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The Talk



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I am going to begin in a strange place, the book of Leviticus. You will remember it as a list of random rules about how and when holy days should be observed, what to do with lepers’ clothes, what foods are clean and unclean, and so on. At the center of the book, in chapter 15, is a list of rules beginning with the heading (at least in the Bible given to me by my parents on my 9th birthday) “The Law Concerning Bodily Discharges.” Read it.

At verse 16 you’ll run into a word you probably believed to be related to swear words at one time. “If any man has an emission of semen, then he shall wash all his body in water, and be unclean until evening.” Anything the semen touches, according to the next verse, becomes unclean until evening, too. Verse 18 adds, “Also, when a woman lies with a man, and there is an emission of semen, they shall bathe in water, and be unclean until evening.” (Are you blushing?) I’m not a Bible scholar, but even I can tell that being unclean is no joke. Consider this: in verses 19 through 24, we learn that during a woman’s monthly discharge of blood, she was considered unclean. Her bed, her clothes, essentially everything she touched, and even her own body became ceremonially unclean for at least seven days. The rule was that if anyone came in contact with anything unclean, he or she would have to wash his or her clothes, bathe in water, and remain unclean until evening. Talk about a ripple effect if your sister forgot to put labels on everything she touched during her period.

It should not surprise you to learn, as David Asscherick mentioned in a sermon, that strict Jewish families are typically very open about sexuality with each other. He said it is almost like breakfast table conversation to them. After reading Leviticus 15, you must see that the topic would be simply unavoidable. Imagine your dad bursting into the room just in time to stop you from sitting on the living room couch. Your sister is not allowed to pass you the salt at dinner. You can’t give your mom a hug good night. Wouldn’t you have some questions? And these were laws!

Does it not blow your mind that tucked away among random rules, God built into the culture of His chosen people an inescapably transparent—possibly monthly—conversation about how He made us to be sexual beings? God wanted His children to talk about sex with their families. He required it.
At the end of this paragraph I hope you stop reading—at least for now. I have mentioned three scenarios that Christian parents seem extraordinarily uncomfortable talking about: boys having a random discharge of semen, aka “wet dreams,” girls bleeding on a monthly basis, aka “a period,” and men and women lying together as discharges abound, aka “sexual intercourse.”
I anticipate that by this time you have already received some education about these issues. If your parents or a trusted adult has talked to you about these human realities, good for you. Thank them. Ask them for a review. On the other hand, if your education is more a product of schoolyard conversations, media consumption, and furtive Web browsing, I encourage you to approach someone you trust—hopefully your parents—and ask them about Leviticus 15. Even if you think you know all there is to know about sex and sexuality, it is important to hear it from someone close to you, someone who can give you a perspective alternative to that of the mainstream media and porn industry. Be brave. This generation of teens needs fortitude, especially when it comes to this topic. You need to collectively know God’s ideas about sex and sexuality.
I was one of those kids who did not have “the talk” with his parents. When you and I sit down for a conversation some time, I can tell you more about my parents’ Christian upbringing in a culture in which most parents, theirs included, avoided the topic. At the same time, in the 1960s, the Hippie Era of free love was ripening all around them. It would have been nearly impossible to avoid a peer-based education at that time. I can also tell you about how sexuality took on a strong association with sinful behaviors after their conversion to Adventism, and how sexuality became something to protect my sister and me from.

To my parents’ credit, there are many images that did not make it into my memory because of their protective system. And at least they did more to educate me than their parents did to educate them. I remember a cartoony book set on a farm. Having big animals apparently (next page) led to having small animals. And adults apparently stood side by side without any clothes on, (next page) laid under a blanket together sometimes, and (next page) a baby showed up. I am sure the book had more to it than that, but it is a fair illustration of the significant gap that research says exists between what parents think they have done to educate their children about sexuality and what their children actually remember or understand.

For me, the unfortunate by-product of protection (some call it “sheltering”) was a hazy belief that there was something wrong with physical romantic behavior and a hungry curiosity to figure out what it actually was.

I was in 5th grade when my small Adventist elementary school got its first and only computer. In 6th grade we got Internet in our classroom. That year I typed “vagina” into whatever search engine came before Google. I was simply curious to learn what the cool guys were laughing about. I still remember those first graphic images.

I managed to continue to feed my curiosity, getting more sophisticated over time. I learned to cover my tracks on the Internet after my dad’s work confronted him about porn sites in the browsing history on his laptop. Dad knew he had not visited those sites; I was the only other option. Then we talked briefly about how bad pornography was. Soon after, I figured out how to beat the Internet filtering software on our home computer and used that skill to occasionally look at porn.

Curiosity also caused me to make a discovery that was unrelated to anything explicitly sexual at the time. This was actually shortly before my first encounter with pornography, which is interesting, considering the role it plays in forms of sexual addiction. I discovered masturbation. It was a strange, somewhat inherently shameful thing that made me feel good.

Eventually, the good feeling from masturbating became attached to what I saw on the Internet. Porn is exciting and stimulating. It takes advantage of the way God built us to be sexual by showing us interesting and shocking sexual things. Since then, I have learned that the good feeling we get from masturbation or sexual activity is our brain releasing the same chemicals found in some antidepressants, painkillers, and illegal drugs. It is a fact: porn and masturbation work together, like a real drug. And when the two of them became connected in my mind, though I would not know it until much later, I officially became an addict.

I don’t know what my life and my mind would be like without my addiction. I am a functioning, productive, and social adult. It might be easy to convince myself that I have no issue at all. Yet I am aware of some of the ways that porn and masturbation have affected me. Over the years I have wasted a significant amount of time feeding my curiosity and pursuing my own pleasure. That time could have been used for so many useful and productive things. Instead, I used it to train myself to be stimulated by the shells of people.

Porn taught me to be attracted to the outsides of people, the moving parts and sounds, rather than the people themselves. Porn watchers develop tastes for certain types of porn, whether based on physical features or scenarios. Some things stimulate them and others do not, and those distinctions become gradually more specific and selective. Imagine finding the perfect partner for you, but you are not attracted to them because you have trained yourself to be attracted to someone who looks slightly different.

Most toxic is how porn brings me into an environment where I supposedly get anything I want. It is a world in which my sinful nature—something we are all born with—is most comfortable. No one challenges me or questions me or makes fun of me in that world. No one denies, disrupts, or disappoints me there. I get to be in total and absolute control. So not only are porn and masturbation chemically pleasurable, but they are socially and emotionally pleasurable. The combined pair is a powerful drug indeed.

The trouble is that real life doesn’t really work that way. The people around me are complex creatures, not shells, and they are certainly not solely there to give me what I want. And as you know, much of the Christian life is learning how to serve others. In fact, as I understand it, ideal sex is something shared between two people who have made pursuing their own pleasure secondary to pleasing their partner. Porn teaches us to prioritize ourselves.

All of this said, I am capable of seeing beautiful, even immodestly dressed women without allowing my imagination to sexualize them. My addiction is not a constant player in my thoughts. It does not automatically make me a threat to society or worth avoiding in the hallway. In fact, I believe that if I was not telling you about my addiction right now, you would never know about it. Keeping this issue a secret, however, is precisely what I believe makes it dangerous. Don’t even keep it a secret from yourself.

The reason I call myself a porn addict and talk about it the way I do is because the more I do, the less power it seems to have over me. By writing this article, I am punching my addiction in the face. Yes—surprise—there is something in it for me.

But there are some things I would like you to take away as well. First, talk. Share your issues with someone you trust. Get more comfortable saying the words you have found to be awkward to read in this article. Second, find another outlet for your curiosity. We are curious by nature. Because sexuality is one of those things kept mysterious to us, our curiosity compels us to investigate it. Investigate something else until after you get hitched. Third, realize that porn has the potential to destroy the spiritual, social, and sexual future of yourself or someone you care about. Porn can warp who we are, what we want, and how we behave. Fourth, understand that the condition that tempts me to involve myself in masturbation and pornography is the same condition that is in you.

We are human and, therefore, richly endowed with pride and selfishness, the natural result of which is addiction. We will all struggle with some form of it. You and I, we are not that different. We are broken, and we need the help of God and our Christian communities to do the right thing. Finally, we must believe that there is hope and a path to freedom. I want to leave you—for now—with the story of the invalid by the pool of Bethesda, as told by Ellen White in The Desire of Ages:

“The Saviour is bending over the purchase of His blood [the invalid], saying with inexpressible tenderness and pity, ‘Wilt thou be made whole?’ He bids you arise in health and peace. Do not wait to feel that you are made whole. Believe His word, and it will be fulfilled. Put your will on the side of Christ. Will to serve Him, and in acting upon His word you will receive strength. Whatever may be the evil practice, the master passion which through long indulgence binds both soul and body, Christ is able and longs to deliver. He will impart life to the soul that is ‘dead in trespasses.’ Ephesians 2:1. He will set free the captive that is held by weakness and misfortune and the chains of sin.”*
*Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages (Mountain View Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1898), 203.

Scott Kabel writes from Berrien Springs, Michigan. He is an English as a Second Language (ESL) professional and singer/songwriter who loves that Jesus told stories. And his hope is for each of us to understand how we fit into God’s story.

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Comments


Alla
I appreciate the openness of this article and the author's use of Scripture and the Spirit of Prophecy in the beginning and the end. I am still left with the question of whether or not the author is being helped practically though. "Wherein shall a young man cleanse his way" David asks; "by taking heed to Thy Word" is the response. The psalmist not too much later states in Psalm 119: "Thy word have I hidden in my heart that I might not sin against thee." Simple and profound all at once. By taking Christ's burden for souls upon ourselves and seeing every living being as a soul for whom He has died, literally taking His Word as our own and memorizing it, we will be able to do battle with the enemy as Jesus Himself did by internalizing and declaring what "is written." That Word also quickens us and inspires the faith that believes enough to reach out to those in need of the gospel practically. Nothing else calls out a deep yearning for souls as being engaged in the work that Jesus did. Blessings to you and thanks again for sharing.
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