The Not-So-Private One.
I’m a private person. This blog is like an oxymoron. No-one really knows what’s going on in somebody’s life just by looking at them. And why should I write so that you know what’s going on in mine? Who said you could be so nosy? Ha ha. I watched a video today (click here if you have a few mins to watch it) and bawled my eyes out. It’s exactly what I’ve been dealing with recently. A few weeks ago, Luke (12) was on his Whatsapp group for his class. I was checking it from time to time, and there was one kid who was messaging at midnight, with ‘hey!’ and then again first thing in the morning, and he was the first one to message the group as soon as school was out for the day. Stupid, pointless stuff. And I was SO irritated. This kid was bored, seeking attention, wasting our time, probably insecure, and clearly a trouble maker. I told Luke to steer clear of him. Well, it turned out a few days ago that the trouble maker’s mother is moving overseas for 4 years, and leaving him with elderly grandparents. Where’s the dad? Oh, he left the mom when she had the kid. Troublemaker is falling apart, very sad, and not dealing well with the whole situation. Well, that was clearly a slap up-side of the head for me from God, because I had been so quick to judge and make a character call, when really what the kid needs is support, love, and a group of cheerleaders to say, We’re here for you! Woo hoo! And a non-judgemental mother-of-a-friend to have him over for hot chocolate and cookies.
Yep, and I’m learning about sex. And porn. And culture. And teenagers. And that I want to be raptured now rather than deal with any of this. But God has been speaking to me very clearly over the last few weeks…hence this post which gives you a look beneath what appears on the outside of our lives. I’m just being obedient. I’m sweating, but I’m obedient. This is not easy. Take a deep breath, y’all, it’s gonna get hairy.
Luke (did I say he was 12?) is asking me questions like, what is a blow-job. And masturbation. He overheard the first one at school, and the second came up in sex-ed. at school, and he’s still a little sketchy on the details. Glory be. Okay, let’s just back up a minute here….
I had two older brothers. They pretty much left home before I knew it, and my sex education took place mostly in the church, or through my friends at school. My school, please note, was a Convent. Yes, an actual Convent, with nuns and all. Girls only, and any questions about more than the ‘bare’ necessities of the Biology class was frowned upon, and shushed. I asked the Lord to take over my life when I was 14. That same year, a girl brought a Cosmopolitan magazine to school because it had an article with actual photographs of men’s private parts. The girls were delighted, and were passing the magazine around during a free lesson. I knew that as a Christian (living for purity, blah blah all that), I shouldn’t look at it. And I didn’t. I didn’t even peer over someone’s shoulder, although I longed to, because I had never seen a ding-a-ling, and it would be great to know what to expect when you’re married, so as not to be surprised, you know? But the magazine was passed behind me and next to me and I never saw a ding-a-ling until my wedding night. See, even the fact that I call it a ding-a-ling can tell you how naive I was. I didn’t have my period until I was 18. Probably it had been scared into hibernation when I went on a diving tour to Germany aged 14 (that was clearly a busy year for me), and my mother realized the day before I left, aghast, that I might ‘begin’ whilst in Germany, and I didn’t have a clue. She took me into the bathroom, and showed me a tampon, and quickly explained everything. We had to skip step #1 of sanitary pads, as it was a DIVING tour. (Not sky-diving, but pool diving, in water. Got it?) I don’t remember much, except…there’s TWO holes down there?? And the tampon goes where?? Eeyew. In fact, being in an all-girls school meant I had actually seen a tampon before. I had found one that had been dropped in the school yard, and I picked it up. Clueless. I unwrapped it, threaded the string thing around my finger and swung it round and round my finger as I walked back and forth to the school gate whilst I waited to go home. Again, I don’t remember much except that my mom and her best friend who was visiting at the time nearly rolled on the floor dying of laughter when they heard my story. No explanation. Clueless continues.
Now, however, there is no time for naivety. Luke has some gaps in his understanding of all the sex ed. he gets at school, and to be honest, I am loving filling in those gaps, simply because of the purity of his thoughts and discussions right now. Some things have to be deferred to: my child, you will find this out when you are married, and it will be a delight to you and your wife. And this is so much on the other side of the trench of where we were with Joshua, and Aiden even. Aiden just sprouted 2 years ago, on the airplane from Zimbabwe to Cape Town; I think it was the altitude. When I paused long enough to look at him in South Africa, his voice had broken, his muscles had developed, he had a moustache shadow thing, and he had completely developed! It was a bit of a shock actually. When I caught sight of it one day, I ran to Heath, and screamed in a whisper, have you SEEN Aiden’s PICKLE?? It’s HUGE!! And he has HAIR! Heath was so proud. As was Aiden. I don’t remember having talks about sex with Aiden. He’s now beginning the reproductive system in Biology, in Grade 9. It’s intense, folks. He came home yesterday and announced, I am no longer calling it a ballbag…from now on, it shall be a “scrotum!” Jesting of course. Ballbag is his nickname for Joshua most of the time.
Not so for Joshua though. We have been on a different journey with this one, and it is not his fault. He was 9. He was at Kids Church, and we were the Kids Church pastors, for goodness’ sake. Not a small Kid’s Church, though…this age-group was over 500 kids. One kid at church called Joshua over and said, hey, do you wanna see a video I got from my dad’s phone? And Joshua watched an animated version of a pornographic video. What this does to my never-seen-a-ding-a-ling, tampon swinging, naive heart is untold. And yet I write this because I know if a mother has not experienced this very thing with her own children, there will be some kind of having-to-deal with it. Porn is everywhere. It’s first on the you-tube video suggestions, it’s in magazines in every store, friends’ cellphones, TV shows and music videos and lyrics. So I am walking a road that I wish on no-one, and certainly on no child, but yet is inevitable. Unavoidable. You mean we cannot protect our children? No, we can’t. But we have to help them walk this treacherous road, and become stronger for it. Joshua did not tell us about that once-off viewing of a video until he was 14, when we discovered he was struggling with porn. And the way that day unfolded was recorded by me on a Word document, so I would not forget, and to try and process what was happening. I have decided to just copy and paste it here, in it’s raw form:
6th May 2012 . Joshua is 14 years old.
In conversation with Joshua one Sunday afternoon, Heath sensed that all was not well. He pushed and quizzed him about his attitude, and outlook, and why Josh was never comfortable being close to Heath when wrestling, or hugging, etc. Joshua, quiet, finally asked to speak to Heath on his own.
It turns out that Joshua had gotten involved in watching porn on the internet. He doesn’t have much time on the computer, but there was frequent occasions when he would be home alone for a short time, and he typed in ‘bikini’ or other words, which then exposed him, and he got deeper to the point where he was watching videos. This had been going on for about two to three months.
To write about it even pains me too much, and I went through deep depression that particular day, weeping like never before, distraught over the fact that my baby’s innocence was gone, never to get it back again. I feel like a failure and a hypocrite. Heath too, has gone through hours of lament and hopelessness and despair. Every Christian song I hear brings me to tears, and it’s all I can do to keep myself together on some days.
I found a book I had bought for Joshua called Tribe, a devotional book to help young men be devoted to purity. I had bought it a year ago, but felt it was too graphic for Joshua to read as it spoke a lot about porn. Ironic. Heath started working through the book with Joshua every night. I pray for Joshua every day that he will become stronger, and not faint in the day of battle. There are days when the despair is overwhelming…will he struggle with this forever? How did this happen? How could I be so naïve, so trusting, so stupid so stupid so stupid. Of all the people, I should’ve known how easy it is to get exposed to stuff on the internet. Yet I thought a few lessons and conversations about ‘bouncing’* would save him. Never thought he would innocently type in some words to see what happened, and get sucked into something which would change his life forever.
I have realised more than ever God’s grace. His grace to get us through when life doesn’t seem worth living. When everything we’ve worked for means nothing in one moment of time. When you wonder why you have to struggle through everything here on earth… I can honestly say He has sustained us, made us stronger, more reliant on Him.
*bouncing- when watching TV programmes, adverts or movies, often a brief scene of nudity or sex will appear, and we had instructed our boys to ‘bounce’- close their eyes, or turn away, so as not to be exposed any further. Taken from the book “Every Man’s Battle.”
One video at age 9. Typing ‘bikini’ at age 14. A relapse when his hard drive was replaced on his computer, and a relapse when he got a new phone, and his parents were too stupid, too slow in putting up safeguards. This is not a one-day battle. This is a battle for his life, his marriage, his family. And we’re working hard at purity. Why am I telling you this? Because I’m tired of pretending that I’m all alone, because I know the size of this monster, and I know in our families, we’re ALL dealing with this. Even if you’re a grandparent who lets the grandkids play on their smartphone. Even if a pre-teen is not on the internet, but on a messaging group, there will come a day when he or she is sent a picture that is meant to hook them into the start of it all. We have to be ready. We have to be talking to them now, all the time. Not a “take a seat on the couch for the next hour while I lecture you about the dangers of porn” talk, but more of a daily discussion of everything that comes up that forms their view towards such things- the way they interact with people on their phones, the music they listen to and the discernment that they ought to be developing, their fixation with their hair (seriously, the boys use more hair products in one month that I do in a lifetime) and how it borders dangerously on vanity and focus on outward appearance more than the heart. It’s the smaller issues that lead to the bigger ones. I have realised that there is never ever everrrrrrr a day off as a parent. Even if you’re sitting watching a movie together, you’re mindful of the worldviews that the programme is portraying to your children, and finding out what goes on in those brains of theirs. Swimming upstream, people, swimming upstream. Just keep swimming.
I could now write several lists here for your convenience, if you’re a parent. “10 ways to help your teenager understand the dangers of porn.” “7 guidelines for your tween when using a smartphone.” And of course, the bestseller, “How not to kill your child when he does it again.” But there is a wonderful world of resources out there, to help and strengthen and support. The Bible says in Proverbs 2 to tune our ears to wisdom, and concentrate on understanding, to cry out for insight, and ask for understanding. Believe me, that’s what I’ve been doing. I am now no longer afraid to keep Joshua accountable to read an article everyday from the resources I comb through, something that will keep him focused on what it is he is working on; and to pray, read the Bible and do a worship song DAILY. How can he reach purity of anything when he’s not sowing anything pure? And for me, I’m like the Russian mafia when a child invites one of my younger children for a play date, and I don’t know them. I phone the mother (like…I mean a LIVE phone call…talking in real time! Horrors, I know! I mean, who the heck does that anymore?) and I ASK about what devices my child will be on when he’s at their house. If the only device available is a swimming pool and bicycle, all is well, but if there is a tablet/smartphone or computer, I may have to begin making threats. But the risks are high, the stakes are high, and I’m willing to sacrifice my reputation to protect the kids!
From here, I can’t guarantee anything. I pray, I install filters and safeguards- so good that they actually filter the articles that I email to Joshua- sickly ironic, right? I keep Joshua accountable to do what we know will help him, and we just keep swimming.
This one particular scripture has been an anchor for us: Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7
And now, a word from Joshua himself:
Hey yo everyone, so this is Josh, the one everybody loves.
AND the one who had to learn the hard way how vital purity really is in a young man’s life. Especially in the hectic world we live in today. So, my origin story has already been told but the hardships coming after that were even more devastating for me than I would’ve thought possible. At first I thought nothing of my new found addiction, which I found myself looking forward to every day, and I would unfortunately only realize the weight of the guilt that comes with this addiction later on. Firstly, porn completely messes up your priorities and it messes up your connection with God.
Then…. female friends. I was honestly a very shy person and never dreamed of having a girlfriend nor did I even know that people kissed girls other than their moms. Shock and horror for me. Yet something changed in me over time and I began to look at my female friends with lust, not innocent friendship.
I remember people teaching me from a very young age that Jesus takes us and loves us no matter what we have done and that we must never let our sin keep us away from God, so while I was still very little, I promised God that I would always come back to Him, regardless (didn’t know what that word meant back then, but hey) of my sin. So with that in mind, let’s continue. I began to grow more distant from both God and my family, and even though I didn’t know it at the time, when I look back I see how faaar away I had drifted. That’s another thing that porn can do to you, it can (and you’re pretty much powerless to stop this) wrench you away from any godly commitments you may have made and it can ruin the solid family foundation you may have by breaking trust and placing distance between you and your family members.
One day while I was getting lost in my many thoughts at school I remembered that promise that I had made to God, but I decided that I was too dirty to come back to God, and even though I was deep in a well of temptation and ‘far from God,’ I was freaked out beyond comprehension. Yet even when I felt so far and hopeless and powerless and useless, even when I felt this way, God was always there and slowly reminded me of the joy I had while living in Him. Now even though I remembered this promise, I didn’t do anything, I couldn’t act upon it or even bring myself to stop. Porn took away my will to fight, that’s why it is SO hard to stop, you don’t want to because it is now a part of your lifestyle.
So how on earth do you flee something that chains you down? How do you break something that changes the very way you think? Well, YOU don’t but JESUS does. Because you are like a muddied spring and only Jesus can cleanse you. Now I have to act in faith, because my flesh is strong and I have to fight it everyday. But please understand that it is NOT a day by day fight, it is a second by second fight- it is fighting to control the 50 000 odd thoughts running wild through my brain, most of which are sexual and displeasing to God. So I wrestle with it, because only by actively fighting- even though I am outmatched- can Jesus really move in me and transform me from the deformed state of my mind into a reformed being that seeks to give glory to God in everything, not seeking the pleasure of the flesh.
So that is a word (okay, many words) from me, my side of everything. God bless.
Lots of love to you all.
p.s. I am happy to refer all the resources, articles and websites that have been useful and instrumental in this process of healing. Let me know if you want them.