Pornography and Our Stories of Desire

Many of us encounter pornography at some point in our lives – often, our first exposure is during adolescence. Whether we encountered pornography intentionally or not, it is a form of sexual abuse that can lead to shame and a distorted view of our own desire. In an effort to stop living at war with our desire, and to redeem it, we need to understand our own sexual abuse stories.

This week, we’re joined by Jay Stringer, a licensed mental health counselor, ordained minister, and author of the award-winning book “Unwanted: How Sexual Brokenness Reveals Our Way to Healing.” Jay’s passion is to equip the church with resources to change the conversation on sexual brokenness. He shares with us some stories that can help us examine our own stories as we move towards redemption.

Please note: This is a sensitive topic and you may want to use discretion if you are listening with younger listeners.

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About our guest:

Jay Stringer is a licensed mental health counselor, ordained minister, and author of the award-winning book Unwanted: How Sexual Brokenness Reveals Our Way to Healing. Unwanted is based on a multiyear research project on over 3,800 men and women to address the key drivers of unwanted sexual behavior, be that the use of pornography, infidelity, or buying sex. 

Jay’s passion is to equip the church with resources to change the conversation on sexual brokenness. Towards that end, Jay created the Sexual Behavior Self-Assessment and  partnered with the Heart of Man film to create a 5 month online curriculum for small groups to explore how our story shapes and predicts the sexual brokenness we pursue. Learn more about The Journey at 

Stringer holds an MDiv and master in counseling psychology from the Seattle School of Theology and Psychology and received post-graduate training under Dr. Dan Allender while serving as a Senior Fellow at the Allender Center. Jay lives in New York City with his wife Heather and their two children.

Episode Transcript:

Dan: We normally don’t begin with a trigger warning. Uh, but this is a topic that if you’ve got young children or you happen to be a young children, um, it’s probably somewhat kind to know that we’re going to be talking about sexual abuse, pornography, and some of the debris that comes. But I also wanna say that we’ve got such a dear friend, colleague and truly a wise man to join us, Rachel. Jay Stringer, author of Unwanted. And I think, I don’t often remember what I write for an endorsement, but I know that one of the things I said is this is, uh, one of the most important books on sexuality, particularly broken and redemptive sexuality I’ve ever read. So Jay, to have you with us again is a great honor.

Jay: Dan, Rachel, thank you so much for having me, uh, so excited for this podcast, but just so thrilled to see you both.

Dan: Well, and I, I know we’re gonna step into that topic, but I’m sorry. I just a little bit of a diversion before we do so. So you had an accident where your son basically said to you, dad, you’re either going to be an idiot, a legend or a fool, just a moment, just a, a quick moment to say, why would your son speak such, um, I don’t prescient, uh, deeply, uh, experienced wise words to you.

Jay: Uh, so back in the fall, uh, I was involved in an electric scooter accident. So I was going down a hill to see, uh, my nephew who had just been born a few weeks prior and so thrilled to see him. Uh, and my family lives in New York city. So we have this fleet of electric scooters, uh, that we zip around town. It’s great, uh, to be able to avoid subways or Ubers. So I was going down a hill, uh, and hit, uh, basically a rise in the concrete and the wheel went left, but my body continued going, forward. And basically did a somersault and landed on both of my elbows.

Dan: But, but let’s, let’s be clear. The, the, the accident is not what has brought your son to such a…

Jay: It is not.

Dan: No. Okay. I’m sorry. I interrupted.

Jay: So broke my elbows earlier in the week. Uh, the dilemma for me was that I had a marathon a few days later and so, oh,

Dan: Good god, man. Don’t tell me don’t even go, okay, I’m sorry. Go ahead.

Jay: So, you know, the peer pressure, the child pressure just starts building from there. I had a lot of friends texting me, kinda the Michael Jordan flu game memes of when he played with like a104 degree fever. Uh, and then my son, what I remember him initially saying was like, you’re either gonna be a legend or a fool. And so I was telling some friends of this, uh, a little bit later and he said, no, dad, I didn’t say legend or fool. Your chances weren’t that good? I said, you were either gonna be an idiot, a legend or a fool, um, to run this marathon. So, uh, I decided…

Racheal: To run out of the mouth of babes.

Jay: The marathon a couple days later. So, um, and ran it and ran it fairly well. And thus became an idiot, a fool and a legend.

Dan: Yes, I, I, I would concur and I just have to ask Racheal, would you add your comment, which I thought added to a level of idiocy that I just have not, not heard come out of your mouth?

Racheal: Well, full disclosure, I am a historically, a long distance runner, ran in college cross country and track. So I just know a lot about running form and long distance endurance running. So I just simply said, if you are going to break bones and still need to run a marathon, I can’t imagine better ones to break than your elbows. That’s all I said, like, I can imagine a way forward if that’s like the main pain you’re dealing with. Still wouldn’t be ideal, still would be like a lot of suffering, but you know, it could work. That’s all.

Jay: That is exactly it. Cause you get in a sling two days and then you’re done.

Dan: Um, I, I, I just, as an older gentleman and one who lives with far more wisdom with regard to my body, um, okay, look both of know the truth that that’s just an outright lie. I, I just wouldn’t do what you were doing. Uh, but actually I have, uh, in some form after a motorcycle accident to continue at 12,000 feet riding, nonetheless. Okay.

Jay: Yes. My scooter has a maximum speed of about 19 miles an hour and your, your motorcycle?

Dan: Uh, a little more about 20, 20, somewhere in that range. Well, and again, this is going to be, an unabashed and unapologetic, uh, difficult transition. Other than to say there is debris, uh, there is debris, when you make decisions and the rise of the road takes you down. Uh, but we’re talking, uh, about a kind of debris field that comes with sexual violation. And, uh, we can laugh to some degree, uh, not much about your accident, uh, and Racheal’s foolishness, but nonetheless, uh, the reality is there is nothing other than grief and anger with regard to the debris that comes with the violation of sexual abuse. But we want to open the door to talking first about the reality of pornography. And so often people have an encounter with pornography, which seldom, uh, I mean, almost never is thought about as a form of abuse and it’s just a sort of accident. My grandfather had it in his bathroom. My father had it in a hidden drawer or my next door neighbor up in a tree house showed me. And at least my experience with regard to people’s encounter with pornography, 95% is it’s given to them in some form. And that giving to them in some form is hardly ever thought about as abusive. And I, that’s my premise just love for you Jay, to take it where you and your, and your experience has brought you.

Jay: Sure. So I would, I would completely agree. I think before, uh, I went to the Seattle school, uh, my understanding of sexual abuse was basically like, you know, uh, a guy in a white van driving around trying to abduct a child. Um, and so, you know, that was kind of the beginning point. And then as you began to kind of just see no, like most of the time, uh, sexual abuse happens in the context of relationship, I think it’s 90% of the time, uh, someone very, very close to you. Uh, and so when you begin to kind of move beyond just, you know, did someone touch you inappropriately? Did someone make a comment about you inappropriately or did you have access to sexual material? Uh, that would not be appropriate for, uh, I mean, at times people of any age, but particularly for children. So I think we have to step into the reality that, you know, we, as children are naturally curious, we want to explore the world all around us. Uh, and so oftentimes when people come in to my office, uh, or kind of wanna do some work around this, uh, they begin to kind of blame themselves. Like I was such a screwed up boy or girl that I was like, so drawn to porn. And so then you begin to kind of say, well, where did you first discover porn? Or was porn kind of introduced to you? And these stories start coming up of, oh, my dad had this descrambler or we had a descrambler device on my kind of, uh, you know, home TV, which was basically you could descramble the cable channels in order to have access to it. And they can take a lot of the blame for that. But you say, well, who you, you as a seven-year-old boy, didn’t put the scrambler device on that computer who, who had it? Uh, or you begin to kind of, uh, step into, you know, where did you first discover porn? It could be that tree house, it could be at a neighbor’s house, but overwhelmingly, uh, someone introduced you to porn. And so I think what we have to step into is that we’re not just kind of drawn towards porn. There’s also a relational dynamic that binds us not only to the porn, but also to the person who introduced us to it.

Dan: Well, the reality of grooming in that sense, they, this is where it’s really hard because grooming requires intentionality. And it’s a process by which a person is drawn more deeply into a oxytocin bonding relationship that will eventually then involve some degree of violation sexually. But the idea that a grandparent just left his pornography in the bathroom, uh, that’s not grooming, uh, yeah, he was wrong. And yeah, it was sad that I had access to it. He didn’t mean for me to have access – that defense structure I just find, uh, almost impossible to scale and to overcome. And yet, just as you said, every adult, at least who once was a child, knows that, we all explored our homes. I mean, I knew every drawer in my whole household. I knew where my mom kept her Derringer. Uh, I knew where my dad had his nine millimeter, uh, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. And all that to say, did you actually think that little hidden spot for your pornography would not be found? So at one level, maybe it is not as intentional as I’m going to groom, but there is a sense in which sometimes it is. And other times it’s just this unwillingness to acknowledge you’re setting your child or your grandchild, uh, up for access.

Racheal: Well, and I, I think that’s one of the most heartbreaking things, and I know Jay, you talk a lot about this, um, in Unwanted and just even your research, that’s continuing, but like the addictive nature of pornography, especially for a child, like if you’ve had any kind of trauma or, you know, if you’re, you know, uh, why can’t I think of the word, oh, your limbic system is frazzled in any way. The biochemicals that come from arousal, which our bodies are made to be aroused by images, by central experiences, by relational connections, even of bodies. And when you look at like a taste of that kind of biochemical surge in a young body that actually brings soothing, calming, like pleasure, delight. Like that is a kind of like, I mean, I remember my own experiences of like that initial encounter when a, a neighbor friend who I was like co babysitting with showed me where the people that we were babysitting for kept their pornography. I was like 11. I had, I didn’t even know something like that existed, but I remember the biochemical surge of like, oh my gosh, I’ve tasted something that brought a kind of relief to my body. I’ve probably never known or only known in other ways that also are deeply connected to my, you know, my own stories of sexual abuse. And so I think that that’s part of the wickedness of it is that something, and that’s not the case for everyone, you know, maybe people turn to other addictions, but there is such a hook that happens. And it’s something we’re not aware of at, at a young age, we don’t have a capacity to make sense of what’s happening. So then it does become a behavior over time that has to escalate. And before we know it, it’s just some really bad thing about us, some horrible sin that we should have been able to overcome that somehow we’re just faithless to overcome, and we’re not engaging our bodies at all, or understanding what that might be connected to.

Jay: Yeah. So just, I mean, just to echo that last point, uh, you know, I heard a Desmond Tutu quote over the weekend, um, obviously talking about apartheid, but one of the things that he said was, uh, there comes a point where we need to just stop pulling people out of the river. We need to go upstream, uh, to find out why they’re falling in. Um, and I think just that reality of, you know, as you put really well, most of the people, uh, live in a war with their own desire. They look at, you know, look at how compulsive my sexual behavior is, or what’s wrong with me. I can’t seem to find any level of arousal for my spouse, kinda what is going on. And I think until we begin to go up the river to be able to say, kind of, where did this war begin? Uh, where did it begin? Uh, when did I first get introduced to it? And why was it so soothing? Why was it, uh, so exciting for me, particularly within a family system? So what we know about a lot of people struggling with compulsive sexual behavior is that they come pretty much overwhelming from very rigid homes or very disengaged homes. And so when you have a parent, uh, or a system that creates a lot of rules, lots of regulations, uh, pornography can be one of those first places, uh, that you can begin to escape something of the tyranny of your system. But also if you are in the midst of a disengaged home meaning, your mother or father are not terribly attuned to your desires. Uh, they don’t just see your needs, but they can’t even see into your mind. Sometimes the involvement with porn can just be so powerful because it seems like it’s something of an antidote, uh, to all the rigidity and disengagement of the system. And that’s really, I mean, I think the work that, uh, you all do at the, Allender Center and the, you know, a lot of people who have been trained by there, that’s our task is to kind of say until a bridge is built between this, you know, present, struggle that you’re in. And some of these unresolved stories, uh, you are going to continue to just hate yourself, uh, and try and outgrow an issue with contempt or willpower or management rather than really engaging the stories that set you up for this harm.

Dan: Well, your phrase that, you know, eight-year-old, a 15-year-old, et cetera. Uh, one of the prime words I hear is I was so perverted, uh, I was so sexual at such a young age that that is by far the signature of, of the fact, there is something wretchedly dark about me and that, you know, we’ve talked on this show multiple times, but it is endlessly important to come back to. And that is, you know, how do you engage? How do you think about the role of shame in this judgment of one’s own body one’s own being as perverted?

Jay: Yeah. Uh, so, I mean, I think I would start with, I mean, two core themes would just be desire and shame. Uh, so that sense of, uh, you know, as, as people are in a particular grooming process, again, if they come from that rigid home disengaged home, uh, most of my clients would say that their abusers had something of a sixth sense, uh, uh, for what they were in. And so that could be, you know, our home didn’t have MTV, uh, we weren’t allowed to play video games. And so then maybe a peer begins to introduce them to competition something that their heart is kind of, uh, eager, willing to engage. Um, and so, you know, it doesn’t always start with porn. It could start with music, it could start with books. It could start with kind of just seeing something about you that’s never been named or seen into before. And so back to, you know, what Racheal was saying, like just the, the neurochemicals of what you’re experiencing with abuse even before pornography ever enters in are, uh, exceedingly bonding. And so usually there might be an escalation that might involve porn, or it might not involve porn. Uh, but you know, an abuser is really trying to give you as many experiences of yes. So that, you know, at any juncture that might even want to say, no, you just don’t even feel like that’s a category because you, you feel like you’ve already gone, uh, too far. Mm. And so, you know, desire, uh, is what wakes us up, uh, desire is what we feel like leads us into trouble and into harm. And so, you know, if I have been abused, what do I do with the reality that my abuser may have been, uh, uh, a more intimate friend, uh, than anyone else I’ve ever been? Uh, you know, Dan, I remember one participant in our solo abuse recovery weeks, uh, you had kind of invited him to just the language of like you were a skin orphan. Uh, and I just remember that man weeping, because it was a sense of, he had never been hugged. I mean, he couldn’t remember any level of care. He couldn’t remember any level of attention. And so did he find a well in the wilderness? He did was that well of abuse toxic? Indeed. Uh, but his heart began to change, not in hating himself for all of his affairs and porn use. His change began to kind of begin when he saw something of just the deprivation and heartache that led him to say yes to abuse. And so sometimes, uh, we can hate ourselves for what we have desired. And in that hatred, there is a sense of judgment against my desire. And so when you look at the debris that follows porn, extramarital affairs, even hypo arousal, all of that becomes irrefutable evidence that your desire is stupid. It sucks. It will never be redeemed. Uh, and it’s, it’s a brilliant, but also tragic maneuver that we all learn to make is to judge ourselves and to feel a level of hatred, rather than being able to bless and understand, uh, that our hearts and our bodies wanted to say yes to something that was pleasurable to something that was desirable, uh, to allow our hearts to, uh, feel something of attunement in the midst of so much of what we were in.

Dan: Well, we’re, we’re meant for intrigue, we’re meant to desire novelty and the privilege of, of being able to explore and discover things, but where that intrigue, which is such a beautiful part of us, then gets bound to this dark loss of innocence. So that so many of the people I’ve worked with, particularly in this form of subtle abuse. And again, it’s not that subtle, but it’s subtle abuse when it’s the grandparents pornography that doesn’t look intentional and whether it is, or isn’t, it’s still that man, or woman’s responsibility that they left that for you as a child or grandchild, but that loss of innocence leaves us then with virtually all exploration, particularly when the sexual realm feels really dark. And in some sense, uh, I’ve just seen so many people as pornography is a structure that begins with a kind of come hither and moves pretty rapidly to deep levels of degradation that sexuality, for those who have been imbibing, uh, pornography from a young age, they’re drawn to some degree of their own or other people’s degradation, which then so seems to be absolute incontrovertible proof you are a wicked, dark, perverse being, which then in that sense leaves the human hearts so open to assault from the interior, but also so much assault from the kingdom of evil. And again, uh, not that we’re meaning to, in some sense, provide quick cures for people because they know if they’ve been listening to the show that it is a journey and a long one to engage, but I just would love for you to put words to in practice in your own work with others, how that long history of degradation, uh, gets disrupted.

Jay: I mean, I would say initially there’s a level of like, what on earth are you talking about, uh, cause no one wants to engage? Like why would I be drawn to degradation? So I think like, you know, when people come in, what they’re aware of is they say phrases like, uh, I was self-medicating, uh, or, you know, the haven’t heard it as much as of late, but just kind of looking for love in all the wrong places. And so there, there’s a sense of kind of, there is a particular relief. And so whenever I’m working with unwanted sexual behavior, I kind of think in terms of like just the two R’s of relief and uh, repetition or reenactment, whatever you wanna say it. So do all unwanted sexual behaviors, uh, provide something of relief. Absolutely. I mean, we wouldn’t choose them if at some level they do in it allow us some level of escape from the difficulties of life, from the shame, from the loneliness, from, uh, just a lot of the contempt that can take place within a relationship. So at some level, you know, when we’re working with an idol, which porn affairs all would be, we have to kind of begin to honor you as Isaiah does. And Isaiah 44, I mean, you’ve built something really beautiful and it gives you food when you pray to it. But at some level that thing that you have put your trust in, uh, is also, uh, where you will know shame. And so I think we have to begin to honor. Yes, the role of porn has been, uh, a well for us in the desert. It’s been, you know, revelatory of our ability to navigate through the complexities of life. Um, but then we also have to step into what is the end result virtually every time of indulging in this behavior. And it’s shame, it’s judgment, it’s degradation of self degradation of others. And that would be kind of just that second R of reenactment or repetition. Well, how did you feel in the aftermath of abuse and in the silent family or your community, you felt a lot of shame, you felt humiliation. Um, you felt a level of degradation around what you had been part of. And so, uh, sometimes unwanted sexual behavior can become that kind of open and shut case of, you know, look at how flawed, look at how awful I am as a human being. Uh, and that’s really kind of the core seduction of all of these unwanted sexual behaviors as adults is that they, uh, they show us how broken, how awful we are.

Dan: I, I, I just think the passage, Isaiah 44 is so important to hear that whole notion of who shapes a God and cast an idol, which can’t profit nothing. And the categories that are in that chapter of this thing that you speak to is deaf. This thing that you hope will hope you see is blind. And in some sense, be it on a page, be it on, you know, film, you know, there is a sense in which again, the heartbreak of this is that it has soothed us and yet in its soothing at some level, uh, it is ruining. And in that ruin, this is the part that feels crazy for most people when they begin to even hear it, there’s some relief, even in ruin as much as I despise it at one level, it’s who I am. Well, it’s what I’m destined for. I’m sorry, Rachel.

Racheal: No, I interrupted. I’m sorry. I just, I was thinking like, and so often, because I, I could imagine some, this is where we, we catch ourselves, right? Because for so many people, even though there is this reenactment of, I am broken, you know, like I’ve aligned with evil in ways that like, I really can’t undo, I’m bound, is often playing out in like a, a way to counteract that with, and here’s this life I’ve developed where no one would know this is true about me. And so the stakes get higher, the fragmentation gets higher. So yeah, when you say something of the ruin actually brings relief because there’s been such a splitting, such a chasm, uh, and this, and so then we are dealing with, I’m a liar. Like I have fooled people, I’m an imposter. Um, even if those really good, beautiful, holy like delightful things about us are just like, are so true. You know, like there’s a way we, we actually can’t fully embrace them. And I think that fragmentation and that splitting is just so tragic and we see it play out, especially in the Christian realm. We see it so often play out in realms of leadership, um, ministry helping, and, and it’s really tragic and it’s really brutal. Um, and it, I think for me, the saddest part is like, it doesn’t actually have to have that kind of power, but exactly what you’re saying, both of you, it is a healing journey that sometimes takes some time for us to really understand, because we’re so committed to these kind of really false truths about ourselves that have been well worn pathways for a really long time.

Jay: Yes. Yeah. Yeah. I mean, I, one of my clients that I was working with in the last couple years, uh, you know, part of what she came in to work with through was kind of hookups that would leave her with like some level of her own degredation, the themes in pornography that she was pursuing, uh, began to escalate, uh, over the last five, six years into just more violence, uh, with regard to what she was seeking out. Uh, and, you know, that’s the starting point that so many of us have is, you know, I I’m degrading myself or I’m looking at themes that might involve that degradation. And so really inviting her to, you know, go upstream to be able to say like, you know, where did this war with desire, hatred degradation begin and, you know, part of what she had named. And I, I mean, this is true of her story, but you could, uh, in a way universalize it, uh, she had a neighbor, uh, across the street from her that was basically her, you know, uh, one of her best friend’s brothers, uh, that began to, uh, invite her to play, um, and eventually invite invited her, uh, just a lot of sexual abuse. And one of the things that she remembered, uh, was just how much pleasure, how much desire she felt for him, how much kind of in, uh, just intrigue that she had to go across the street and virtually, I mean, what happened after that was just a sense of like, she condemned her desire for actually wanting to go there. And so part of what we were able to bridge together in our work is one of the reasons why she can go to forms of degradation or violence is almost the sense that she doesn’t have to choose desire again. Uh, she, she puts herself in a position to be overpowered, to be ruined. Um, and that is an easier place for her to acknowledge than to be able to say, what is my desire and how is my desire good and beautiful and true. And so I think just particularly, uh, just that sense of if you are cursing your desire, it’s very likely that at some, uh, desire got the best of you and you’ve been in a civil war with it ever since.

Dan: Well, even that story just reminds me of how many women end up having contact with pornography. And because most pornography is sold to men, that will be in some sense, the first encounter with a, a, an adult naked woman, which again, all sexual, shall we say, processes and images are rousing, uh, and irrespective sexual orientation. So that sense of being in the presence as a young girl with erotic women creates even deeper confusion to a point of how and why would I be aroused by, and then again, the lengthening and that’s the phrase I sticks with me, the lengthening of that sense of perversion, irrespective of what has brought it about is in some dark sense, a way to escape, actually one’s grief and a sense of one’s own horror, uh, of how a grandparent, how a friend, or how a parent could have actually invited me directly or indirectly into this level of loss of innocence. So there just is such again, for many people who are just hearing this, it’s just hard to comprehend why I would prefer shame to entry into grief and a naming of what’s true about the nature of how my innocence was lost and that disruption of can we invite you to grief, uh, is, um, harder to bear for most people than the shift to, the judgment of contempt against our own sense of shame.

Jay: Yeah. Yeah. I mean, I think two of the categories that, you know, we talk a lot about in my time at the, Allender Center was just, you know, the Matthew 5:4, “Blessed are those who mourn for they will be comforted,” uh, and then just the category of blessing arousal. Um, and so when you begin to kind of think about, uh, your unwanted sexual behavior, your sexual shame kind of past or present, uh, most of us will ask for a lot of forgiveness, uh, for what we have been through what we’ve done. Uh, but very few of us are ever able to kind of in a way, have the ego strength and the vulnerability to say, uh, I’m, I’m done with the war against myself. I, I need comfort now. Uh, I needed comfort then. Uh, and so I think that passage is just such a simple but elegant way of ending us to like, we know we all need and want comfort. And we can’t just kind of say that sexual brokenness gives us comfort. It always also gives us judgment, uh, and degradation. So I think, you know, that pitch to grief both present and past is so beautiful. Uh, and then also just the category of blessing arousal. Um, you know, when I think of Romans 12:2, “Don’t be conformed to the pattern of this world” which is pornographic full of sexual brokenness, uh, full of entitlement, “but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” You can’t really renew your sexual mind if you don’t have any idea of the stories that have formed it. And so I think just that passage really invites us to be able to bless, uh, what we were looking for, what we longed for, uh, before something of just shame and judgment degradation took over for us. So, I mean, if you can hold, I’m a man, a woman who wants comfort, but I’m also a man or woman that does not want to live in a civil war around desire anymore. Uh, I think that level of defiance really allows for kind of healing and strength to emerge.

Dan: Well, with the time we have left, um, and I hope for our audience, we’ve given them some substantial thought about how to begin to look at their own story and the stories of perhaps friends or even their own children. But if I can just make a slight shift, why would you do this work?

Jay: Oh, so many, so many stories come to mind. The moment that you say that, uh, one story that I wanna share just briefly that I it’s the first thing that came up, uh, was I was involved kind of early days with like a recruitment team for the Seattle School and was basically, uh, in Colorado at a bar. And, uh, one of the, you know, professors, adjuncts, faculty, uh, don’t know if I should say his name. Uh, we were at a bar later on that night, uh, after we had listened to him lecture and he dropped off a note that just kind of said, do you wanna note who killed John Benet Ramsey? Uh, and he, and he left the note and then we had a meeting the next day with a coroner, uh, of surrounding areas of Boulder, uh, basically to talk through, uh, what he had seen in different autopsies and whatnot. So, I mean, I had no idea why I was there, but this professor introduced me. He said, uh, this is Jay Stringer. He’s a Human Trafficking and Demand Expert from Seattle. I had no do what human trafficking was really at that time or what demand was. So in a way, I feel like I’ve been led into this work, um, in a way that I can’t fully explain, uh, simultaneously. I mean, I think I have been a man that has struggled immensely with lust and anger. Uh, and so when I looked at a lot of my kind of behavior, particularly in undergrad, grad school, just really having to step into, uh, just seeing myself as, you know, just got disgusted with myself full of contempt for self and others, uh, and had, you know, just some good people connected to the Seattle School and my therapist that really invited me to understand my story, my family. Uh, and so that has been, you know, just so central to the work of healing for me, uh, is to really step into seeing that there’s a wider, more beautiful story than just, uh, I’m a set actually broken an entitled man, uh, really had to dive into my story. But I think in terms of what sustains me professionally, it’s, it’s always that sense of someone comes in with a particular understanding of themselves and they are stymied by shame. Uh, they don’t like themselves. They’re just full of conflict. And through our work, uh, being able to kind of see something of, uh, transformation take place and there there’s just a level of kind of joy anticipation on their faces. So most people come in with condemnation for desire, and then they begin to kind of see like, no, I, I wanna be in a very different relationship with desire and that’s, I mean, that’s, I wouldn’t quite say it’s the new addiction, but there is a sense of like, I, that is desire for me, uh, is to watch the intrigue of how’s the work of the Spirit, the work that we are gonna do together, going to lead to something new, something novel. Uh, and I have no idea where the story needs to go. Uh, and that was true in early days of pornography. For me, it’s also true with regard to working with the human heart and it’s thirst/craving for redemption.

Dan: That’s glorious. I just, again, I, I see, I, I’m not gonna sing because it’ll be a violation of human dignity, but, uh, I, just, to me, there are so many Psalms that speak of singing a new song, and that sensibility of the heartache you have been in the heartache, you’ve seen transform something of your own heart to deep war on behalf, but just before we end, I just love for you to make a connection between, um, running a marathon with two broken and elbows and your work.

Jay: Uh, I, I would be very intrigued to hear what your, your two analysis would be about that.

Dan: Uh, well, I I’ll offer, but you go first, Racheal.

Racheal: Oh, Honestly, I think Jay, when you were talking just about your own story, all I thinking about is, you know, Henri Nouwen’s language of like the Wounded Healer, like, um, some of the best, most trustworthy, full of integrity, people I know in this world doing deep restorative painful, um, costly work have come to it out of their own necessity, have come to it as you know, a, and we see this in the biblical language of Jesus, like, you know, who have known such profound healing and restoration in the places where they couldn’t even barely imagine that as a possibility and therefore, um, have a deeper capacity to join the spirit in birthing new life and in the groaning that we’re really meant to participate in. So, I mean, whether that connects to like you running a marathon with broken elbows, I don’t know, but I just, I think that that imagery and that language is very fitting.

Dan: Yeah. And I, what I would say is if I were privileged to sit with your son, what I’d say is like, I know your dad, um, and of all the things that can be said, he is not an idiot as a legend. Yes, indeed. Uh, and not merely for this, um, crazy act, but, but the whole notion of foolishness, we, we won’t go long on this other than to say there’s something in Paul’s language of it. It, the wisdom of God, uh, it, it is foolish compared to the wisdom of men because it’s reversal, it’s the inversion of what we think the pervert, the dark-hearted person who has to hide actually was a sweet and innocent, young intrigued heart that was presented with something really heartbreakingly wrong. And yet in the context of what you’ve described as the rigid bound, the distant bound home, there was such emptiness. And the idea that this got a taste of life that I would say a you, um, no, you’re not an idiot. You are a fool, but far infinitely far, in the Pauline sense that the foolishness of men, um, it’s a reversal. And we are so if I can just say it, we are so proud, uh, to be aligned with you and to be part of your labor. So folks, if you’ve not encountered this stunning book Unwanted, make it your early year choice to reflect on the realities that we are speaking about. So Jay, thank you so much for joining us.

Jay: Thank you, Dan. Thank you, Rachel.

Racheal: Yeah. Good to be with you.