For those who missed it first time:
I was never a popular kid at school. I can distinctly remember always feeling like an outcast, like I didn’t belong. As an 11 year old kid, secondary school is a scary place. For a variety of reasons I was never with the ‘in’ crowd. In fact I think I was the ‘out’ crowd of my peer group. Needless to say I didn’t enjoy school much. Just to get a feel for what school was like for me, I can remember being beaten, naked on the floor of the changing rooms at school.
I did not grow up in any form of church environment and so my knowledge of God is limited.
So I was being alienated from most normal social contact, for preteens anyway, and it didn’t take too long for school to become a dark and lonely place for me. Looking back with a youth worker I know, she noticed that I would always walk with my head ducked down and my voice as soft as a whisper. This dark, depressing existence(because I had few friends outside of school) will turn out to have some interesting effects on the rest of me.
There was this Christian group that used to come into my school and run a lunch time club. Now in my school situation, I was pretty love-starved, and so for one hour a week I would be able to sit and talk with some people who, I suppose, were the literal presence of Jesus for me at that time. Meeting these people didn’t profoundly change my life at this point. This was just another thing that I did at school.
Since I struggled a lot with feeling wanted or close with another person, when I was younger I used to try and experience this in several misguided ways. There was this girl, who was a family friend, and we used to engage in sexually themed ‘games’ and explore each others bodies. This chance to feel wanted by someone, to share a connection with someone, was what I craved. Thankfully I never actually had sex with her but it always interested me that outside of the family friend visits where we would meet, she didn’t really want much to do with me, especially in front of other people.
I learn quickly that physical intimacy can sort of make me feel excited and almost happy to be alive, but at the same time as this I am learning about the amazing love of Jesus.
This fairly long period is marked, for me, by very deep self-esteem struggles and even thoughts of hurting or killing myself. This sort of extreme high of physical closeness and extreme low of feeling of rejection shaped me in many unpleasant ways.
I was a bitter person, and marked with a mistrust of other human beings. I did, and I suppose I still do, find it difficult to connect with other people because of what I had experienced.
Into this I want to introduce the internet.
What is a young teenager who has low self esteem, seeks physical intimacy with other human beings in order to feel accepted, and is extremely unpopular going to do when he encounters the bountiful provision of online content?
In other words, I was hooked on pornography about five minutes after we got an internet connection.
Remember please that each week I was encountering a Christian presence and slowly beginning to learn more and more and experience God’s love.
It got to the point where I was so low, any form of intimacy was good enough for me, and that most often took the form of physical and sexual intimacy. Intimacy on a screen, intimacy with even male friends seemed like a good idea, just to feel accepted or wanted by someone. So I would experience the kind of wonderful, life-giving intimacy of relationship with God whilst also being lost in a world of fake intimacy on a computer screen and with other people.
It took a while, but God won this love-war.
However it took a long time, and in many ares I’m still fighting, for the years of habits to eventually die. Please don’t imagine for even a second that even though I began to choose God’s love over all the other stuff that I didn’t still struggle.
I became a Christian, and life still sucked. I still plodded through my day under a dark shadow.
But the difference was that now I had access to as much love as I wanted.
So by this point I might have been 14 or so?
God was near to me for many years before I even even knew him.
But even after I started to get to know him, well I was just as socially awkward, and every day still hurt to go through.
I’m 18 years old now. My journey to faith and now with God has not been easy. I’m not sure it was ever supposed to be or ever will be. Maybe one day God will heal me of all of this.
God has certainly lifted me from a bad placed and set me in a better one. Now I can walk through a day with hope and feeling alive. Now I a surrounded by the most wonderful, loving people who truly are a gift for me. And now I can know the greatest love of them all.
I suppose, every day, I deal with a lot of stuff from my teenage years. Be it self-esteem, acceptance from others, feeling of self-worth and of course pornography.
By the grace of God, I will carry on.