Struggling Forward

Written By: Maggie Walsh

 

“Don’t do it. Don’t do it, Mags. Don’t do it.”

I was chanting to try and get control over my thoughts, which were racing headlong in a direction that they could not go, not right now.

I mean, it’s 2 o’clock on a Friday — I’m at work, for crying out loud! But the thoughts don’t care what my setting is. They don’t care about the length of my to do list or the fact that I have several deadlines I have to meet by 5 o’clock. They only care about getting me to a certain destination, and it’s a destination I don’t want to reach.

I feel like I should warn you now, dear reader, this is an uncomfortable read. It’s uncomfortable to write, too, so let’s just dive into the discomfort together. Deep breaths …

So these thoughts, they have all kinds of triggers. A line in a song, an image in a movie, an offhand comment, a memory — they can hit anytime. And all roads lead to one destination, my sin struggle that I’m most ashamed of, the one that I’ve fought against for years: masturbation.

I know, I know — just the word elicits a reaction. Maybe your nose crinkles, your shoulders tense, you feel like this is the perfect time to start a new show on Netflix. I get it! So for the health of your upper back, let’s call it “skiing.”

I never thought I would struggle with something like this. I never imagined that skiing would be a part of my story.

I was the kid in Sunday School who knew all the answers. I hated getting in trouble, so I didn’t break the rules. I was at church every time the doors were open. Being a preacher’s kid in a small town meant everyone would know if I messed up, so my goal in life was to never mess up.

And by my own personal standards — which weren’t necessarily sky high — I did pretty well. But that was before any male found me remotely attractive.

I was a late bloomer compared to my friends, and it wasn’t until college that I had my first boyfriend … and then my second, third and fourth boyfriends. Of the four relationships, two were serious, and it in was the first serious relationship that I came face to face with real temptation.

He was older than I was, the strong and silent type, and I trusted him. I trusted him completely. He was the one to stop things when they began to go too far, and for the first time in my life I realized that I wanted to push the boundaries.

I think that’s what surprised me the most — that I was the one pushing our boundaries. I had always assumed that I would be the moral compass of a relationship, that I would be the strong one.

But I wasn’t either of those things. And a part of me didn’t want to be.

In high school, I always thought that life was black and white, good or bad, virgin or slut. I didn’t expect the slow fade of continual compromises to wear down my cultural Christianity over the course of a year and a half, one decision at a time.

When he and I finally had sex, he asked me if I was sure. I told him I was, because even though I wasn’t quite sure who I had become, I knew exactly what I wasn’t. I wasn’t a virgin.

And in my relationships after him, the sexual boundaries were pushed so much faster. It was like we were in fast-forward, and I had absolutely no idea how to even find the remote to hit pause.

I think what was so unexpected for me, especially in my second serious relationship, was that I simultaneously wanted sex and wanted to not have sex. In the moment, I was 100 percent in support of it. Out of the moment, I was 100 percent against it. The tug of war between my flesh and my spirit was in full swing, and I was so isolated in my sin that I couldn’t break free of the chains of my lust.

The skiing was a natural result of my gradual compromises and isolation, and it skipped hand in hand with my longterm sexual relationship. I rationalized all of it away, though.

Of our relationship, I told myself, “We’re going to get married. In 40 years it won’t matter that we jumped the gun a little.”

And of my skiing, I told myself, “It’s not hurting anyone. This is just a personal thing, just a release.”

I wish I had realized sooner that it was hurting someone. It was hurting me in way that was so pervasive that I still don’t have complete freedom from it. And it was hurting my Father who didn’t create my sexuality solely for my own pleasure.

Today, I’m not in a relationship, and I haven’t had sex in almost three years (praise the good Lord in heaven!). But the skiing — it has remained a monthly, weekly, even daily struggle. Sometimes I can pray fiercely and resist the temptation. Other times the urge hits like a whirlwind, and I get swept away. Then the wind settles, and I’m left with the realization that I’m still not free, that my decisions made in the heat of the moment didn’t just leave scratches on the exterior of my heart; they dug deep, disfiguring what God intended in a way that I can’t describe.

And so I write to you from the midst of my sin, redeemed but struggling. I don’t have total and comprehensive freedom. I have moments of victory and varying amounts of time between skiing. I often feel like a failure, and I want to keep this struggle in a box buried in the back of my closet where no one will ever see it.

But Jesus.

He created us to live in community, and he created us to bear one another’s burdens. For the first time in my life, I have true community that loves me enough to ask me how my skiing is going, to encourage me when I resist, to give me truth when I give in.

They love me when I can’t love myself, and they constantly lift my eyes to the Father when shame makes me want to hide my face.

Our sin has consequences, ladies (like struggling not to ski while at your place of employment). There’s a reason God designed sex within marriage. It’s a beautiful, binding act that is intended to bring glory to the Father. Outside of marriage, it’s a selfish shadow of what it was created to be, but it still binds you to your partner, leaving you scarred and wounded with each encounter.

I am beyond thankful for the grace, mercy and unshakeable love of Jesus. I’m a prime example of how our Good Shepherd leaves the 99 to find the one who is lost.

And to anyone else who has strayed, who is struggling to reign in her desires, who looks in the mirror and wonders who the girl looking back at her is, I want you to know that God is worth it. He’s worth the struggle. He’s worth saying no to what you want in the moment. He’s worth walking away from the guy you slept with last night. He’s worth placing your relationship status at his feet and saying, “Not my will, but yours, Father.”

My God is worth chasing. So what are you waiting for?

If you want to hear more of my story (yes, there’s even more nonsense) or just want to chat, I would love to get coffee, ice cream or food of any kind with you (maggiewalsh09@gmail.com). We also have a fantastic women’s ministry that’s chalk-full of ladies who are chasing Jesus and loving those around them well. Just email Kelly Redding (redding.kelly@gmail.com) to get connected.