G.K. Chesterton once remarked, “When a man knocks on a brothel door he is really searching for God.” In his book, Surfing for God: Discovering the Divine Desire Beneath Sexual Struggle, Michael John Cusick argues that in today’s society, “When a man surfs the Internet for porn he is really surfing for God.” Using anecdotes from his own life and the lives of those he has ministered to (with permission, I assume), modern psychological development, and spiritual direction, Cusick offers the reader a way forward to wholeness.
Cusick takes a look at one of our culture’s most debilitating accessible struggles – lust and pornography. Quoting C.S. Lewis, Cusick explains from the outset why surfing for porn is so dangerous, “In the end, [imaginary women] become the medium through which he [the porn addict] adores himself. After all, the main work of life is to come out of ourselves, out of the little, dark prison we are all born in. . . . All things are to be avoided which retard this process. The danger is that of coming to love the prison.” Pornography is so dangerous because it can so easily become a prison we love.
The problem we face with pornography is that it promises so much – without cost! Cusick identifies six such promises that pornography offers and explains why each is false and runs counter to being created in the image of God. The promises are:
- You can be a man without having to possess relational strength.
- You can be sexually fulfilled without the necessity of relational investment.
- You can be intimate with a “woman” without having to risk anything.
- You can have a purposeful and meaningful life without any real connection to your own soul.
- You can have power over women without having to use that power responsibly and with humility.
- You can be comforted and cared for without having to depend on others.
Before we can move forward in recovering from pornography and recovering to the image of God we must recognize these promises, so-called, for what they are, lies. There is no manliness apart from relational integrity. There is no being “naked and unashamed” apart from relational investment. All intimacy involves risk. One cannot find real meaning in life without knowing himself. Any real power over women must be earned through gentleness and trust. We were created to be cared for and comforted by others and there is no comfort in isolation from others.
Our addiction to pornography is only the visible part of a deeper, invisible reality – our own brokenness. Until we identify those things which cause our brokenness we will never be able to confront the lies of pornography. Our brokenness is composed of our wickedness, our weaknesses, and our woundedness. Our wickedness (our sin nature) is the foundation of our brokkenness, but not the sum total. It shapes how we respond to our weaknesses and woundedness. Weakness is the area where we feel inadequate, incompetent, or incapable. Unless we acknowledge our weaknesses and choose to embrace it then our wickedness will find a way to deny the weakness and we will engage in sinful and destructive behavior. Wounds are those areas where have been hurt, intentionally and unintentionally. “Until we realize that we are wounded, we will never recognize how we turn to porn as a balm to heal the injuries of our hearts.”
What happens in the midst of our unaddressed brokenness becomes a cycle of despair and defeat. The “Soul Snare” begins with our brokenness. This brokenness leads us to fixate on the lies of pornography and sexual addiction. This preoccupation ensnares us and inevitably results in shame, which reinforces our sense of hopeless brokenness. The solution is “The Soul Care Highway.” This cycle alos begins with our brokenness, but instead of focusing on sexual gratification we focus on our souls. We learn to be aware of our inner world and sit in the presence of a searching God (Psalm 139). In this process we learn to practice soul through attentiveness to the soul: identifying your triggers, questioning your cravings, riding out the temptation, and learning to live with tension.
Because the brain is damaged through addiction, our wholeness will require rebooting. First, one must define his objective. That is, name the goal. Second, one must detox for 90 days. Third, one must prepare for the cravings and be ready to stand firm against temptation. Finally, one must be prepared for relapse and have the courage to continue the good fight.
What this book lacks is a clear and concise pathway for people struggling with sexual addiction. There are good insights into the process and some helpful suggestions, but no to-the-point step program for those struggling. If one is serious enough a program may be constructed from the pages of this book, but that would take considerable patience and time, both commodities in the world of the addict.
The honesty and theological reflection on sexual addiction are what make this book of value. There is enough thought and reflection here to coach people out of addiction, if one is willing to bring cohesion to it all. Cusick does not hide the difficulty of the road before the addict, but he does hold out hope and a testimony of a life changed.
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