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The weight of guilt felt like it would press me into the ground. Crush me. Part of me wanted it to. I longed for sleep—not to rest but to escape. I didn't want to have to think about what a stupid, hypocritical sinner I was. I'd watched a pornographic video six years earlier, when I was 13, but this was worse. This time I was different. I loved God. I was serious about serving him. I'd flown all the way to San Juan, Puerto Rico, to be a volunteer at a Billy Graham crusade. I was on holy ground.

Yet one night, when the pastor I was staying with left the house for a meeting, I plopped down on his couch and turned on the television. I mindlessly channel-surfed. Then I clicked past a channel that was all static—the images blurred and hard to identify. I clicked back to it. When I did, the static cleared, and the images sharpened. It was a pornographic cable channel. When I finally turned off the television and went to my room, the conviction I had been holding at bay came rushing into my heart. I'd traveled all this way to sit in a pastor's house and watch porn. What a joke. I was nothing but a disgusting hypocrite. As I lay there staring at the ceiling, I couldn't even bring myself to pray. I finally slipped into a fitful sleep

That's when I had the dream. I dreamed I was in a room filled with index card-sized files. They were like the ones libraries used in the past. When I opened a file, I discovered that the cards described thoughts and actions from my life. The room was a crude catalog system of everything, good and bad, that I'd ever done.

As I browsed the cards under the headings "Friends I've Betrayed," "Lies I've Told," and "Lustful Thoughts," I was overwhelmed with guilt. Long-forgotten moments of wrongdoing ...

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In the Magazine

January 2010

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