The breaking point

breaking pointDay Zero?

I have probably said it before at some time in my life; I’m pretty sure I have, in fact. But I think I’m at the breaking point: at which either I have to change radically, or be utterly destroyed.

It has been a particularly violent week or two of struggle, and it’s growing ever more intense. I’m rising higher, having realizations and revelations, and then falling harder than I’ve ever fallen before. My new Lent has once again been dashed and thrashed against the rocks, again and again and again. Monday, after a particularly intimate Mass on Sunday and a resolute declaration to do better, to pray and fast and stand my ground — I was assaulted by one of the most orchestrated attacks I’ve ever seen. Computers crashing, programs not working properly, telephone ringing off the hook with telemarketers, weather alert radios going off incessantly, followed by fierce storms — my anxiety level through the roof. I fell in the face of it all too easily.

And the force of that fall. I lost all of Monday and all of Tuesday, literally every waking minute devoured by lust. I feel completely out of control. I brought to life another evil doll — my cannibalistic creation that, in pretending to be a girl on the Internet, preys on the longings for intimacy of other lonely men like myself. And it has been the most excruciating episode ever — to know the pain I am inflicting on others and mockery of love I am making.

And tonight I am crying myself to sleep. Not in so many years has the agony been this intense and this raw. Today I downloaded several talks by Matt Fradd and Jason Evert from Catholic Answers on pornography and chastity. And I weep. I heard a quote today, attributed online to Bishop Patrick O’Boyle, that “no one can live continually in sin and continue to say the Rosary. Either he will give up the sin or he will give up the Rosary.” Lord, may this be true. Tonight I most truly offer my tears up to Heaven. I cast all my burdens upon the Lord, and offer my breaking heart to Him.

Our Lady of Purity, please pray for me. Saint Joseph, Protector of Virgins, please pray for me. Saint Agnes, my patroness, please pray for me.

Advertisements

Standing

Day eight.

I have other things I need to do, but I wanted to check in briefly and say that I am doing pretty well right now. I feel a lot stronger. I know better than to let down my guard; but prayer, fasting, and almsgiving are working miracles in my life.

What is Sin?

JusticeSome atheist friends of mine had a party in my honor (not to be confused with a lemon party), and one of the questions of the hour has been what is “sin”? My friends seem to think that is some nasty and degrading and offensive word and concept, inherently judgmental and repressive, arbitrary and dictatorial at someone else’s whim (who doesn’t even exist). Naturally, as a theist and a Christian, I have a different idea of it.

I maintain that sin is an absolute and universal concept, essential to humankind; my friends are of the opinion that all morality is relative and there is no absolute “right” or “wrong” and certainly not a “sin.” This, of course, is an argument that has gone on in philosophical and theological circles for centuries, and I have no hope of resolving it here. I am just a dumb sheep and not much of a philosopher. But I do think it’s important food for thought as I am here struggling with my own sin.

The Catholic Church defines sin thus:

SIN: An offense against God as well as a fault against reason, truth, and right conscience. Sin is a deliberate thought, word, deed, or omission contrary to the eternal law of God. In judging the gravity of sin, it is customary to distinguish between mortal and venial sins (1849, 1853, 1854). (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd Ed.)

My friends, being atheists, of course don’t agree with the “God” part. But the parts I bolded are what make this apply to whomever you are, whatever you believe. Because whoever you are, whatever you believe, if you are human, you have to believe that there is a “right” and a “wrong,” a “good” and a “bad,” a “help” and a “harm.” And to do wrong is to sin.

Now, whether morality is absolute or relative is a different argument: but there are, without a doubt, in human society, codes of mores that are particular to groups of people. And there is a “right” and a “wrong,” a “good” and a “bad,” according to those codes. To deny that “morality” exists is the same as denying “freedom” or “truth” exist: sure, those ideas may to some degree be socially constructed and relative according to the who and where and when. But they do exist. There is a “right” and a “wrong,” according to your local idea of morality, and a “sin,” whether there is a god or a king or a sheriff.

Some things, of course, are pretty absolute. There may be some situations in which killing human beings is arguably justified and perhaps even right; but it seems pretty universal that killing innocent and defenseless people is wrong. There may be some situations in which taking things that don’t belong to you is right; but it seems to be common to all societies that taking things of value against the will of the person who has them, especially by force or coercion and to their detriment, is wrong. These things are sins against humanity.

And to my situation: some people might argue that pornography is “benign” or “okay” or “good” or maybe even “right.” There’s nothing shameful about sex or sexuality or nudity or the human body–those are all beautiful and good things. But most people, upon seeing the shame and exploitation and destruction and abuse and addiction that the pornographic industry inflicts upon its participants and oftentimes its viewers, would agree that those were bad things. And artistic nudity, the display of the nude body for its aesthetic qualities, can certainly be good and has its proper place. But that’s the kind of “pornography” that I enjoy more than anything; that has been more deadly to me than anything. There may be nothing at all inherently pornographic  about this kind of art–but alone in my room, with my pants down, with gigabytes and gigabytes of it on my hard drive, is most decidedly not its proper place. And nearly anyone, I think, regardless of how they feel about pornography or nudity or sex or art, can agree that the kind of addiction and destruction it has wrought in my life is bad–is wrong, an offense against my own dignity–is a sin.

Possessed?

Guido Reni, The Archangel Michael Defeating Satan
St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle!

Day Three.

Today has been pretty tempting — and it corresponds exactly to having opened up my other computer. It’s a very odd thing, but I’ve only ever “gotten into trouble” (looked at porn or done anything else unseemly) on that computer — which, ironically enough, I named AGNES when I bought her years ago, praying I would never abuse her in the ways I abused my previous computer. Alas, as soon as my “old” computer became my “no longer functional” computer, AGNES became my vehicle for porn and other nastiness.

I suppose, naturally, it had to have a vehicle, and she was the only one I had at that time. But when I got my new-new computer, I segregated that part of my life only to AGNES. And the only times I’ve been able to resist temptation at all, lately, have been when AGNES was closed and put away. My files and things are currently strewn between the two computers, and I needed to boot up AGNES today to get some stuff. And immediately the temptation assailed me; nearly overcame me; and immediately upon closing her again just now, the temptation went away.

It’s often occurred to me that maybe AGNES is “possessed” or held by some dark energy that leads me into temptation by its nature. I’ve wondered — especially when I’ve made bold declarations about casting this mess off — if I should take her in to be blessed and exorcised by a priest, or at least anoint her with holy water myself here at home. In my right mind, I think that’s kind of silly; but I admit that I don’t know what goes on in the spiritual plane of things. Though I tend to be somewhat of a skeptic, more and more I’m realizing that there is a battle in the heavenlies for and around our souls; powers and principalities that we cannot see or understand. What if, through repeatedly opening such dark doors upon her and through her, I’ve given AGNES into the hands of those powers?

Anyway, I need to put her back in the bag and back in the closet.

A New Lent

Kramskoy, Christ in the WildernessDay One. I did go back to the Lord yesterday, and humbled myself and laid down my burdens. And I found peace.

I started out this Lenten season with a firm resolution to resist this thing. To abstain from porn and grow in fortitude and continue on past that — from forty days, to eighty, to 120, to a year. Alas, I didn’t last much longer than a week before I fell flat on my face. And for a week or two, I didn’t get up. Didn’t even really try. I was glad to be back to my “friends.”

I was sad Sunday morning that I would have to go and give them up again, and I kept them going for as I could. Years ago, I would have stayed home and wallowed in it and sunk deeper and deeper. It’s what eventually led me to fall away from church entirely for most of my twenties. But despite all the talk of a “personal relationship” with Jesus, I had no idea how intensely personal meeting Christ in the Eucharist could be. Now, his Body and Blood are my lifeblood: I could not go a week without Him.

And I laid them down. And the words of the act of contrition rang in my head: “I firmly resolve to sin no more, and avoid the near occasions of sin.” How firmly did I really resolve, when I went home fully expecting to pick them up again? Can it be true contrition, true penitence, when one knows one’s repentance is temporary?

I had screwed up my Lenten plans. But if Jesus is about anything, He is about forgiveness, and restoration, and second chances. So I laid them down, and I picked up my Lent again.

I asked Father for a true penance, a heavy penance, not just the usual decade of the Rosary that felt like a slap on the wrist. And fasting is the path I will take. Fasting, and going back to Celebrate Recovery. When one lays down sin, one has to take up something or one’s idle hands return to their old habits: I am taking up my Lent again. My Lord, please let it bear fruit.

When I am weak

jesus-heals-the-blind-manDay zero?

I am not doing well. I’ve been falling all over the place for the past week; entirely unable — or unwilling? — to stand. I did fall rather terribly not long after my last post. And I think nearly every day since. I went to Confession and to Mass on Sunday. That should have given me some strength. I lasted most of the day Monday, but rather intentionally led myself into temptation that night; I don’t have any excuse or anyone else to blame. I missed my toys and didn’t want to leave them alone.

There is often that feeling that I’m leaving them “alone” — that if I don’t spend time with them, they will be lonely, or else they’ll be going to waste. I have poured so much time and effort into them. The one project in particular — my collection of “models” — calls to me constantly as something unfinished that I have to finish. There are some two-thousand models that I’ve “collected” that have to be rated and filed.

I fell back into another project this week that I had abandoned for some months: a “collection” of “real” girls on Facebook that I had found and liked. This originally had the seedier purpose of finding “faces” for my “evil dolls” — girls I would animate and pretend to be online for my self-gratification. I’ve managed to stave off that temptation for the most part lately; just the “possessing” has been occupying my attention. The evil dolls always hurt someone else in their deception; and I do still have a heart.

I used to get up every morning and pray and read my Bible and have my devotions. The devil’s latest trick — and I do think this is the devil, or at least one of his lieutenants — is to pounce on me with temptation as soon as I roll out of bed, to distract me from having that time, my only source and strength and hope. This morning the dark one almost led me into much deeper and darker things than I’ve been involved with for a very long time — this was his plan — but thanks be to God, I was sidetracked by something in the end rather benign and blessed: celebrity crushes, on a pair of intoxicatingly beautiful and decent young actresses. It’s refreshing sometimes to remember that I’m not so deviant and lost as to be unaffected by the common attractions that affect young males all around the world.

I’m afraid I’m too weak to pull myself up today. The right thing to do, I know, is to drop what I’m doing and to put on sackcloth and ashes and to throw myself on the mercy of God; but I just don’t think I’m going to be able to do that today. These barbs are in me and pulling me along. Tomorrow — tomorrow I will go back. Tomorrow I have to go back. Because I’m obligated to go back. One strength of being Catholic — one reason I know I am where I’m supposed to be — is that I can never run very far. I’m always obligated to go back. I’ve heard some critics say that the weekly obligation of attending Mass on Sundays is an onerous and legalistic requirement; but it’s there for our own protection. The ability of some Protestants to say they’re not going to church one week because they “don’t feel like it” or “have other things to do” seems to me more a vulnerability and a curse than a blessing; more a sign of negligence and uncaring on the part of the church than it is a freedom. Tomorrow I will be back. I will go to Confession, and receive the Holy Eucharist, and my loving and merciful Jesus will forgive me for my sins, and pick me up and put me on my feet again. And if I only lean on His strength, I won’t be weak again.