The first time was before I began my walk with Christ.
I was in college and one weekday, a girlfriend and I decided to go down to the infamous Bourbon Street (if you’ve heard of New Orleans, you’ve probably heard of Bourbon Street). It was during the day and not much was going on but we were bored and figured “what the heck?” As we were walking down Bourbon Street, we came across one of the strip clubs in the area. My friend and I looked at each other mischievously and figured “why not?” We went in and took our seats towards the front of the room. There were about three other men, in the audience. We sat and awaited the next “act”. Shortly after, a young Caucasian lady came onto the stage and began her set. She barely danced and paid no attention to the men in the audience. She seemed to have no real care or interest in what she was doing. After about 10 minutes, while she still had most of her clothes on, we left and continued on down Bourbon Street with no worry. It wasn’t a very memorable experience. My second visit to a strip club did not turn out the same way. In fact, it was quite “memorable”.
The second time was after I began my walk with Christ.
I had just had my spiritual awakening and started reading my Bible months before so the words and ways of God were heavy on my heart. This time around, I had visitors in town. My friend - let’s call him "Nonso" – was coming in from Texas with a bunch of guys for the bachelor party of one of their good friends. He had asked me in advance to come out for the festivities and to help him with ideas on where to take them. At the time, I felt an immense “pressure to impress”. These were Nigerian guys in their late 20s and early 30s coming in from Houston and based on how lively I knew the nightlife to be there, I didn’t want to “disappoint”.
That was my mistake.
On the day of their arrival, I called around and reserved them a section at one of the fancier clubs in the New Orleans area. When they got into town, we met up and made our way out to “paint the town red”. (FYI: I hadn’t been out to a club in a long time before then.) Once we got to the club, we proceeded to our section and got things rolling. It was a night of drinks, dancing, jokes, and lots of laughter. I’ll admit, I enjoyed myself at the club. By the time we were done, it was past 2:00am. On our way out, some of the guys mentioned they weren’t ready to turn in and asked if there was a strip club nearby we could go to. I knew exactly the one to take them to. There was one not too far away and although I had never patronized it, I knew of it. As we were driving to the place, I began to feel slight tugs of conviction from the Holy Spirit but I didn’t want to seem “prudish”, especially when I was having a "good time with the fellas", so I decided to continue on.
Everything changed when we stepped into the strip club.
Only one word best describes my instant feeling: HOT.
As we walked into the place, all I could feel was extreme heat. It’s like my body was overheating from fear. This joint had several African-American ladies as the main attractions and unlike the last time, where the Caucasian gal was semi-dressed, these ladies were completely nude. My instant thought was “I am not meant to be in here.” As each second passed, I felt the conviction of the Holy Spirit getting stronger and stronger, telling me to “GET OUT”, yet I still remained. The funny thing is that I didn’t remain there to watch the show (I had my head bent and my eyes averted from the ladies most of the time because I found it painful to look at them); I remained there to “save face” amongst the boys.
Imagine the foolishness.
As the guys were watching the ladies and fraternizing with them, all I kept thinking was, “this is the devil’s sanctuary. This is where he claims souls. This is his church.” You might think I’m being melodramatic but I am telling you my honest reaction. The place felt so evil. The men and women in the audience looked dead in lust. The way the men were talking to the ladies and treating them was deplorable; it was as if they were dealing with dogs, not people. The scariest part is that as I looked around at those there, the ladies included, it was obvious that no one realized what was really happening in that place - we were spiritually dying. We were offering ourselves up for spiritual degradation. I thought all of this yet I did not say anything. I simply sat and prayed that the guys would be ready for us to leave soon. By the time we left, I felt sick…physically and spiritually. Sick from the thought that I entertained an establishment that thrived on berating women and polluting the spirits of men and women alike. Sick from the guilt. Yes, the guilt came on strong. I’m not talking about the guilt of “what will people say if they found out I went to a strip club?” I’m talking about the guilt of knowingly entering sinful territory (although I was lovingly warned to flee with multiple tugs of conviction) and choosing to please man over God. I finally understood in that moment the gravity of sin and why we’re always warned to flee it.
God and sin don’t mix; it’s like water and oil.
Sin is powerful and it has the uncanny ability to draw a person away from God. It causes a divide…a wedge between a person and God. It’s hard to comfortably talk to God when you’re sitting in a strip club watching naked women doing splits. It’s hard to bask in the glory of God when you’ve just had a 2-hour porn/masturbation session. It’s hard to study the Bible when you’re actively choosing to live against the truth in it.
That trip to the strip club taught me a lot.
The first thing being that I acted as a coward that night. Immediately I felt convicted in the car on the way to the strip club, I should have turned around. Regardless of what “they” would or wouldn’t have said. It’s more important what God says about me than what man (or woman) has to say. The second thing is that I cannot actively pursue God and sin at the same time; it’s one or the other. Trying to serve two masters won't work. The third thing is that when I notice distance between God and I, it’s more-often-than-not thanks to me…and sin.
I write this post to tell you one story of conviction in my life. It explains why I don’t go to strip clubs and have no plans to visit another one again. It’s not because my pastor or my parents say I shouldn’t. It’s not because “church folk” will be disappointed if I do. No. It’s more than that. It’s because the last time I was in a strip club I felt the conviction of the Holy Spirit and my heart was filled with the truth of its depravity. I have enough areas I need to grow in spiritually – I don’t want to add the wahala of strip clubs to the mix.
And finally, I tell you this experience of mine to illustrate the purpose of conviction. It’s not a fun-spoiler (even though it feels like that a lot). The Holy Spirit is a spiritual protector and conviction is working on our behalf – to ward off the impending pollution of sin on our minds, bodies, and spirits. The more I remember that, the more I heed conviction and the more I’m thankful for it. The less I remember that, the less I heed it and the more regrets I end up with.
I pray to remember that more often than not :)