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Convicted

“Satan had me convinced through shame that I was broken, unfixable, unlovable. That was a lie.” By lieutenant mark devanney
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My name is Lt. Mark Devanney, and as of August 3, I have celebrated eight years in recovery from addiction to pornography. My story is like those you might hear from anyone caught in the snare of addiction. I was exposed to sex and sexuality through abuse at a very young age. Coupled with the emotional and physical abuse and growing up in the home of an alcoholic, the idea of sex and the fantasies that it aroused became a sort of escape for me. Ironically, I spent every Sunday and Wednesday evening at The Salvation Army in Manchester, CT. Life was different there than at home, and the ability to wear different masks became very easy for me; one for home, one at school and another at the corps (church).

As a young teen, my best friend handed me a bunch of ripped pages from his uncle’s stash—though it was not my first experience with the thoughts and ideas of sexuality. Sexual abuse and R-rated movies are responsible for my early exposure. Now, however, erotic images and stories burned a new path in my brain. Sex, pornography in its uncensored form, laid before me on these tattered pages. 

I knew what I was supposed to do. I knew how I was supposed to behave. Over the next few years I was much like a pendulum—fantasy and lust on one side, control and obedience on the other. College then introduced a new freedom, and laptops and cellphones opened my access to pornography in a new uncontrolled way. Now, what happened behind closed doors was between me and my screen, so I thought. Psalm 139:7 asks the question, “where can I go from your Spirit, where can I flee from your presence” (ESV). God was there all along, behind those closed doors with me. The pendulum swung to greater extremes as shame gave it energy. 

Called to officership, I found my first chance at freedom from the shackles of my shame, from the endless swing of the pendulum. Recovery was a real possibility! I told on myself. I wasn’t the only one who knew, the secret was out. Help was right there when I needed it. I’d like to say that was it, but a few years later, married with a young child, and in training to become an officer (pastor), pride and stress took its toll, I turned to the only escape, the only release I knew. On May 25, 2012, my time as a cadet came to an end. My pornography use was discovered.

Eight years later, I look back at that darkest moment in my past as the best thing that ever happened to me. No more secrets, no hiding my behaviors, no shame. The pendulum was broken down, as I, broken, turned to the only freedom I knew: Jesus. Life is better because my secret behavior was discovered. It forced me to seek the help I so desperately knew I needed. 

As I sit here thinking about pornography and thinking, “what I would have liked to know about pornography when I was a burgeoning young adult,” I realize that many of my questions were answered wrongly even before I was old enough to drive. Perhaps I am an anomaly, nevertheless, but I will attempt to tread this tightrope and answer some questions.

What is Pornography?

For the purposes of this article, we first need a working definition of pornography. What is it exactly?

Pornography is the depiction of any sexual behavior using either print, electronic or digital media with the intended purpose of causing sexual arousal in its audience. 

So, Why Is It Bad?

Sex at its most basic form is beautiful—God created it, made it holy and said, it is good. The Bible talks about it from the depiction of a husband and wife becoming one flesh in Genesis 2, in Song of Solomon, in the Gospels, the writings of Paul and even in Revelation. God honors sex in the right context. 

So, what’s the problem? God never intended sex to be about a selfish need for gratification or satisfaction. Sex, though enjoyable, isn’t about “me.” It isn’t about what we can get out of it.  Pornography is self-centered; it is all about fulfilling the sexual “desires” of the person watching it, reading it or looking at it. We even see that in the definition, “its intended purpose is the sexual arousal of its audience.” 

In Matthew 5:27-30 (ESV), Jesus gives us a standard for sexual purity; He says,

“…everyone who looks at a woman or man with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her or him in his or her heart.”

The goal is to remain faithful to God and to our future spouse. Pornography is exactly the situation Jesus described in Matthew above. 

As a result, using pornography has the potential to lead to any number of problems, to include but not limited to:

  • The “stars” in pornography are often exploited; many of the individuals in pornography are forced and coerced into doing behaviors they may never have considered, often going further and further for more money.
  • Pornography distorts reality; the images depicted in the videos and images distort the view of a loving sexual relationship in marriage, pushing for more and more demeaning and degrading treatment of the women or feminine men. At times, even going so far as advocating illegal activities such as child pornography and rape.
  • Pornography has an imprinting effect on many individuals who view it; this allows individuals to relive the images and videos they’ve seen at future times. This imprinting often impacts future spousal relationships.
  • Pornography use can be highly addictive; viewing pornography releases dopamine causing a euphoric “high” and driving audience members to seek more and more.  Like other addictive behaviors, pornography use can lead a person to seek out more and more “novel” and shocking images or videos.

Pornography is destructive and a dangerous slope to slide on. It is sexual immorality at its worst. It takes us out of a life living by God’s standard.

Hope in the Darkness

God’s standard to live by is quite daunting, even burdensome. God expects perfection, He desires holiness in us—the passage in Matthew referenced earlier is proof of that. But how, what hope do we have of achieving the standard God has set before us? Jesus. He is our hope; just a few chapters later, Jesus tells us His yoke is easy and His burden is light (Matthew 11:30, NIV).  Jesus came to give hope to the hopeless, freedom for the oppressed, healing for the sick. That’s just how I was; hopeless, oppressed, sick.  

This hope and freedom are exactly what I found when I turned to Jesus. In Romans chapter 8, Paul writes,

“nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:39).

This truth is the same for you and me. Satan had me convinced through shame that I was broken, unfixable, unlovable. That was a lie. The truth is God loves me all the time, even when I was staring at the screen binging on pornographic images and videos. He never stopped loving me. He’s never stopped loving you too.

I’m Stuck Now, So What Now?

First, tell someone you trust and love, who will not shame you.

Second, make a plan of accountability with that person to protect you from doing it again—filters, Parental controls, XXXChurch and Covenant Eyes are great programs for this.

Third, find a recovery group—Celebrate Recovery, Sex Addicts Anonymous, Sex & Love Addicts Anonymous, Sexaholics Anonymous.

Fourth, keep talking to someone. Your officer (pastor), a social worker, psychologist or psychiatrist.  Anyone who can help you work through the behavior and start building a healthy foundation for life.

Fifth, take it one day at a time. Remember, “Life is a marathon, not a sprint.”

For Further Study

Books

  • Every Young Man’s Battle by Stephen Arterburn and Fred Stoeker

Resources

Watch

  • Winning the Battle webinar: On November 10, The Salvation Army along with the Religious Alliance Against Pornography will be hosting a free one-hour webinar at noon EST, helping pastors, youth ministers and parents find victory over pornography for teens and young adults.
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Lt. Mark resides in the shadow of Canada in Ogdensburg, NY on the St. Lawrence River, the “north country” as the locals like to call it. He has been blessed with a beautiful wife, three children and a lovable mutt. Lt. Mark enjoys playing the guitar, painting and playing board games with his family.

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