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Running the Race With Endurance

original article can be found HERE

“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and redeemer” (Psalm 19:14).

This passage has been the one I’ve been able to fall back on in recent months as I continue to wage war against my flesh. I am incredibly thankful to be able to say that by God’s grace, I have overcome a consuming addiction to porn that started in early high school. This addiction affected my relationships and mental well-being, but it wasn’t until my freshmen year of college that I realized this beast would not be slain by merely “doing better”; it would require the work of the Lord.

I hit rock bottom in the spring of that year. My relationships with others, motivation for life, and grades all plummeted. It was this last one that was the hardest to explain to my parents. My parents were heavily involved in my life and had invested spiritually in me over the years. My Dad had gotten Covenant Eyes for my siblings and me when we all obtained smartphones. It had been an effective deterrent, but ultimately, I had found ways to work around the limitations set by my parents to appease my addiction. My parents, however, did give me the option when I left for college of keeping or removing Covenant Eyes; and to my shame, I did ask them to remove it. This choice began the downward spiral of my purity—not that I had been actively guarding it before.

I did not start to see victory until the summer after freshman year. My parents and I agreed to reinstall Covenant Eyes, and I spent that summer working at summer camps. The reduced phone usage demanded by the job, as well as communal living and required morning time in the Word, began to wage war against my addiction. This was one of the first times I felt like I was truly living. Not just drifting through life waiting for my next hit of dopamine. But like all good things, the summer had to come to an end, and with it, my built-in accountability.

Returning home was an incredibly difficult transition as the pathways that I had built up surrounding my home environment caused me to struggle considerably. I relapsed several times in the brief span before returning to school, and after confessing this to my parents, I agreed to a covenant between myself and them where I would not engage in viewing porn or masturbating in their house. That was what I needed to begin taking responsibility for my actions. It was a step towards becoming the type of man I wished to be.

The beginning months of my sophomore year in college were hard, fraught with frequent afternoons of kneeling in my dorm, praying God would remove this desire from me. But I learned that semester that God often does not do the work in an instant but through a season. I ended that semester free. The chains had been broken. And while I did have two relapses in the following semester, I knew the miracle had been done. I was not enslaved anymore. The Lord did a mighty work in my life that I have the pleasure of looking back on as I begin my senior year. And while I most definitely call it miraculous, it would not have been accomplished without deliberate strategy and discipline. I now view purity of heart not as an ethereal concept that I can uphold without intention but as a way of life that is, at its core, an act of war. A battle that must be waged every day against “the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12).

The strategy I employed heavily revolved around community, accountability, and physical health. I found my weak points and began to enact a plan to combat my specific triggers and tendencies. A secondary resource that I utilized to begin this analysis was the book Atomic Habits, by James Clear. This helped me to highlight actions that I would routinely perform and better understand how they affected me. I began to curate my environment. It started small, changing the charging location of my phone, getting rid of my TV, etc. But those changes added up. Covenant Eyes was a frequent rock that I could rely on during that phase of life. When the whisper of lust would command me to look something up on my phone, I was able to better weather the storm, knowing my Dad would see whatever I pulled up. Somehow, this knowledge and the understanding of the conversation that would follow helped me to hold on through several dark nights.

This was the season where I began to grasp what integrity really was. A desire to live rightly before God and a spurning of anything that would interrupt that objective. I believe technology is one area where God has invited us to live radically for Christ. Rarely do we take the command to cut off our right hand literally (Matthew 5:30). But I believe Jesus meant it literally, and technology is one facet of culture where that command should be taken at face value. I believe living with integrity in today’s modern era looks like being willing to submit to restrictions upon what culture would call your freedom for the sake of truly being free. Whether that looks like utilizing a program like Covenant Eyes or getting rid of your phone entirely. The man of integrity would rather sacrifice his very body than offend his creator and savior. True integrity would repulse any cheap substitute for the all-encompassing presence of God. I hope to one day be a man of true integrity. But for the moment, I am content to know that the Lord will finish the work he has started within me (Philippians 1:6).

So now you know my story. You know an overview of my struggles and victories, my strategy, and what I believe true integrity means. In the end, I am a man who is seeking to live rightly before God, and I thank organizations like Covenant Eyes who are willing to assist me in that pursuit. May we all continue to run with endurance the race set before us as we fix our eyes on Jesus (Hebrews 12:1-2)

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