Fred Stoeker, author of Hero: Becoming the Man She Desires, explains how his faith in Jesus Christ helped him overcome struggles with sexual sin, and encourages men to be a hero to their wife by maintaining sexual purity. (Part 1 of 2)
John Fuller: Well, welcome to "Focus on the Family" with Focus president and author, Jim Daly. I'm John Fuller and a question for the men listening today. Wouldn't you like to be thought of as a hero to your wife or your future wife or to your kids? I think most of us would say yes and there's an area in your life where you need to be a hero and we'll talk about that today. And Jim, that particular area is sexual purity. It's something that guys wrestle with, but we have got to be very intentional in dealing with sexual purity.
Jim Daly: John, we do. I think it's one of the biggest issues that we face in our culture today. Our culture is so sexualized and yet, in the Christian church, I don't know if we talk enough about it with our kids and certainly, with our teens and 20-somethings. And so, today we want to touch on this issue.
Before you turn it off because you don't want to go there, just remember these are important discussions, perhaps the most important discussions you can have as a parent. We're going to do that with someone very special, Fred Stoeker. He is really emerged as one of the leading experts in this area out of experience, difficulty as a young man and the things that God brought him through.
He's the president of Living True Ministries and he and his son, Jasen have written a book called Hero: Becoming the Man She Desires. We cover a lot of topics here at Focus, but again, this one strikes at the heart of every family in so many different ways. And today we want to offer help to those families who are struggling with this. Fred it is great to have you here at Focus on the Family.
Fred Stoeker: I couldn't be happier, thanks.
Jim: Fred, let me just start with that obvious question, why go into this subject? So many Christians are uncomfortable talking about this. Why do you see a calling from God to really help people better understand human sexuality?
Fred: Well, the call comes out of my own past. When I was one year out of college, I had four girlfriends. I was sleeping with three of them and I was engaged to be married to two of them. So, I was in a position where God had me right where He wanted me, because at that point, He introduced me to Himself. I got saved.
Jim: At what age?
Fred: Yeah, I got saved and then I got married thinking that the sexual sin that I had, had in my life with pornography and all those things would just naturally go away with marriage. And what I found out is, that wasn't so. And so, there came a point in my life where I needed to finally just make a hard, fast decision to engage the battle for purity for the sake of my wife, our relationship and for the sake of my sons that would eventually come and of course, my daughters.
So, once I engaged that battle and then had victory, there was a period of time where I was watching for books to come out on the topic that would have practical steps to help people. [I] never did really see one and then all of a sudden, one day the Lord kinda called me to do it. And that's really where it came out of. And He just wanted me to share what He had taught me along the way.
Jim: Well, let's roll the film of your life back a little bit, because it's important to understand it.
Jim: When you were a little boy, your father made a[n] indelible impact on you. Talk about that. What did your father do or not do that made such an impact on you?
Fred: There were a couple of things. The first thing that happened was when I was in 1st grade. I was about 6-years-old and my ball rolled under his bed and I went to get my ball and I found a magazine called Playboy. And I began to look through it. And from that moment on, the female body had a completely different meaning to me. And it just started me on a path away from I guess, what ... the path of innocence.
Jim: And this is well before puberty. It happens; in fact, 50 percent of young men see their first porn by the age of 11.
Jim: Age of 11.
Fred: Yeah, so I was one in the first half and of course and then, probably the thing that had an even bigger impact was my dad was a traveling salesman. He had a lot of mistresses. And I remember the pain in 5th grade when heand my mom told us they were gettin' divorced. And you know, I like to say it this way: the sun never shone as brightly in my life after that. I mean, my dad was gone. I needed him in my life, but he was gone.
And then I would wake up in the middle of the night many times and I could hear my mom sobbing through the wall, 'cause my room was next to hers. And I would go in there and she would say, "Oh, I'm so sorry to wake you up." And I'd say, "Mom, what's wrong?" And she'd say, "Well, I'm just so sorry I can't be the father you need me to be. And I'm so sorry that I couldn't be the woman that your dad needed."
Jim: Just owned all that guilt and responsibility.
Fred: Oh, yeah, she really did, but you know, on another level, I mean, I sure understand it. I mean, she was struggling through just heavy financial struggles and she could see her son growing without a dad. And it's just a really painful time. And I remember declaring in my heart at the time, I will never treat a woman like this. And yet, I did. I ended up treating women like that.
Jim: Let me take you to that moment though with your dad. Did you know at that point when they separated andeventually divorced, did you know the reason why right then? Or did it come out later?
Fred: No, you know, when you're a young child in a home, there are many things you see along the way. I remember one time playing with one of my little Tonka pickup trucks behind my dad. I would just want to be near him when he was home workin' in his office. And I was playing behind him and I remember turning and seeing my mom with scissors raised to stab him in the back.
John: Oh, my goodness, in a serious way.
Fred: Oh, I'm ser[ious]; oh, she was gonna kill him. And I said, "Mom!" And he turned, caught her hand. And I mean, it was this huge life-and-death struggle there for a little bit. My dad overpowered her fairly quickly. He was a national wrestling champion. But my older sister took mom's side. I took dad's side. All I could see was, hey, mom attacked him, so I'm protecting dad. And my older sister though knew about all the mistresses and she knew, so she was protecting mom. And I found out at that time uh ... that my dad at that moment was writing a love letter to one of his mistresses and my mom knew that and so, she was comin' to end it.
And so, you know, in my home there were a lot of things that went on that, you know, we saw these things. We knew that there was some struggle and yet, when the divorce actually came, it was still a shock and it devastated our home.
Jim: I can't imagine how a 5th grader, how you managed that, all that trauma going on in your home and just how you coped with it. Was there anybody around you, a Christian who was reaching out to you? There's nobody of faith in your family at the time.
Jim: Oh, I mean, that had to feel like an island for you.
Fred: It did. You know, we can look back in our lives always and even though it was awful, you can see how those times shape you. And in the long run, all I wanted out of life was to please my dad. And so, I got into sports and I started to become really good at what I did. And it really did in the end, shape me into understanding how important it is to be strong and to stand up and make something of yourself.
But the tragedy of those days is, that if you talk to any sexual addictions counselor, they will tell you that when a dad is absent or unengaged during the early teen years in a man's life, if he can't get the answers to the basic questions of manhood like what's success? What does it mean to be a man? If he can't get that during those days, his next window of opportunity will be to explore those things in relationship to women and through his emerging sexuality and that's exactly what happened to me.
Jim: So let me get this straight though, because you, as a 5th grader again, you saw what had happened with your father. You didn't have all the pieces to the puzzle, but you had said in your heart, I'm not gonna be like my dad.
Jim: And yet, you were.
Fred: Yeah and see, that's because there are certain ways that men are built. Our sexuality is really built to connect and pass intimacy with women that way. And the real issue is, is that when a young man begins to feel disconnected and when he begins to feel lonely and hurting, what he can do with his sexuality is use his sexuality to get more, kind of a false intimacy, a false connection, where he can begin to medicate that pain.
And that's really where that comes from and where my dad helped me in many ways in teaching me how to be a man when it came to sports and I had a lot of conversations with him. And like any dad, he was trying to teach me how to someday be a success in business and in sports, in that one area, he was really a disaster. And really his dream was to connect with me so that we could be friends one day and you know, he told me once, he wanted to bar hop with me, pick up women with me, find mistresses.
And so, I mean, my dad had a very strange view of how a father-son relationship should work. But I will say that because of his sin then, even though I made that connection in my heart, that no I'm never gonna do this, it was almost a generational thing that just automatically came down to me. It's like, well, dad was like this and even without even trying, I kinda went that direction, even though I hated it. And I can say that I did okay during high school to kinda keep it in check, but in college, it just went way out of control.
Jim: And Fred, you touched on this, but let me pull this out a little further. What is it, the way that we are wired as human beings, our sexuality? What appetite is actually there that we abuse this area of life, that God wants us to steward with great carefulness? He wants it to be within the context of marriage. Why do we go so radically out of control? What is it in us that is driving us? It's not just hormones, is it?
Fred: Oh, no, it's not just hormones. I wish it were, okay. For men especially, there are two main vulnerabilities when it comes to our sexuality and this is where Satan takes us down. Um ... the enemy can easily trip us up.
The first is in our eyes, okay. Studies have shown for decades that the male eye can draw sexual gratification straight from his environment.That means I can look at a girl in a string bikini and basically get the same kind of sexual gratification as if I'm stroking my wife's leg or something like that. I mean, it's very, very real.
In fact, in front of the U.S. Senate in 2006, Jeffrey Satinover from King's College said this, that modern science allows us to understand that the chemical basis of pornographic addiction or the things that we kinda draw through our eyes is nearly identical in the human brain as a heroin addiction. What he was saying is, that when we look at things that are sensual, there is a release of pleasure chemicals into the limbic center of the brain that is very addictive.
And so, you can imagine, say a young man like me at the age of 6, looking at my Playboy magazine, boom! That's releasing those chemicals into the brain and all through your life. And so, what begins to happen is that, that is a feeling that your brain wants to repeat, okay. So, there's an addictive nature to this sexuality.
And so, when we get television and movies that are very heavily sexualized, what happens is, every time we look at those movies, we say, "Oh, well, it's no big deal; it's just a movie," but your eyes are doin' the same thing as if you're in bed with an actual woman, okay. So, there are some very powerful forces that way.
Then the second vulnerability in a man is this. Our sexuality, our native language of passing intimacy with a girl is pretty sexual, okay. So, what happens is, is that when we're with a girl, the natural way we're gonna want to express that is sexually, okay? Now we know we can't do that biblically, but we tend to want to express it that way.
But the biggest problem is not how much we're pushing on the boundaries of our girlfriends. The biggest problem that, that creates in our lives is this, that we can look at a naked picture of a girl, it's just a picture, okay. But when we enter into self-gratification as we view that and we have this big burst of pleasure chemicals into the brain, that gives us this really medicated feeling. And even though that's not genuine intimacy because it's just a girl on a page, it has this sense of intimacy and it's because of the way our sexuality is built.
And so, what happens over time is that, let's say our dad gets divorced or you know, we lose our spot on the football team or we break up with a girl, whatever, any of those kinds of emotional blows that we take, we can easily run to pornography or some other sexuality like that.
Jim: So, it's used as a form of medication.
Fred: It's like a drug to us.
Fred: It's a medicating drug for us and so, think about it. We've got eyes that can draw sexual gratification from anything around us. And then think about how girls dress across this nation. Think about how movies are you know, think about the dances and what they do, the grinding and all those things. So, you've got all this sensuality around you.
And then think about the fatherlessness in this country, where over 50 percent of the guys are growing up with, you know, dads that aren't even there. And then the dads that are there, they're disengaged and they're not even talking to them about this issue. They are trying to find out the answers to their manhood with women and once they get involved in that direction, of course, then this becomes a medicating force in their lives.
So, even as they walk around, you know, there's all these impacts, these temptations. And then, there's the emotional pressure that comes from the medicating release of this sexuality and sensuality. So, you're just in a position as a young man growing up in this country, where with those two vulnerabilities, if someone doesn't talk to you about this, you're pretty much set up to fall.
John: Fred Stoeker talking about a very delicate subject that he and his son, Jasen have written about in their book, Hero: Becoming the Man She Desires. And obviously, we're talking about some things here on today's "Focus on the Family" radio program that just won't be appropriate for younger listeners. So, we're gonna caution you again as we continue here. To learn more about this topic, stop by www.focusonthefamily.com/radio. If you can't stay with us, get the app, the CD or the download.
Fred has painted a somewhat bleak picture of what's going on today, but unfortunately, he actually went through all of the struggles that he's talking about. He mentioned a little while ago that in college, he tried to define himself as a man through sexual promiscuity. And as we continue, he describes what happened and when he realized he was becoming a lot like his dad.
End of Program Note
Fred: I left Iowa to go to Stanford University inCalifornia. So, I'm hundreds upon hundreds of miles from home and so, I'm completely lonely, have no friends. And it was a very difficult time. I had always defined myself through my sports. And once I got to Stanford, uh ... my sports really were taken away.
And so, I'm tryin' to find a way to define who I was. It wasn't months until I had the dates memorized where all my favorite porn magazines would come into the campus drug store. And I would ... even if I had to skip class, I would be there when that drug store opened, so I could get that month's magazine uh ... you know, right away, have new pictures to look at, whatever.
And then the first girl I went to bed with was with a girl I absolutely knew I was going to marry, so I thought it was okay, because, hey, we're gonna get married anyway. Why not start now? Uh ... the next girl I went to bed with was with one I thought I was going to marry. The one after that was with the one I liked that I thought I could learn to love. And you can kinda see the small steps I was taking away, uh ... taking away from where I was.
Fred: Uh ... eventually a girl who was a senior said, I don't want to graduate without having sex. Would you do the honors? And I said yes, so I mean, it just got to the point where it really didn't matter; there really were no criteria. And that's where everything collapsed completely into having the four girlfriends.
But the main issue is, you know, a lot of people can look at that and say, "Okay, Fred, well you were ... what a pig. I mean, I can't believe you had four girlfriends; you're engaged to be married to two of them," all that. The fact of the matter is, is that I was so desiring to truly connect with someone. And I'd always been told that the easiest and the fastest way to connect with a girl is sexually. And so, I mean, I'm like a gerbil on a wheel. I mean, I'd start having sex with this one and I wasn't really completely connecting, but I wasn't really sure if I was or wasn't gonna connect. So, I'd start dating another one. And I'm just goin' as fast as I can, 'cause I just got lonelier and lonelier.
The weirdest thing was, everybody said this'll help you connect. And yet, the more I was connecting with a girl sexually, I mean, the bone crushing loneliness (Emotional) of my life was just tearing me apart. And so, when I had the four girlfriends was (Weeping) when I was I the most lonely and that's when the Lord stepped into my life. What a gracious [God];He was so kind.
He met me alone in my office and just showed me what I'd become. I didn't see a vision or anything. I can't describe what He did. He just introduced Himself. Showed me what I'd become. And the only thing I had left to do was to bow my head and just say, "Lord, I'm ready to work with You if You're ready to work with me. I'm done." (Emotional) And everything changed.
Jim: Fred, I mean, obviously a lot of emotion for you still, even though this was many, many years ago.
Fred: Oh, it was a beautify moment, yeah.
Jim: Let me understand that a little bit though.
Fred:Sure, go ahead.
Jim: How did God introduce Himself? There are people listening that won't understand what you mean by that.
Jim: What seeds were planted along the way that allowed you to even sit at your desk and say, "Lord, let's do it Your way?" What was happening the six months, 12 months before??
Fred:Yeah, actually it would've been a couple of years before that moment where my stepmother actually, the woman that had broken up my mom and dad's marriage, my dad actually ended up marrying her. She got saved and the woman that broke up our family was the one who led me to the Lord in the sense that she told me all about the Lord.
Fred:[She] took me to church, a wonderful, just a wonderful full-Gospel church. And then about a year before I was saved, I began going to a church called Menlo Park Presbyterian; Walter Gerber was pastor. And I would go on Sundays. I'm not even sure why I was going, but I would just go 'cause he would preach and I'd feel better. And so, I would go there most Sundays.
And so, when the time came where I was in my office, I can tell you exactly what happened. I had been working all day. Everyone else in the office had gone and I had looked out the window to the west and I saw a beautiful California sunset and I saw that sun setting, I said, "Before I go home, I want to just take a short vacation, just sit and enjoy this sunset."
And I sat down with my hands behind my head and my feet up on the credenza and I just started to watch the sun go down. And you know, you ask how the Lord introduced Himself, He didn't say anything. I just began to sense instead of seeing that sunset in my mind's eye, just began to see what I had become, especially in relation to women. And I just knew it was the Lord. I don't know how else to say it.
Jim: Well, one way if I can help, 'cause--
Jim: --I think many of us as Christians have some kind of experience like this.
Jim: There is something that Paul writes about, like the scales are falling off your eyes.
Fred:That's a good way of saying it.
Jim: It's like you all of a sudden know reality better than you knew it a few minutes ago.
Fred:Yes, exactly. And you know, when I said, "Lord, I'm ready to work with You, if You're ready to work with me," you see, it was in that moment that I realized, I had no hope of doing anything about what I had become unless He worked with me. And I was just basically saying, You've been nice enough to tell me this. What do we do next? And I'm with You.
Jim: When you look at this, Fred, especially now as a Christian and you look at the power of sexuality in all human beings, the Scripture has a lot to say about it actually.
Jim: Why do you think the Bible is so specific? And God particularly, why His heart is after this area in our life, perhaps more so than any other area, more than money, more than other things. Why did the disciples say, for example, if they're doing these three things, I think James says this, if they're abstaining from sexual immorality, meat sacrificed to idols and meat strangled in its own blood--
Jim: --if the Gentiles do these three things, they're doing well. Boom! There's sexuality. And again, Jesus mentions it and all through the Gospels in the New Testament, there's something unique about the need to hand your sexual appetite over to your relationship to God. Why is that?
Fred:Well, I think it has to do with the two vulnerabilities that we talked about earlier. If you go to 1 Corinthians 6:18 through 20, it talks about the fact. I mean, Paul says to flee sexual immorality and the reason that is, is he said that sexual sin is different from every other sin, all right? And when you actually look at what he's talking about there, I believe with everything in my heart that what he's talking there about is that the means to sin is within us. That's why this sin is different from other sins.
I remember when I was a very young Christian, went through my first year as a Christian, I made a decision not to drink alcohol anymore. I could tell you the whole story, but we don't have time for that, but I made that decision. And the way I can keep from drinking alcohol is simple. I don't go to the store and buy it. The means to sin is in a bottle somewhere, in a can somewhere, you see. But when it comes to our sexual sin, the means to sin is right in our body.
Jim: In our eyes.
Fred: And when we sin again, I talked about the chemical releases, when we sin, it's an automatic impact, an automatic addictive thing. And what happens is, it becomes habitual and it takes over your life. And so, I think it's one of the reasons, because when I go around this world and I talk to people all over the world, the one thing they say to me is that, man, every other sin in my life fell away instantly except this one. And the reason it didn't fall away was because the means to sin is in their eyes and they haven't taken the time to build the self-discipline to have the character to turn away from the sexuality.
John: And not only is the means in our own body, it's right there with our eyes, but the temptations are everywhere. It's not a matter of just stay out of a liquor store and you won't have that temptation.
John: You can't go through this life without having these temptations.
Fred:Right, so it builds. But then there's two other things about it that I think are really, really important. When I ask this question to men and women, I say, "Okay, what is the one thing in your life that's keeping you from having the closeness and intimacy with God that you dream of?" I mean, 95 percent of them, their sexuality, okay. Because having discipline in your sexuality is a learned thing. And see, in 1 Thessalonians 4:3 through 8, Paul says that it's God's will for us to be sexually pure and to not engage in sexual immorality, but we are to learn to control our bodies.
Well, you see, we aren't talking about it to our sons and our daughters. So, it's pretty hard to learn that, because nobody older than us is telling us what they learned. And so, that's also another big issue with why it then trips us up as we're trying to grow into God. Here we are, struggling with this strong force in us and we have no one telling us how to learn how to keep it under control.
So, you see, if we don't control that one thing, it becomes a veil between us and God. And I don't know of anything else in our lives that has that kind of internal power, because there's no other sin like it.
John: Well, Fred Stoeker has been very transparent today on "Focus on the Family" and it's really inspiring to hear how God set him free from the grip of that really powerful sin in his life.
Jim: John, so often we say, it's going to be uncomfortable to talk about this topic. I get that, but I do think it's necessary that we discuss it. We have given so much of this over to the world. We need to hold ourselves accountable and teach our children a healthy, godly perspective when it comes to human sexuality.
Next time we're gonna come back with some college students and do a Q&A with them. I think you're gonna find that as parents, very informative. A reminder, you'll find more of Fred's story he co-wrote with his son, Jasen called Hero: Becoming the Man She Desires and I highly recommend it.
Thanks for remembering Focus on the Family also with your gifts, as we reach out to men and women who need answers about sexuality. And every day, John, we're getting e-mails and letters and phone calls from people that this topic is hitting them right where it hurts. And we do want to say thank you for helping us to be there for these folks.
And when you send a gift today of any amount, I want to send you a copy of Fred's book and I mean it. If you can't afford it, just let us know. We want to put this resource into your hands. And for those that can help us with a little larger gift, you also can receive the book as our way of saying thank you, but help us put the book in the hands of others. We deeply appreciate that.
John: Yeah and our number here is 800-232-6459 or online, www.focusonthefamily.com/radio, where we also have also have a CD and download of this conversation. Those are gonna have extra content to train your children in this area of purity, as Fred was suggesting there.
And finally, if you need a counselor because this has been a topic of concern for you, we'll invite you to contact us here for an initial consultation. And when we have programs like this, Jim, there's a high call volume and so, our counseling team may have to get your information and give you a call back. But then they can help you and direct you to further assistance in your area.
Again, our number, 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY.
On behalf of Jim Daly, I'm John Fuller, thanking you for listening and inviting you back tomorrow, as we continue the conversation with Fred Stoeker and those college students and once again, help you and your family thrive.
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Fred StoekerView Bio
Fred Stoeker is a best-selling, award-winning author. His book Every Man's Battle has been translated into several languages and has sold more than 900,000 copies worldwide. Every Man's Marriage, written to accompany Every Man's Battle, won the Silver Medallion Book of the Year by the ECPA in 2002, and Fred's book Every Young Man's Battle won Gold Medallion honors in 2004. Fred and his wife, Brenda, reside in the Des Moines area and have four grown children. Learn more about Fred by visiting his website, www.fredstoeker.com.