I was reared in a small town. You have got to love your small southern towns. I was raised in a very conservative, Christian household. Although I live in the heart of the Bible belt, my story is one of a kind, but my absolute hope is that you will see your reflection in my words. Let’s jump in.

I was first introduced to pornography at a very young age. I was so young that I do not even recall my age, and it was all by a complete accident . . . but I will remember that image until the day that I die. I was realistically around six or seven years old, and I was plundering in my older brother’s room. Given that I live in the south, my brother had a gun cabinet in his room. For whatever reason, I looked under it. Lo and behold, there was a Playboy magazine tucked away. (I did not feel that old until I wrote that. Magazines, who uses them anymore?!) Since I was so young, my curiosity got the best of me. I had always known that women were different in some way, but now I felt like Adam and Eve having the knowledge of good and evil. Of course, I tattled, or more correctly questioned my mom with intrigue. I was scolded and my older brother was punished.

I never viewed pornography again until sixth grade. The guys in my class were bragging, “Dude, you can check out hot girls at yadayada.com,” and curiosity killed all of us cats. We were hooked.

I did not fit in well in school, especially high school (at least in my head). Though I did not have a hardcore school, I felt the need to make myself fit in. Oddly, I decided to try things on my own, then brag about it at school, and boom! Instant acceptance, right? Since I did not fit in, I hated myself tremendously; there HAD to be something wrong with me. So, I tried to muster up the courage to commit suicide about once every three months. The interesting thing is that I was never the “troubled”kid, or the one who looked like they were depressed. As I was saying, to get acceptance I tried things. I tried alcohol alone (cool kid, right?). I tried drugs. Nothing seemed to make me feel as though I was adequate enough to be included. In addition to this, I’m not the stereotypical straight guy. As a comedian said once, “It’s as though God created ¾ of a gay man but forgot to flip the final switch.” Since I didn’t fit in, I had a disinterest in most sports, hated hunting, and I wasn’t the stereotypical guy, then I must be gay.

Then hit the worse year of my entire life thus far. Sophomore year of high school, my dad was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer with a five percent chance of surviving. It was tragic. Two, almost three, years later I still don’t like talking about it, so I will be very brief. My dad beat the cancer only to get his entire body consumed by the same cancer about a month later, and he passed. At first, I was at peace. My dad was a deacon and good, Christian man. However, later I began to blame God. Thus, I was an atheist for a very small amount of time in my senior year of high school. One thing I learned from that ordeal is that if you blame God for everything—you’re very childish, ignorant, and immature. You can never blame God for everything.

After being a wannabe atheist for a sliver of time, I rationalized the ignorance that is atheism. Though I no longer considered myself an atheist, my faith was very weak due to my unbelief. I was very insecure in my faith to be absolutely correct. Doubt had inflicted every part of my relationship with Christ. However, it was in that period that God revealed to me that doubt is good. Doubt is good because it causes you to push the boundaries, ask the hard questions, and discover the truth for yourself. Additionally, God also taught me that I had to be secure in Him—that it’s ok to sometimes not know all of the answers.

And here we are now. I just finished my freshman year of college. I’ve learned a lot: knowledge, spiritually, and in being a well-rounded upstanding citizen. I made myself go to counseling, which helped tremendously. I’ve realized that I was never a gay man. Instead, I had daddy issues—the classic. Although I’ve learned a lot and gained acceptance by many others now, the most important thing I’ve learned (and am still learning) is that my identity is not found in acceptance of others, in my friendships, my grades, my “fitting-in” ability, my college major, or anything else that you could think of. Granted, I love my friends to death, but they’re not where my identity lies anymore. One can only be satisfied when they find and accept their identity in Jesus Christ. Christ is the most accepting, but he cannot fully accept you if you won’t let him just like I use to. You see, Christ is at the center of it all. I tried to replace his acceptance and my acceptance of myself in Him with other things like the acceptance of others, rebellion, etc. Doing these things and expecting satisfaction is insanity and foolish. Christ accepted me first so that I could accept Him. Without Christ, I would have eventually committed suicide due to my dissatisfaction in myself. I’m not this perfect blob of acceptance now, so do not get me wrong. I still have periods of struggle with pornography, acceptance, and my identity. Alone, I am unsatisfying. With Christ, I am accepted and loved. Christ is my identity. What or who is yours?