Years ago, author Jon Acuff popularized Christian satire with his blog, “Stuff Christians Like.” One of his more popular posts was called “Booty, God, Booty,” which captured the reality that both on radio stations and in life we talk mostly about secular things (“booty”), sandwiching in some good-feeling Jesus-stuff, before returning to the “booty.”

Booty, God, Booty — that’s the formula. Squeezing God into our lives like a radio segment. Rather than His being integrated into all of the segments.

I often feel this way with my faith and struggles and the day-to-day blurry lines of life in between, taking an “inspirational vitamin,” as Jon calls it, every time I stray.

I can’t tell you the number times I’ve fired up Spotify or YouTube for hours of worship music and “healing” from the previous night’s swampy dive into illicit things. It feels authentic but also somewhat forced, this repentance and praise by day – only for me to return to those same illicit things by night.

I’ve listened to worship music on the car ride home, only to turn it off literally and metaphorically, reengaging my lust upon arrival. I can even recall times I’ve been listening to worship music while cruising the Internet for some arousing videos or flirtatious exchanges — the bizarre space where God and booty collide.

I’ve found my own modification to Acuff’s “Booty, God, Booty,” and it goes something like: Pornography, Promiscuity, Praise. Repeat.

It often feels like a self-fulfilling cycle of a formula: that as soon as I praise God, when I repent and I’m again “right” with Him, I’m back on an inevitable trajectory toward porn and promiscuity and the dark desires of my heart.

Or if I’m currently entrenched in those long nights of porn and promiscuity, oh well, praise is on the horizon — tomorrow.

I’ll repent and praise and just deal with it all tomorrow.

This mindset translates beyond lust and sin to all areas of life, too. That even when things are generally great, it’s hard to rest in that goodness for fear of something awful inevitably coming — sooner than I’d ever want.

But this isn’t the way to live. Pessimistic. Fearful. Always anticipating some future mire or punting the current night away.

I often feel trapped in the cycle, both the pitfall and the praise, this centrifugal force of a revolution that must complete. And repeat.

This feeling that I must enter the dark, and only then may I rediscover sweet spiritual light.

I’ve exhibited this same pattern in some of my male relationships, intentionally making myself feel bad and treating men as salves for my wounded masculinity. It isn’t healthy. Those are some hard stories for another time.

Returning things to Jesus, I don’t think our praise was ever meant to be put on pause during our dark nights of the soul; our praise is just as required then as when we’re on the mountaintop and basking in the light.

An old hymn beckons us to praise Him in the morning. And noontime. And when the sun goes down. And presumably every time in between.

Praise should be our first thought. And our last. The only.

Our praise for the Almighty — it must be perpetual.

How I need to reengage the Lord with praise in those moments of despair and temptation, when I don’t “feel like it.” When I feel He’s not enough.

I don’t want to follow filth and then Jesus, filth and then Jesus, segregating myself into two persons by day and by night, two persons who do not align.

Scripture speaks of a day when our praise will be perpetual, and I believe there will be no “getting tired” of it. That, in fact, we’ll only want to display more and more praise for more and more years unending.

If we’re called to bring more of heaven to earth until that day, I feel convicted to bring more of my praise into the porn and promiscuity with which I still struggle greatly.

Of course, the Father always stands there with open arms when I do mess up. I need not feel shame to reapproach Him with praise after a late-night porn or promiscuity binge.

He stands there for me, and He stands there for you. His death covered all sins — even the ones oft repeating.

But more than ever, I feel He wants more of me in the messy meantime. During those shameful “p-times” when I am tempted. When I feel hopelessly chained to my struggles, sexual or otherwise. During the doubt, the despair, the boredom, the loneliness.

I don’t want pornography, promiscuity, praise to be my ingrown formula for my segregated self for years and decades to come.

As another hymn goes . . .

I want to be praising my Savior. All the day long.

Do you struggle with pornography or promiscuity? How do you approach praise before, during, or after your struggles?

  • So beautifully written, but more importantly, it is an accurate reflection of life and spiritual experiences for many of us who have been on the same walk.

    • Thanks for reading, Edward. My hope is that anyone else trapped in similar cycles can start to sift through the patterns and then talk about it and surrender both the hills and valleys to the Lord. And a journey it will be…
      Blessings to you, brother!

  • One of the best articles my eyes have ever witnessed! Those porn binges are the worst. The shame and guilt before asking for forgiveness intensifies every time I keep repeating the same mistake.
    Surfing the same nsfw pages & sites only to ask God for forgiveness. It’s a cycle, but praise the Lord it’s not a never-ending one.
    God bless you Tom.
    One day this struggle will be over.

  • St Paul writes that things that I don’t want to do I do and the things I do want to do I don’t do. Why because my spirit and my flesh are in a battle. I don’t know of any man who doesn’t deal with some sort of temptation or desire involving forbidden but forgiven possible addictions.
    Thanks for post! Blessings on your journey.

    • …and yet, there are things that I *do* want to do that resonate with the Spirit. Perhaps a lot of it rests on sacrificing what we want in the present for something we want for the long term. Difficult thing for sure.

  • Wash, Rinse, Repeat… instructions for life and shampoo…I sometimes ask myself if I’m completely sold out for Jesus or am I a hobbyist? I still do not have an answer…which might mean I’m not being honest. Thanks Tom for making me think about that…again

  • Hey, that’s so true, I can relate to everything you’ve said. I do not really struggle with promiscuity, but porn was and is an issue for me. Here’s my story and some thoughts on that!
    When I returned back to my Catholic faith in 2012 I thought that it’ll never go back into porn and sin. The relapses I’ve had after that were allways very black-white like you explained. I never managed to understand how God really loves me when I stand before him empty-handed and sucking because of what I’ve done. It was mostly a spirituality of standing righteous before God. But Christ actually didn’t mind my impurity, and the impurity of mankind in general, it is precisely where I’m dirty and impure where He wants to be present. However long it may take. He doesn’t judge me, and He is patient. He is willing to stand beside me and go step by step. That’s a lesson I’ve started learning last year. After a two-year period of being porn-free I fell back into porn last winter for a period of three months. For the first time I watched the gay stuff. Long story short: I think that I mostly sin out of fear, when I start thinking that God won’t accept me if I sin. That was almost always the turning point in every temptation. The thought of an incompletely forgiving, incompletely accepting God is what makes me cross the line of sin. Because if there is no God who became flesh and who can understand me as a human, then there is no power on earth that could sustain me from sinning. BUT the truth is – even if it is 3 AM and you are at the end of a long porn-session, tired, not ready for work – God is stil closely present in your life. He also was present during the porn-session. He didn’t leave you. Sure, the sin harmed me spiritually, emotionaly, and even phisically. It distorted my view of God and how he loves me. But still, I think that God is not scandaled by our sins. I think that it’s extremely important to be thinking about God’s love and mercy ALL THE TIME. Even while looking at porn. NEVER turn off the God-button in your heart and commit brainlessly to a sin. If you are looking for joy in porn, do it, but ask yourself: what are you looking for? Do you find it there? Ask yourself honestly, without prepared answers. Observe your feelings – this moment, tommorow, the next week… In what direction are you moving? Do you like it? Ask God. Don’t be afraid of showing up before God while IN sin. If there is a part of you attached to sin, let’s deal with it. God is not afraid, why should I be? Accepting myself in sin, being able to stop the sin at a soon possible moment, turn to God in simple prayer and continue life without drama – that’s an act of courage and humility. That’s what I kind of learned last year. But still, I admit – porn is tough. And I must say that I mentioned only a fraction of what helped and what is helping me… Yourney to be continued.
    P. S. This is NO recomendation for sin, but just my experience. Every sin hurts, and God doesn’t want us to hurt ourselves. I have still so much to learn…

    • Thanks for sharing some of your story, Anthony. You pose some relevant questions to ask during those dark nights of the soul. It’s definitely a practice. To ask oneself and the Lord instead of just shutting everything off. Striving to stay “on” at all times. Much love to you.

  • I probably don’t tell you this enough, but I’m grateful for you, your leadership, and your perspectives. Thanks for being vulnerable and sharing this.
    One thing that has been on my mind lately and struck me again as I read this is how God has been teaching me about Him And how he works through some stuff at work. One such example is root-cause problem solving for obstacles in production at work. I’ve begun to feel prompted to look at the obstacles in my life and try and root cause why I get caught in that cycle you talked about. It’s almost like he’s been trying to tell me “focus on the cause not on the consequence, focus on the trigger not the outcome”
    Amongst all of that thinking and self reflection, how grateful I am for “the God who stays”
    Thanks again for sharing This Tom

    • Thanks for your encouragement, Bradley. Root-cause problem solving is something I’m learning to do more of myself. Counseling has helped in that endeavor, just to be in more of a general mindset of asking, “Why?” It often comes down to thrill-seeking and false intimacy for me. I need to learn to rest in the silence and occasional “boredom” as well as reach out to actual humans in my life.
      Blessings to you, brother!

  • Porn’s the worst. Someone said you don’t know how much of a prisoner you are till you try to escape. With porn, sometimes it’s like there’s not even a trigger or a battle, I’ve just gone there. To places I’d never go real life, that aren’t me. What was an escape early on became more like a cave. What’s scary is even when I’ve not watched porn for months, when I’ve gone back I look at the worst stuff I did before, like there was no change in me from being away. And that’s scary cause I realized that is me. My failures at beating porn, not only to stop looking but how much I can embrace it, made Paul’s “I know that in me, in my flesh, is no good thing” hit home as true.
    Praise works great if you go all in full heart before looking. Shoot, if I prayed before looking half as much as I do after, I’d probably never look at porn again. The things they say you should do by willpower seem kinda hit or miss, and only get me so far. Most effective thing I’ve found is taking to heart the truth of “we know our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might come to nothing…” There’s rest if that’s reality, not so much fighting my self, more like letting it go. And in that rest, there’s space for having faith in the Spirit doing his work of “putting to death the deeds of the body.” He does, and this whole fighting porn deal becomes his work in me thru faith. It’s like so much on this journey, we come to who we’re meant to be in Christ when we give up trying to get their on our own.
    Thanks for writing your post, it was so true to experience. Porn’s one of those topics that never seem to get much airtime at church, even tho it’s something most guys have in common.

  • So sorry to hear about your friend, Mike. Fear can be one motivator, certainly. I do think we need a positive motivator as well. A joy, a hope, an adventure. Some days those are easier to see than others. But beyond the fog they are always there. Blessings to you, brother.

  • This is something that hits a little harder for me. I’ve been off-and-on addicted to PMO for ten years now, and it make me wonder if I’ll ever be free of it in this life.
    On good days, when it’s over, I praise God (with a bitter taste in my soul) because I know he still loves me, on bad days–and there have been a lot of bad days–I wonder if he’s even real or if he’s powerful enough to overcome my temptations because clearly (in my mind at least) he should have. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been stretched out on the ground whimpering “I am yours; save me!” And he doesn’t; and I sin; and I get up, wash my hands, and go on about my day. Nothing changes.

    • Thanks for being real, Michael. Reading through Scripture, I find it such a mystery why God answers some people’s cries and seemingly ignores others. I have to trust in his divine perspective and orchestration of all things, both the speaking and the silence, but from a human standpoint it is certainly baffling. I don’t know if I’ll ever be completely free of various beckonings on this side of eternity, but I do know it causes me to lean on my Savior all the more. Such a conscious thought now, more than ever.

      • I guess I’ve never really thought about what to do in moments of weakness, other than prayer. What has helped you lean on Jesus in the midst of temptation?

        • It’s more than prayer, more than asking for help or peace or what have you. It’s having a posture of praise that helps me put everything in perspective. The physical act of stopping to take some deep, intentional breaths is also super helpful in this endeavor.

  • Tom, you referred to Scripture where worship is perpetual and we never get tired. I believe this is a key to eternal joy that starts here on earth!
    A few weeks ago at a prayer and worship gathering I overheard a guy I know passionately praying something like this:
    “God, show me WHY the saints and angels never stop worshiping You and never get tired!”
    This guy wanted to know and feel something of the beauty and greatness of God so that he could joyfully join with those saints and angels here and now worshiping God continually, not waiting for heaven!
    This is the kind of pursuit of eternal joy that will help us rise above this pattern of relapse. Yes, accountability, good software, and and boundaries do help us say no to sin, but we also need to pursue joy in God. That is replacing sin with a far better pleasure!

  • Tom, thanks for the transparent sharing. I appreciate your humility and your guilelessly recounting of your endeavors to walk in purity. I have also experienced the same grim cycle which you so well described.
    While I have had some limited success in the past in avoiding the porn–praise cycle, I have also experienced the subsequent demoralization and frustration of falling into lust again and again. This led me to take to heart the exhortation that John the Baptist gave to the Pharisees to bear fruit in keeping with their repentance (Matt. 3:8). I remembered two other things from the gospel of Matthew: that Jesus declared that looking at someone with lust was equivalent to having sex with them, and that He also said that if my right hand causes me to sin, I should cut it off and throw it far from me (Matt. 5:28, 30) Of course, He doesn’t mean that I should literally cut off my hand but I do see that He calls me to deal with my sexual sin very seriously. Because of that, I got rid of my smart phone more than a year ago and got a flip phone instead. It allows me to text but I can’t access the Internet from it. I also have my laptop in the common area of the house where I rent a room and never take it to my bedroom. I still need to deal with the root causes of my desires but these steps provided a good structure to help me to break the insidious porn-praise cycle. I also have set up weekly mutual accountability with a brother in Christ in regard to our purity issues, and both of us are “enduring hardship with each other like good soldiers of Christ.” (2 Tim. 2:3)
    This isn’t a one-size-fits-all plan, of course. Some may find lesser or greater boundaries are necessary. Each of us has to listen to the Holy Spirit to decide what is necessary for each of us in order to “make no provision for the flesh” (Rom. 13:14) and to “know how to possess his own body in sanctification and honor”.(1 Thess. 4:4). My boundaries are inconvenient, yes, but are a means for me to finally get serious about taking to heart what Jesus declared in John 14:15: “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” The greater closeness I feel to my Savior as a result of setting up some boundaries to facilitate greater obedience to His call for me to be pure, as well as the smile I see on His face (in the Spirit) as I make some hard choices day by day, far out weigh the inconvenience of my boundaries and the loss of thrills I had experienced from my past sexual binges.
    I don’t have this thing licked. My heart is still desperately wicked (Jer. 17:9). I’m reminded of the warning that anyone who thinks he stands should take heed lest he fall (1 Cor.10:12) and that pride goes before destruction (Prov 16:18). I’m always “one step away from stupid,” as I heard a good brother in Christ once say about himself. But I’m seeking to remember that He is for me, that He is faithful, that He will not let me be tempted beyond what I can bear and with the temptation He will provide a way out so I can stand up under it (1 Cor. 10:13).
    Thanks again, Tom, for what you shared. I always find your posts to be thoughtful, substantive and engaging. I’m looking forward to your next one.

    • Wow, thanks for this incredible comment, Jim. I love all your Scriptures and vulnerability alike. Being real about where I am with porn/promiscuity as it brings me back to praise has been incredibly liberating the last week. I want to continue in radical authenticity, not just with others, and not even with myself, but with the Lord. I’ve been in an unshakeable cycle for too long, and it’s time to wake up.
      Much love, brother. Thanks for all your encouragement. To the journey.

  • Dear Tom,
    Your level of honesty and vulnerability is unbelievably refreshing, healing, and inspiring. If we all were able to demonstrate this level of authenticity with each other with each interaction, what a wonderful world it would be. Thank you so much for being who you are and for changing the world for the better simply through owning your actions and your identity. I have no doubt that we will continue to see amazing things from you, Tom. Thank you for allowing God to work through you. You have strengthened my resolve to continue on the path with Him.
    With Love,
    Your Brother

    • Blessed by your words, Kass. Thanks for saying them. I hope increased authenticity is the story of our culture from here on out. Within the Church and out, but especially within. We need to be real about our joys and sorrows alike.
      All best to you on this journey, brother! You are not alone.

  • Thanks for sharing this, Tom. Somehow I connected with YOB months ago and relate to your story. FWIW I’m confident that you have many brothers who appreciate this work and would love to spend time with you in person if we weren’t so scattered across the country. So it goes! Keep pursuing God. I hope you find substantial freedom in the days ahead, and I pray for ever deeper healthy relationships. Much love from the northeast

  • Tom,
    I just found this website and podcast this week and have been binging through! I feel so seen after feeling like the Enemy was trying to tell me that I’m alone and will never find others who relate. Or if they relate who are willing to say it out in the open. This post is the same cycle I have found myself in for years. There are times when I go long stretches of time without falling into this, but then I fall again. These past few weeks have been especially difficult. I’ve set up barriers for myself, yet still struggle in this cycle by finding work-arounds or searching up things that get me as interested. To be as honest as you have been, I’ve been fighting the urge to fall into this same cycle today.
    I hope that you are doing better in this cycle now compared to when it was written, but even if you are not, I’m appreciative that you’re letting us in and being so honest. Helping me feel like I’m not alone in this.
    I am so grateful that you have shared your story. I’m grateful to all posting their stories in the blog and comments. I truly am.

    • Glad you found us, Emmanuel! Binge away. I hope you continue to enjoy our stories. Feel free to add more of yours to the comments any time!
      Will be praying for you in your own hard cycles. I’ve been doing slightly better with mine – though mostly because my medical issues of late. It’s hard to get too distracted by the illicit when I’ve got a lot going on physically. Taking it day by day and not wanting to make any excuses…

  • Thomas Mark Zuniga

    I'm a storyteller and story-liver in Asheville, North Carolina – the Jewel of the Blue Ridge. I'm YOB's cofounder and editor, and I also host our bimonthly podcast. I've written a couple books, including a memoir in 2013 where I first came out to the world. Once upon another universe I anonymously blogged about my faith and sexuality under the Xanga username, "twoBeckonings." I'm an INFJ, an Enneagram 4w5, and my spirit animal is the buffalo. My favorite place in the world is the one where coffee and vulnerability meet.

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