In All-Star Squadron #20 (a comic book that takes place during WW II), the Justice Society of America (JSA) was captured by the evil Brainwave. He used his telepathic powers to hypnotize and immerse his victims in a fantasy world where they were fighting the Japanese with their superpowers and having tremendous success. The fantasy world was so realistic that the JSA couldn't distinguish the fantasy from the reality. Eventually Brainwave turned the fantasy around on the heroes and had the fantasy Japanese military "kill" the super-heroes. This had the effect of rendering each hero catatonic and near death. Brainwave knew that once the first superhero died in real life, it would push the other ones over the edge and they would die as well. A second team of superheroes (All-Star Squadron) tried to save the JSA by intentionally entering Brainwave's fantasy world. Despite the fact that they knew from the beginning that this was a fantasy, one by one they also succumbed to Brainwave's fantasy world, were "killed" and rendered catatonic.
The last hero to arrive was the Golden Age Green Lantern. He entered Brainwave's world totally unaware that it was a fantasy. He found the fantasy bodies of his friends that were killed by the Japanese soldiers. Enraged Green Lantern attacked the Japanese military and slaughtered them without mercy. Next he attacked and destroyed the nearby Japanese city, killing innocent women and children.
After his destruction of the city, Green Lantern instantly regretted his action. He couldn't believe what he did while in the grips of his grief and rage. He finds it so devastating that he decides to end his own life and destroy his ring (the source of GL's powers) so that level of evil can never occur again.
However, Green Lantern's attack was so powerful that it overloaded Brainwave's equipment and threatened to kill Brainwave, the creator of the fantasy world. In a desperate attempt to save himself, Brainwave released all his victims and shutdown his fantasy world. Green Lantern's friends communicate with Green Lantern at the last minute, preventing GL from committing suicide. He was shocked to see that it was all an illusion and that his friends were alive and well. He was even more horrified at what he did while in the grips of Brainwave's fantasy world. His friends tried to console the Green Lantern by telling him that it wasn't real and nobody was really hurt. Nevertheless Green Lantern remained devastated by his actions, real or imaginary.
But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. (Matthew 5:28)It's no coincidence that Jesus focuses on our thought life and what's in our heart. Our hearts can lead us astray. We can dull the biting edge of our Holy Spirit-guided conscious by continually ignoring it. Our hearts and our minds are a reflection of who we are or at the very least where we are.
As I continued down the road of sexual addiction, one of the ways that I would act out was by reading erotica. In many ways the extremely graphic nature of the stories was even more powerful than the pictures and movies that I would watch. I would play the scenes over and over in my mind. When the stories became repetitious I would simply change the actors (myself always being the "star") or the scenario. Over time, the stories that I sought transitioned from the soft core to increasingly extreme hardcore (because lust is NEVER satisfied). I was free to do whatever I wanted to whoever I wanted within the fantasy world inside my mind.
This became the point when I started viewing myself as a monster. I couldn't believe the things that I needed to arouse myself and started to become terrified of what the next step might be. The fantasy world was becoming indistinguishable from reality. I could relate to Green Lantern's feelings of shock and disgust with himself. I would try to convince myself that since it was only a fantasy, it wasn't real, but I knew better.
Eventually God convicted me that there were victims of my sin that I refused to acknowledge. The nameless actress in the image or movie who came from a lifetime of abuse, the author of the story that I encouraged to write more stories that would take him or her to darker places in their mind, my wife to whom I cheated on over and over in my heart, my kids who would figure out what was going on. The moment when God removed the scales from my eyes was simultaneously the most painful and glorious moment of my life. He used it to pull me out of the pit that I was stuck in and bring me into a loving and healing relationship.
There are times when it is still a struggle. When my past sins taunt me as reminders of who I was. At times, they beckon me to return to my old ways and try to romanticize the "good old days" of acting out. It is in those moments where God whispers to my heart and reminds me of how far we've come. He reminds me of the good He is doing in my life and the healing He is performing in my family. Like the Green Lantern, I will always remember my actions, but unlike the comic books, where God is rarely represented in a positive fashion, I also know that my sins have been forgiven and I am free to live in Christ, which is greater than having any superpower in the world!