Exposing the Darkness
About the Guest
It takes courage to break an addiction. Craig and Jen Ferguson, authors of the book, "Pure Eyes, Clean Heart," talk to Dennis Rainey about their dating years. Jen recalls asking Craig if he viewed porn, and Craig admitted that he did, but what guy didn't? Jen tucked his answer away in her heart. Little did she know that his response would later come back to haunt her.
Craig and Jen Ferguson talk about their dating years. Jen asked Craig back then if he viewed porn, and Craig admitted that he did, but what guy didn’t? Little did she know that his response would later come back to haunt her.
Exposing the Darkness
Bob: Although Jen Ferguson didn’t realize it, her husband Craig had an on again / off again relationship with pornography during the early years of their marriage.
Craig: We would go through cycles. Sometimes I would go months without looking at it and—it did—there was never a sustained—like years, and years, and years of looking at it every single day—very cyclical. But what I was doing at the time—I didn’t recognize it at the time—was I was really trying to fill the hole that God was trying to fill with things of my own.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Monday, January 18th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey; I'm Bob Lepine. We’ll hear on today’s program about the purity wake-up call that Craig Ferguson received. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us on the Monday edition. We’re going to look at a challenging subject for marriages today.
Let me, just real quickly if I can, Dennis, remind our regular listeners about the special offer that FamilyLife is making this week. It’s the last week for you to sign up [at the special rate] for an upcoming Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway—one of our spring getaways. If you sign up this week—and you pay the regular price for yourself—your spouse comes free.
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Now, we’ve got a courageous couple joining us today.
Dennis: We do. I think the husband should have known he had married a courageous woman when they were dating because of a question she asked him, right out of the—right out of the gate. I’m not going to tell our listeners what the question was—I’ll let Jen Ferguson do that.
Craig and Jen Ferguson do join us on FamilyLife Today. Guys welcome to the broadcast.
Craig: Thank you for having us.
Jen: Thank you so much.
Dennis: Craig and Jen live in Austin, Texas. We checked their passports as they came out of Texas into Arkansas. [Laughter] Let them in the country up here—it’s all good. They check mine, going the other way, Bob.
Bob: Of course they do.
Dennis: Of course they do. So why not do that for them?
They have two girls and a couple of dogs you describe in your book as “high maintenance dogs.” I thought all cats and dogs were high maintenance.
Craig: The oldest one is a German shorthaired pointer which—I don’t know if you’re familiar with that breed—but they require a lot of activity—a lot of activity. We walk every morning. If we don’t walk him every morning, then—
Bob: —he walks you.
Craig: Exactly. Jennifer lets me know about it: “You need to take care of this dog. He’s driving me crazy.”
Dennis: Okay; okay. They have written a book called Pure Eyes, Clean Heart: A Couple’s Journey to Freedom from Pornography.
Jen, you—it wasn’t the first date, I don’t think; but since he asked you to marry him
11 days after you first met, it had to be an early date—I mean, whenever it was; right? You asked him a question—
Jen: Right, I did. The question was: “Have you ever looked at porn?” I can’t remember what made me ask that—I don’t know if we were watching a movie or if I’d read something.
I just thought, you know: “Here we are—about to get married. I want to know: ‘Is there anybody else that I’m competing with?’”—like: “’Am I really going to have you to myself?’ Since we’re going to get married, I just want to know that nobody else is going to ever enter the picture.”
His response was, “Sure, every guy does; but it’s not a problem because now I have you.”
Dennis: I just want to say, at the beginning—I want to applaud you asking that question. Now, that was back in what?—1999? / 2000?—
Dennis: —when you asked that question of him when you started dating? I just think it needs to be asked—I think by both the bride-to-be and by the father of the bride—of a young man who’s about to be given his daughter in marriage.
Bob: Shouldn’t you expect, if you’re going to ask the question, that you’re probably going to get a young man who says, ‘Yes,’? I mean, Craig’s answer: “Yes, but it’s not a problem.” That was enough to satisfy Jen.
Craig, you were—were you, in your mind, were you telling the truth when you said, “Yes, but it’s not a problem,” or were you just doing a snow job?
Craig: Yes, in my mind, I didn’t really understand, at that point, the depth of the control that it had over my life. I still believed, at that point, “Well, I’m about to get married,” and “I won’t have to worry about it anymore because I’ll have a wife, and I can have sex anytime I want to.”
Dennis: So you took his words at point blank, just for what they were. You described that you put them in a shoe box. I thought that was an interesting description, but I think it’s a good one—the tendency of an engaged couple is to really trivialize issues and problems because your emotions are winning the day—you think love can conquer all.
In your case, did you consciously have that picture in your mind of putting his experience with pornography and other women in a shoebox?
Jen: Right. I mean, I really thought: “Okay; we’ve dealt with this issue. It’s shelved. We shouldn’t ever have to open it up again,”—like it’s stored—“It’s part of his past and is always going to be part of his past, but we don’t have to open it again because it’s in the past.”
Dennis: You two have two daughters.
Dennis: Your daughters are going to become young ladies—their late teens / early 20s—and they’re going to fall in love, more than likely, with a young man. What would you advise them to say and to do in a similar situation to you?
Jen: I think I—both of our girls now know what pornography is because we wrote the book. We knew we would have books lying around the house—we didn’t want them to hear what it was from anyone but us. They know a very sheltered version—that this is something that is a really hard thing to deal with—so we want to stay away from these images because this is not what God intended for women to be treated like and this is not how God designed marriage or sex.
Likewise, they know what sex is too.
I think, because they know our story, they will feel empowered to not just take the guy’s word for it—that “Yes; sure I’ve looked at porn. Every guy does it. It is okay,” or “I won’t do it again,” or whatever. I guarantee you that we will have conversations with this man [Laughter] because of our story.
Bob: I see you looking at your husband, going, “You better believe we’re going to have these conversations!”
Dennis: Craig, what would you say? What would be the conversations you’re going to have with your daughters and with the young man?
Craig: Jen’s right. We started this conversation early because it does impact both the husband and the wife in very different ways. We’ve tried to explain to them how the world views people and how God views people—teaching them the difference—
—in how to engage with the world in a Christian manner versus listening to what the world is saying. Pornography is a corruption of what God intended—
Craig: —right? They’re already experiencing that now, at their age, where they have conversations with other girls or even guys, where it’s not what God had intended.
What we want to communicate to them and educate them now—starting now—is that, by the time they get to that age, they already have a good understanding of who they are, who God made them, and that they’re not looking for someone else to fill that.
I didn’t understand how to look at God as my real father. That’s a big hole that men have in their lives. I was filling it with anything I could possibly fill it with, and pornography was a really easy choice.
Bob: That started early from you.
Craig: Right; absolutely.
Bob: Your first exposure to pornography came when you were still in elementary school?
Craig: Right; right.
Dennis: Yes. Well, I’m going to move this from theory to a knock of the door. [Knocking]
Dennis: The Ferguson household. It is a 24/25-year-old young man who said, “Mr. Ferguson, I’ve come to ask for your daughter’s hand in marriage.” After you both choke it down and have the realization that this is now game time, I want to know—I just want to know how you would approach that young man—what you would ask him and what you might say to him.
Obviously, we don’t have time on this broadcast to get into everything—but around this issue right here, pornography—because, as Bob said earlier, most likely the young man probably has been impacted by pornography.
Craig: Yes. I mean, honestly, I really hope that’s not the first time I’ve met this individual.
Bob: Oh, yes—I hope not too!
Dennis: You won’t ask him, the first time you meet him, the same question—
Craig: No, but I do want to get to know him because I want to have a relationship with my future son-in-law.
I don’t have a son myself; so that individual / those individuals will become my son. I want to be able to know them in a way that a father would know their son. I want to know what their hopes and dreams are, what they like / what they don’t like. And I want to know about their past because their past definitely impacts how they interact with my family and how they’re going to build their own family.
It’s going to be a really good conversation, but it will be a lot of intimate-type questions that he may or may not be used to answering. It’s really important to me to know him in a way that—besides just, “Okay; yes. Go ahead and marry my daughter,” —right?
Jen: Or, “Can you just provide for her financially?” or “Can you give her a lifestyle that she’s accustomed to?” Like none of that really matters if, at the heart, he doesn’t know Jesus and doesn’t know how to love her well.
Dennis: I’ve had a couple of these conversations, and I love where you started because that’s where I attempted to start as well. Start with the relationship, and you work your way through some relatively safe conversations. But when he does come asking for her hand, at that point, you really do want to find out: “Where is this young man, spiritually? What’s his capacity to relate to another man?—and to my daughter?” Then you’ve got to find out: “What is the past? What has taken place?” Have an honest conversation that maybe ends up sharing some of your own experiences with him.
Bob: You will probably—in the development of that relationship—say, “You ought to know a little bit about our story,” and maybe hand them a copy of the book you’ve written, Pure Eyes Clean Heart, and say: “Take this home and read this. It’ll give you some background into what we went through.”
We’re talking with Craig and Jen Ferguson, the authors of the book, Pure Eyes, Clean Heart,—
—about your own journey in this issue related to pornography.
Craig—for you, it began when you were in elementary school; right?
Craig: Yes, I was—sixth grade when I first was exposed to it. I can say that it was a friend of mine that had a father that had a subscription to a pornographic magazine. Like most kids—boys of that age—I spent a lot of time in the woods. I didn’t grow up watching a lot of TV; I spent a lot of time outside. He brought—
Bob: —the magazines.
Craig: —the magazines, yes, into the woods. That was my first exposure to it.
Bob: Do you look back on that and think: “Something really clicked that day—like a switch got flipped in my head to where I was just really just drawn into this,”?
Craig: I think it was more of a curiosity, at that age. If you think about it, developmentally, it’s right about that time where boys start to really notice girls in a different way other than, “Hey, there are these other kids that are in my class,”—right?
I had—I have a younger sister—we’re 18 months apart. I grew up around girls; but I don’t think it necessarily flipped the switch at that point. I think that when I started to hit puberty, and I was still exposed to it, it was kind of shaping, if you will, kind of my view of the female, and female body, and what sexuality was.
Bob: It was not that long after you were exposed to pornography that you started experimenting with sexuality.
Craig: Yes; exactly. I was in seventh grade.
Bob: That’s a pretty quick track to be on if, in seventh grade, you are already experimenting, sexually.
Dennis: You found other pornographic magazines at your grandfather’s?
Dennis: Here it is in your family. That had to have kind of an interesting impact, I think, on a young man. How old were you at that point?
Craig: I was probably early high school at that time.
Dennis: Thinking about your grandfather—had a stash hidden—
Dennis: —in a filing cabinet.
Dennis: You would go help yourself.
Bob: Were you just thinking, “This is just what guys do,”?
Craig: Part of it was just the excitement of doing something clandestine—you know what I mean—like it was secretive. I’m sure that was a draw as well. I remember kind of feeling somewhat excited about, “Am I going to get caught or not get caught?”
Yes; I knew where it was. It was readily available to me—whether it was from there—or I have friends who have older brothers, and they were in college at the time. They were in fraternities—it was available.
Bob: Was there any sense of shame, guilt, or remorse as you were exposed to pornography or as you were acting out, sexually, in middle school?
Craig: Initially, no; but as I got older and, I think, more mature in my faith—I began to recognize, especially in high school, that this was not what God wanted me to do.
It was definitely a separation from what I knew was the right thing to do versus what my desire was. I knew it was not right.
There would be these cycles of engaging in pornography and then going through repentance, and then going through pornography and going through—that would cycle through—even into our marriage.
Dennis: I think it’s interesting that you used the term “even as I was maturing as a Christian.”
Dennis: The reality is—all of us should be in the process of becoming mature.
Dennis: And all of us are struggling with one or multiple issues in our lives. We live in a fallen world. Our own propensity to sin is still there, and Christ calls us away from that to follow Him. You just had very real struggles.
Did you ever have anyone who had a spiritual mindset that ever had a conversation with you about what was taking place in your life?—
—a youth pastor?—an older man in your life?—your dad?
Craig: I never really shared what was going on with anybody at that time—with the struggles with pornography. That didn’t happen until later on in my life—I was an adult, and I was married. I never really engaged with my pastor or my youth leader and said, “Hey, I’m struggling with this,” at all until much later in life.
Bob: I talked to a young man, once, who told me that he attended a Christian school. He said, “I loved basketball, but there were days I skipped basketball practice to go look at porn.”
Bob: It wasn’t every day—it wasn’t that kind of a compulsion—but there did seem to be this kind of reoccurring, “It’s been a while,” and he’s drawn back. What was your frequency of looking at porn when you were in middle school and high school?
Craig: It would go through cycles. Sometimes, I would go months without looking at it. Then it would—it could be every day or several times a day.
There was never a sustained—like years, and years, and years of looking at it every single day—it’s very cyclical.
Bob: Kind of binge and fast?
Craig: Yes. It really was almost like binge—yes; exactly. I think “binge” is a really good term for it. What I was doing at the time—I was really trying to fill what God was trying to fill with things of my own.
Bob: And as you were maturing in your faith, and starting to feel a sense of guilt and some remorse about what was going on, you probably had this same cycle of—you’d look, you’d feel guilty, you’d confess, you’d say, “I’m not going to do that again,” and you’d go on this period, where you think, “Okay, we’ve got this.” Then, all of a sudden, something would flip the trigger and you’d be back.
Craig: Right; exactly.
Bob: Did you figure out then what was flipping the trigger, or did you even pay any attention to that?
Craig: That was interesting—I never really was cognizant enough in that cycle / in that addiction to really understand.
It wasn’t until we actually started writing this book where I was really trying to prayerfully think back on my life from the very beginning of my engagement in pornography and seeing some of the commonalities that were happening that it began to surface. God was showing, “Hey, here’s what was going on in your life at that time; and here’s what was drawing you into it,” that I was able to actually know what those were.
Bob: Jen, if the first time you asked your fiancé, “Have you ever looked at porn?”—if Craig had said to you: “Well, as a matter of fact, I was first exposed when I was 12 years old. I’ve had these cycles that I’ve gone through in junior high and senior high,” and “I was sexually active, and I’m trying to get a handle on it; but I stumble from time to time,”—would you have said, “Okay; see ya!” or what do you think you would have done?
Jen: I am a really loyal person. I have just the kind of personality that will stick with it no matter what.
I think for him to offer an invitation to a dialogue and a conversation—I think it would have—I mean, I think our road would have been a lot easier—still hard.
Dennis: It would have been rally time for you.
Jen: Right; exactly.
Dennis: You would have seen that as an opportunity for you to come alongside your man, saying, “I’m going to love this out of you.”
Bob: I want to go back to the question that you were asking them about a 25-year-old knocking at the door and saying, “I’d like to marry your daughter.” If you’re the dad in that situation, and you sit down with the young man, and he comes clean—says: “This has been my pattern—junior high, senior high, college—I’ve struggled with this. Tried to get a handle on it / haven’t been able to, but I’m counting on marriage being what’s going to help me get over this.” What would you say and how would you advise your daughter?
Dennis: Well, you’ve got to go back to what I feel like Craig did such a great job of at the beginning. First of all, establish a relationship because you don’t know where this thing is going to go—he may become your son-in-law—
—therefore, a son. So you need to have a relationship with him and keep that bridge firmly in place.
You’ve got to have had your own understanding, from the Bible, of what it teaches about forgiveness, about grace, about mercy, about your own brokenness and your own need for forgiveness in your relationship with God, and be ready to display it to another person.
Dennis: I think all these things just demand that a dad and a mom of a young lady and a young man, together, work through these issues and not minimize them. On the other hand, don’t panic / don’t freak out; but realize that marriage is for keeps, and you need to help this couple prepare for what will be a reality.
We’re going to hear more of this story, a little later on, of what Jen had to deal with as a result of this. This wasn’t a quick fix. This is not a matter of flipping a switch and moving past it.
I think these are the assignments today for daddies and for mommies—first of all, as they’re preparing their kids for that moment—but secondly, when a young man does come [Knocking] and knock at the door.
Bob: You guys do such a good job in your book, Pure Eyes, Clean Heart, of helping couples, not only by sharing your story, but by sharing what you’ve learned from Scripture about how to process this issue in a marriage relationship. I’d just encourage couples—if this has been an issue that has come to light in your marriage, it would be good for the two of you, together, to read through the book, Pure Eyes, Clean Heart. We’ve got it in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. You can go, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com to request a copy; or you can call 1-800-FL-TODAY and order your copy from us by phone. Again, the website is: FamilyLifeToday.com; and our toll-free number is:
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We hope you can join us again tomorrow when we continue our conversation with Craig and Jen Ferguson about pursuing purity in a marriage after sinful patterns have been exposed and confessed. Hope you can join us again for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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