It was the mid 1990s and my porn addiction was raging.
Like all addicts, i was torn. One the one hand, i was enraptured with my drug, and the rush it brought was irreplaceable. On the other hand, i hated that it ruled me. i despised myself and i loathed my life. i wanted to be rid of my addiction, but simultaneously i wished i could lose myself in it and never come back.
To say i was tortured would not even begin to describe my situation.
i would drive in my car and crank at max volume the music of Vigilantes of Love, singing my heart out to songs such as “Welcome to Struggleville,” “Babylon,” “Blister Soul,” and “Unsuccessful,” among so many others.
The words were deeply honest, astonishingly prophetic, and uniquely resonant with my soul.
The music was powerful. Some songs rocked ferociously, mirroring the tumult of my situation. Others were achingly beautiful ballads that broke my heart.
One song in particular — “Driving the Nails” — grabbed hold of me. i found myself screaming out the lyrics every time i listened to it.
Now in the graveyard of my secrets there’s a hope buried beneath…
There’s an unwanted mistress in my bed late at night/ she says: “I know you, you’re a criminal, you’ve been on death row all your life…”
You gotta fill this stinking shell of false humanity/ fill it up with bullet holes from your firing squad of mercy…
I’ve been driving the nails firmly in Your tree/ You’ve been talking to Your Father on behalf of me/ Nothing at these checkpoints i care to defend/ So why do I raise the hammer up and drive the nails again?
My car was a confessional. i screamed and shouted these lyrics, declaring my pathetic state. i was crying out for mercy. i was making cathartic attempts at repentance. i was full of hopeful anger juxtaposed with resignation, as the songs tapped the raw nerve of my helplessness and defeat.
i was clinging to the last shred of truth i could find even as i was deeply divided in my soul about what was actually true anymore.
As Vigilantes of Love sing in “Aftermath”: there’s a little bit of truth out there, it may not be enough/ to save a world where everyone’s demons are their best friends. If you cannot cast them out, you learn to live with them.
Things were bad. And they were getting worse.
Surprisingly, or perhaps not, i was a Christian that whole time. i had a relationship with Jesus. But whatever truth Jesus had to offer on my situation, it was of little or no consequence. It couldn’t seem to touch my horrific reality.
My addiction went viral and then i crashed.
Looking back on that time, i now realize all these years later that i was caught in a war that i hardly recognized and i completely misunderstood. Worse than that, there were no men to lead me into that war and train me how to fight as i journeyed through it.
The issue was then, as it is now, much bigger than the battle to stop sinning. But even that notion i had to learn much later, as there were no men to lead me into the crucial levels of understanding regarding the war that i required.
The reason porn seemed vital to my life back then was because the combination of my wounds, my choices, and the activity of a very real enemy interested in devouring me, held my heart captive. i was captive to shame, fear, accusation, a search for affirmation and validation, endless attacks on my masculinity, and countless other lies about my identity.
In short, porn was everything to me then. It was my escape. It was my way of feeling like a man. It was my way of connecting to something that made me feel alive. Porn was where i went for life, and although i didn’t realize it then, it was divine desire gone sideways.
Yes, divine desire. The things i was trying to get from porn were all good things that God had for me, i simply was going to the wrong fountain for a drink.
The war was, and continues to be, for a free heart. In Psalm 118:32, the psalmist writes: “i run in the path of Your commands, for You have set my heart free.”
Everything flows from the heart. It must be fought for, however, because it is under siege by a vicious adversary, Satan.
John Eldredge has said:
The story of your life is the story of the journey of your heart through a dangerous and beautiful world. It is the story of the long and sustained assault on your heart by the enemy who knows who you could be and fears you. But it is also the story of the long and mysterious pursuit of your heart by God who knows you truly and loves you deeply.
This is what i needed to know back when i was screaming “Driving the Nails” in my car in the mid 1990s. This is the story i needed a man to lead me into, as he called out of me the warrior identity that God has put in my DNA. Without embracing my warrior identity there was no way i could fight.
i was oblivious to the fact that this world is a world at war. i would still be oblivious to it if i had not crashed and burned in my addiction. i had to hit rock bottom, and then i could get on a war footing — as the Brits would say.
When you finally see that you live in a world at war, you understand why the warrior is essential. Everything valuable in this life; everything that matters, is opposed by the enemy who knows who you could be and fears you.
The enemy’s goal is to pin us down and hold us hostage, so we must fight for free hearts.