Category Archives: Acceptance

‘Tis So Sweet: ‘Neath the Healing Flood

ID-100463957“Oh how sweet to trust in Jesus,
Just to trust His cleansing blood;
And in simple faith to plunge me
‘Neath the healing, cleansing flood!”
-‘Tis So Sweet to Trust In Jesus,  Louisa M. R. Stead

“And the Lord said to tell you that THIS TIME, your MIND will NOT get in the way!!”

My friend said those words forcefully during the prayer night as she spoke about THIS MAN. How did she know?, I thought to myself. I laughed a little bit as she said it, remembering all the past hurts I had experienced with guys and how I would obsess to the point of allowing even the smallest perceived rejection to send me spiraling out of control–to reject before I could be rejected. The most recent hurts, even though they were a couple of years in the past, were still on my mind a little bit. But I was pretty much over that stuff, fully accepting of myself and ready to date. So I agreed fully–she was right, God was right. I was in a much better place, and this time, my mind was not going to get in the way.

Honestly, I can’t decide whether I am naive or ignorant. I mean well; I’m not purposely thinking of myself as better than anyone else with regards to how I handle life. I guess for some reason, I believed that when the Lord said “My mind would not get in the way,” it meant there would be no issues or struggles. But that’s not what my friend said, and even more so, that is not what He meant…because that is not how He works. He works by bringing our core issues to the forefront so that we can work them out with fear and trembling. And that does not happen often without struggles.

So the first time I began to experience even a modicum of perceived rejection from THIS MAN, I freaked out a little bit. Mind you, I used the word “perceived” because that is all it was–my perception. A friend that I had (finally) confided in reminded me astutely: “Your mind is not going to get in the way.” I took this as a word straight from the Lord and let it go. But I was not as lucky this past weekend.

I was having my 10 percent day, and in the midst of it, I was feeling again a perceived rejection (again–PERCEIVED) when my flesh pounced. Instead of walking away from the damning thoughts, I waded neck deep into them. I stayed away from church, from the people who love me when I am at my deepest place of despair. I stayed in bed all day (since I hadn’t slept the night before), and I cried the majority of the day. I plotted and planned on how to make an easy escape from the difficulties of facing myself and THIS MAN; how to reject him before I could feel that rejection. I ruminated about it the entire day, making up excuses for why I could never be close to him–my personality was too big for him, he wasn’t mature enough, we didn’t have anything in common–and verbalizing why I perceived he was choosing not to be close to me. I obsessed and spiraled out of control, remembering the hurts that had been piled upon me from past relationships.

Normally, I would’ve done something extreme during those hours–unfollowed him on social media, sent a regrettable message, made my rejected feelings known in some way. But for some reason, I didn’t take any action. Then suddenly towards the day’s end, I started repeating Isaiah 26:3 to myself:

“You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.”

It was almost immediate, the wave of relief that came over me. I felt like I had been literally plunged into His healing, cleansing flood. Peace washed over me as I settled down. My anxiety faded. My heart relaxed. My mind became focused on the immovable grace, peace, and love of Jesus.

And that was it. He was simply waiting for me to relent, to return. Waiting for me to come to the end of myself. Waiting to remind me that there’s so much more work to do in me than I even can see. And waiting to tell me that no rejection, real or perceived, from THIS MAN or any man can replace the acceptance He has given me as His precious daughter. I just need to trust Him and let His love heal and cleanse me.

I realize now that I will struggle, and that my mind may get the best of me on some days. But as long as I continue to trust Him, my mind will not get in the way. Not this time.

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Monday Minute: The Ten Percent

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Image courtesy of Carlos Porto at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

A few months ago, I was feeling terrible and not my usual “wild,” “full of life,” “crazy” self. I went to my church that evening and was subdued, to say the least. Later, someone on my worship team told me that they “couldn’t deal with me when I was like that.” Yesterday, I had another day where I couldn’t deal, and this time (though I attend a different campus now), I stayed home. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to interact with people–it was that I was afraid to. I wasn’t sure I could take someone else saying that they didn’t like me or couldn’t deal with me because I have emotions other than happiness.

Thee truth is, 90 percent of the time, I accept myself just as I am–crazy, wild, larger than life–even though those words are sometimes used as labels to invoke comfort by the giver. But then there’s the 10 percent–those times when I recognize that my full of life personality is the sole reason that people are scared to get close to me. And when I have a 10 percent day, it’s more important than ever for people to break down my walls and love me through it.

We all have those days–the issues may differ, but the days still happen. It’s not a question of if it will happen, but when. The challenge for us, then, how do we care for each other during these times instead of being dismissive? Because we are never more like Christ than when we love others while they are in the 10 percent.

 

The Trio: Safe Supervision

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image courtesy of lekkyjustdoit at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The Introduction

The first time I met my boss was during my interview; he had his head resting on his hands the entire time. He was exhausted, and there was no denying it. When you’re in politics, and a mercy gift to boot, it’s highly likely that you’re doing some people pleasing–and that was definitely the case with my boss. A compassionate man, he is always willing to listen and give people his time. Everyone who calls our office claims to be “a good friend” of his, and he knows more people than I ever will. (But like a true mercy, he has very few who are actually close to him.) He has told me many times that he needs a great deal of time to process, and he is married to a prophet woman who does a great job of giving him many of the things he needs. More than just compassionate, my boss is caring and has grown into his mercy gift at age 61. He has something that the other two in the trio do not yet have: maturity. And beyond that, he has what my coworker lacks: acceptance of his gift.

The Involvement

The involvement with my boss on my end has simply been that I have gotten to be led by a mature mercy male for the first time in a long time. It has been less about what I am doing to be involved and more about what I am learning through my relationship with him. I have worked under former mercy male leaders, and it has been disastrous in some areas. It is helpful that my current boss and his wife are devout Christians; that his wife has a solid identity and therefore does not feel intimidated by me or challenged by my involvement in his professional life; and that I myself am more grounded in my own identity in Christ. It is wonderful to genuinely care for my boss and see his gifts displayed in such a public way, with such maturity. He is incredibly good at asking for help in the areas where he does not have great control, like boundaries with his time. He is not only well liked, he is well respected by folks in all walks of life and is one of the humblest men I know. Working with him daily reminds me of how much I want a Jesus-loving, humble, grounded-in-his-identity, mercy male husband of my own.

The Importance

My boss represents something in a mercy male relationship that I have not experienced in a long time: safety. This is a stunning revelation to me, even as I write it. Last week, as I was thinking about this blog, I actually said to myself that I did not know what the importance of this relationship was–but now it’s very clear to me. Listen, I know relationships, people, even LIFE ITSELF is not safe. Nor did Jesus call us to a safe life. But I know that I have been avoiding mercy males–or at least keeping a safe distance–because of how many times I’ve been hurt by them. And while I am aware that Jesus assured us we would have a life full of troubles (John 16:33), I am also aware that we are to guard our hearts, because all of life springs forth from it (Proverbs 4:23). I am enjoying the safety of my relationship with this mature mercy male because we all need safe people in our lives. He does not flirt or lead me on intentionally or unintentionally; he does not use me to get his touch needs fulfilled; I don’t feel guarded around him because he is mature enough to set his own boundaries. That means I don’t have to guard my heart, because he helps in that area. So instead of feeling stressed and worried around him, I am enjoying a kinship with a mercy male, and our dynamic flows exactly the way God intended it to. We joke, we laugh, we share, and we naturally work well together but not in any kind of inappropriate or unhealthy way. In fact, he just got back from a week-long trip, and the first thing he did when he saw me was give me a hug. I did not feel used, I did not feel weird–I just enjoyed the cool, safe relationship I have with a mercy male.

There’s something to be said for feeling safe in a relationship. And while I know my ultimate safety comes from spending time in the arms of my Savior, it is nice to know that I can also find safety in a relationship with a mercy male who has no agenda except to care for those he leads. And that has been remarkably healing for this pushy prophet girl.

 

The Trio: Coworker Coexistence

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image courtesy of satit_srihin at freedigitalphotos.net

Let’s just go ahead and be what we were made to be, without enviously or pridefully comparing ourselves with each other, or trying to be something we aren’t. (Romans 12:6, The Message)

I struggled with which of the Trio to begin with because I have a lot to say about each of them. However, I’m starting with the coworker, because though I met him last of the three, he is the first one who influenced me deeply.

The Introduction

Coworker and I met on my first day on the job. I knew from the first moment we met that he was a mercy gift; I actually told my friend that my coworker was a mercy male, and I knew it was going to be difficult. He is my age—we graduated the same year, but he is already in a high ranking government position, making hand-over-fist money-wise, and one of the smartest people I know in his area of expertise. One time, he was talking shop in my office, and I thought, “wow, this guy is smart, good-looking, and wealthy–what is wrong with him?”

I quickly found out: he lacks identity in Jesus.

Within one week of working with him, I could tell that my coworker was rebelling against his mercy gifting. I could see it in his lack of compassion for others; the way he shuts everyone out, the way he refuses to let anyone care for him at all; the way he treats the people who work for him, the almost robotic nature of his relationships with others; the way he wraps his identity in his job; the rumors about his sexuality. I could see the struggles he was having, even though he tried to hide them.

The Involvement

I began praying for him and speaking very heavily into his identity as a mercy male. I wrote him notes to thank him for showing generosity and to encourage the compassion within him that I knew was there. We had a bit of a dispute—which is NOT the mercy’s strong point, as they just can’t deal with the emotions of conflict—and I made it a point to come into the office on the weekend, when I knew I could catch him, to talk the issue out with him. He hugged me (something that no one in our office has ever experienced, EVER), and we resolved the issue. I spoke life-giving words to him whenever I could, and my other coworkers noted that even they noticed the difference in him.

But after six months of praying fervently for him and speaking into his identity, I stopped. I found myself dealing with feelings for him that I did not want to have. I struggled so badly and felt so despondent about the experience that I asked a friend to take over the prayers and I pulled back from him significantly. And I watched much of the positive changes in him fade away.

During these last six months, I have seen him become even more withdrawn, argumentative, and wholly focused on himself. He has distanced himself from staff without reason and refuses to engage them when asked. He recently said that he could “take care of himself, because he had been doing so his entire life, and he didn’t need anyone.” And even worse, as I have not prayed for him, I have seen my own heart harden towards him.

The Importance

Praying is imperative, and one of the things that I said I was going to do for the mercy male, regardless of what else I felt led to do, was pray for them. And one reminder I gave myself was, “what if I’m the only person in this entire world that is praying for him?” I don’t know that his parents are Christians, and he doesn’t have many friends. So pondering that question drives home to me the importance of bringing him before the Lord. But I’m also under this realization: prayer is not sovereign; God is sovereign. God doesn’t need me or my prayers to work in my coworker’s life. God needs me to pray so that I can cultivate a better relationship with Him and become more like Him in my daily interactions with everyone, including and perhaps especially with my coworker. I want to see him walking in His God-given identity as a mercy gift, and doing so cheerfully (Romans 12:8). I want Him to know the Lord as I do.

I was worried that I was getting too close to my coworker through my prayers. Now, instead of worrying, I am learning the importance of trusting the Lord to protect my heart as I fulfill His directive to pray. And though he doesn’t know it, I have my coworker to thank for this invaluable lesson.

Emotionally Healthy Habits: Failure

health pyramid by Stuart Miles

image courtesy of Stuart Miles / freedigitalphotos.net

Lately, I’ve been reflecting on my past, particularly with my career and my relationships. I was a youth pastor for about 10 years, but not a “successful” one by any means (if you are looking at numbers, particularly). I have been a worship leader at my church, but never a “successful” one by standards that I would use to measure success. I had one long-term boyfriend, but have only dated inconsistently in the past 10 years. Even at my job with the school system, I have never quite gotten up to the level that others think I should. I often look back at my life and see that it is riddled with failure in these two areas. And of course, my two biggest concerns are whether my business will succeed and whether I’ll ever get married. I’ve experienced enough defeat in these areas to last a lifetime.

Failure comes in many forms: rejection, watching others succeed in areas where you didn’t, trying new ideas that don’t work, outright defeat. But even with its different looks, failure can be an emotionally healthy habit, if we can remember these three things about failure in our lives:

  • Failure is inevitable. Everyone fails at something, because failure is a part of life. You don’t get every job that you apply for, you don’t date every person that you want to date, and you don’t get picked for every team you want to be on! From the beginning, we are destined to experience failure and suffering. Jesus said in John 16:33, “In the world you will have tribulation.” This means that I should expect failure, honestly. He didn’t say that we might, He didn’t say only some would—He said that we all would experience tribulation, and that includes failure. God knew that I would experience a lot of career failure, and He knew that I would experience failure in my relationships. And once we accept that failure is a normal, natural experience, we can move forward.
  • Failure does not define you. Failure is not who you are, it is what happens to you. I have failed at many endeavors, but that does not make me a failure. I have received many words of encouragement from former youth, people who felt God’s Spirit in worship experiences, and friends who felt loved by me. I know that the Lord used me in many of these instances to bless others, even if the overall impact was less than I or others expected. In addition, I realize that my identity is not tied up in the things that I do—which means that failure does not determine my identity! My identity is instead wrapped up in the person of Jesus and everything that He says that I am—and Galatians 3:26 says I am a child of God—through faith, not success!
  • Failure is a great teacher. Romans 5:3-5 says, “We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” When we fail and suffer, we learn a great deal about endurance, character, and hope. We develop wisdom through failure that we cannot learn through success. (I guess this means I should be really wise!) In addition, God uses those failures to encourage us and others. What have I learned from my failures? That I am a great administrator; that I work better with adults; that I should not compromise what I’m looking for in a mate. As such, my failures have contributed to me knowing my passions and purpose just as much as my successes have.

Some of the greatest successes have come because of great failure, and in order to be greatly successful in God’s Kingdom, we must understand that failure is unavoidable! But once we accept that and reject the idea that failure defines us, we can learn from our failures and thus grow in our emotionally healthy habits!

Emotionally Healthy Habits: Acceptance

health pyramid by Stuart Miles

image courtesy of Stuart Miles / freedigitalphotos.net

“Why can’t he just see the truth?” My mom and I were pondering this on the telephone this week as we thought about my stroke-ridden uncle’s health crisis. He wasn’t really getting better, and he seemed to think that ordering expensive health products online—instead of working hard in therapy—would help him to regain his pre-stroke “fitness”—which wasn’t that great to begin with. He had already been kicked out of one therapy for not doing the work; now there was a chance he would be kicked out of another. It just seemed like he didn’t want to accept anything about the situation—including his limitations.

One of the biggest keys to emotional health is acceptance. It’s not about others accepting you—that is a path that leads to death. Instead, it’s about walking in emotional health and with the joy that comes through Christ. And if there’s anything I have learned about life in Christ, it is that you must practice acceptance in the following three areas to create emotionally healthy habits:

  • Accept yourself. Sometimes, accepting ourselves means accepting where we are right at this moment. It means taking a hard look at ourselves from a Biblical point of view and recognizing our current sins and struggles. It means swallowing our pride and understanding that we are beautifully broken people. We may not be physically broken, but we are all spiritually and emotionally broken and weak because we live in a broken world. As I watch my uncle resist accepting himself and his condition right now, I am forced to ask myself, where am I being prideful and not accepting my weaknesses? Proverbs 19:8 says, “Whoever gets sense loves his own soul; he who keeps understanding will discover good.” Do you have sense? Are you trying to keep understanding yourself so that you can discover good?
  • Accept others. This is my biggest struggle. For most people, accepting themselves is the hard part, but for me, it is accepting that other people are exactly the way God made them. Why can’t my coworker learn things as quickly as I do? Why can’t my uncle see the truth about his condition? I tend to bring these complaints to God instead of accepting and seeing others as His creations as well. After all, I need to accept that God didn’t just make ME, He formed others uniquely as well (Psalm 139). And I need to accept others, flaws and all. I need to accept my family’s flaws—including my uncle’s—and realize that as I am growing in Christlikeness, I need to show no partiality as God does. How can you accept others as they are?
  • Accept circumstances. My uncle had a stroke that incapacitated him. He is no longer independent, but is dependent on my family even to use the bathroom. He can no longer drive an 18-wheeler, he can no longer live a bachelor’s life of doing whatever he wants, whenever he wants to. Those are his circumstances. Maybe your circumstances aren’t as grim; maybe you simply don’t like where you are living. Maybe you don’t like your job. Maybe you aren’t married and you want to be. Can you change your circumstances? Of course. But the better question is…can you accept your circumstances and wait patiently on the Lord to use them to mature you? As James 1 notes, our circumstances—trials and testing especially—lead to perseverance, which makes us mature. So are you willing to accept your circumstances so that the Lord can produce in you His fruit? Am I?

Acceptance can be difficult, but it is a great step towards practicing emotionally healthy habits. When you begin to accept yourself, others, and your circumstances, you begin to change your thinking, your actions, and eventually your outcomes. And that is the beginning of total health—mind, soul, and body!

DISC: Is This Really Me?

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image courtesy of Christian Coach Institute

I have a new coworker at my “day” job, and since we have finally gotten settled into our office after a month offsite, I decided to take her on a tour of our facility. While she is not new to the organization, she is new to the building—the only building I’ve actually worked at during my tenure at the company. We left the office for our “brief” jaunt but ended up taking a little longer than usual as we walked throughout the entire building. When we returned, the intern asked candidly, “What took you guys so long?!” I was about to say, “It’s a large, confusing building”—which it is. But before I could say anything, my coworker replied, “Michelle knows everyone, and everyone loves her, so she had to stop and catch up with everyone!” That was an interesting observation about me, a task-oriented high D!

Luckily, the DISC profile covers those discrepancies in our personalities, giving users two graphs to consider. The first is the “This is expected of me!” graph, which addresses who you think other people want you to be—how you act out others’ expectations of you. The second is the “This is me!” graph—who you really are when you are with close friends and family. My coworker’s observation of me was simply her seeing my “This is expected of me!” graph (high I) on full display—the people-oriented salesperson who loves and inspires everyone. However, when she made that comment, I had to ask myself…is that really me?

Here’s a couple of things to remember about that tension between who you believe others expect you to be, and who you really are:

What you think others expect of you can change. I’m going to be honest: I’ve found that when I’m working at something that I don’t care about, my “This is expected of me!” graph tends to change with the situation. I can be super steady, candidly cautious, a demanding director, or an inspiring people person! For example, I currently work with a high C, a high I, and a high S—so I am comfortable being the high D in my office. But for the previous three years, I worked with two high Ds, a high C, and a high S—so I needed to be the high I to balance the office environment. This high I personality was the person that everyone in the building knew—and the one everyone liked. It was my job, but I wasn’t passionate about it, so I simply adapted to my circumstances. I equate this to the apostle Paul, who noted that he became “all things to all people” so that he could preach the gospel more effectively (1 Corinthians 9:22). However, it was way more exhausting for me to constantly be someone other than my true self.

Who you really are is what’s important. Ultimately, you want to have both graphs match or at least be similar, because you don’t want to spend your life being two people—one that others expect, and one that you actually are. But how do you merge the two? I’ve found that one of the ways that I can help my graphs to become more similar is to do something that I love. When you are doing what you are passionate about, it is much easier to be yourself without caring what others expect or think of you. The second way is to mature, both emotionally and physically. Physically, the older we get, the less we care what others expect of us (yay for that!). But emotionally, as we concern ourselves more with finding our true passions and purposes, the better we become at letting go of “This is expected of me!” and embracing “This is me!” The Bible warns us that caving to others’ expectations is a snare (Proverbs 29:25); instead, we should accept who God has made us to be and live confidently as His children.

The pull between expectations and reality are a daily battle for each of us. However, you can begin to win those battles for reality simply by being yourself. Learn more about who you are, what you love, and what God has called you to do so that you can confidently declare in every situation, “This is me!”

What is your “This is me!” personality? Let me help you identify it through personal coaching!

The Porn Identity: Being Vulnerable

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I have a problem with being vulnerable with others. I rarely share what’s going on with me; I have walls around my heart and I’m careful with my feelings. After a friend told me I was missing out, I began considering how I could be more vulnerable, open, and intimate with others. Then, the other day, I had the opportunity to share my feelings with someone, and I did: “…I just want to spend time with you,” I said as I was walking away. It was the truth and it was from my heart. It was also met with a joke, and then deafening silence for weeks. I told my friend, seems all I was missing out on was pain.

I understand the desire to withhold vulnerability—having experienced tons of hurt in my life from other people, it seems better to hold it in and lose myself in a fantasy world, whether in my mind or one that porn created. But the porn identity has taught me some false ideas about being vulnerable with others:

  • The porn identity says that vulnerability is controllable. Porn creates a “safe” environment for its users, a place where I control the intimacy in my life. You don’t get “hurt” by people in pornography. You are in control of your pleasure receptors. But in real life, intimacy is uncontainable, wild, and overwhelming. Sometimes it releases those pleasure hormones, and other times, you are writhing in pain from the hurt. It is not safe or controlled, and there is no guarantee you won’t get hurt if you actively participate in love and intimacy in the real world. Here’s the good news: Jesus promises us that though we will experience hurt and suffering, He has overcome the world (John 16:33). It’s easier to say than do, but resting in that promise is something I’ve been trying to do recently. And Jesus didn’t say we might experience hurt, He said we will. But how we will handle it?
  • The porn identity says that being vulnerable isn’t worth it. Right now, I am fighting against this old identity, asking whether being vulnerable is even good. If people are going to ignore or pay no attention to your feelings, is it really worth it to open your heart to others? It doesn’t feel like it. It feels safer to stay behind the safety of my walls. But here’s the good news: God tells us that it’s worth it to trust in Him and give our hearts to Him (John 12:23-25). And if I could just focus on that—if we could just focus on that—then human responses to my vulnerability would matter less. Instead of letting humans tell me what is worthy, I need to focus on what God says is worthy. And He says that being vulnerable, honest, open, and accountable with Him is worth it—especially since He made the ultimate sacrifice of vulnerability for me.
  • The porn identity says that you deserve vulnerability in return. It’s funny that I would say, considering that pornography offers you nothing real in terms of intimacy. But because porn preaches that you deserve fulfillment, you begin to believe that you deserve it in all areas. However, life doesn’t work like that. Sometimes, people hurt you and they don’t return your intimacy. What then? Then—the good news: the cross reminds us that being vulnerable even when others reject us means we are becoming more like Jesus (Isaiah 53:3). The key to life is godliness—becoming more like Christ in everything we do. It means changing the way the world—or pornography—has said to do things and focusing on doing them God’s way. Jesus still suffered death on a cross for every person on earth, even knowing He would be rejected by many. We are called to die to ourselves, our wishes, our expectations—and live for Jesus.

I don’t know if I will continue to be vulnerable with this person, but I do know that, after a few weeks of hurt, I have reached out to others and let them into my pain. I realize it’s important to grow in this area, and as God continues His challenging work in my life, I know I must continue to be vulnerable, even at the risk of rejection…because that is the God identity I want to embrace!

The Struggle Is Real: Shame on Me

When I was growing up, no adult—not even my mother—had “the talk” with me about sex. Once when I was caught doing something, my mom scolded me and told me not to do it again—but she never explained why or what sex was even really about. So when I stumbled upon pornography around age 10, I kept it a secret. Even though I was curious about it, I knew that I shouldn’t like it so I kept quiet. My church never talked about sex, except when we were told that we just shouldn’t do it. And most kids were too afraid to ask questions of any adults. So everything I learned about sex, I learned from my non-Christian peers or from pornography—meaning what I learned was a skewed and perverted form of the beauty that God intended.

ashamed girl by Stuart Miles

image courtesy of Stuart Miles / freedigitalphotos.net

One of the biggest issues surrounding women, pornography, sex, and the church is simple: shame. It’s not just shame surrounding an addiction to sex or pornography: women in the church feel shame if they aren’t sexually pure until marriage, if they have sexual desires and drives that are unmet, and/or if they struggle with sexuality at all. I realized that the church was not a safe place to discuss sex, sexuality, and the temptations that go with them. In addition, I saw the gossiping about Christian girls who were sexually active, and I knew the “secrecy” of sex had led even the “purest” Christian girls to act out. I did not want to experience that public shaming and ridicule, so I kept my secret.

In order to help women truly move forward from sexual addictions and towards Godly purity, here are a few things the church needs to do:

  • Start the discussion somewhere. After Easter, my pastor begins a sermon series entitled, “What’s Missing from Sex.” He has struggled with that title—he changed the word “sex” to “love” but realized that “love” might not convey what God was telling him to say. He knows that some folks may not want to hear these sermons. But he also recognizes that there are several young generations that are struggling to know the Godly intention and beauty of sex. He knows that something is missing for many people, and he is starting the discussion. I am proud that my church is a church that is tackling these tough issues. If you want to check out the sermon series, please visit our website beginning April 27.
  • Provide safe environments to keep talking. Obviously, having a sermon series is great to open the discussion, but we have to keep talking after that. Small groups and recovery groups are all great places to share. However, it is important that we offer same-sex groups or accountability partners for these struggles.  Women need to share with other women, and men need to share with other men. While husbands and wives should be open and honest with each other, women need their own safe, open place for confessing their struggles so that healing can begin (James 5:16).
  • Remove the shameful labels. When looking at us, God doesn’t see my sin as worse or better than yours; He simply sees sin and His heart breaks. We spend too much time “sorting sins” in the church, placing shameful labels on each other and separating ourselves from “those people.” When a woman was caught in adultery, Jesus said, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her” (John 8:7). When we judge others, we throw stones and create unsafe environments for others to share. Instead of throwing stones, allow yourself to be vulnerable and open about your own struggles. Watch the labels disappear as you connect with others on a deeper level.

The church is not perfect, but as Christ’s bride, we can help remove the shame of sexual addictions and sins and replace it with love, forgiveness, and acceptance. When we do this, we become more like Jesus and the church God designed us to be.

How are you/your church helping to remove shame from sexual sins and addictions?

This Is My Story, This Is My Song: Post Recovery

“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” –Hebrews 10:24-25 

story song by Grant Cochrane

image courtesy of Grant Cochrane / freedigitalphotos.net

After attending Celebrate Recovery for a year, I felt God calling me back to my former church—yes, the one I had left abruptly. I had made amends with my pastor, and he had told me, “Oakdale will always be your home.” However, I somehow believed that completing a recovery process meant that I wouldn’t face any obstacles and that I was finished with my work. So even though I returned to the church a different and better person, God was not finished His work in me. I had a lot of growing to do. In fact, I found that I was still struggling with people and with how to use my gifts. So after a brief stint back, I left again, hoping to find a place where my gifts could be used—even though my heart was not in the right place.

My search turned up dry, though, and in the midst of feeling out of community, I became involved with a man who offered me false community and intimacy. He claimed to be a Christian but was not practicing or in community with other believers. We began a relationship while he was still married. I somehow convinced myself that this was not adultery because he and his wife were separating. However, because I had stopped talking with my close Christian friends, I had no accountability. It was a brief relationship, and thankfully, God delivered me from it and opened my eyes to my sins. When the relationship ended, I repented and returned once again to the church I had left—to the community of believers who showed me the grace and love I had been searching for.

The latest years of my life have shown me a few important things:

  1. Recovery is ongoing. Even though I was free from my pornography addiction and related issues, I was still struggling with my relationships. My beliefs about relationships with men and my own worth still needed work. And I realized that my thought life was still an issue—daydreaming and control issues ran rampant. I did not leave Celebrate Recovery fully healed: I left healed of many issues, but I still need constant work to continue to grow in my walk with God.
  2. Ongoing recovery requires community. I didn’t have to stay at Celebrate Recovery, but I needed to be in community SOMEWHERE. When I stopped attending church, hanging with my Christ-like friends, and allowing myself to be held accountable, I fell into sin very easily. I went down the slippery slope so fast, I was unable to recover in time. I praise God for His grace, but I know that not having community was the biggest reason I fell into sin. Now I make community a priority in my life—so that recovery can continue!
  3. Every community is made up of sinners like me. When I left my church, it was because I didn’t believe people were communicating with God about how to use my gifts. As it turns out, I was the one not in tune with God. No matter what church you attend, no one there is perfect—including you. I had to temper my expectations about people and about God. And I had to realize that people—even and especially my Christian friends, would disappoint me and even hurt me. When I understood and accepted those things, staying in community became that much easier.

When I returned to my church this last time, I spent one year in a ministry supporting in the background. I finally submitted to God, allowing Him to develop patience in me and allowing Him to use that year to mature me in very specific spiritual and emotional areas. And when I humbled myself before Him, He lifted me up (James 4:10)—to the perfect worship leadership position for me. I currently serve there, and though it is challenging, I know that God is using this time to develop and grow me even more, so that I can face the next eight years with full confidence in Him and who I am in Him. And that is the reason I sing!

Thank you for reading my story and hearing my song! I pray that it has blessed you and encouraged you in your own walk with Christ!