|EDITOR'S NOTE: Pornography can inflict profound and long-lasting damage on marriages and families. Members of Christian households are not immune. The following account is true. It is taken from the journal of one Christian woman's struggle with her husband's behavior. Names have been changed to protect the family's identity.|
We have never met, but you have affected my life more than you will ever know.
When you posed nude, I don't think you knew you would be part of creating a chasm between my husband and me. I don't think you knew the anguish and hurt I would feel when I found pictures of you in my home.
Did you know how often I would get angry at my husband for little things when what I was really furious about was you? Why were you in our home--a home where a plaque announced, "As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord?"
In the early years of our marriage, I was convinced James would get rid of you. He had me now. Surely he didn't need you, too. I tried to explain how rejected I felt by your presence, and I pleaded with him to have nothing to do with you. He refused. He would say things like, "Variety is the spice of life," or insist that all men looked at pictures of you--that it's part of being male. I wondered if the other men at the church I attended did. The subject was never mentioned there.
No matter what he said about you, the only reason I could see for your presence was that I didn't look good enough. It seemed the more he saw of you, the less he desired me. For a few months in the early years, I studied your pictures, imagining that I was you and that my husband desired me and longed to be with me the way he desired you. But all that did was add to my shame -- the shame of not being beautiful and the shame of not being able to attract my own husband.
I was willing to do almost anything to be thinner like you, so my husband would desire me. Did you know I would dye my hair blond to try to catch his attention? That I would seriously consider breast implants to look more like you?
Because James ignored my pleas to get rid of you, I began to pretend I wasn't so bothered--turning the other way when I saw you, pretending I didn't. But one day my daughter and I went into my bedroom to search for something, and there was a pile of magazines with your pictures in them.
"What are these for, Mommy?" she asked me.
What could I say? How could I explain to a 7-year-old why you were in our house?
That day I remembered finding the magazines in my home growing up. My father knew you, too, it seems. I would sneak and look through those magazines. I was 12 or 13. I asked myself the same question my daughter asked. Women like my mother don't look good enough, I concluded, so Dad needs to look at these women who look better.
I will look like these "better women" so my husband won't have to buy these magazines. I will look good enough, I vowed.
I never did answer my daughter's question that day, but the anger started rising inside me. The denial began to peel away. You were affecting our home. You could affect our children. I tried to talk to James about breaking off with you, at least for the children's sake. He convinced himself and tried to convince me that I was being too emotional and overreacting to you.
The next time my anger rose was months later, when the girls and I came home unexpectedly, and there was their daddy on the couch looking at pictures of you. I thanked God that one of the girls didn't walk into the room first. Humiliation and shame engulfed me, pushing down the anger. Neither of us said much.
I tried to pretend it never happened.
FINALLY I COULD NO LONGER tolerate your presence . I had taken my children and their friends to the swimming pool, and in the back of the van I saw a magazine sticking out. There you were again. I had convinced myself that you were gone from our lives; I hadn't seen you in so long.
James had recently returned from a weekend trip "alone" while I went out of town to a seminar, and it sickened me that he brought you along.
These magazines were different. The others deceived with "beauty" and promises of thought-provoking articles. The covers of these magazines said "X-Rated" in large letters that mocked me.
I married an X-rated man, I told myself that day. He was a Christian -- he had been going to church every Sunday. He was kind to his children and an excellent provider. But it all seemed a smoke screen for his X-rated behavior and his "affair" with you.
MY PRETENDING WAS OVER. That day my anger broke loose. I cut your picture out of one of the magazines and pasted it on our wedding picture over myself That day I was forced to admit that the promise I made to myself when I was 12 had not come true. I did not look good enough for my husband.
That day, after 13 years of marriage, I talked and screamed and cried and threatened to leave if you didn't. James made no promises.
"It has nothing to do with you," he said when I begged him to explain it. "Why do you take it so personally?" he asked. "All men like to look at beautiful women. What about Solomon and all those wives?"
I wondered how those wives felt.
DID YOU KNOW that my getting so upset wouldn't cause James to stop "seeing" you -- that you would have that much power over him? He just tried to become more proficient at hiding you from me.
No matter where he hid your pictures I found them, even though I kept hoping I wouldn't, and I never tried to. Now I threw them away but he never mentioned it, and I was at the end of pouring my heart out to him.
I wished I could pour my heart out to God, but somehow my shame and hurt kept me from it. I didn't believe He understood how I felt or that He had the power to change anything. The problem seemed too big. I had prayed for years that James would desire me, and not you, but nothing had ever happened.
I hated his refusal to let you go. Now I think a better word is inability.
I don't think you knew when you posed, that to keep from hating James, I would grow to hate you, because I didn't look like you. The older I got, the more I hated you, because you were forever young in those pictures.
I hated the fact that you were on TV now -- on the cable channels that I wished we could get rid of.
I don't think you knew how many times I was tempted to leave this marriage and try to find someone who would desire only me. When you posed, did you know you would be a home-wrecker?
TODAY SOMETHING HAPPENED. I poured my heart out to God, and He showed me how wrong I was to be consumed with having an outstanding body - that what He finds beautiful is an obedient heart. And I do desire that. If I want to obey I need to stop hating you and forgive you for your part in our marriage problems. I need to start praying for you.
I thought I could never stop hating you until you left, but God convinced me that I was wrong by letting me feel His love for me, and reminding me that He loves you and me the same. He showed me that I need to love you His way - the way that He is showing me to love myself and my husband. I need to have His compassion and feel bad for you for making the decision to expose your body to the world.
I forgive you.
Does anyone understand?
I opened up one day at my Bible study. The women politely prayed, but no one ever brought up the subject again. Finally I had the courage to talk to a counselor, hoping for a magic solution, but none was offered. I felt alone and defeated.
A couple of years ago I was listening to a Christian radio program, and a woman called in and told of her husband's addiction to pornography. She expressed the hurt and devastation she felt that her husband desired satisfaction from looking at the pages of a magazine rather than from her. I cried and cried that day. Someone out there knew how I felt.
That woman's call opened the door for my healing.
I grieved hard. Finally, I poured my heart out to God. I wrote down my feelings in my journal. I faced my pain head-on. I talked with my husband about the pain, but for the first time, I saw pornography -- and not the women or my husband -- as the enemy. I did not demand change. I showed him the journal entries, and somehow by God's grace, he understood.
I had believed that James giving up the magazines would heal me but I began to see that only God could heal my wounds. I began to discover that shame over my body began in childhood when people said, "You're too skinny" and later "You're too fat." Shame also grew when I found my father's magazines and knew I did not look like those women . Then I married someone who added to that shame.
The shame made me run away from God rather than toward Him.
I wondered if God could really know how I have felt. After all, He's not a woman, and He's not married. He convinced me He knew. He knows what it feels like to have the love of His life desire others above Him when He is all we need to be satisfied (Hosea 1:2). He knows what it's like to "catch" His "spouse" searching through images in the world to meet needs and satisfy the soul when He longs to do just that.
I saw that many times I had hurt Him, and that we in the body of Christ have hurt Him, just the way my husband had hurt me, by desiring other things besides Him to satisfy our souls. Yet by His mercy, He continues to love us. Through all of this, I have learned about the wonder of His love for me, for James, and for each one of us (1 John 4:10).
Even though I no longer expected it, by the working of God's power and perhaps by my letting go of self-pity and hopelessness, James is letting go of pornography. He no longer buys the magazines. He canceled the premium movie channels on cable.
"The key is that the conviction in my life had to come from God and not from you," James told me recently. We both know there is no magic formula, but now we both believe that "what is impossible with men is possible with God" (Luke 18:27).
"Emma Chambers" is a writer and homemaker in the Southeast.
I invite you to read three more articles along a similar
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