By Steve Pokorny
So my daughter walked in on me...
A year ago, late at night, it happened.
My daughter walked in on me.
6 months ago, she came downstairs to see me on my smartphone.
Two weeks ago, early in the morning, she came downstairs to see me on the couch.
And then my wife caught me.
What did they see?
I was...praying. (What...did you think I was going to say porn? ;) )
That’s right. My name is Steve and I’m a habitual pray-er.
I can’t help it. I’ve tried to stop. It just...feels so good.
The beginning of my obsession
It all started when my mom mentioned something to me about prayer when I was younger, even dragging me to church as a young boy. I didn’t really get what was going on, but there was a strange sensation that was growing...in my heart.
When I was 16, I found out my mom wasn’t going to win her fight with cancer. So in the midst of such turmoil, I made my first honest prayer: “God, if you’re going to take my mom, send me a sign to let me know that she’s OK.”
Fast forward about a month later where at hospice on the shore of Lake Erie in Cleveland, Ohio, where my mother would pass away. After saying my goodbyes in her room, I walked outside, broken up emotionally. I looked up, begging God to answer me: “Why did you have to take my mom?” I was in deep pain, unsure of the future.
As my mind was wandering, staring off into that clear September sky, two clouds formed in the shape of an X, with a ray of light coming out from the right side of that X. It was my sign. God was letting me know that X marks the spot, that all of her suffering through a 6-year battle had borne fruit in her being guided to heaven (with a stopover perhaps in Purgatory).
I stayed outside for a little while, and as I was about to return inside, my mom’s mother met me at the door. Distraught, she shared: “Steven, I had been speaking with the hospice staff, and they mentioned that your mom would need to be moved back to the hospital because she was holding on longer than they liked. I knew this would cause your mom so much pain. So I pray to Mary to take her home...and that’s what she did.”
Perhaps because of my simple prayer, God allowed me two extraordinary signs to know that my Heavenly Father and heavenly mother were taking care of me, right at the moment when I was experiencing tremendous abandonment.
The desire is growing
Over the years, my prayer styles have changed. From the rote prayers (Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory Be, etc.) to meditation (Rosary, breviary) to different forms of worship (from Novus Ordo to Byzantine Divine Liturgy). I’ve come to realize that prayer is not so much speaking or even listening, but it is about presence, of being loved by Love and then responding to that Love. This is so important, for this is what the human heart is crying out for more than anything: presence and intimacy. We want to be seen for who we are and accepted fully by another.
Being with Jesus in prayer is like being with a comfortable, non-judgmental friend who simply wants to be with me. St. Therese of Lisieux once wrote, "For me, prayer is a burst from my heart, it is a simple glance thrown toward Heaven, a cry of thanksgiving and love in times of trial as well as in times of joy." We can get caught up in just
Oh, I know. He puts demands on me…my time, attention, energy. He wants everything. Yet this is what’s involved with real love. He wants all of me.
He keeps telling me He to become one with me, totally. He keeps wooing me with this intoxicating love. I think He wants to marry me. Eternally. The way things are going, I can’t help but say yes.
Yet if we don’t find this deep desire satisfied, we may be swayed to seek out the counterfeits of our culture. This is exactly why countless men & women see out pornography. They have been duped into think they need to settle for less than what they are made for. Yet the multitudes of lustful images and activities that our pornified culture cannot satisfy, no matter how many times we dive into the septic tank. Pornography reveals a hollow shell of a person, where in the glittery screens of mere performance leaves us aching for something real. This is why those who are attached to pornography, if they're honest, admit that the guilt, shame & self-hatred burns so badly.
Come to the REAL
I proposed a different solution, and it has to with paying attention to the way we are designed. We were all made for real love & intimacy, and the Real has this to offer to you. For you see, GOD IS THE REAL. He is more real than any fantasy, and He can give you way more pleasure that anything this world can provide.
Yet we were not made simply for pleasure. To quote C.S. Lewis, "Joy is the serious business of heaven.” And sometimes we have to say no to simple pleasures in order to attain what really satisfies. And this requires sacrifice, sometimes heroically so.
I feel pain in my heart as I read that last paragraph, because I know that know that as much as I want it, my false self – my pride, ego, pig-headiness – gets in the way. I am my own worst enemy. Or as G.K. Chesterton has said, “The problem with the world is me.” This is why I need to keep begging for and clinging to grace. This why I need to keep growing in virtue. This is why I pray.
And you know what? Since my daughter caught me, she decided that she wants to be like her dad.
I’ve since caught her praying, even sitting up in bed late at night praying the Rosary. And then during the day. And because of her big sister’s example, her sister is starting to pray on her own.
You see, we as fathers and mothers have a duty to model holiness to our children, who in turn will have the opportunity to model this to their friends. And holiness is about simply being who we really are as grace changes our own hearts and lives. The many distractions of our culture – the many places and faces of the septic tank – are stalking us and our children, but God is with us. Let us trust in this promise and seek Him daily.
I encourage you to take the following lyrics of a secular song and allow this to be a prayer of your deepest desire: to seek, find, and live in the heart of Our Heavenly Father:
And you came knockin' on my hearts door
You're everything I've been lookin' for
No more lookin' for love in all the wrong places
Lookin' for love in too many faces
Searchin' their eyes, lookin' for traces
Of what I'm dreamin' of
Now that I found a friend and a lover
I'll bless the day I discover you
Steve Pokorny is the Founder of Freedom Coaching, a one-to-one mentoring system designed to break the power of pornified images. His book, Redeemed Vision: Setting the Blind Free from the Pornified Culture, is available through Amazon.