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Sexual sin hurts.
In the act, it doesn’t seem like it will leave deep scars. It does.
I got addicted to pornography. I never envisioned that would happen to me. I thought that happened to creepy old men and immature boys. I don’t fit into either of those categories. But I did become enslaved as an innocent teenage girl. I couldn’t even tell you how the first page was opened on my computer screen. I don’t think I was seeking it out. Maybe an unwanted popup opened — I don’t know. However, when that first image got there, I didn’t turn it off. There was something mysterious and unknown about it. I knew that it was bad, but I didn’t care. I didn’t get hooked on it right away, but I did come back to it. In an occasional moment of desolation and idleness, there I was in my sinful ways trying to figure out what was so beautiful about the human body, why it gave me the thrill it did. I would always end up slamming the laptop screen down at some point, upset with myself. I carried a lot of guilt, but it wasn’t heavy enough to cause me to stop.
I could always convince myself that this wasn’t hurting anyone and no one had to know. I continued this way for a while until I became the girl on the screen being preyed upon by strangers’ eyes. Luckily, it didn’t take me long to realize that I was stripping myself of my dignity. I resolved that I was done with my involvement in internet porn. I didn’t do very well. I found myself feeling unsatisfied with my own reality and looked back to instantaneous gratification through unchaste images of people I would never know. After several failed resolutions to quit, I was really determined that I was done with porn for good.
Around the same time, I was asking a lot of existential questions and ended up wandering back to the Church. I was rather excited to be back, and I felt ready and enthused to be a full participant in the Church. Except for confession — I didn’t want anything to do with that. I knew confession would force me to confront my sins and my shame. I also had not been to confession since I was in the fourth grade, and the exercise was scary enough for me as a ten year old confessing that I had lied to my mother about walking in the street. I was not going to go tell all of my painful, embarrassing secrets to a priest.
At the time I was dating a young man who practiced his faith, but he certainly was not one to push it on others. He was, however, interested in my recent conversion. One night the topic of confession came up, and I was quick to share that I would not be going to confession ever. He was insistent that confession was one of the best parts of being Catholic. I didn’t understand what he meant and I dropped the conversation, but a week later found myself in a confession line.
I went in feeling unforgivable, unloved, alone, scared, and confused. I couldn’t imagine a God who could love me. I didn’t remember how confession worked, but I spilled out all of the sins that were haunting me to a priest that I now know had just been ordained. I have never experienced God’s love and mercy more profoundly than in that confession. The priest explained to me that my past doesn’t define me, but that my identity as a daughter of God does. He explained how much Christ loves me and desires for me to be in a relationship of love with Him. And, most importantly, he told me that no sin can ever get in the way of Christ’s perfect love for us if we are open to receiving it. In absolution my chains were broken and I started to receive Christ’s healing love.
I wish I could say that the wounds of sin could be wiped away entirely by confession or some special prayer or act, but I cannot. Confession perfectly repairs our relationship with God, but it doesn’t rewrite the past. It does, however, allow us to reorient ourselves in our walk with God. It gave me the grace to understand who I am in God’s eyes and never to turn back to pornography. I still am shameful of what I did and I am still aware of the scars it left, but through Christ’s infinite love I don’t have to dwell on my past; rather, I can set my eyes on heaven.
addiction, body, conversion, dating, grace, healing, mercy, pornography, sex, sin
“Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his mercy endures forever.”