Hope and Healing for the Sexually Broken

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A heads up: this post is about pornography, lust, masturbation, and sexual orientation, but more importantly it’s about a woman calling out to God in her desperate need and God answering her with Himself. Before you read it, please remember something that normally goes without saying: people have the right to share their lived experiences, not to stir controversy or create dissent, but to highlight the spectrum of human experience.

We love Jessica’s post because it deals honestly with tricky, hot-button, heartbreakingly human struggles. And how else to talk about hot-button issues then by sharing our stories? If your story, healing journey, or theology is different, we invite you to share it respectfully in the comments, on your own blog, or by submitting your own true tale to us. We realize that many people have differing opinions, convictions, and biblical interpretation surrounding these issues, even as editors we have a wide range of beliefs among us. We welcome everyone’s story.

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Yes, Jesus loves me. Yes, Jesus loves me. Yes, Jesus loves me. The Bible tells me so.

Do you remember singing that song as a little girl? Belting it out at the top of your lungs in a Sunday dress. Maybe you even threw in some basic sign language. Maybe as a mom, you have taught it to your own little ones. Such a simple truth.

Yes, Jesus Loves Me.

We believe it as children and we teach it to children, because children are the epitome of innocence. Who doesn’t love children? And who don’t children trust? Of course, Jesus loves me! The Bible tells me so. It is just that simple.

But somewhere along the way, some of us get lost. What once was a sure truth we sang becomes a nagging question and doubt. Does Jesus Love me? It becomes a source of shame and condemnation. How could Jesus love me?

Even though I had grown up in church, I did not become a Christian until I was 17. By that point, I was already in the throes of a significant addiction to pornography. In a way, I hoped that knowing Jesus would make it all stop. I could be like those former drug addicts who met Jesus and quit cold turkey. That did not happen. If anything, it got worse.

Since my first exposure at 13, porn had grown to take control over my life. By the time I graduated high school, I was losing sleep to pornography, masturbation, and a world of dark erotic fantasy I had created. Nearly all day, every day, in some way I was engaging in porn or lust. At school, I would look up erotica websites at lunch. At home, I would watch hardcore porn until my mom got home (sometimes very late at night). Then, I would stay up fantasizing or watching the “snow” on the adult channels on cable, just waiting for a scene to sneak through. I would sleep a couple hours before getting up to go to school, and the cycle would start again.

When I went off to college, as a new Christian, I would skip classes to search for porn online. I would stay up all night watching pornography while my roommate slept in the top bunk about five feet behind me.

It was not long before I got caught. It was an answer to prayer because I did not have any idea how to go about confessing my problem. “Hi, my name is Jessica and I’m addicted to porn” seemed like an unwise introduction, but if I got caught and someone asked, I knew I could handle “yes.”

The day I was called to the dean’s office, I knew it was time. On the desk in front of me sat an open folder containing a printed report of all of the pornographic sites accessed on my account. However, instead of “Jessica, did you do this?” I was told, “We know this wasn’t you, women just don’t have this problem.”

I walked back to my dorm room completely crushed, confused, and hopeless. Just weeks before I had been reveling in a new understanding of how much God loved me, but that day in my dorm room, I doubted He loved me at all. I felt like a freak. Less than human. Messed up. Unlovable. I told God He had to have made a mistake because apparently I could not be saved.

That started a horrible spiral of confusion which led me to questioning my sexuality due to the way my body responded to various pornography. In chat rooms, I began to identify as bisexual (an identity I can still struggle with). Every moment it seemed I added to the list of “ways Jessica is screwed up.”

I finally determined that the only way I would be able to live with myself was to become an adult actress. If any woman on the world is okay with pornography, it’s a woman in it, right? I gave up all my dreams of medical school and being a doctor and instead resigned myself to the future I “deserved.” This was all I was worth.

I was 17 when a man asked me for pictures. From my dorm room on a Christian college campus, I sent them.

I had grown up in the church. A conservative church at that. I had just professed faith in Jesus a couple months prior, and then, there I was, entangled in child pornography.

Does Jesus love me?

Needless to say, the answer was a very strong no. There was no way Jesus could love me. I was certain I could not be loved. I was no longer just a girl addicted to pornography, I was the only woman in the world who even watched pornography (or so I felt). Not only that, I was becoming someone else’s pornography. It was such a dark, broken, and hopeless place. I felt dead.

The next few months are honestly a blur. I dropped out of school and spent my days completely at home, watching porn, cybering, and trying to pretend I had my life together. Looking back, though, I can assure you of one thing. He never stopped loving me, in fact, it was as if He started chasing me.

It’s an aspect of love we do not think of often, but one that we, as women, appreciate. When little girls sing, “Yes, Jesus loves me” it is often with the idea of a Father. A father’s love is always there for you, picks you up off the ground, kisses the hurts and gives you good things. As a young woman, though, I encountered God’s love as that of a lover, jealous for my heart.

During my time at home I had come to believe that I could still love Jesus and watch pornography, that it was acceptable and had a valid place in my life. My hypersexuality was just part of how God made me, and I could not change that. But I could still love Him, right? And He would still love me. We could work out an arrangement.

I applied to Bible college.

I tried my hardest to make life work with a main dish of God and a little lust on the side, but God is a jealous lover. I struggled through my first semester to “reconnect” with God. And that’s when He finally caught up to me.

During an all-women’s meeting at the college, the dean of women said, point blank, “We know some of you struggle with pornography and masturbation, and we’re going to help you.” I could feel a little flicker of hope in my heart. Maybe I can still get out of this.

I sat in shock for a bit, and then the tears fell. I confessed that night, and while I would love to say that made it all better and life was fields of roses after that, it wasn’t. In fact, when I walked out of the meeting that night I felt more hopeless than when I had walked in.

Confession had been the last hope I was desperately holding on to.

I had tried to break free on my own and that did not work. I had been caught, and that led to disastrous results. If I confessed and that did not work, the depths I could fall to terrified me. What if this was not a safe place? What if they were not really willing to help me?

My fears were unfounded, though, and later that night, a member of the dean staff came to me and said, “What you wrote down was brave and we’re going to help you.” 

In that moment, it was as if that flicker of hope fanned into a forest fire, shedding light on all of the years of lies I had believed. While I often reflect on that night as a “freedom” point in my journey, it was not like the pornography stopped then. I still desired it, still wanted it, and still watched it—a lot. Recovery was a long, painful, and messy road.    

There were plenty of moments when the journey out of pornography felt pointless. It was very much two steps forward and three steps back at times. I would think I was getting better and then would fall again and I would be so frustrated, and angry, and hurt. Damage can lead some of us to pornography, but the fact is, we all walk away from pornography damaged.

The process I went through was less of “stop porn now” and more about healing the hurts that led me to porn and the hurts caused by porn. In the midst of all the pain, failure, and struggle, there was healing. It was well over a year before I felt like I had the strength to say no to pornography.  Even now, ten years later, there are still rare days when I fall. Days when I decide to go back and relive the pleasure even though I know it is not worth it. 

My heart is still healing. My mind is still healing. For years, I believed lies about my own worth, identity, relationships, and how to love. One by one, each of those lies has to be pulled up by the roots and be replaced with truth. 

The biggest truth of all, and one that never ceases to blow my mind, is the truth I sang as a little girl.  In the moments when I doubt, when the devil points a finger at my stained past, when I feel like I’m defective or failing, or like I could never be loved, I sing that truth yet again: 

Yes, Jesus loves me. Yes, Jesus loves me. Yes, Jesus loves me. The Bible tells me so.

 

Jessica Harris

Writer and Speaker at Beggar's Daughter
Writer. Speaker. Christian. Former porn addict. Grateful victim of Grace. Communicating the truth of God's grace to women trapped in sexual sin.

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  • Jessica,

    I am so grateful for you raw honesty. I know women struggle with this! In fact, I am speaking at a retreat this weekend and I mention it in one of my messages. At first, I thought, really, Lord? Should I really mention porn addiction addressing women? The answer was clear that I was to leave it in my message. The message is on Luke 7:36-50 which shows us the women with the alabaster jar who risked everything to come to Jesus and who was also considered one of the worst of sinners. That woman is every one of us as women! It doesn’t matter what we have done, yes He loves us! Yes! Yes! Yes!

    You are brave, dear one! So brave and we need you to keep sharing so women who are sinking in shame can borrow some of your bravery and find hope and healing in Christ!

    I am so grateful also for the person who came to you and encouraged you and was prepared to help. We need these people, too! I think they are a rarity because people,don’t quite know what to do with women addicted to porn. Why is that any different than women who keep giving themselves to different men? Or who lie? Or shoplift? Or secretly hate another sister in Christ out of envy?

    We are the ones God runs to and embraces and refuses to let us go!

    Thank you again! Now I have a resource in case anyone needs some direction after I speak.

    Held, consumed, kissed by God,
    Trish

  • Thank you for sharing your story. We can all fall desperately far into sin. Thank God for grace. I pray your story reaches just the right women.

  • Jessica,
    THANK YOU! My husband has been addicted to pornography for more than 20 years, long before we met and married. We are now 5 years post-affair but still struggling to battle this and find victory. It is so helpful to me to read about what it is like to have an addiction and how long the process is. It helps me stay in the fight to know that complete healing doesn’t always come or come quickly. The past five years has felt like a long time but it’s really not considering how long he has been addicted. Thank you for writing this and for sharing so openly.

  • I am so thankful for you and your willingness to share your heart with us. I am always moved by stories of sexual redemption, we’re all broken in so many ways, and I count myself in your company. I’ve used the same things as comfort, escape, and distraction . . . look, I can’t even write it out loud! I’ve used porn and masturbation as well and it became a stronghold in my life. I’ve also struggled with same-sex attraction for most of my life which made everything exponentially worse: the fear, isolation, and shame. I’ve walked (and still walk) that road to recovery, and have found that healing doesn’t hardly ever look like I want it to or happen when I want it to, but God still surprises me with how he loves and restores. Thank you for opening up the conversation, for giving us the gift of going first.

  • wow. sweet one i am sitting here just crying at the pain you have been through. thank you. thank you for your honesty and truth. it is so rare that i find another woman brave enough to admit sexual addictions. thank you for being a voice for so many…….

  • Just – wow. This is such a remarkable and beautiful story. You are an amazing writer. And I’m so glad you told that story because I know that so many women struggle with pornography and, like you did, they struggle in utter silence because of the special shame reserved for women who look at porn. I’m so thankful for the dean staff who offered to help. May we have more in the church with that attitude!