Blog Post Content
Text

If somebody had told me seven years ago that stumbling into a Catholic Church at 11:58 on Christmas Eve would change the trajectory of my life again forever, I would have never believed them. It had been at least 20 years since I willingly set foot into a Catholic Church, and one of the reasons why Advent marks such a reflective and special season in my life today.  

Since the fourth century, Advent has played a significant role in the faith and tradition of Western Christianity. Advent signifies the coming of Christ (derived from the Latin word adventus). For four weeks, Catholics and other Christians are encouraged to prepare their homes and their hearts in anticipation of Christ’s coming on the Liturgical calendar.

However…

What should be a joyous time - the holiday season can really bring out the very worst in many of us. We have the tendency to put an enormous amount of pressure on ourselves between the months of November and December. In the weeks and months leading up to Thanksgiving and Christmas, we often set unrealistic goals, milestones, and expectations for ourselves (and oftentimes others) that we cannot even begin to achieve or measure up to.

Maybe we didn’t get that job or promotion we were hoping for?

Maybe we lost a loved one, and this will be the first major holiday without them?

Perhaps we have unresolved issues with a close family member and find it difficult to confront them?

There are countless reasons why this time of year can beget a high degree of anxiety. 2020 only compounded the problem with the challenges many of us faced by not gathering together physically. Now, in 2021, families are even more deeply divided over political and personal differences. We are angry with a situation we are powerless to change and continue to thirst for human connection. Lonely and forlorn. Tired and at odds with “those other people over there,” we scream at the top of our lungs, to be heard only by those inside of our own echo chamber.

In many instances, we have become so entrenched in our own ideology that we refuse to face one another. Couple that with the family problems that already come with the holidays, and we have ourselves a recipe for potential disaster.

I’m already six paragraphs into this word jumble, and I haven’t even mentioned the elephant in the living room that many of us are staring at right now.

It’s the elephant that we always turn to when we are faced with life’s challenges. The elephant that we’ve been bargaining with for years, insisting time and time again, “I swear, this is the last time. After this, you’re out of my life forever!” The same elephant that always stands in the way of all the important stuff in our lives, like relationships with our family members, friends, and loved ones - but somehow makes just enough room for us to step over the proverbial lines we’ve drawn in the sand between ourselves and the vicious cycle of pornography we are in.  

You see, that’s the funny thing about the stronghold pornography has over us. We never stop drawing lines in the sand. Instead, we just draw them from progressively darker places. Places we never thought we would find ourselves a year ago, let alone one week ago. Diminishing our reaction to what we would normally find disturbing or disgusting. Increasing our appetite for more. Compounding the shame and guilt we feel each time we act out.

If this sounds familiar, don’t despair. There is hope for all of us. As a matter of fact, hope is a theme of Advent. There are three others (faith, joy, peace), and I’m going to use these themes to explain why Advent is a great time to kick the elephant out of the room and part ways with porn for good.

If you are struggling with porn this Advent season, know that you are not alone in this battle. Relax, take a deep breath, and pump the brakes a little as you consider the following.

1. First Week of Advent: Hope

For many of us, like our Aunt Mable’s fruitcake that we see this time every year, porn just showed up at our doorstep one day. We weren’t looking for it, expecting it, or hoping it would arrive.

And yet, here it is. The only question is, “Now what do we do with it?” Unlike our Aunt Mable’s fruitcake, we can’t re-gift our porn habit to a coworker or leave it at the curb with tomorrow’s trash. We can’t close our eyes, make a wish, and hope it all goes away. And even if we could, it wouldn’t undo the trail of destruction that porn always leaves behind. It wouldn’t mend relationships with those whom we’ve neglected. It wouldn’t heal the spouse who could never understand why we seemed distant and emotionally removed for so many years. It wouldn’t come with a refund for all of the time we lost staring into an abyss of ecstasy that only left us feeling empty inside. So much for hope, eh?    

But all hope is not lost.

When we hope in the Lord, our strength is renewed, and we can soar on wings like eagles (Isaiah 40:31). In Jeremiah 29:11, the Lord declares, "For I know the plans I have for you...plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."

Maybe you’re thinking, “Yea, that all sounds great…but rattling off a few Bible verses won’t magically solve my dilemma.” In order to make any changes in our lives, we need to understand the dire need to make a change.  Since we can’t simply hope our problem away, we must be proactive in preventing it from happening. Apart from God, we cannot make the changes necessary, but as Saint Augustine once said, “Without God, you cannot. Without you, God will not.”

That means we must do whatever it takes to purge porn from our lives for good. This begins with a proper mindset and a willingness to tirelessly work on it. Prayer and fasting are an integral part of our journey to purity, and we’ll get into that in a bit. But we must be willing to do the hard work necessary to overcome our dependency on porn. This might involve changing our habits or our daily routine to avoid placing ourselves in a vulnerable position. It might mean we just have to white-knuckle it at times. How will we know we are doing the work required?

We will struggle. We will feel pain. We will probably want to look again.

The good news is: the pain and the struggle diminish. And as I have stated time and time again: it’s never easy, but it does get much easier with time.

But even if we understand the need to stop, unless we are ready, we simply won’t. If we are always searching for reasons to look at porn, we will always find one.  

For those of you not ready to stop: until you get caught by a parent or spouse, feel enough conviction, or finally hit rock bottom, there isn’t much anyone can do for you. For everyone else, there is something you can do right now.

For the majority of us struggling with pornography, technology is our Achilles heel. We know this to be true, and yet many of us do nothing about it. Jesus said, "If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off." (Mark 9:43). Those are some pretty powerful words spoken by our Savior, and fortunately (thanks to technology), we have a much simpler alternative.

If you are serious about stopping, get Covenant Eyes. Yes, it costs money. Yes, it might seem like a hassle, but it works. And what’s the alternative? Consider giving yourself the gift of peace of mind this Christmas with Covenant Eyes.

2. Second Week of Advent: Faith

Over time, as our dependency to porn developed, we became quite proficient at finding our favorite websites. We stopped at nothing to find what we were looking for. We fixated our eyes on images of women until they were dry, burning, and bloodshot. We could stare at a screen for hours until the first sliver of light from a new day peered through the blinds. We branded those images into our minds. We connected them to our physical selves and enmeshed it altogether into a twisted fantasy. We threw our whole mind, body and Spirit into a form of idol worship. 

Now, we must learn to use our mind, body and Spirit to worship God again.

This is difficult to do. It hard to show up for Mass on Sunday morning when we’ve spent the majority of our Saturday evening filling our minds with images of sex.

However, when we participate in Mass, we put our whole body into worship. In the Book of Romans, Saint Paul urges us to offer our bodies as a living sacrifice, Holy and pleasing to God. The Baltimore Catechism states that, "God made us to know Him, to love Him and to serve Him in this world, and to be happy with Him forever in Heaven."

Faith and works are not mutually exclusive. Start by doing the hard work you need to do, and trust that God will take care of the rest. Go to Confession regularly. Talk to a priest or spiritual leader about your issue. Pray the Rosary daily. I do this every day in the car on my way to work. Saint Padre Pio once said that the Rosary is a powerful weapon against vice. As my Parish Priest Fr. Ed Meeks says, “When you are tempted to reach for the mouse, reach for the Rosary beads.”  

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that, “The most common, yet most hidden temptation is our lack of faith” (CCC-2732). Sometimes, even the most faithful among us find it difficult to lean into God for the difficult stuff. Even as we are stumbling around in a dark place, we must not lose hope that our God is a faithful God. We must come to a place where we trust that He will deliver on His promise to heal us.  

“And the God of grace who called you to His eternal glory, after you have suffered a little while, will Himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.” (1 Peter 5:10).

3. Third Week of Advent: Joy

Pornography is a sedentary and solitary sin that is carried out in secret. We typically don’t display any outward signs of our behavior (at first). It’s carried out under the cover of darkness, with the door closed, the shades shut and the curtains drawn.

For those of you who’ve ventured into this dark, dismal and lonely place, I can lament from personal experience that you will likely exit in the same manner through which you came. You will open the door and leave quietly, secretly, and with your head held low. Whether you’ve been dependent on porn for hours, days, weeks, months, years, or even decades, the earth will not quake the moment you declare victory over it. The seas will not part. A band of angels singing songs of thanksgiving will not appear out of thin air. It will likely be a very personal and internal celebration.  

That doesn’t mean you won’t be given the unique privilege of experiencing a genuine, heartfelt joy when you finally kick porn to the curb. It’s just nearly impossible to express that joy to others. The Book of Jeremiah states that, "The heart is deceitful above all things, beyond cure." (Jeremiah 17:9). Many of us have been living a lie. Deceiving ourselves and others at all costs to protect and preserve a destructive habit. The Book of Proverbs states that, "Every man knows his heart’s own bitterness, and nobody can share in his joy." (Proverbs 14:10).

Normally, when I write or speak about porn, I use only the first person point of view. I will rarely (if ever) use the second person perspective and point the finger at “you.” This is one exception. Only you know the depths to which you have sunk, and as a result, only you can know the joys of rising back to the surface. To feel and experience that level of God’s healing grace is nothing shy of a miracle. Personally, I cannot express the joy I feel today as a result, but I can assure you of this:

It is possible. It is wonderful. And it is waiting for you.

4. Fourth Week of Advent: Peace     

There is a peace in knowing that our sadness is not the result of guilt or shame, but the pain of letting go. Letting go of a sin that held our thoughts captive and fed our desires as we hungered for more. It’s a sadness that is bittersweet but ultimately brings us peace. A peace that surpasses all understanding. A peace that fills our hearts with a joy only we can fully comprehend. Imagine the peace you will feel simply knowing that it is no longer necessary to cover your tracks and make up lies? To be able to look your spouse in the eyes with loyal eyes that are for her, and her only? Imagine the doors that will open up when this one closes?   

As you watch the candles glow at your kitchen table this Advent season, consider the power of light. As believers marked with the Holy Spirit, something very powerful occurs when we expose our deeds of darkness to the light. Ephesians 5:12 says it’s shameful to even speak of what the disobedient do in the dark, BUT when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible.

You already have the light of Christ in you. Awake, oh sleeper, and rise from the dead and Christ will give you the light! Saint Catherine of Sienna once wrote, “Be who God meant you to be, and you will set the world on fire.”

Do the world a favor, and give yourself the gift of a clean heart this Christmas. You will be glad you did!

Resource
Ally Covenant Eyes

Covenant Eyes: Screen Accountability™

Description

Be the best version of you.

Covenant Eyes Screen Accountability is designed to help you live with integrity on your devices by sharing your activity with a trusted friend.

Audience: Adults and supervised minors 
Language: English
Resource Type: Software 
Cost: $16.99 / month.  

Jay Lampart is a full-time pastry chef, part time brewer, and writer. He spends a majority of his professional life creating desserts, spinning ice creams and brewing beer for a restaurant and golf club. He is also the founder of 123catholic.org, and the co-founder of Balthasar Media, Inc.. Jay currently sits on the Church Council at his Parish. He left the Catholic Church as a teenager vowing never to return. On Easter of 2015, his story was aired on EWTN’s The Journey Home with Marcus Grodi. In his spare time, Jay enjoys playing music, tinkering with power tools and spending time with his family.  He lives with his wife and three children in Baltimore County, Maryland.