It’s hard to know how to begin telling you about something I’ve tried so hard to move past and forget, but let’s be real. Every man at some point has struggled with one habitual sin which inhibits us from being the whole man God designed us to be. A sin that, if not surrendered completely to God daily through prayer, asking for the wisdom and willpower to overcome it, will continue to root deeper and deeper into the secret place of the soul. If not dealt with, this sin-root becomes our stronghold, a constant stumbling block in our spiritual walk.
My secret stronghold was lust.
It began when I was seven or eight years old. I stumbled across a stack of magazines hidden in my father’s bedroom; magazines, I’m sure, he never intended for me to find. As I stared at those images, I felt a sense of excitement and intrigue. I knew I shouldn’t be looking at them, but something compelled me to continue. That’s all it took for me to be hooked. For the next 25 years I was enslaved to an addiction that would hold me back from entering into a relationship with Jesus Christ.
The lie Satan whispered repeatedly in my mind was, “There’s nothing wrong with looking at pornography. It’s part of being a man.”
In 2005, I was convicted of my sinfulness, and I surrendered my life to Jesus Christ. As I walked forward to speak with the pastor during the invitation hymn, I knew Christ had called me into a relationship with Him, and that day He became my Savior and Lord. I knew there were things that had plagued my life I needed to deal with. The conviction I felt was very strong.
It wasn’t long into my relationship with Christ that I realized just how quick a stronghold can wreak havoc and destroy everything that matters. Though I would pray for an escape from the stronghold of my secret sin, I had not let go completely of its control. Then, one day my wife walked out of our bedroom very upset because she had discovered pornographic images on our computer. She thought the images were what my son was looking at, and she asked me how I planned to confront him about this. I heard God clearly say, “Michael, just as you openly confessed Me as your Lord and Savior, you must openly confess to your wife what you have done to be freed from your enslavement to pornography.”
As I confessed it all to my wife, I watched her completely fall apart. The husband she witnessed surrendering his heart to Christ, the husband she looked to for spiritual leadership, the husband she was finally able to trust for the first time in our relationship; all trust was stripped away in that moment. It was as if I literally watched her turn cold towards me. She told me to leave, and I deserved it. I was more than willing to leave so I could hide in my shame. This was more than about gazing at the vulgar pictures, I had crushed the spirit of the woman I loved deeply by choosing sin over her and my relationship with Christ.
That night I lay in bed thinking, “How did we get here? I was so careful to hide my addiction and cover my tracks.” Then it dawned on me: this was God working in my life to remove the stronghold. He heard my cry for an escape, to be free, and He dragged my filthy, dirty sin right out into the light to be exposed. Now, I had to do something about it. I could choose to continue my life of secrets and lust, or I could choose to let go and release my addiction to God.
I chose to release it all to God, and I asked his forgiveness. This was the path to freedom.
I also prayed for my wife, for her heart to be softened towards me, and give me a second chance to be the godly husband she needed and the one I wanted to be.
I wish I could tell you the forgiveness and healing process was easy, but it was not. It took commitment, discipline, lots of prayer, saturating our minds with Scripture, much counseling from our Wonderful Counselor, Jesus Christ, and wise counsel and encouragement from godly mentors.
For Missy, my wife, not only did it take many years for her to completely forgive me and to regain her trust, but this process led her to deal with her own hurtful and unforgiving past. But I can tell you this, it was worth every bit of suffering to escape the enslavement of the sin. This healing process saved our marriage from complete destruction, and God continues to transform our relationship into something stronger and better for His glory.
Originally published in 2013.
has been married to his wife Melissa for 15 years. They have four children and a new grandbaby. Mike is an engineer with the City of Columbia Fire Department.