Have you ever stared into the eyes of the Theotokos, and knew she was staring right back? You watch as the candle light bounces off her icon, and then notice that her eyes, her piercing – all seeing eyes, are staring directly back at you. For the longest time, I avoided her eyes. I was simply too ashamed to look up at her. The problem you see, is that I sinned.
Let me back up a bit. Hi, my name is Ian. And I’m addicted to Porn. In my opinion, pornography is a worse addiction to have than drugs or alcohol. That’s because it works at a slower pace, simple enough without any real sign of danger. Pretty soon it develops into a full blown habit with end results that are just as damaging. It not only creates a false narration about love and the gift of sexuality within marriage to many unfortunate souls, but it also corrupts the image of the woman. It damages young vulnerable men (and boys) and instills a dangerous (sometimes abusive) mentality of superiority above women. Porn also has a nasty habit of ruining relationships. It can be a lot easier to achieve stress release from porn, than it is to deal with relationship problems and the need to fight for your own marriage.
When Eve sinned in the garden, all of mankind was cast out of Paradise and into the cold embrace of death. It is there that we struggled and fought, until another woman brought us, through her son Jesus, the gift of Salvation. It is she, the most holy Theotokos, the Mother of Christ, who not only redeemed Eve from her mistake, but also helped redeem all of mankind, again by virtue of her Son. So as I struggled with the inner turmoil brought up from my sin, I battled. I battled my own nature to allow a form of pleasure to take hold, or to honor she who redeemed all women. I believe that a sin that involves the sexual use of women, does not only degrade the image of the woman, but it also defiles my being and tarnishes the temple of the holy spirit that is my body. With the thought of sinful embrace of pornography degrading not just the viewer, but also the actor, comes a secondary thought. If Christ and the Theotokos are an image of Adam and Eve redeemed, and if the holy mother of God represents the redemption of women, then the engament and enjoyment of pornography is also a sin that hurts our holy mother.
That is the shame I felt whenever I passed her icon. That is why I avoided her gaze. I could feel her disappointment, and it hurt. How could I pray to the Lord asking for the blessings of another child, if I in my sinfulness, I kept insulting his most holy mother?
In our struggle for pregnancy and natural childbirth, my wife and I sought the advice of our spiritual father. His counsel was to write to the monastery, and ask for a blessed ribbon of the Theotokos. A simple sash worn around the belly of a woman who is trying to conceive, but not simple in the fact that it had been placed upon one of the most important relics of the Virgin Mary. We followed the instructions given, and said the necessary prayers while participating in a special 40 day fast. Then we were to embrace as a married couple, and if blessed, we would conceive a child. Of course we did conceive a child, and that child is now four years old! But in those four years, my time away from home increased and in order to have that release for which I would not get while on the road, I turned to porn. I came up with several excuses. It helps me sleep better, it simply relaxes me or it’s been proven to help against prostate issues. When I came off the road and found a way to be home daily, my habit followed. I’d say goodnight and head upstairs, just to turn on the phone and fight against myself. I often did not win.
With four years having gone by and no luck in keeping a pregnancy, I started to wonder if my sin had anything to do with it. We kept praying, and tried wearing the belt a few more times. However, the Theotokos would not look at me. If she did, it was with severe disappointment. We were able to get pregnant a few times since John’s birth, but we haven’t been successful in keeping it to term. Again I wondered if it was my sin?
Six months ago I finally resolved within my self to give up porn and self satisfaction forever. The first few months were difficult, and I wasn’t as successful as I’d like to believe. However I kept trying, and kept praying. I kept asking for her prayers and I kept offering my apologies to not only Christ, but to his mother. I wanted my relationship with the Theotokos back, and was tired of fighting. Since Thanksgiving I have been free from my sin. And with the start of the new year, I made a special resolution. I would keep 2020 free from porn and any sins of a sexual nature. So far, I am blessed.
As for the Theotokos? I continue to pray to her and ask for her intercessions. She is a woman I love so tenderly and a mother who’s sadness I wish not to feel again. Has she forgiven me? I think so.
A few days ago, I had one of the worst port days of my career. I kept asking the Lord to have mercy upon me and to please lighten my load. My day however, kept dragging on. Finally from the inside of my cab I shouted “OH MOST HOLY THEOTOKOS, INTERCEDE ON MY BEHALF AND HELP ME!”
That’s when from inside my heart I heard her speak. “That’s what I’ve been trying to do. I just needed you to come back to me…” I wept, and realized exactly at that moment what she was talking about.
Today we got some new icons in the mail. After the excitement of hanging them up, I went to venerate the small icon of the Theotokos holding the special sash. My heart slipped beat as I paused in my tracks.
There was a small drip of oil on each of her hands. Lord have mercy!
Thank you for reading and please keep me and my family in your prayers. If you have struggled with this particular sin, feel free to reach out to me. You are not alone. Until next time my friends…