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It was Even Worse Than Pornography

March 29, 2014

One of the sickest feelings we Bible teachers can get is whenever we encounter a student who is under the grip of pornography.

That is the way I felt whenever I was called into the principal’s office on a Monday afternoon.  In the chair across from the principal’s desk sat David, a student in his 1asenior year who often sat with me during lunch periods to chat or just strum quietly on his guitar.  He was a gifted musician with a great future, but right now he sat gazing blankly at the floor, occasionally brushing his hair away from his eyes.  His guitar and books lay in a heap at the side of the room.

David had been caught with pornography, a whole cell phone full of downloaded smut. Clearly against the rules, David realized that he could be dismissed immediately. Yet our principal’s concern was more than the letter of the law – he could tell David was troubled, and he wanted to take the Christ-like approach and help where he could.

Mr. Cunningham leaned forward and spoke gently.  “David and I have been having quite a long talk, and I’ve had time to pray with him.  I’m not sure on the next measures I’m going to take, but I thought I might have you spend some time with him, Dr. Zockoll, and see if there’s any way you can help in this situation.”  Mr. Cunningham nodded to me and walked out of his office, quietly shutting the door.  I turned toward David, who was clasping his hands so hard that his knuckles were white.

He was mortified.  He was distressed.  But there was something else…

I saw the troubled look on his face, but the look he gave me was not the same kind of countenance that I had seen on others who suffered from the grip of pornography. He had been caught and although he didn’t apologize or start gushing forth with sorrow,  he seemed repentant … but he wore a puzzling look.

I followed that look as I talked with him for a few minutes.  Then I ventured to ask a few things.

“David, at the expense of asking an incredibly stupid question,” I said, ” I want to inquire – do your parents know that you have any of this stuff?  Are they aware of any of this?”

He shook his head and gave me a humorless grin.  “Nope,” he said, shrugging.  “In fact, my dad would hardly care.  He’d be more concerned that I didn’t top him.”

“‘Top him?’ I’m afraid I don’t know what you mean,” I said.

David threw up his arms.  “Every night at dinner Dad regales us with stories of his Viet Nam days as a soldier, knee-deep in drugs. He likes to remind us – every night he reminds us – that although he’s a Christian now, he had a really wicked life in the military.  If I hear another story about how he got high, I’m gonna gag.” David looked at me.  “I think he’s really proud of his past, he keeps bringing it up, so I actually think he’ll make sure that my problems weren’t as bad as his.”

He looked away while I pondered this.  “Do you attend a church, David?” I asked.

“Yeah, sure,” he nodded and gestured with his head in a direction toward the front of the room. “About a mile north of here. The big church along the highway.”

“You go there on a regular basis?” I asked.

He nodded again. “Yeah. Every week. Every Sunday. Every Wednesday. Every youth meetings, even the Friday night gatherings and once-a-month parties and stuff. All the time.” He looked out the window. “All the time.”

“Do you have anyone at your church that you would trust to help you through this?” I asked. “Is there anyone you could rely on for counseling or accountability?”

He sat there silent, unmoving.

“David?” I wasn’t sure if he heard me or he just wasn’t processing the question I gave. I repeated the question. “Is there someone you could go to for counseling?”

Slowly he shook his head. “No,” he said firmly.

“Not the youth pastor? Nobody on staff?”

He looked directly at me and shook his head violently.  “No, I said.  No.”

I sat and looked at him.

He leaned back in the chair.  “I’m too ‘valuable’,” he said sarcastically.  “You see, about a year ago, I was tapped by our youth group to lead the praise team – that means I was in charge of the band.  The youth pastor loves my guitar playing, so he kept pushing me to take a more active part in the worship service – opening up with a song and prayer, maybe saying a few words of encouragement before I led the singing, things like that.  But I started having problems with… with porn about six or seven months ago.”  He paused and gulped.  “I went to my youth pastor and asked to be taken off of the praise team, but he wouldn’t let me.  I told him I needed to get away and deal with this problem, but he kept asking me who would fill in as a lead guitar player?”

David folded his hands and set his jaw.  “I actually asked for help back then, but my own spiritual leadership saw me as too valuable to lose on stage.  How do you like that?  I was wanting help six months ago – but they saw me as more valuable as a musician than as a person.”

I ventured carefully.  “Then I would like to help.  Would you let me?”

He nodded.  “Yes.”

I left our meeting with a deep pain, realizing that this young man was dealing with more than one heart-breaking issue.  Pornography is a fantasy world, and that’s just what David was living throughout the day.  He was not being encouraged with reality.  He was being treated as something that he wasn’t.  His dad didn’t see him as a soul that could be nurtured and cared for – he saw him as a convenient audience member, listening to Dad’s tales of past ‘naughtiness’.  His youth leadership didn’t see him as a soul in need of help – they saw him as a convenient utility, ready to plug-in to make sure the show goes on.  And David was continuing in this fantasy, delving into a world that wasn’t real but was warping his soul.

I wish I could tell you that my counseling sessions were profitable, that David came back to Christ, but the truth is, he sloughed off most of the Bible teaching and assistance I tried to give him over the next weeks and months.  His youth group continued to use him as the lead guitar player, despite his frequent requests to step down.  His dad was unable to grasp how to help his son – after all, his own wicked past was never a discussion of remorse, but rather a sly grin of a memory of worldliness that was now coming back to bite him.  His son wouldn’t take him seriously.

The last time I saw David was when I was leading a Bible study on the University of Tennessee campus.  I ran into him one evening at a court square near the center of campus.  He was wearing a coonskin cap, an oversized lumberjack shirt, skin-tight jeans, and knee-high boots – totally out of his normal character.  He strutted up to me with an odd smirk, fully expecting me to whistle in awe at his appearance.  The very sad thing I noticed was the reaction of the group of people he left when he came over to meet me.

They were slyly looking at each other, nodding, rolling their eyes and laughing.

Laughing at David.

In his continuing fantasy world he didn’t realize that he was a subject of mockery.

It broke my heart.

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  1. Gede Prama permalink

    And I love all the posts in this blog really interesting touch words, thank you friend 🙂

  2. MargieLou Hall permalink

    I recently ran across some of your blogs on the Grateful BJU Grads FB site and was blessed by the ones I read and signed up to receive your mail regularly. I know my husband will enjoy reading your notes, too. Where are you located now?

  3. Margie, good to hear from you! I am located in Knoxville, Tennessee. I teach at Grace Christian Academy where my classes are NT Survey, Bible Leadership, and Psychology.

  4. linda diane permalink

    is there no hope to break that off of someone my son is also into porn and I hate that he is he was raised differently than that and it hurts me so what can I do for him? and he is grown, and also please pray for him too.

    • Linda, does he attend any church at all? Is there a counselor he could trust? Please let me know, I want to help.

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