Category Archives: Self Worth

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!

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Fall Into Healthy Habits!

health pyramid by Stuart Miles

image courtesy of Stuart Miles / freedigitalphotos.net

Pornography addiction is a habit that takes up quite a bit of your time. It’s just like any other addiction—once you get into it, you need it desperately and spend most of your time trying to fill the void of time with your addiction. But substance abuse and pornography addictions are not the only bad habits we accumulate. Last September, I was just beginning my coaching ministry, and I wasn’t quite sure how to handle my new part-time status at my job and starting my business from the ground up. Suffice to say, I spent a lot of time thinking about what I should be doing and not enough time doing it! I built some incredibly unhealthy habits—sleeping too much, trying to work at home from my bed, not exercising—and in return, I did not create many healthy ones. This summer, I decided that I would do things differently. I would find ways to be healthier—not just physically, but emotionally and spiritually as well.

September is a great time to begin anew—summer has ended, school has started for the kiddos, and change is in the air. Over the next three months of autumn, Pushy Prophet Girl Ministries will be talking about how we can fall into healthy habits in the three biggest areas of our lives:

Emotionally. In September, we will explore how to create better emotional habits in our lives. Being emotionally healthy is one of the most important steps you can take—so building good emotional habits is one of my ministry’s focuses! This month, we will discuss our hang-ups—forgiveness, anyone?—and how to better handle our hurts. How can you overcome that spirit of being offended? The Word frequently talks about compassion, but in what ways do we live that out in our daily lives? How do we practice responding to others in loving ways, even when they aren’t being loving towards us? We will talk about these things and more this month.

Spiritually.  Pete Scazzero says that you can’t be spiritually mature without being emotionally mature first! That’s why we will talk about our spiritual health during the month of October, after we have addressed our emotional habits. What are some spiritually healthy habits we can begin to practice? When can fasting help our spiritual life? What is worship—is it just what we do in church on Sundays? How does giving to others affect us spiritually? Our spiritual lives consist of more than just prayer, attending church, and reading Scripture. While we will talk about those things, we will also discuss many more spiritual habits we can practice in healthy ways.

Physically. We mature and grow from the inside out! Once we have thoroughly discussed our emotional and spiritual health, we will focus on our physical health habits. We will look at the different aspects of our physical bodies and how caring for them is not only a Biblical command but a necessity in this day and age. How does eating healthy become a habit? Where does sleep fit into your fitness regimen? If your body is a temple, are you caring for it the way God wants you to? I am always seeking to improve in this area as well, so I can’t wait to begin talking about these issues and more in November.

Today is a brand new day, and I am here to help you and cheer you on towards being fearlessly fulfilled. Are you ready to fall into emotionally, spiritually, and physically healthier habits? Then contact me today to get started on a personal coaching journey and keep checking my blog this fall for ways to become the best you!

DISC: Cautious, Not Caustic

DISC-logo-2014

image courtesy of Christian Coach Institute

My current boss (not to be confused with my supervisor) is a classic high C. He is consumed only by the task to be performed, the job to be accomplished, and the excellence involved in getting there. He is a very detailed and focused—almost to a fault, because he always demands perfection while rarely engaging personally with others. In fact, it’s even difficult for him to express his appreciation to those who work for him. A few weeks ago, he came into my office and fidgeted uncomfortably in front of my desk for several seconds before launching awkwardly into a monologue on how grateful he was for my diligence and commitment to the office over the last few weeks during our administrative transition. I could see him struggling with how to put his feelings into words, so I interrupted and told him I appreciated his acknowledgement. He then gave me the highest form of a C compliment: he released me early from my duties.

The high C is competent and task oriented, motivated by quality in every area. While they are cautious about everything, they have to be careful when dealing with others, who may see them as caustic and unfeeling. Here are three things to remember about the high C’s in your life:

  • High C’s are known for their clear, rational thinking…which means they are able to separate their emotions and make accurate, logical decisions. Their need for excellence, when paired with this logic, is ideal in many situations, especially the field of medicine. Everyone wants a surgeon who is a logical perfectionist! My boss is cautious and calculating about everything—he weighs every option and circumstance before making a decision. Sometimes, his indecisiveness delays progress, even though his final verdict is usually correct. This week, my boss wanted to delay finishing a large project for one document that was under review. After four days of indecision, he finally decided to finish it and replace the document at a later time—something the rest of the team had already decided three days earlier! He eventually came to the same logical conclusion, even though it was much later.
  • …but many also think they lack warmth and don’t care for others’ feelings. C’s are so task-focused and concerned with results that they don’t always remember that people are people. If you’re unaware that my boss is a high C, your first impression of him while working for him is just that he is unfeeling and cares nothing about the personal lives of people. In fact, as I noted in an earlier blog, this is exactly what caused a bad transition out for our former secretary. While our high C boss was considering long-term decisions and thinking logically about the transition, the former secretary wanted personal affection, attention, and inclusion in the future plans. Her misaligned expectations caused her to misunderstand our boss’s actions and intentions and caused her to be extremely hurt. My boss, on the other hand, did not understand her reaction to him at all—because he had not acted no differently than normal.
  • In conflict, C’s can be harsh and unforgiving. Because they think so rationally, C’s in conflict are concerned with the facts and will use them against you. They seem unconcerned with the feelings of others and only think about who is right (which they usually are). They can be extremely critical and fault-finding. My boss is most concerned about seeing things his way when there’s an issue in the office. When he is upset about something, he becomes focused only on his thoughts about things becoming agitated when he cannot clearly communicate his desires. In a conflict-riddled discussion with my former coworker, he could not understand why she was upset with him—he could only see that he had not done anything wrong.

They may often be caught up in their own heads, but C’s are a great asset to every team. Their ability to think clearly and reasonably make them great friends to help solve problems and think through difficult decisions. Just remember, as with all the DISC types, to have reasonable expectations for them, especially in the area of emotions!

The God Identity: Perseverance

Identity by Stuart Miles

image courtesy of Stuart Miles / freedigitalphotos.net

If there’s one thing that I remember from having a porn/lust addiction, it was that during tough times, I had something to turn to—my addiction. Whenever I was feeling lonely or down, I could watch magazines or cable TV shows that would feed my “pleasure zone”—the receptors in my brain that released that oh-so-feel-good oxytocin. And if those things weren’t available (which they weren’t, after I restricted myself), it was fantasizing. I could easily lose myself in my thoughts, focusing on things that would make me happy, whether physical or emotional intimacy. By doing this, I would simply immerse myself in a world where I had no hardships until reality settled itself back down. Unfortunately, due to my hiding, my God identity trait of perseverance was severely underdeveloped.

Google defines perseverance as “steadfastness in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success.” Here are three things I am learning about persevering as God intends:

  • Perseverance should make us joyful. The porn identity told me that no one cared that I was suffering, so I should withdraw from everyone and focus on my addiction/fantasy life. I would also whine and cry through my suffering (I’m still working on this!) until it was over. But the Bible says that we should rejoice in our sufferings (Romans 5:3)—one of the hardest things to learn. One of the ways I try to rejoice is by reminding myself that the devil is always going to attack those he feels are a threat to him, those who may have significance in the kingdom of God. So when things are going well for me, I have to ask—have I become complacent about my walk with God? Because Jesus did not say “if” you experience troubles in this world, he said “when!” So I should be joyful during difficulties, knowing that my suffering is normal and that God plans to use me in a great way—if I will just persevere!
  • Perseverance produces maturity. My porn addiction forced me to stay in what author Tim Challies calls pornolescence. This adolescent mindset made me believe that I could stay the way I was, keep doing the things I was doing, and still be godly and holy—and fulfill the God’s calling on my life. But truthfully, I was not growing in character, wisdom, or maturity in my walk with God. When tough times came, I was turning immediately to what would make me feel better, not what would make me BE better. But taking on the God identity means persevering and maturing in Christ. James 1:2 says, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” Trials produce steadfastness—if we let them. And when perseverance takes full effect in us, we mature in Jesus.
  • Perseverance brings blessings. I feel like I missed out on a lot of blessings in my life because I didn’t choose to persevere through trials—I chose to hide. I feel this most in my relationships with others. Being a prophet gift who sees and knows truth within relationships is difficult; and when I am hurt, sometimes I want to hurt others or withdraw instead of pushing through the difficulties of talking things through with others. Because of this, I’ve missed the blessings of strengthening my relationships. But the Bible says I’ve missed even more than that! The Bible says that those who endure will receive what is promised (Hebrews 10:36). The promises of God are many and wonderful, and I can’t help but wonder what other promises I have missed because I have not worked on developing perseverance.

The great news is that I don’t have to miss any more promises and blessings! I can start developing perseverance today—and I have. In the midst of my current hardships, I have been choosing to focus my thoughts more on God. Better yet, I am choosing to persevere, even though life is challenging right now. But I take solace in knowing that if the trouble is big, then the reward will be even bigger—including maturity and growth in my most important relationship (with God) and the strength to face whatever is next!

The Porn Identity: Being Nothing

ID-10056400We were sitting in my living room on Valentine’s Day. “It’s just not working out anymore.” He was breaking up with me, and I could barely comprehend it. All I could think was…”I need to make him stay. He needs to stay, because if he doesn’t stay, I won’t have anything. And I’ll be nothing.” Over the next few weeks, I bargained with him, I got angry, and I was super vulnerable. I contemplated giving more of myself sexually to him, and even told him that I would do that if it would make him stay. But he didn’t. And when it was finally done, I fell into a deep depression that lasted for weeks as I struggled with another aspect of having a porn identity: being nothing.

My mom taught me to “treat others as you want to be treated.” But after overcoming an addiction to pornography, I realized that while the porn identity tells us how we view others, the most important thing it tells us is how we view ourselves. Here are three things the porn identity has told me about being nothing:

  • The porn identity said that I was nothing without a significant other. In a culture that readily accepts pornography as normal, it should come as no surprise that there is a focus on being with someone else. This is part of the porn identity that I still struggle with; being a single 37-year old woman is difficult in a couple-driven society. Back then, I focused too much on having a boyfriend/husband and not enough on having strong relationships with others, which left me feeling very alone when things didn’t work out as I planned. But God reminds me that He created me for relationships with others—not just one marriage relationship, but relationships that challenge me and sustain me outside of having a significant other. It is not good for man to be alone (Genesis 2:18)—in any capacity. I am to be in a community, not just a coupling.
  • The porn identity said that I was nothing without sex. When my efforts for finding a significant other came up empty, pornography reminded me that having sex was the most important part of the relationship anyway. I remember thinking of ways to please God while still pleasing the growing sexual frustration within me—believe me, folks, this is not possible outside of marriage. It led me down a very dark and hurtful path that I would never recommend, one where I used my body to define my worth instead of using the Word. But God reminds me that sex, while an important part of marriage, is a tool, not a defining factor. That is why sex is meant for the marriage bed (Hebrews 13:4). Outside of marriage, it defines you instead of being a tool to complement a marriage. In order to not become defined by sex, I am to view sex in its proper perspective—God’s perspective.
  • The porn identity said that I was nothing. If not in a relationship, if not an object to be used for someone’s pleasure, then what was I? Pornography answered loud and clear: I was nothing. I wavered between feeling like nothing because I wasn’t in a relationship or getting married like my friends, and then feeling like nothing because I was failing God by struggling with my desires and fantasy/pornographic thought life. But God constantly reminds me that even though I fail Him, I am still His child. And being His child is everything (1 John 2)! That means I have favor, honor, blessings, glory, and most of all—LOVE. Because I have the love of the Creator of the universe,  I am to love and treasure myself, so that I can love and treasure others (Mark 12:31).

These days, I’m actually okay with being nothing—because God has said I truly am no thing. Instead, He says I am an original, amazing, beautiful human being that He has given passion and purpose to be used for His glory. And so are you! So reject the porn identity’s suggestion that you are nothing, and accept that you are everything to God—and watch your quality of life go from nothing to something!

The Porn Identity: Great Expectations

I spent the entire day today crying. I even woke my roommate up this morning with my loud sobs. Most people think I am simply reacting to the death of a friend, the state of my uncle’s recovery from his stroke, the impending death of my father. And while these things are weighing heavily on me, none of them have been the reason for my sorrow. Nope: I’m upset because I didn’t hear from someone on my birthday yesterday. I have spent hours in tears today because someone did not text me, call me, or leave me a Facebook or Twitter shout out on the “holy grail” of days in my life. And because of this, I feel used, taken advantage of, and unloved. Suffice to say that as I was contemplating my blog topic in this new series, God very clearly told me to blog about expectations.

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image courtesy of digitalart / freedigitalphotos.net

Pornography creates its own identity in its addicts. Our brains begin to think differently: we see pornography, internalize it, and begin to LIVE it. Consequently, there’s a number of things I’m still undoing in my life due to my former addiction to pornography. One of those things is learning to temper my expectations. Here are a few things the porn identity has led me to expect:

  • Porn told me to expect perfection from others. Whether it was physical appearance or the perfect sex life, porn told me that everyone and everything was perfect. Therefore, when I encountered real people—messy people, sinful people—I was appalled. I still struggle when people disappoint me or hurt me, because I never saw that happening in pornography. I believed that fake perfection could be realistic, so I expected it. But God says that all have sinned and fall short of God’s glory (Romans 3:23). He says that no one is righteous, not even one (Romans 3:10). That means that people ARE going to disappoint me and hurt me. And I am going to sin and hurt others. And I have to learn to accept that and deal with it—not end relationships when people aren’t perfect (as I was prone to do).
  • Porn told me to expect life to revolve around me. Porn is all about my pleasure, very me-centered in its content and with those who use it—everyone always gets what they want. I became quite a brat in believing that, and my pity party for myself today goes without saying: sometimes, I still have that expectation for others. But God says life revolves around HIM—because He is life (John 14:6). When I am making life about me, how can I also be living life for God? The truth is, I can’t. In this me-centered culture, we are told to take offense at everything, to look out for #1, and to give only when we can get the same in return. But that’s not Biblical, and that’s not how God calls me to live. And when I put my trust in Him instead of the world around me, I can let go of the expectation that life is all about me.
  • Porn told me to expect the good, but not the bad. Porn is all about happiness, fulfillment, and sex. Nothing bad that happens in pornography—no one dies of cancer, people aren’t hurt by each other, and no one’s father abandons them. People likely wouldn’t watch porn if it was such a killjoy! That’s not real life, though. God says that we are going to have trials and we are going to suffer in this life (James 1:2-3). I’m in a season of trials and suffering now, and I feel like giving up. The birthday non-texter was just another thing on a long list of hurts. But God says I am to count this all as joy, because it’s going to produce perseverance in me. God says He’s going to use all of this for good (Romans 8:28). And God says I can trust Him (Psalm 112:7).

While it’s tempting to continue believing what porn said to me many years ago, I know that what God says is far more important—and what God says is true! As I consider that, I must remember to temper my expectations for myself and others while increasing my expectations for my Creator and King–He’s the only one who can meet and exceed them!

What’s Missing From Sex: Commitment (Part 2)

This blog series is following my church’s series, “What’s Missing From Sex” as my pastor preaches about a topic the church has mostly avoided. This particular post goes with the second sermon in the series and can be found on my church’s website here. I urge you to listen! The sermon begins about 17:00 minutes into the video.

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image courtesy of ponsulak

This is the last blog for my church’s series, “What’s Missing from Sex?” and I have to admit, I’m struggling to write it. Mostly, it’s because my life has changed dramatically over the past few weeks. My uncle—the man who inadvertently introduced me to pornography—had a massive stroke and is unable to care for himself. My family and I have accepted the responsibility of coordinating his care and moving him to live with my family back east. My father—the man who rejected me continuously as a child and adult—has been given 60 days to live and is dying a sad and terrible death. Additionally, I am trying to figure out my feelings about a male friend of mine, which is both confusing and confirming all at the same time. I’m emotionally spent. And to say that I am thinking about commitment recently is an understatement: the word is being redefined in my life on an hourly basis.

I could talk about commitment and the various awesome quotes my pastor threw out about Christians, sex, and commitment, but instead, here are the two things I’m learning about commitment as I’ve struggled through the past few weeks:

Commitment plays a big part in our self-worth. What was it about me that made my father not want to be a part of my life? I don’t know if I ever asked myself this question or considered it as I was growing up. But even so, I lived as if the answer to the question was simply that I wasn’t enough. I conducted my life as a woman who had little self-worth, who asked for zero commitment from anyone before engaging them sexually, who allowed herself to be treated as an object. I was saying to others that I was independent and confident, but my actions showed that I didn’t feel worthy of a commitment from anyone—and that I expected that as well. Thankfully, I know now that this is a lie! I am worthy of that commitment—and so are you. Everyone is. I see it play out through the situation with my uncle: I see the happiness on his face upon being reassured that we are committed to caring for him. He not only feels loved but secure in having others who care for him. Though his situation isn’t ideal, his self-worth can be. It’s that kind of security and self-worth that God wanted us to know when He committed to sending Jesus to save us. He wanted to set us free and ground our identity in Him (1 John 3:1-2).

Commitment is risky. This is my current struggle. I know how difficult it is for me to open up to others. With my male friend, I have felt like he is gently pursuing me, likely somewhat cautious of rejection himself and of my penchant for being a pushy prophet girl who puts up walls and holds him at bay. I struggle with being vulnerable, knowing that rejection has played such a serious role in my past. I’ve been trying to purposely embrace the risk of commitment—to friendship and beyond, if that’s what God wants—in order to truly experience life and love as God intended. I take risks everywhere else—but in relationships, I tend to be a cautious study. We all do. But what a risk God took for us in sending Jesus! The risk is that we would all-out reject him—and in one way or another, we all have rejected Him. But He still did it. Knowing that we would reject Him, He still gave us that choice. The question is, am I willing to take that risk with others? With God? Are you?

The reward of risking honor, intimacy, understanding, and commitment in marriage is a healthy, loving sex life where God defines your worth (and He has said you are worthy!). As I wrap up this series, I want to point out something my pastor said: if God is not the God of your sexuality, then He’s not the God of anything in your life. So I urge you to let God be the God of your sexuality and your sex life—and watch the rewards and blessings pour out on you!

What’s Missing From Sex: Honor (Part 2)

This blog series is following my church’s series, “What’s Missing From Sex” as my pastor preaches about a topic the church has mostly avoided. This particular post goes with the first sermon in the series and can be found on my church’s website here. I urge you to listen! The sermon begins about 16:00 minutes into the video.

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image courtesy of ponsulak / freedigitalphotos.net

I was years removed from my addiction to pornography, but there was still something missing. When I began to search for community outside of the church, I found it in a man who in the midst of separating from his wife but looking for some “companionship” in the meantime. What he really meant was that he wanted sexual satisfaction without any kind of true relationship. Because of the deep longing inside my heart to be in community and to be known, I answered that desire for him. I allowed him to use me, even though I knew that was exactly what he was doing—and I was doing it to him as well. We both said we had a “healthy agreement,” because we thought our needs were getting met, but deep in my heart, I knew that everything about our “agreement” was unhealthy and ungodly. We were not honoring each other.

Honor and sex don’t seem to exist together in a world where pornography, rape, and sex trafficking are so prominent. After all, when women and men are treated like commodities and objects instead of God’s children, it is difficult to see any pieces of integrity among the mess. However, even honor in sex can be redeemed by God if we follow these two steps:

We must first value ourselves. “Treat others the way you want to be treated” (Matthew 7:12). It’s something have all heard, probably passed on to us in our childhood. However, many of us forgot that once we graduated from childhood. If this saying applied to my actions and attitude in the “agreement,” then what I wanted was to be treated like an object, used and thrown away when I was no longer worthy. However, I knew better. When I returned to my Christian community, I remembered the following things:

  • I was bought with a price (1 Corinthians 6).
  • I am fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139).
  • I am one of God’s chosen, holy and beloved (Colossians 3).
  • I am saved, not because of what I’ve done, but because of His mercy (Titus 3).
  • The hairs of my head are all numbered, and I am more valuable than the sparrows (Luke 12).
  • God will never leave me nor forsake me (Hebrews 12).
  • I’ve been raised with Christ and am seated at the right hand of God (Colossians 1).

Once I was back in Christian community, I realized how much God values me—AND you. And if God has said He values us in these ways (and more!), then we can and should believe what He says. Because when we begin to believe what God says, we can value ourselves and honor God with our bodies.

Once we value ourselves, we can begin to honor others. Honoring others in sex is important because, as my pastor noted, sex—as God created it—is “others-focused.” We live in a “me first” culture, though, and sex has not escaped this attitude. My friend was focused on HIS needs when he approached me; I, too, was thinking about my own selfish desires. However, honoring others in sex is not simply putting your spouse’s sexual needs before your own—it is honoring your spouse even outside the act of sex. It is not treating others like an object to be used for our satisfaction. It is declaring what God has said about us (above) is also true of our spouse or significant other. It is setting appropriate, God-honoring boundaries in dating relationships. It is developing a deep sense of trust in relationships. It is not objectifying those who have made sexual mistakes by calling them “dirty, used, or unclean.” It is offering forgiveness, grace, and love to our spouses and significant others when they make mistakes. It is not withholding love or sex when we are hurt. Honoring others means valuing others as much as or more than we value ourselves. And when we do this, we honor God through our sex lives.

Knowing your identity in Christ—your value and worth as shown in Scripture—is the key to honoring others in your sex life. You are more than an object; you are God’s beloved and chosen, and He has plans to prosper you and not to harm you (Jeremiah 29:11). Know your own worth so that you can begin to value and honor others as God’s children.

What is one thing you can choose to believe that God says about you today?

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?

The Struggle Is Real: Being Belle Knox

I was visiting my friend the other day and lamenting to her about how my heart was breaking for women these days, especially their struggles with sexual purity and pornography. She shared with me that she had watched The View and had seen one of their “Real People” interviews about a pornography star who is also a Duke University freshman—she is 18 years old and has done 25–30 porn films in the last year to pay for her $60,000 college tuition. Here’s the interview with “Belle Knox”:

This video filled me with such sorrow and literally broke my heart. Belle said a few things, though, that should be addressed, because they are sad truths about pornography:

  • “I, like most other people, have been watching porn since I was 12 years old.” The folks on The View were bewildered by this, but I was not. In fact, Belle was about two years OLDER than I was when I first experienced pornography. Today’s generation was exposed to pornography as early as age 8! Most every person you know has seen pornography in some form. Of 700 Christian women surveyed, most were exposed to porn between the ages of 10 and 12. It’s a harrowing statistic about our children today.
  • “Your parents support this?” “Yes, absolutely.” I truly could not fathom this statement. I want so desperately to believe that no parents in the world would support their children becoming porn stars simply to pay for college, but I know that’s not the truth. I know that we live in a fallen world where pornography is the norm—where people who aren’t watching it are more common than those who are. And I know that sometimes, people believe that making easy money is more important than working hard, and that attending a prestigious university is more important than cultivating true self-worth. But I have to ask: what will Belle benefit if she gains the whole world (a Duke degree, a porn career) but loses her soul? (Mark 8:36) And who in her life cares about that for her if not her parents?
  • “…there is a stigma about females watching pornography, so I was not open about it.” Among the ashes and death, there is still truth. And the truth is, she’s right: there is a stigma for women. Christian women especially tend to feel intense shame about their secret struggle with sexual purity and pornography. Christian women, however, tend to internalize the unbearable guilt and shame, becoming depressed while searching for accountability. On the contrary, Belle acts out to feel “empowered” about her body and her sexuality. Empowerment, however, does mean that we can do anything with our bodies; as Paul noted, everything is permissible, but not everything is beneficial (1 Corinthians 10:23).

It’s a shame that they cut the video off before finishing Sherri Shepherd’s statement of how her heart was breaking for Belle. Like Sherri, I feel such sorrow for Belle. This story haunts me because, you see, I could have easily made the same choices that Belle Knox did. But I didn’t—because I had a mother and a Christian community who prayed for me. And because of those desperate prayers, I instead chose a Savior who gives me hope, love, and a bold identity in Him. The only difference between me and Belle Knox is Jesus Christ. And I am praying desperately that she comes to know Him as I do—as the Author of my hope, security, freedom, and true empowerment.