‘Stronghold’ — Part 2
This is Part 2 in a series about C.J. Stunkard‘s novel Stronghold.
In Part 1, i introduced his book and shared some of the conversation C.J. and i have had regarding his book and the reality of spiritual battle as it relates to dealing with addiction to pornography and lust.
Here’s more from our interview:
IW: What do you do to train for battle?
CJ: Another Solid question, and I think the best answer is that I try to live holistically. Spiritual well-being, social health, physical fitness, financial stewardship are not things I juggle, as though they were independent of one another; I treat them as threads knitting the tapestry of life. Your health affects your ability to work, which affects your ability to live responsibly, which affects your attitudes about yourself. Addiction recovery affects to all of these negatively, does it not? Thus, in cultivating a wholeness not around worldly validation or material gain but Christ himself, I seek to live in discipleship and mindfulness of honoring him in all these areas of life. I read, memorize, and recite Scripture. I intentionally pray and, at times, write my prayers. I try to maintain an open dialog with others, because doing so reinforces the reality and keeps me grounded in the fact that I need to be ready. I try to take rest but work very hard. I watch what I eat, and I treat food as fuel. People discounts certain areas as unimportant—but food, for instance, can affect mood, energy levels, and overall health, and weakness in this area can wear us down. Exhaustion can lead to lower abilities to think clearly and recognize triggers. We can be lulled into a lack of vigilance, without any real triggers hitting us. Holistic outlook allows me to guard against sin by treating each area of my life as an altar of sacrifice to Christ.
IW: The battle is tiring. Where do you find rest and the rejuvenation you need to keep fighting?
CJ: I love Sabbath, and I make an intentional point of taking it. This ties to the prior answer. Sundays I savor church, then I either read for pleasure (not to review or study), I watch films, or I enjoy my hobbies (fitness and Lego). I spend additional time with my wife without distraction or technology vying for my attention. The Lord has been very gracious in enabling me to adjust to a full 6-day workweek to pursue my writing while also experiencing a fully rejuvenating Sabbath, and I believe this has been essential to my maintaining sobriety.
IW: Is there anything specific you do to cultivate authentic beauty in your life?
CJ: Love, Joy, and Gratitude.
I seek to love people like Christ loves people, starting with my wife and using our marriage—its health and hardships—to constantly reflect how I can be Christ to her and equally see how I can love Christ better.
I try to take joy in simple things as much as I can: food, moments of levity, creating through writing or Lego elements, seeing sights of nature or human good while on the bus, and experiencing any number of arts.
I also work toward cultivating gratitude, even in difficulty.
To be honest, I’m not very good at doing ANY of these things consistently. I tend toward selfishness, conceit, and envy; but Christ in me is able to refocus my eyes and my soul toward his blessing rather than my desires. Gradually, as I decrease and he increases, I am able to better continue and develop these skills.
This was another great question, by the way.
IW: What is your vision for how your book, Stronghold, will help men?
CJ: This will sound strange but bear with me.
In my life, Stronghold is to spiritual warfare as ROCKY is to fitness. Back in 2008, I had a health scare. At the age of 26, I was told I would need to go on cholesterol medication, on a drug that my father did not need until his 50’s. I had to change my life or begin a process of fighting one illness at the price of my body spending a lifetime filtering unneeded medications.
So I dedicated myself to physical fitness and dieting. The Rocky films (and to a point, The Biggest Loser) were my coach. When I ran, I could hear Rocky’s trainer, Mickey, yelling words of perseverance. I could hear Corner Man Duke cheering Rocky against Ivan Drago. Plus, I listened to the music constantly. This helped me to survive grueling workouts day after day. It helped me go “one more round”.
My hope is that Stronghold would serve a similar function, that readers who find themselves in temptation could think, “wait, I can fight through this, like The Believer fought through this area of temptation or that memory leading to shame.” I want them to recall the Lamb’s leading The Believer through hard travel but also providing him healing. I want them to remember the Scripture and encouragements of the angelic characters so that they can hold for just a few more minutes or rebuff some new trigger.
It’s a big vision, I know, but I can attest that I have find myself recalling passage from the book at times of hardship or temptation, and they have encouraged me. So, I believe that this vision, while somewhat grandiose, is possible. I want it to serve as not only a good story but a tool toward pursing Christ and righteous living.
IW: What is one thing you think every man must do if he is going to see any significant change with regard to his habit of using porn and lust?
CJ: I believe that men need to find their anchor in Christ. This applies to all of life.
I will be honest: we are seeing a secular shift against pornography use, and those movements seem to be working. I am glad for that, BUT I cannot truly connect to those movements, because I cannot think of a strong enough anchor to defeat pornography outside of Christ himself. I need a perfect anchor. Sometimes my family upsets me; some days I have trouble caring about “wellness” or “fullness”. Some days I want to quit. I’m human. When I have anchors that can hurt me or about which I can become apathetic, I can lose my willpower.
But the Holy Spirit does not. He encourages and counsels. And Christ cannot hurt me; he cannot reject me. It’s been years since I had a day of apathy about my relationship with him, so I link myself to Christ as my Anchor, and I hold to him at all times, especially the hardest times.
What’s beautiful about this method is that it works for everyone, married and single men alike. For singles, Christ provides that source of unconditional love and a desire to live well. For married men, Christ becomes an ultimate person for whom to drive toward good, and loving him cultivates a greater love for one’s wife and children and relations and friends.
Christ is all!
One Response to “‘Stronghold’ — Part 2”
[…] James Cordrey, whose work with Intentional Warriors I highlighted on Wednesday, has offered a second piece on our interview about Stronghold and fighting or purity! Please give it a read! […]