Why I Stopped Trying to Become a Better Man

For 25 years I habitually looked at porn, and yet everyday I would still set out to become a better man. Now that I’m two years free-and-clear, I see the Gospel like never before, and I’ve given up trying to become a better man anymore.

Satan came to both Eve and Jesus with the same basic temptation. It was always a question:

  • Are you really God’s son?
  • Is God holding back His best from you?
  • Does He really want you to be like Him?
  • Did God give you what it takes to be great?
  • Will you be manly enough?
  • Will you be someone great?

I call it The Question of Greatness.

*Photo credit: Quinn Dombrowski, Flickr

*Photo credit: Quinn Dombrowski, Flickr

The Question of Greatness is hauntingly simple. Anyone can take it up as his life’s mission. It lets you pick your own definition of greatness. Total freedom. To choose your own adventure, turn to page 65…

But everyone who pursues The Question of Greatness inevitably becomes its slave. Why? Because the Question is never answered.

The Question is a driver. It drove me for 25 years. At first I planned to be wealthy, a leader of men. After meeting Jesus, I adjusted my greatness to being godly: full-time ministry, a miracle worker, a disciple maker.

All the while I was secretly a slave. A slave to The Question.

I picked up The Question when I was twelve. I remember the day in Social Studies when I suddenly knew that Bryan, the kid with the $200 Air Jordans, was way cooler than me. And once I bit on that fruit, I could never close my eyes again. All I could do was compare myself to others, excuse (or hide) my faults, and protect my strengths. Compare, Control, and chase after The Question.

To answer The Question, I put on the face of success. Pride was sweet but fleeting, and fear of failure drove me to back to The Question after every success. I would pretend everything was fine. I would make my territory safe. I would protect myself from the doubt I knew was on its way.

Then I discovered porn. I still remember how my hands shook as I turned those pages. I’d finally found the leaves to cover my nakedness.

In the dark places where no one—and I mean no one—was invited, the shame told me a different story. The shame was a comparison too, and facing my failures was more than I could bear. I chose to indulge in one of the most pleasurable, reassuring controls that exist.

I chose acceptance and success wherever I could find it, as long as I didn’t risk vulnerability. The pornography worked so well for that. It was the only rest I could find: guilt-ridden, self-loathing rest. I would sit in front of it for hours. I didn’t just stroll through a few stills and a video. I would binge. I would wallow.

Afterwards, I would carefully construct my inward excuses and outward lies. I would set out to improve myself—to become a better man. I would go home to my wife, whom I was stabbing in the heart every lying, prideful, invulnerable day.

I became a pendulum swinging between pride and shame: one side in the light, the other in shadow. My only sanity was to craft my story with carefully phrased excuses that any Christian would consider godly and contrite, myself included. I was telling my tale and answering The Question with each accountability partner and every lonely prayer asking to be set free.

But this poison didn’t come just from the Internet. It came from the pulpit every Sunday as well.

You see, I believed in a false gospel, and so did my church. My gospel told me I was going to make something of myself, and God was my biggest cheerleader. I would make sure God chose me to be one of his special ones.

Every sermon I heard, every verse I read, spoke only to the Question that was driving me toward oblivion. My pastors and mentors all fed the fire. I was one of the promising young leaders in the church. I was sure to make a difference in the Kingdom.

Today, I’m on the other side of this story, with a clearer head and hands washed clean. I live with a wife who is two years into a recovery that will likely take twenty. I am just beginning to see the poison I was swallowing. People say porn destroys marriages, but that’s not the whole truth. Porn also destroys wives.


People say porn destroys marriages,

but that’s not the whole truth.
Porn also destroys wives.

I have more to share about this journey, but the most painful chapter has ended. And I, for one, never believed it would. I’ve given The Question of Greatness to Jesus, and now I set my face toward the author and finisher of my faith.

I am freer today than I’ve ever been. And because I now trust Jesus with my life, I have stopped trying to become a better man.

Luke_ZedwickLuke Zedwick worked for 11 years as a math teacher, church elder, and an occasionally paid minister of the Gospel of Jesus of Nazareth. He’s spent the last few years as a school principal, husband & dad, and Bible teacher in his local church home group.

If you would like to contact Luke, you can reach him here.

5 Ways Pornography Affects a Father’s Relationship with His Daughter

Pornography Affects on a Daughter

Photo by BrianTuchalskiPhotography

Many people will claim that pornography is a victimless crime. “It’s not hurting anyone,” they say. “What a man does behind closed doors is his own prerogative.”

The problem with that belief though, is it couldn’t be further from the truth. Pornography hurts everyone involved, and the closer someone is to the user, the more likely they are to be deeply hurt.

One of the more common places where this can happen is the relationship between a dad and his little girl. For that reason, I think it’s important to consider five ways pornography use affects a father’s relationship with his daughter.

1. It will Cause Him to Pull Away from Her when She Needs Him Most

If a father is looking at porn, he will have a hard time offering appropriate loving affection to his daughter once she starts to mature physically. He will notice her looking more and more like the women he has been watching online, and misplaced shame will cause him to avoid hugging her because it just doesn’t feel right anymore.

Sadly, his daughter will notice this and begin to wonder why she’s no longer receiving affection from her father. This frequently leads girls to believe there is something wrong with them or, often times, to seek affection elsewhere (usually in the arms of a teenage boy who has noticed her physical changes as well).

2. It Hinders His Ability to Model a Loving Husband/Wife Relationship to Her

The shame that frequently comes from porn use will cause most men to become distant, isolated, and hidden. Rather than modeling how a husband should be pursuing his wife daily, he will be teaching his daughter to settle for a man who merely exists physically—but not emotionally—within the same house.

Furthermore, the percentage of divorce cases that site pornography use as major contributing factor is extremely high. This was the unfortunate end-result of my own addiction, which means my daughter is now growing up in two separate homes with two separate parents. She may have a wonderful example of a mom, and (hopefully) a great example of a dad, but our divorce has robbed her of the opportunity to observe how a mom and a dad can lovingly interact with one another.

3. It Communicates the Wrong Messages to Her about Beauty

There are countless stories of girls discovering porn on their dad’s computer and believing she must look and act like these women if she wants a man to notice her. These beliefs will often stay with her for many years, if not her entire life. But even if she never discovers the porn itself, she’s likely to notice other behaviors in her dad that often come with porn use:

  • Turning his head to watch a girl walk by in tight pants
  • Looking down the shirts of her friends
  • Paying more attention to the cheerleaders than the game itself

You see, when a man uses pornography, the way he views all women changes, and examples such as these become much more likely (and noticeable) in his life.

4. It Takes Him out of His Role as the Spiritual Leader and Protector of the Home

There are many views in the church regarding the presence of negative spiritual influences. The Bible makes it clear, however, these things not only exist, but they are actively seeking to harm us (see Ephesians 6:13, 1 Peter 5:8 . I personally experienced frequent nightmares and terrifying visions when I was in the grip of my addiction to pornography, but they stopped completely once I asked God to set me free from the bondage I had invited into my life. That was proof enough for me that there was something very real about the connection between spiritual forces and my porn addiction.

Now, I can’t say for sure whether a father’s use of porn will invite spiritual bondage into other members of his home. What I do know, though, is the risk is certainly not worth it. You wouldn’t invite a known criminal into your house, so why would you open the door to any other negative influences?

5. It Pulls the E-brake on His Walk with God

Ultimately, compulsive porn use will hinder a father’s relationship with God. This is not the result of God turning away from him because of his ongoing sin (Thankfully, God’s love is never dependent upon our behavior). It’s because the man has chosen to rely on his own power to manage his life and meet his needs.

Trying to manage and meet the needs in your life independently from God is exhausting. And, as a father, I can assure you that being an effective parent without God’s help is impossible. That’s why it’s vitally important to rely on Him for the wisdom and ability you will need to effectively guide your little girl into becoming a healthy woman. The role of a father is far too great to try to do on your own.

•••

Fathers, I don’t tell you these things to make you feel guilty about looking at porn. I tell you them to help you recognize the full effect it may be having on those you love.

Don’t lose heart, though. There is hope. Freedom from pornography is available for those who seek it. The best part is that it’s not about learning to fight better or resist temptation more effectively. In fact, it has nothing to do with what you are capable of at all.

Freedom comes when you are given a new heart, with new desires. A heart that no longer desires porn because it’s found something so much greater. That, my friend, is true freedom…and that freedom can only come from Christ.

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What The Secret Life of Walter Mitty Taught Me about My Masculine Heart

Sean O'ConnellIf you ask any man what his favorite movies are, you will more than likely get a list of classics such as Lord of the Rings, Indiana Jones, Iron Man, and other movies involving swords and explosions. Few men will add Sleepless in Seattle or The Notebook to their Netflix queue unless an attractive female wants to watch it with them. When was the last time you heard a guy say, “Hey bro, wanna grab a pizza and watch Notting Hill?” Probably never. So why is it the majority of men all seem to like the same types of movies?

Perhaps it’s because these movies awaken the deep sense of adventure that God has placed in your masculine soul.

Adventures are exciting because you are forced to figure out the answers as you go along. The outcome—and often the path—is unknown. You don’t know how it’s going to end. There may be danger involved. Failure is a possibility. Driving to the grocery store to pick up a gallon of milk is not an adventure. Finding the grocery store on fire and running in to rescue people is. Which scenario gets you more excited as a man? I can’t be the only one who fantasizes about things such as rescuing people from burning buildings or fighting off mountain lions on the trail. It’s written in our hearts as men.

I have long been aware of this desire for adventure inside me, but I misunderstood the root of it for many years. You see, adventure isn’t just about getting an adrenaline fix or doing something worthy of a YouTube video. It’s about being alive. God created men to desire adventure because the skills we learn through it—endurance, perseverance, trust, risk—are the same skills we need to experience a life fully alive to Him. After all, the greatest adventure of all—the only adventure that will fully meet this need within a man—is the adventure of living by faith.

But what happens if you ignore your desire for adventure, refuse to take risks, and choose to live a “safe” life? Life will become nothing more than punching a clock, doing your daily duties, and only saying the “right” things so you don’t stir the pot. Men who accept this life become passive…jaded…bored. When these men see the grocery store in flames, they drive right past it and look for a safer place to buy their milk. Instead of adventure, they settle for something safer—something free from risk. Sadly, the longer a man goes down this road, the more tempted he will be to retreat into fantasy.

Fantasy is the opposite of adventure, though. Instead of awakening life within you, it encourages you to hide from life. It promises an escape from the pain and disappointment in your real world that you are too afraid to face. Instead of embracing the risk of addressing these things and entering into the adventure of faith that God has called you to, you check out. You turn to TV, video games, hobbies, or even sinful things such as pornography or drunkenness as a means of distracting yourself from the hard realities of real life. But these distractions are not real. They are merely fantasies robbing you from the life God is calling you to.

Secret Life of Walter MittyBen Stiller’s new movie, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, illustrates this pull between the masculine longing for adventure and the false solution of fantasy, which is why I think it should be required viewing for every man.

In the movie, Walter is bored. He lives his life according to duty. There is no drama, no romance, and certainly no adventure in his world. Walter is afraid to take risks, so he settles for merely daydreaming about the type of life he truly desires.

Inevitably, Walter comes to a crossroads in his life. He is given the opportunity to enter into an adventure far beyond anything he has experienced before. But in order to do so, he must take enormous risks. Each time he steps outside of his comfort zone, though, it becomes easier and easier for him to do it the next time. By the end of the movie, Walter has been transformed from a coward into “a cross between Indiana Jones and the lead singer of The Strokes.”

Just like Walter Mitty, if you want to experience the adventure God has called you to, you will need to step out of your comfort zone and take risks. You will need to trust God completely, even when it seems risky, illogical, or unsafe. But the more you trust Him, the easier it will be to trust Him further. Before you know it, you will find yourself living your own adventure of faith, trusting God in ways you never before dreamed possible.

So, my brother, if you are hiding behind fantasy, I would strongly encourage you to stop talking yourself out of the adventure God is calling you to. Be honest with yourself and ask what will make your heart come alive more: Risking whatever it takes to follow God, love your family, and impact the Kingdom for eternity; or getting caught up on your DVR? It’s like asking if you’d rather watch Gladiator or Dirty Dancing, isn’t it?

The real world needs your strength. Your family needs your strength. And the only way to start believing you have it is to trust God when He calls you to run toward the burning building. Yes, you may get singed in places, but it’s worth it.

The adventure of faith is always worth it.

The world tells you “Don’t climb on that, don’t break anything,
don’t be so aggressive, don’t be so noisy,
don’t be so messy, don’t make such crazy risks.”
But God’s design—which he placed in boys
as the picture of himself—is a resounding yes.
Be fierce, be wild, be passionate.
~John Eldredge, Wild at Heart~

What movies have spoken to your heart as a man?

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How Jesus Used a Cute Girl on a Bike to Remind Me of His Love

In case you can’t tell by my author photo, I work out.

(Insert sarcastic emoticon here)

In all seriousness though, I really am a bit of a gym rat.

The gym I go to is pretty small, so I like to get there ridiculously early and claim the lone barbell before the 6am crowd shows up. This also gives me time to follow-up my workout with a 2-3 mile walk before I head off to work.

I usually listen to a sermon or podcast as I walk my loop, which is a big part of why these walks have become one of the most enjoyable parts of my day.

But there’s another reason why I’ve been looking forward to these walks lately:

The cute girl on the bike.

A few months ago I decided to spice things up and walk my loop in the opposite direction. Livin’ on the edge, right?

Hi Wayne

Hi Wayne!

By walking the loop this way, my route happened to cross paths with an incredibly attractive girl on a bike who, judging by her outfit, was commuting to work. Naturally, my mind deduced that if she rides by here at this time on Monday morning, there’s a good chance she will ride by here on Wednesday morning as well.

I convinced myself that I must test out my hypothesis, so Wednesday morning I set out for my walk in the same direction. Sure enough, there she was again.

Only this time, she smiled at me.

Game over.

To be honest, I have no idea what that smile meant. More than likely it was nothing more than a polite acknowledgment of my presence, much like the smile one would give a passing coworker in the office hallway. Being a guy though (and all of you guys will know exactly what I’m talking about here), I decided that her smile meant she liked what she saw.

I convinced myself that she desired me, and I really liked the way that felt.

As much as I’d like to say I immediately recognized the danger of the situation and switched back to my original walking route, I actually did just the opposite. I purposefully began timing my walks hoping to align them with her commute and have another opportunity to receive a smile.

Most mornings, I did.

And then one morning, she stopped riding by.

The weather was getting colder and she probably started taking the bus or driving to work for all I know. The funny thing though, is I found myself feeling as if I had been rejected. Even though we had never even talked, I felt like something had been taken away from me.

It was in this moment that I sensed Jesus speaking to my heart:

Why are you sad?

Because I liked being desired. I liked being wanted.

But you are desired…You are wanted…by Me and My Father.

I know Lord, but it still felt good to be desired by a pretty girl.

Of course it felt good. She was beautiful. Her smile makes everyone smile—including Me. But no woman can ever desire you in a way that will fully satisfy your longing to be desired. Only My love can fill that hole in your heart. Furthermore, how could she desire you if she doesn’t even know you? I know everything about you—the good and the bad—and I still desire to be with you so strongly that I paid for the opportunity with my own life.

Yeah, I guess no girl can compete with that type of love, huh?

No earthly relationship can compete with My love. Perhaps someday I will bring you a spouse whose desire for you will compliment my love, but it must never compete with my love or it will become an idol. That is not for you to be concerned with at this moment though. For now, just focus on My love and My desire for you.

I want to Lord, but I will need your help.

And I will give it to you. For starters, perhaps it will help to know that she was only smiling at you because you had toilet paper stuck to your shoe. Remember, kid, pride comes before the fall.

And that’s how Jesus used a cute girl on a bike to remind me of how much He loves me.

What situations has Jesus used in your life to remind you of His love?

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Focus on My Voice

Unless you’ve been living in a box for the past few weeks, you’ve probably heard about the new Superman movie: Man of Steel. If you haven’t seen it yet, I highly recommend you get to a theater and check it out.

Superman-new-1It’s no secret that the Superman story is heavily influenced by the life of Jesus. Both men willingly set aside their superiority in order to experience life as a human being. Both men came to Earth with unbelievable powers, yet chose to use them for the good of others rather than their own gain. Ultimately, both men were willing to sacrifice everything in order to save mankind.

The main difference between the two, is that Superman is a fictional character, and Jesus Christ is the living Son of God.

I tend to geek out on theological parallels in movies, which is perhaps why I also enjoyed the Lord of the Rings movies so immensely. What touched me the most in Man of Steel though, wasn’t the way that Superman modeled Jesus and His miraculous power. I was impressed with the way He modeled Jesus in His humility and humanity.

The first scene that stood out to me, which modeled his humility, was when Superman was detained by the military—in handcuffs. Obviously, the only reason Superman was even in handcuffs was he allowed it to happen, which he makes clear a few minutes later as he snaps the handcuffs like a piece of thread. Yet, even after displaying his strength, he continued to remain in their custody voluntarily.

It reminded me of the time when Jesus was being arrested. Peter pulled his sword out to defend him, but Jesus just asked him to put his sword away. He then goes on to tell Peter:

Don’t you realize that I could ask my Father for thousands of angels to protect us, and he would send them instantly? But if I did, how would the Scriptures be fulfilled that describe what must happen now? (Matthew 26:53–54)

Jesus knew the guards had no power to stop Him, yet He still chose to willingly put aside His infinite power and humbly surrender to them. Likewise, the entire time He was being tortured on the cross, He was a single prayer away from that very same army of angels coming down to set Him free from His pain. Jesus knew this full well. But He also knew He was the only one who had the power to rescue us from our sin and fulfill the role God had called Him to fulfill.

In the same way that Superman willingly surrendered to the military, Jesus willingly surrendered to death—not because He had been overpowered, but because His love for us was so overpowering.

The other scene that touched me, and reminded me of the humanity of Jesus, took place when Superman was still a young boy. He hadn’t learned yet how to control his superior senses, which often resulted in him becoming overstimulated and causing panic attacks. This particular time, it overwhelmed him so much that he locked himself in a closet to drown out the world. No one was able to calm him down, so they asked his mother to come to the door to try to talk to him.

Clark Kent: The world’s too big, Mom.

Martha Kent: Then make it small. Focus on my voice.
Pretend it’s an island out in the ocean. Can you see it?

When I heard that line, it was as if God was speaking to me directly.

If Jesus had to rely on My voice when His world got too big,
you will need to do the same.

I obviously recognize that I’m not Jesus, and no amount of spandex will ever make me Superman. I’m just a normal guy. Which is why the only way I will ever have any hope of making it through the seasons where the world seems to big—those times where life is overwhelming—is to focus on the voice of God to make the world smaller. If I keep looking at the big picture and all the steps I’ll have to take, I’ll get overwhelmed. If, however, I listen for God to just tell me the next step and focus on Him rather than my problems, it becomes easier to trust that He really will get me through.

Jesus recognized his need to be connected to His Father throughout His entire earthly ministry. He knew how dependent He was for God to direct His every move. And if Jesus (who was fully God as well as fully man) needed that support, how much more will we need it?

So go and see Man of Steel. And as you watch it, remember, Jesus willingly set aside His power, submitting to death on the cross and setting you free. And if you have trusted in His work on the cross to give you life, you have full access to God and can boldly come to Him whenever your world feels too big.

My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one can snatch them away from me… (John 10:27–28)

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