Tag Archiv: Jesus Christ

Out of Darkness – Part 9

In part 8, I shared about how although I had received a taste of freedom, I still had some chains that God had to break. In this concluding part, discover how my desires were transformed to seek out only what is true, good, and beautiful.

Getting to the root of my desire

Over the course of the next year, while doing some pro-life work in St. Augustine, Florida, I got in touch with an Evangelical couple who were trained in Theophostic Prayer Ministry (TPM). They began to work on healing my shame and anger and I experienced a little bit of emotional reprieve. I returned to Steubenville in February of 2008 where I met with my former Spiritual Director once again. He mentioned he knew of something more effective than TPM for me. Something better? Sign me up!

He gave me the number of a traumatologist who used a unique form of intensive trauma therapy (ITT). She explained what happens to the brain in a traumatic event, how the right and left are affected by such events, and that I needed to have my brain rewired so I could form new neural pathways. This would not be done by anything as drastic as shock therapy, but rather the whole process involved drawing and writing. She further explained that ITT is designed to bring light to darkness, truth to lies, and wholeness to disintegration.

I was skeptical that something so simple could bring me healing, but I was in such emotional pain that I was willing to do whatever was required to break free. Over the course of one week, working eight hours a day, I drew pictures and wrote, going through all of the traumatic events I had experienced, not the least of these which was the sexual abuse of pornography. After day one, upon walking out of the office, everything seemed brighter, as if a veil had been lifted from my eyes. During day two, as I was processing one of my traumas, I literally felt a weight lift off of me. Something oppressive left my body and I could breathe easier. On the third day, a Wednesday in April 2008, I experienced my own resurrection: the pain in my face significantly lifted and the shame that had kept me locked in fear of entering into intimacy with others was eviscerated. I had been infused with joy and felt as though I could fly! The love I had experienced from coming to know my Heavenly Father began surging through me and I had a deep sense of peace, finally being comfortable in my own skin.

I finished my time in ITT and, as the weeks passed, I realized the what I had experienced was not temporary. I had received a substantial healing and my shame had really been absorbed by genuine love. I finally felt as though I was in possession of myself, able to freely live my life as a gift.

Later in 2008 I was invited to speak at a men’s retreat in Chicago, where I shared my testimony and this new-found healing from shame. At that retreat, I learned that one key antidote to pornography is sacred art, particularly with images of the body being unveiled appropriately. In meditating on these images, I discovered the full truth about the male and female body. My blindness was finally removed and I was able to put final nail in the coffin of my attraction to pornography.

Late have I loved you, O Beauty ever ancient, ever new, late have I loved you! You were within me, but I was outside, and it was there that I searched for you. In my unloveliness I plunged into the lovely things which you created. You were with me, but I was not with you. Created things kept me from you; yet if they had not been in you they would not have been at all. You called, you shouted, and you broke through my deafness. You flashed, you shone, and you dispelled my blindness. You breathed your fragrance on me; I drew in breath and now I pant for you. I have tasted you, now I hunger and thirst for more. You touched me, and I burned for your peace. – St. Augustine

For Freedom's Sake Christ has set you free. – Gal 5:1

For freedom’s sake Christ has set you free. – Gal 5:1

Transformed

By the grace of God, I can boldly proclaim: I HAVE NO DESIRE TO LOOK AT PORNOGRAPHY. This false desire has been crucified in me and I am a man resurrected with the fire of love in my heart. The lustful images our world so highly idolizes are a weak, whimpering thing compared with the glorious grandeur of seeing the human body displayed as God has intended. I would rather die than lust. Because of this redeemed vision, I am able to do even more effective work for which God has created me, as long as I continue to humbly say yes to Him.

One of the benefits of receiving this redeemed vision led me to one of my heart’s greatest desires: my wife, Valerie. We were blessed to be married in June of 2009 and, as a testament to the Truth that God’s great love is so much greater than any of the false “loves” pornography can tempt me with, He revealed to me what true sexual pleasure is supposed to be.

On the night of our wedding, soon after we had consummated our marriage, something unexpected happened: I laughed. This big, bellyaching laugh rose out of me. My wife knew everything about me, but there was neither shame nor disgrace. Precisely because of the grace of the Sacrament of Marriage, we experienced a profound union in becoming one flesh, something I had been seeking in all of those images but had never attained. Finally, the joy of the marital act was gifted to us and there was peace, a peace that lust just cannot give.

That was not the best part. About fifteen months later, a little person came forth from my wife who changed me forever. Although conceived nine months prior, on September 15, 2010, I held in my arms one of the deepest meanings of my masculinity: my daughter, Isabella Rose, was living proof of the father God had destined me to become. The fruitlessness of pornography was transformed into a fruitfulness that has changed the planet, for every birth recreates the world anew. I am eternally grateful to my Heavenly Father for the privilege to participate in this great and noble calling (He has since blessed us with another daughter, Francesca Grace, and perhaps more little Pokornys in the future).

In response to my restored masculinity and redeemed freedom, I began Freedom Coaching, a one-on-one mentoring system designed to break the bondage of those ensnared by pornography. So many good men are blind to the authentic beauty of women — and Satan desires to keep them in darkness. Because Satan neutralizes these men, women and children become easy targets. My work is a life-long penance for all the times I said “no” to His love. In reality, I know I can never repay what Christ has done for me, as everything is a gift, even my falls that led me to the heart of the Father. It is my hope that if men can reclaim the meaning of their masculinity and pledge their sacred honor to the dignity of all women and children in their lives, we will see the culture of love and life blossom in the world.

The genuine freedom from pornography I have experienced and the renewal I received are not exceptions to the rule; they can and should be the norm for all men and women. This is not some pipe-dream, but a genuine possibility — and the destiny to which we are called.

In order for this happen, we have to believe this liberation is possible, allowing our Father to come into even the darkest corners of our hearts. We have to recover genuine purity and sexual integration. This is only possible by learning how to see – not as the world does, but with a redeemed, divine vision. Then we will be able to see and experience the full truth of love, something the false “beauty” of pornography can never capture.

[Picture of John Paul]

At World Youth Day in Toronto in 2002, Saint John Paul the Great said, “We are not a sum total of our mistakes and failures. We are the sum total of our Father’s love for us.” I am a witness to this hope, proclaiming to a world in darkness that the Father does not see us as mistakes but as sons and daughters who are loved beyond measure. I pray my testimony may plant seeds of this hope and give birth to a redeemed sexuality, and thus effect a great healing in countless men and women on their journeys to true freedom.

To read the whole story, as well as learn how to overcome the power of pornified images, as well as to transform our pornified culture, check out Redeemed Vision: Setting the Blind Free from Pornography, coming soon. Comment below so you can be notified as to when Redeemed Vision is released.

Steve Pokorny is the founder of freedom-coaching.net, a one-on-one mentoring system devoted to breaking the power of pornified images. If you or someone you care about is hooked on porn, click on the link above to learn how you can be set free.

Out of Darkness – Part 8

In part 7, I shared about how God had broken the chain of lust. Here we see that there was still more work to be done to be done with the snare of pornography forever.

Not out yet

Like Peter, I was out of the boat and drowning in my false desires; from Ivan Aivazovsky, 1888.

Like Peter, I was out of the boat and drowning in my false desires; from Ivan Aivazovsky, 1888.

I wish I could say that from that moment on I had no problems with pornography. For about four months, it was true; I had total access to the Internet in my room but I had absolutely no desire to look at porn. I was stupefied by what had happened and wanted to tell the world. Moved by the gift of love poured out on me and by the freedom I had experienced, I wanted to share this message of true sexual freedom with the world. I gave my testimony at a graduate student retreat and thought I had truly said good-bye to my past. But like Peter who took His eyes off of Christ and tripped on the waves, I took my eyes off Christ and sank really hard into the septic tank. I felt the “pull of the flesh” again and could not resist the grip of lust around my heart. I became discouraged, questioning whether the healing I had experienced was genuine. I cynically wondered if anything good could really last.

Although my falls became less and less frequent, there were times when I felt the impulse to lust and masturbate and I just could not say no. After a few falls, I threw up my hands and said it was not worth fighting anymore. Although my housemates and I no longer had the Internet because we wanted to save money, that external constraint was not enough. When the urge hit, I did not let anything in my way – not the grace of daily Mass, nor the fact that I would not be able to fall asleep because my conscience was bothering me so badly, nor the reality that I would have to wait multiple days before I could go to confession to receive the peace I needed to quiet my soul. All I wanted was to look more and more and I slumped back into my cycle once again.

One time, I had to scratch the itch of lust so badly that I sat on the covered back porch of my neighbor’s house with cold, pouring rain all around me to use his wireless connection while he was out of town. It did not mater that I was probably going to get sick from the cold rain. It did not matter that it was nearly 5:30 am and I still had not found that one image to quench my desire. It did not matter that this action could destroy my reputation as “Mr. Theology of the Body.”1 It did not matter that I had a girlfriend I really wanted to love. I did not care. The beast needed to feed. Like all the other times, the burn was bad and the shame was back worse than ever. My anxiety level was sky high, from both the fear of getting caught and that I had turned my back on God.

Still programmed

Looking back on that incident, I realized what happened. Although a great deal of my heart had tasted real love and I was seeking out pornography less and less, my brain was still enslaved to the images. My neural pathways were still programmed to respond in a lustful way to these images and had incredible power over me. Although my heart was open to the light, I was still blind and in need of having my brain rewired.

Through my discussions with my spiritual director on the campus of Franciscan University, I revealed I had a deep sadness that I could physically feel on the left side of my face. I had this for years and had no explanation for it. He recommended Theophostic Prayer Ministry (TPM). In TPM, a person enters into intensive prayer, recognizing his emotions are like smoke leading to the fire of what is occurring in his heart. Because I was so disconnected from my emotions, I found this process very difficult. However, I did receive some relief and light shone in my darkness. What was revealed was that the pain I was experiencing was directly connected to misusing my sexuality for so many years. Layers of shame had been bottled up inside of me and I had been prevented from experiencing my emotions in the way that God had intended.

Neurologically, this makes sense, for all misuse of our sexuality is traumatic. Because trauma especially affects our emotional processing, if someone continually abuses his sexuality, eventually he will essentially stop processing his emotions. All that remains is emotional numbness.

Yep. This is about how I felt.

Yep. This is about how I felt.

I came to discover that underneath all my shame was a raging volcano of anger that was beginning to boil over. My suppressed emotions had been covered over by my shame for so long that in 2007, when at the John Paul II Institute for Marriage and Family Studies in Washington, D.C., something happened that deeply frightened me. One classmate said something I did not like and I vividly felt as though I was going to transform into a Hulk-like creature, toss desks out of the way, and strangle him. I did not know how long I would be able to keep a lid on this molten lava. I knew I needed assistance, but because nothing had really worked to heal my shame and anger in the past, I felt helpless.

To be concluded…

To read the whole story, as well as learn how to overcome the power of pornified images, as well as to transform our pornified culture, check out Redeemed Vision: Setting the Blind Free from Pornography, coming soon. Comment below so you can be notified as to when Redeemed Vision is released.

Steve Pokorny is the founder of freedom-coaching.net, a one-on-one mentoring system devoted to breaking the power of pornified images. If you or someone you care about is hooked on porn, click on the link above to learn how you can be set free.

1 A pet name I was gaining around campus because of the many Theology of the Body talks I gave on campus.

Out of Darkness – Part 7

In part 6, I shared about how I was being called to a different vocation than priesthood. In this post, come see how every wound in my past was baptized in the redemption of Jesus Christ.


Discovering God’s plan for humanity

During the summer of 2002, my friend Ellen gave me an audiotape. Thinking it was just another apologetics tape, she told me, “Just listen to it.” When I popped it in, it changed my life forever. It was a presentation by Catholic theologian and author Christopher West who was explaining the Truth about the human person and the gift of sexuality. My jaw hit the floor. I realized this vision of life — this understanding of what it means to be male and female — was everything for which I had been searching!

Light breaking through darkness

For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. — Jeremiah 29:11

Saint John Paul the Great’s unveiling of God’s glorious plan for our lives brought about a mixture of emotions. On the one hand, I experienced great hope, realizing I was not abandoned in my struggle for sexual purity. On the other, I felt a deep pain because I was so far from where I needed to be and had no plan in place to break free from the chains binding me. It sounded almost surreal: “Could this message be true? Could I really be set free from my lusts?” I could relate intimately to the words of St. Paul, “I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate” (Romans 7:15). My body and soul were crying out, “How long, O Lord?” I had known for a long time that the pixilated images of women would never satisfy the deep ache within me, but merely knowing such information was only one part of the answer. I needed to have a radical heart transplant to be set free to love.

After finishing a very painful experiment of teaching high school theology for a year, I was accepted for the masters program in theology at Franciscan University of Steubenville in Ohio. Little did I know, God had much more in store for me than a degree in theology and catechetics. Among many things, one of the attractions of Franciscan is its world-renowned charismatic prayer events, known as Festivals of Praise. Picture 2,000 people united, praising God in song. At my first service, it became apparent God was beginning His work in me. One of the Scripture verses proclaimed several times that night was Isaiah 43:19: “Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?” Through a crack in my stony heart, living waters were beginning to bubble up.

Like many students on campus, I attended daily Mass, where things began getting a little weird — in the best sense of the word. It seemed that the message of virtually every hymn and praise song was directed toward me. God was trying to break through my darkness with His glorious, blinding light to allow me to see the Truth of His deep love for me. He was wooing me as a Bridegroom woos His Bride.

Over the course of the next two weeks, Jesus met me powerfully in the Eucharist. Through the reception of this most Holy Sacrament, I was infused with the love of God in a way I had never previously experienced. Although I had grown in my relationship with God throughout high school and college, He was introducing me to His most personal and intimate love. I was especially moved to thanksgiving and a bit of the dark fog in my soul began to lift.


Coming to know the Father

After one of the daily Masses, on a particular Wednesday, during prayer I felt an intense moment of gratitude for what Jesus was doing with my life. And then it hit me. It was not only Jesus who was moving me to gratitude. It was my Father – not just any father, but God the Father. This was the Father I had longed for. This union with God — my origin and my destiny — was what I had been yearning for in all of those empty pornographic images. The One who I thought had abandoned me had not rejected me; instead, He wanted to hold me close and tell me He loved me. He had always wanted to hold me and tell me I was His own.

Waterfall

I waited, I waited for the Lord.
And He stooped down to me;
He heard my cry.
He drew me from the deadly pit,
From the miry clay
He set my feet upon a rock
And made my footsteps firm.
– Psalm 40: 2-4.

At that moment, I knew I had a Father, a Father who wanted me more than anything. My Abba1 was calling me to climb into His lap and be held. And it was enough. All the fears I had held inside – all the hurt, all the shame, all the forgiveness I could not bring myself to accept – was washed away by a love that penetrated the deepest core of my being. The floodgates opened and I sobbed like the prodigal son in the arms of his father.


Freedom

Just when I thought my cup was overflowing with too much love, it happened. Boom, boom, boom, boom – my chains hit the floor! I experienced my first tangible, potent sense of freedom. For the first time in my life, I had a genuine experience of freedom from sexual compulsion. Just as St. Augustine was liberated from his bonds of slavery to sin when he read the words of St. Paul, “Put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh,” (see Rom 13:14). I no longer desired to look at sexually explicit images. I had been set free. He had brought me to such beauty pornography failed to contain, namely, Himself. The desire to use women gave way to a desire to serve and love them humbly as my sisters in Christ.

How did this transformation happen? How did it come to be I would be telling this story of my compulsion to pornography? For years, I lived with fear, “Do not ever let anyone find out about this compulsion or you will be ruined.” But I did not have to fear anymore. The destructive vision of myself that had dominated much of my youth gave way to the “new thing” He was doing in my life. The clouds of darkness in my life dissipated and I heard in my heart the voice I had longed to hear, “This is my well-beloved son, with whom I am well pleased” (see Matt 3:17). The Father? Pleased with me? After everything I had done? After all the times I had turned my back on Him – He still wanted me back? Yes, the Father was very pleased with me. At that moment I knew I had a Father and I was His son. After all the years of drinking the slop from the pigs, this prodigal was being called home. He knew where I had been, but that was not important to Him. He wanted all of me, not the masks I presented to others in public.


Satan wants us to think we are not good enough and we can never be worthy of our Father’s love. He wants us to believe if we come from broken homes, if we have run away too many times, then we are through. The Evil One wants to immobilize us and keep us locked in our woundedness. But he is wrong — dead wrong. It is not that we are too bad – we are too good to be left alone. God never tires of us; He cannot get enough of us. That is why the Father sent His Son and that is the only reason why Jesus’ death makes any sense, because God loves us so much that He would rather die than be without us.  

Put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh – Romans 13:14  From: Die Bekehrung des Herzogs Wilhelm von Aquitanien durch den heiligen Bernhard von Clairvaux

Put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh – Romans 13:14 
From: Die Bekehrung des Herzogs Wilhelm von Aquitanien durch den heiligen Bernhard von Clairvaux

There are many approaches to fighting attachments to sin, but not all of them will solve the problem. Many strategies are often “sin management”. Unless we attack the root of the issue by allowing the Father to infuse us with His radical grace, we will either continue to struggle or give up because the pain is too much. True, it is good to take precautions and seek assistance, especially in Confession, but the key to being healed from any compulsion lies not in “doing” things, but in coming to know the Father’s love. That is the secret. This is not to detract from the power of the Sacraments; God definitely was preparing my heart to receive His gift of love through these supernatural gifts and does, in fact, give us His love through the Sacraments. However, if we are merely doing things and not opening our hearts to receive His love, we will never be set free from our brokenness. We will never fly with the power of love, but simply limp along in our blindness and shame.

Most of us have sold out to a big, fat lie. We are told to be hard and to avoid our emotions, but the love of our Father is totally different. God’s love is not a sentimental, fluffy, Lifetime-television kind of love. This love goes beyond the hardness of this world and gives us the strength to go on when life seems unbearable. We have to receive this love and know in our hearts that we are loved by our Father. If we are going to complete the work of Christ, we must remember that we can give only what we have first received. Christ was able to walk on water, perform miracles, give us the Eucharist, and stay on the cross because he knew His Father loved Him and He had opened Himself to fully receive that love. There was no question in His mind that His Abba was guiding Him with His Love.

I wish I could say that from that moment on I had no problems with pornography. For about four months, it was true until…

To read the whole story, as well as learn how to overcome the power of pornified images, as well as to transform our pornified culture, check out Redeemed Vision: Setting the Blind Free from Pornography, coming soon. Comment below so you can be notified as to when Redeemed Vision is released.

Steve Pokorny is the founder of freedom-coaching.net, a one-on-one mentoring system devoted to breaking the power of pornified images. If you or someone you care about is hooked on porn, click on the link above to learn how you can be set free.

1  The Greek word used for such an intimate description of God is “Abba,” which can be translated as “Daddy.”