In middle school, our history teacher (who was in charge of teaching our sex ed week) told us that Marilyn Manson became a serial killer because he looked at porn, and if we watched porn we would become violent killers too.

I was 12 and terrified. Terrified because I had already looked at porn. I’d seen the magazines my friend took from his dad’s basement. I’d sat in front of the tv screen as grown men and women engaged in sexual acts. I’d even been exposed to my first internet porn by that time.

Was I now destined for the same fate as a mass murderer?

No… I did not become a serial killer because I looked at porn, and if porn is something you struggle with chances are you are not going to become a serial killer either.

You (most likely) won’t become someone we see on the news who was caught red-handed doing some atrocious thing.

You (most likely) won’t become so addicted that it impacts your work and causes you to lose your job.

You (most likely) won’t become a John and wind up in jail for buying sex.

But these extremes, while very real, are not the reasons porn is ultimately so destructive. Porn is a virus. It finds its way in, attaches to its host, and begins to kill it ever… so… slowly. Why? Because a virus can only survive if the host survives, so it will take everything it can, up to a point – that point is justification. Justification is the reason I didn’t stop looking for or at porn when I was 12 or 13 or 20 or 25.

Justification told me that what I wanted to look at wasn’t as bad as X.

Justification told me that I didn’t do it that often so it wasn’t really a problem I should talk about.

Justification told me it would never reach the next level…until it did, which I then justified by saying it wouldn’t reach the level after that.

Porn told me I could have anything I wanted, so long as it remained our secret. That I could be anything, watch anything, imagine anything – and all of it would never reach the light of day, it would never hurt the ones I loved, and that it was actually helping me. Helping me cope with stress or depression or boredom.

Porn told me I’d never survive without it. And if I told anyone about it, I would be alone. That I was too dirty now, that the shame was too big, the secrets too dark, and the only place I could turn was back to it.

If you keep your struggle with porn, you (most likely) will not become the deepest, darkest, most destructive version of yourself. But you also (most definitely) won’t become the best version of yourself.

You (most definitely) won't become the husband your wife deserves because you have let little secrets create uncomfortable silences in your marriage.

You (most definitely) won’t become the writer or artist or singer or business person you could be, because you have allowed your creativity to become intertwined with this destructive coping technique.

You (most definitely) won’t become or achieve or attract all the good God has for you in this life, because you have allowed the light inside you to become darkness (Matthew 6:23).

I recently came clean to my wife and close friends about my own struggle with pornography. It was the hardest thing I have done up to this point in my life. I thought I was going to die the entire time I spoke. I thought everyone I loved was going to run away in disgust.

But none of that happened. I survived. My wife forgave me and help me set up healthy boundaries. My friends accepted me and offered support. My world did not come crashing down around me.

I don’t know what you might become if you keep this sin a secret. I can’t tell you where the rabbit trail of temptation will lead. But I do know what you won’t become and that is why I am writing this to you.

God’s freedom is more fulfilling than secret pleasure. (Ugh, I know – the Christianese is blinding…but stay with me another minute). Sin promises us the best life has to offer. But in reality, all it does is play with smoke and mirrors and chip away at your soul while you’re enamored with the show. By the time you realize what’s happening, you look down and realize the giant hole it bore into you. So what do you do? Sin steps out in front of the mirrors and hands you a sheet to hide it. “No one wants to see that,” it tells you. “The only way to keep it from hurting is to keep it hidden,” it reassures.

Out of fear, you believe it. You take the sheet and pull it over the hole, hoping no one will notice. And it works, at least for a while. What sin didn’t tell you is that the hole will continue to grow bigger, and since sin is the only one who knows it exists, it is the only one you can go back to for help. So you do. You sit and watch the mirror show again because it makes you forget about the hole. Then sin steps around, hands you a bigger sheet to cover the growing hole, and you’re off. Trying to live your normal life; trying to cover the secret pain.

When God gets involved, things get painful. He first asks you to remove the sheet. To share the secret. To confess the sin. This is horrible. The pain is almost unbearable. But you do it. You peel the sheet off, little by little until the hole is completely exposed. It's much bigger than you remember. You've spent so much time and energy trying to hide it, you never stopped to examine it. But now you do and the next pain that comes is shame and guilt. Shame that you let it get so bad. Guilt that you believed a lie, and lied to others as a result.

Now that it is exposed, God can get to work. He doesn’t seem angry or disappointed. He doesn’t look at how big the hole is and seems overwhelmed. Instead, he seems determined, even hopeful. He asks an angel to bring him a chest labeled “precious things.” Inside are the most beautiful assortment of gems you could imagine. Rubies and sapphires and diamonds the size of baseballs just stacked on top of one another. When he picks one up and holds it up to the light, you can see that there are words etched into the center of the stone.

He starts with a ruby that says “You are loved” and places it in the center of your hole.

“Wait!” you tell him. “This is dirty…you can’t put that there.”

He smiles and picks up another stone. This time a sapphire with the words "I am new." And as with the first stone, he nudges it securely into the hole.

You stand there, speechless, and watch as he picks up one more. This time a diamond with the words “I am forgiven.” This stone is huge, but somehow he makes it fit – and all at once the hole is filled and sealed.

You look down at the hole and see the radiant colors shining from where there was once only darkness. “How can this be?” you ask.

“Sin wants you to believe that I can’t turn ugly things into beautiful things. But that’s not true. Look at how beautiful that is now! Look at how beautiful you are! I’m so proud of you.”

“Why does it still hurt? Why does it still feel so heavy?”

“My dear child, that will take time. Your body needs to learn how to live without the hole, and how to live with the precious things I’ve put in its stead. It’s already healed, you just have to trust me.”

You are not too far gone to come back home. You are not too dirty to fear the light. You are not who and what sin wants you to believe. Sin, the devil, the accuser – they are liars. As long as you are willing to lie for them, they will stick around to hold you back, hold you down, and keep you believing your sin is unforgivable.

You deserve better.

You deserve love and forgiveness and freedom and newness and power and hope. You deserve the hole to be filled with precious things and feel like God loves you. You deserve to be everything God created you to be and to have everything God intended for you to have.

Stop letting yourself accept less. Stop letting sin win. Stop believing the lies that have kept you stuck falling in downward spirals of shame and guilt. There is a more available to you if you are willing to take it. All it requires is that you step out into the light.

God is ready to undo the what you won’t become and introduce you to the everything you were made for.

Welcome to the new, free, loved, forgiven you.