Peace if possible, truth at all costs—
— Martin Luther —
For over 30 years, I battled a low-grade but persistent struggle with pornography.
This was true, even though I was a devout Christian in full time pastoral ministry.
Then God allowed me to see a truth from the Bible that enabled me to be set free from that bondage.
I wrote this story out of deep gratitude for the change in my life.
This is my story.
I see something…. I can just make it out…
It seems to be a pit…
Yes, there is a shallow pit with slippery sloping sides. In the bottom of the pit there is a pool of… Oh, it’s a pit of putrid filth. On one side of the pit, I see something else… I see a dark and evil creature, and it is holding a strong chain.
I look and see that the chain extends down into the pit where I now see another creature… no—wait—it’s a man! Or at least, what used to be a man… but he’s not moving.
Looking closer, I notice that the chain is actually attached to the man, or rather to a collar that the man is wearing. The chain is hanging limp, and the man is not moving…. face down in the filth.
I look back at the dark creature and see that it is watching the man… and smiling a wicked smile… its eyes never leaving its captive who is motionless in the pit.
As I look at the creature, I notice that the chain has begun to move. I return my gaze to the man in the pit. To my surprise, he is attempting to get up! The chain is too long to hold him in the pit. Slowly, he begins to rise out of the mire.
The man is covered in the filth but still he’s laboring to his knees. To my surprise, he begins to weep! I steal a glance at the creature and it is no longer smiling… and I can see it nervously handling the chain, as if preparing to take up the slack…
I look back at the man. Still on his knees, he turns his face to the distant Light on the opposite side of the pit. Suddenly he summons all his courage and strength and an anguished cry erupts from deep within his being. He keeps his face steadfast towards the Light, and cries out again… stronger this time.
Now I hear another sound—a scream—coming instead from the creature. I turn to see that it has now dropped the chain and is using both hands to cover its ears so as not to be pained by the cries of the man!
Once more the man cries out towards the Light. Once again, his voice is stronger. As he cries, he begins to stand up. I find myself cheering for the man as I watch!
Then, to my amazement, a burst of Light emanates from the distance and engulfs the man. Miraculously, the filth from the pit completely melts off his body and clothes! Although he was covered in it just a moment ago, now he stands up and I see that his clothes are pure white! No trace of the filth can be seen anywhere on him! … and the tears in his eyes have been wiped away.
The man notices his clean clothes and is emboldened by what he sees! He begins to move towards the far slope of the pit… his face toward the Light and his jaw set.
He makes steady progress up the slope of the pit. I can hardly contain my joy! He is almost out!
It is still attached to the man’s collar!
And as he makes his way up the slope, the slack in the chain is being taken up!
I had momentarily forgotten about the wicked little creature who was holding the other end of the chain. I look back at it and see its eyes blazing with anger, its hands desperately grasping the chain, little by little taking in the slack. My eyes follow the chain, now nearly taut, back to the man.
The chain is beginning to slow the man’s progress as he climbs up the slope of the pit. One of his feet slips and he quickly puts a hand down to prevent his fall. I watch as he continues to struggle to get out of the pit against the pull of the chain.
I notice that, to my surprise, the small creature is not strong enough to pull the man back into the pit! But its intermittent yanking on the chain has the effect of throwing the man off balance, causing him to halt his progress and stop his fall.
For a time, the man makes little or no progress due to the clever timing of the creature’s pulling on the chain.
I can sense the man’s frustration with the chain. Suddenly he whirls around to face his tormentor. I see rage in his eyes as he tries in vain to pull the chain from the creature’s hands. Failing that, he grabs the chain with both hands and summons all his strength in an attempt to pull the chain free of his collar. Again, to no avail.
Finally, with a cry of hopeless frustration, he grabs a length of the chain and brings it down in a powerful stroke against his uplifted knee.
The creature was waiting for this moment.
The man is standing on one foot on the slippery slope of the pit… his attention on the chain…
A cruelly timed tug…
A startled look…
A cry of fear and agony…
A tumultuous flailing of arms and legs…
A painful fall…
A slippery slope…
the awful sound of a heavy splash…
and then … stillness.
except for a quiet and evil chuckle.
I turn back toward the creature. Once again, it is staring intently at the man. Smiling again. That wicked smile.
I can’t bear to look at the creature any longer, so I turn back to the man, wondering if he would… or could…
My heart leaps as I watch him begin to stir! Will he get up again?
Then, he rises to his knees and begins to weep. I am thrilled! I hear him cry out to the Light again. I watch him get up. I see the burst of Light and rejoice to see the filth again melt off his body. Once again, I watch him take steps toward the sloping edge of the pit. I watch him take step after step up the side. I watch him… I watch…
I watch the chain draw taut…
I watch the man fight against it…
And then I watch him fall.
How many times has this happened before? Will it happen again? The scene is horrifying. Has he no hope? It is more than I can bear.
But then, I hear another sound!
A voice… the voice of another man!
It is coming from close by, where another man stands at the edge of his own pit… straining at his own chain. I wonder why I had not seen him there before!
“Brother!” he calls out… “Brother! Get up! You can do it!!”
The second man is also dressed in clean white clothes. And his attention is on the first man, trying to encourage him to get up again.
In time the man in the filth once again rises up and finds the strength to stand and try again, but this time spurred on by the constant encouragement of the second man.
“Don’t fight the chain!” he says. “Just keep your eyes on the Light in the distance. That’s where your strength is found! And stay to the ends of the pit where the slope is not as slippery.”
“Thank you,” the man replies. Then, taking his advice, he finds that he really can stand more firmly there, in spite of the little creature’s incessant yanking on the chain. He tries hard to ignore the creature’s efforts, looking instead to the Light.
“The Light is really beautiful if I can just keep standing my ground here where I can see it,” he tells his new friend.
“Yes, I know” says the second man. “With the strength I’ve received from the Light, I’ve been able to keep out of the pit for eight months now.”
“Wow. That’s great. I hope I can last that long.” He replies wistfully.
Then, without warning, the second man looks away from Light for just a moment. There is an immediate tug on his chain, a sudden flailing of arms and an all too familiar fall and splash in the next pit.
The first man gasps in horror as he watches his friend disappear into the pit of filth.
Full of fear the man waits, hoping that his friend will find his way back out of the filth. He calls to him, shouting the words of encouragement that he himself had heard only a short time ago.
In time, to his great relief, his friend stumbles up and out of his pit and once again stands gazing at the Light to renew his strength.
“I’m glad you’re back.” the man tells his friend.
“Yeah… Thanks. I’m really sorry, but it still happens to me, I’m afraid.” he replies, his voice betraying a deeper sadness than before.
They neither speak for a time… each one silently and stoically resisting the continual tugging on their chains.
“Friend,” the first man presently says… a question hung in his throat. “I am wondering…”
“Yes?” his friend finally speaks.
“Can we ever be free of these chains?”
At this question, both of the creatures begin to make a great ruckus and start pulling on their respective chains harder and faster. “NO!!” they cry! “You can never get rid of the chain!” one says. “The chain is mine and you can never break it!” cries the other.
It is all the two men can do to continue maintaining their balance against the sudden increase in activity from the creatures.
“I’m afraid they’re right,” the second man finally says when he had reestablished his footing and braced himself against the chain’s pull. “I’ve been at this for 38 years, and there’s no way to break this chain.”
The creatures settle down.
The first man sighs and relaxes just a little, thankful for the reprieve from the tugging. “That’s what I was afraid of,” he says finally. “I just wish….”
“You wish you could be free of the chain, right?”
The voice didn’t come from the second man. Both of the men look around to see who had spoken to them.
Then they see a third man. He, too, is dressed in white. But he is not standing in the sloping edge of a pit as they are. There is no chain anywhere to be seen. He looks at them with peace and compassion.
“You can be free of the chain.”
The two creatures resume their clamoring and it rises to an even greater fevered pitch than before.
“No, you can’t! ” The second man declares. “It’s not possible. You’re just hiding your chain!”
“Wait, I want to hear this!” the first man shouts over the din coming from behind them.
“He doesn’t know what he’s talking about!” the second man objects. “It’s unrealistic, what he’s suggesting. Just keep your eyes on the Light and you’ll have the strength you need to stand your ground!”
“Listen to your friend!” the creatures yell. “He’s the one who helped you! You don’t even know who that other guy is!!”
The first man looks back at the creature holding his chain, and very nearly loses his balance.
“Just take off the collar.” The third man can scarcely be heard.
“What did you say?”
“Take off the collar!”
“It’ll never come off!” screams one of the creatures. “That collar is part of you!” cries the other.
“But how?” the first man asks.
“Don’t listen to him!” The second man warns. “He’s deluding himself and he’s trying to delude you! Looking toward the Light is your only hope!” This elicits a chorus of agreement from the creatures.
“Just unbuckle it.”
“Yes. like that. It’s not really part of you.”
Then… astoundingly, the man’s chain falls to the ground behind him, the collar still attached. It takes a moment, but then he realizes that he really is free.
He takes the final two steps out of his pit, then embraces the man who had shown him the way. Together, they begin to walk toward the Light.
“Wait,” the first man stops in his tracks, “what about my friend? He still has his collar on…”
“I know.” the third man says. “But he has found that he truly can stay out of the filth. And he’s right about the Light. It really does give him strength to resist the chain’s pull. But no one can force anyone to take off his collar. You can only remove your own collar. If someone still believes that the collar is a permanent part of who they are, they will never even try to remove it.”
“But if they don’t, they’ll never know true freedom!”
“That is true. But he has heard the truth. We can only hope that in time he will reconsider his response to it. Come with me. Let’s continue walking toward the Light. Along the way, perhaps we will find others who will hear the truth and embrace it as we did.
“The Light has revealed to us the secret of freedom. He said ‘you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.’ And ‘If the Light sets you free, you will be free indeed.’ That is the message we must share.”
With some sadness, yet with their own hearts free, the two men turn towards the Light and begin walking again.
Then from behind them…
“Hey, guys!!! Wait up!”
A moment later, all three men embrace, then walk on together…
…toward the Light.
© 2006 by David Martin