finally, to begin to control sex instead of being controlled by sex.
1. My relationship with God
Getting caught, and almost losing the most important things in my life, like my marriage and family, brought me to a place of deeper brokenness, humility, and desperation before God than I had ever known. I began to cry out to God and to seek God, more authentically and sincerely than I ever had. As I did this, something shifted from my head to my heart, and over time I moved from a religion thing with God to a relationship thing. As I began to find this deeper connection with God, I learned that God could truly be for me what I could never be for myself.
2. My relationship with my heart
In one word, I experienced authentic repentance, and repentance is the spiritual dynamic that allows God to change the human heart. A farmer could take a filthy little pig from the barnyard, give it a bath, clean it up, put perfume on it, and even put a yellow ribbon around its neck, but as soon as he put the little pig back in the barnyard, it would run and jump right back in the mud! Why? Because he only cleaned up the pig’s outside, and not the pig’s heart. I was finally experiencing the true and lasting change I had always longed for because of the change of heart that God was accomplishing in me through the gift of repentance.
3. My relationship with my body
My physical body always held tremendous power over me, and I lived for years enslaved to its natural cravings, appetites, and desires. For the first time in my life, I began to understand that I could actually take authority over my body.
3 It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; 4 that each of you should learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honorable. I Thessalonians 4:3-4
I learned that I absolutely had to change my relationship with my body if I was ever going to be a man of sexual purity.
4. My relationship with my will
God helped me to see and understand that I did have a will, and I did have the power of choice. It was then I realized the metaphor of what I now call my “no” muscle. Like any other muscle, if you never use it, it will atrophy and become weak. But by exercising that muscle repeatedly, it will become stronger and stronger. My problem was that I had allowed my “no” muscle to become so weak that I didn’t know how to use it whenever temptation arose. When I discovered that I really could say “no” to temptation, it was a gigantic stepping-stone forward in my purity walk.
5. My relationship with my wife
God helped me to see that I had made a critical error in my relationship with my wife. I had somehow come to the conclusion that I had the right to express my sexual gift apart from her. My default mechanism, therefore, was to get as much sex from my wife as possible, but I then gave myself permission to get my “bonus orgasms” apart from my wife. When God helped me to understand the concept of what I now call “wife-size sex,” I understood that it was God’s will, design, and plan that I only express my sexual gift, 100%, exclusively with my wife alone. When I finally understood and accepted God’s plan for my sexual gift through my wife and marriage, God released His blessing and anointing like never before.
6. My relationship with my story
As a pastor and a counselor, I’ve come to believe that most people do not understand their life story. As I journeyed through my own therapeutic process, God invited me into the stories of my life. For the first time, I began to see and understand the roots of my sexual addiction. I learned, for example, how the discovery of my father’s pornography at age 10, and the sexual abuse that was perpetrated upon me during my adolescence, deeply and profoundly affected and distorted the development of my young sexuality. As God helped me to understand my story, I was able to invite Christ into the most wounded and broken places of my heart and life. I experienced the healing and freedom of Christ as I had never known. Understanding my story was critical to my healing journey.
7. My relationship with my brothers
I learned that if I was ever to be a man of purity, I had to change my relationship with my brothers in Christ. I learned that purity is a “team sport”, and that I could never accomplish purity alone. When I learned to come into the light with my brothers and to become more radically honest, vulnerable, and transparent than ever, I powerfully experienced the truth of scripture:
Therefore, confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. James 5:16
On my journey from sexual bondage to sexual healing, God showed me the necessary adjustments I needed to make in these 7 key relationships, and as I made those changes, God brought healing and freedom to my life and soul. I pray for God’s mercy and grace for you as you consider these 7 relationships in your own life, and what changes God is calling you to make.
Tony Ingrassia has been married to his wife, Sheri, for 35 years, and they have 3 sons and 4 grandchildren. Tony is a pastor, Licensed Professional Counselor, and the Director of The Power of Purity – a ministry intended to help men experience their sexual gift in a healthier way. He hosts The Power of Purity Podcast, and publishes a new episode every week that can be found at www.powerofpurity.org.