Category Archives: Shame

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.

ID-100140529

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?

Advertisements

The Struggle Is Real: Dare I Desire?

Growing up, I never heard anyone discuss a Christian woman’s desires about sex. They talked about women wanting to be loved and treasured, but never about Christian women actually wanting sex. As I said before, growing up in a Southern Baptist church with a single mom, sex was never discussed with me and never addressed in a safe setting except to say, “Don’t do it until you’re married.” I never knew if the feelings that I had were normal or if my longings were God-given. My mother and father divorced before I was born, so healthy, loving, sexual relationships were never modeled to me by my parents, and no other adults I knew talked about it with me. This left me stranded in figuring out if, as a Christian woman, what I felt was okay. In my mind, I questioned if Christian women should even like sex, because I had never heard my mother or any other Christian woman talk about their own feelings and desires. I knew that I liked what I felt, but I also knew that because I was not married, it was wrong. Did that mean even feeling the desires was wrong?

desire by idea go

image courtesy of idea go / freedigitalphotos.net

Maybe your parents had the talk with you. Maybe your church openly discusses these issues. If so, that is awesome! But maybe you’re like I was as a young woman: wondering and struggling about having sexual desires. And if that is you, let me assure you of two things:

Sexual desires are God-given. God created everything in this world. He created each one of us and He gave us needs, desires, and longings. In addition, God created sex! The Creator of the entire universe created sex—not just for procreation but for enjoyment and to fulfill these desires we have. Some of these desires have become perverted by our world and culture (see: pornography, sex addictions, prostitution/trafficking). But Psalm 139 assures us that God created every part of us, our inmost beings, and He created each of us with desires—even sexual ones. Even the apostle Paul talks about sexual passion (1 Corinthians 7). The Bible was written by men but inspired by a God who created sex and created us and the desires we have.

Sexual desires are normal. Ladies, it is normal and okay for you to feel sexual urges and desires. When I was young, I felt shameful and guilty about my desires, because no one was talking about Christian women having sexual desires and urges. It wasn’t until my junior year of college that I heard from the church that sexual desires were normal for Christian women. By then, I was 20 years old and had struggled with sexual feelings and pornography for half of my life! Even though my reassurance came late, late is better than never. A quick trip through Songs of Solomon shows how normal it is for even women to want sex. So if you have struggled with feeling “normal” about having sexual desires, please know that it is okay—and so are you.

Please note that this post is only addressing the desires we have for sex, not how we act out on those desires. The desires we have are God-given and normal; sometimes, the way we act them out are not. My next blogging series will address the act of sex and how we act out on these desires. Over the next few weeks (except for the week of Mother’s Day), I will be blogging alongside my pastor as he preaches a sermon series entitled, “What’s Missing From Sex.” He is going to cover topics such as intimacy, commitment, and love as he focuses on what culture has stripped from sex as God intended it. I will include links to the weekly sermon each week as well. I’m looking forward to continuing this important and powerful conversation with you via social media and my blog.

“Let’s talk about sex, baby, let’s talk about you and me, let’s talk about all the good things and the bad things that may be…” –Salt-N-Pepa

The Struggle Is Real: Community Calls

I had attended church my entire life. I had known Christian community—I had close friends in college, I had worked in the church forever…and yet I was still struggling with issues related to a pornography addiction I had years earlier. I knew that to get the healing I needed, I had to find true, authentic community. And I knew I couldn’t find that on Facebook, Twitter, or social media. Instead, I had to step away from the computer and boldly into a place where I could find the face-to-face accountability that I needed to move forward out of addiction.

ID-100178842

image courtesy of Stuart Miles / freedigitalphotos.net

These days, it is easy to “find” community online—to say that we are talking to others, relating to others, and being honest with others because we are connecting with others through social media. But putting all my “junk” into an online forum, staying behind a computer screen, and remaining anonymous and “unknown” were not the things that helped me find health and healing. Instead, I began attending Celebrate Recovery at a local church, where I joined a small group step study designed for intimate community and intricate healing.

Here are three reasons why it’s important for women who are struggling with pornography and sexual addiction to find real, face-to-face community with other believers:

  • Community breeds vulnerability. You’ve noticed it yourself: you’re not likely to confess yourself to a bunch of strangers (unless it’s online). You build trust and relationships by spending time with others—and you have to do that to build community. In person, you want to find someone who you know well and can trust with your deepest darkest secrets. This is one reason the Bible encourages us to not give up meeting together (Hebrews 10:24-25). Spending quality time with other believers regularly is an important step in dealing with our struggles.
  • Vulnerability leads to confession. The more time you spend with others, the more you will want to share with them. As I went through my Celebrate Recovery step study, I began to trust the women who were there. At the beginning, it was hard to “go first” in sharing our secrets and pain—there is always some hesitation in going first or sharing at all. But by the end of our ten months together, we were freely sharing all of our struggles with each other. So don’t just find community, allow yourselves to be vulnerable in your community—because this will breed an authentic atmosphere where confession flows freely.
  • Confession brings healing. Upon graduating from our step study program, we wrote notes of encouragement for each of our study members. One of my study members wrote to me, “You shared your struggles with brutal honesty—and that is why the healing is so strong.” I have kept that in mind as I’ve continued to share my struggles and pain with my Christian community. Confession always leads to healing; how much we confess will determine the amount of healing we experience. I have quoted James 5:16 many times on my blog, but here it is again, because it is such an important verse: “Confess your sins to one another and pray for each other, so that you may be healed.” The Bible is right: true healing requires confession.

Finding community and staying in community can be difficult because any community contains sinful humans. But the Bible encourages us to stay in community with others—not just because it teaches us to love others more, but because of the healing we can receive in the process. Authentic, Christian community is calling you: will you answer?

How has being in community helped you to be more authentic about your struggles?

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?