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Body Image, Faith, Identity, Relationships, Sex

Dirty Little Secrets- Don’t Touch

May 25, 2016

**DISCLAIMER: The content talked about in this post is of a mature and sexual nature. If you are uncomfortable with this type of material,  a young reader, or my grandma, please consider not reading. Thanks.**

Her name was Mindy. She lived up the street from me and we were in the same fourth grade class together. Her mom was a single parent so Mindy was home alone a lot. Often when I’d go over to play with her we’d be left alone in the house, no one to supervise what kind of trouble we might have been getting into.

Sometimes secrets come to you in obvious ways. Other times, they sneak in the back door. 

It was a typical afternoon at Mindy’s house. We had been playing with some Barbies when she told me she had something to show me.

In her room she had a daybed but not the pull out trundle bed that typically lived underneath. We’d often crawl in there and imagine we were hiding away on some kind of mysterious adventure. You know, kid stuff. However, this day, it became a place where secrets were born.

She began to tell me me she wanted to show me something that feels really good. What followed is a bit foggy still in my memory simply because, at the time, I didn’t have a name for what she showed me. Now I know it to be masturbation. I was nine.

For the next decade I would occasionally engage in masturbation,  knowing somewhere in my heart that it was wrong, feeling confused as to why it felt good, and still not understanding exactly what I was doing. It was a tornado of fear, shame, embarrassment and pleasure.

These kind of things weren’t talked about in the circles I operated in. My youth group would have never thrown around the word masturbation, and if they did, it was behind closed doors in hushed conversations. As I grew, I learned the word and what it meant, but only that it was a foul and horrific act that only the grossest of men ever struggled with. Women don’t lust and we most certainly NEVER ever touched ourselves.

I’m really not sure when all the pieces finally started to fit together and I had my big “ah-ha” moment that what I had been doing all those years was masturbation. Maybe I had known all along but was finally able to actually admit it. I don’t know. I just remember feeling like crap and thinking I had become one of those disgusting people my youth group leaders talked about.

I wish I could tell you the moment that the “ah-ha” came, my desire to masturbate left. But it didn’t. It took time. Lots of false starts and set backs. It was in the tiny everyday choices to desire something better for myself, and changing my thoughts to actually believe I was worth that something better, that finally made me stop altogether. But it was a long road.

The shame, well that one took a bit longer to go away. Honestly, I’m not sure it’s really left me yet. There are still moments I still feel like that scared little girl, hiding under that bed, wondering what just happened to my innocence. I get afraid that people (aka my friends and family) will find out and hate me and think I’m gross. I still struggle to believe that God has even forgiven me for it.

Maybe you’re in the thick of sexual sin right now. Maybe, like me, you’re caught between shame and freedom; longing for one but stuck in the other. Hear me when I say this: YOU ARE NOT TOO BROKEN OR IMPURE OR VILE TO GAIN FREEDOM. These places?  This is where grace is born. These battles? Well, they are the catalysts for growth and joy, and yes, even life.

I’ve been struggling to find a way to end this post well. How to wrap this messy topic up in a bow that will make it all nice and pretty and wonderful. But I got nothing. Because life isn’t like a tv show and things don’t just magically work out in forty five minutes.

So, instead, I am choosing pray a prayer for you. May it meet us both where we need it.

I pray that you will know that you ARE loved and are WORTHY of love.

I pray you know that even in your sin you are treasured and valued.

I pray that you would see that in these dark places, light is shining through, you just have to look for it.

I pray you would seek out the light.

I pray that you would see that there is an army of women, me included, who have walked the path before you and are ready to link arms and go to war for the freedom of your heart.

I pray you’d be brave.

I pray you’d find the courage to tell your secrets and let yourself be known.

I pray that those you tell would receive you with grace and love.

I pray you’d choose more for yourself than immediate and fleeting pleasure.

I pray that you would feel God’s grace, love and mercy, even in the middle of your sin.

I pray for you to give yourself grace. That you’d believe that it’s more about the journey rather than the destination. That you’d know freedom doesn’t come overnight, but that it will come.

And lastly, I pray that you and I would know that these secrets, well they may speak into our past, but they don’t dictate our future.

Lived loved sweet friend. Embracing hope with you. -H

Body Image, Identity, Relationships, Sex, Your Story

The Serial Dater

January 13, 2016

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Allison’s Story

I really can’t remember a time that I didn’t like a boy.

In elementary school, I had a HUGE crush on this boy in church all the way up to middle school. He was clearly not interested in girls at the time (more like interested in making fun of girls), so I just dealt with the warm fuzzy feelings for him. Then I went to middle school, and again, I was interested in a few different guys all through middle school, but no boyfriend really because no one liked me back. But these years for me were not in my favor in physical appearance. At all…thanks to the big round glasses, super short hair with big bangs, and braces.

Once high school came, I improved a bit physically. I basically went on a rampage of having “things” with boys, which is when you aren’t officially boyfriend/girlfriend but still have this understood relationship without a real commitment. I was really good at having “things”.

I made a pact that I wasn’t going to have a boyfriend in high school because I thought dating should be meant for the purpose of finding your spouse. Obviously, I wasn’t ready for that, so instead of dating guys, I’d just lead them on. I thought this was okay at the time because it seemed harmless. Since I wanted to be a good girl, these “things” for me included hanging out alone together, kissing, and never really wanting a commitment. I was essentially playing with fire.

No serious damage was done sexually, but definitely some damage emotionally. These guys would say really crude and sexual things to me and try to get me to do sexual things with them. These relationships were solely based off attraction. I ended up feeling like a physical object for their enjoyment because I liked being desired.

I wish I had treated these guys in a way by showing them who Jesus is and how much He loves us. But I didn’t. I thought myself as a victim then, but now I see in so many ways that so much of what I experienced then was also my fault. I chose to be around guys that didn’t love Jesus, and I chose to lead them on.

As soon as I got into college, I got involved in a bible study with Cru in my dorm. One week they talked to us about boys and encouraged us to make a list of all the qualities/characteristics we want in our future husbands.

When I wrote my own list freshman year of college, I had almost 70 things listed. I was SO excited to pray that God gives me the kind of husband that would match my list. I thought this would help me stay away from the kind of guys I liked in high school.

I wanted to focus on finding the perfect guy who really loved God and would be a great husband. I used my list as my standard and to justify dating certain guys that were obviously not right for me. Some of the guys I dated said the right things as Christians should, but then our relationship went sour.

My initial instinct is to do whatever makes me feel good, just like my downfall with guys in high school. And honestly, it felt good and it was easy to keep going further physically. It seemed okay because I believed the lie that everyone messed up physically in a relationship, and as long as he was sorry and admitted he didn’t want to keep going that far physically, then we could stay together. I put more value in the good feeling rather than how it would affect me later.  Thankfully I didn’t have sex. But still the temptation was strong and this led to broken relationships. Instead of wallowing in these broken relationships though, I decided to remember God’s GRACE and how he loves me just the same. This motivated me to continue to follow Him alone. And there is SO much joy there!

I also dated some really great guys in college that I really thought I could marry. One in particular, my friends and family really liked. He truly loved God and it was evident in the way he lived. But I was still so confused and sad because deep down I knew that he wasn’t the one. By this point I was so frustrated because I felt like a serial dater, but all I wanted was to find my husband. I hated the long line of broken relationships I was causing though.

After years of dating, when I started hanging out with Jim, my now husband(!), I freaked out. I started liking Jim less than a month after I broke up with someone else. I was so nervous this one wasn’t going to work out either.

I was so tired and frustrated of dating, giving my heart to a guy that ended up not even being my friend, I knew that I could not do this on my own or figure it out on my own. I felt a HUGE need for God’s guidance and I was finally okay with letting go of control.

The pact that I made to not date and the list that I had to find the perfect guy, though these were not bad things themselves, still distracted me from where my focus should have been… I was focused on things that didn’t matter and that distracted me from following Jesus. HE is the giver of all good gifts. HE gives us peace, joy, safety, and security if we follow Him.

Jim and I both had a lot of doubts at the beginning of our relationships since we both had dated and it never worked out. But we also took a step of faith, each in our own way, and even though we didn’t necessarily feel like it, we decided to just focus on following God and being who He wanted us to be instead of worrying about the other person and what he/she was thinking.

I can honestly say being with Jim is better than anything I ever imagined. It all makes sense now and Jim and I both attest that the reason we are together is because God put us together, it was nothing we did on our own. And I am so glad that I can give all the credit to God for my marriage and not take any credit myself! He is the Giver of all good gifts.

Faith, Fear, God, Identity, Redemption, Sex, Spiritual Life, Suffering

And Then The Fog Lifted

June 10, 2014

 

It’s as if for the last year or better my life has been like driving in a fog. It was as though I could see where I was heading, but the world around me felt dismal and cloudy. Sure there were bright spots, lots of bright spots in facts. Moments where the sun broke through and the world seemed well again. But the fog always stayed.

A year ago I went into therapy. Theory after theory of what was causing this heavy pressing on spirit was tossed about, but no answers came. At one point, I just said it’s the season of life I’m in and it will get better. For a while, it did. I left therapy and I thought the fog as well. But that fog….it kept pushing.

I could count on my hand the many “Ah-ha!” moments I’ve had in my life. You know, the ones where everything suddenly clicked into place and all made sense in the world? Five months ago I got my ah-ha.

Weeks before it happened I could feel the fog pressing down stronger than ever. It was almost so thick, I felt like I couldn’t breathe. The night before, I was listening to a sermon online by Tim Keller. He was speaking about the rich young ruler who God told to sell all his possessions and follow Him. As we know, the man couldn’t do it, and left grieving. What Tim said next cut deep to my core.

He said that in the book of Luke he writes, “Jesus looked at him and loved him and..” Tim’s point was that God looked into the heart of the ruler, saw a cancer living in his soul that kept him from Christ, and out of his love for the man, he wanted to call him to freedom from it. Amazing, right?!?

The next night I was sitting with Jeff in our room when the fog began to consume me and I was left in panic. I asked him to give me a moment alone, and began to pray. I begged God for answers/deliverance/healing..anything I could name. And gently, like the fog lifting at the dawn of a new morning, I had my answer. The answer I’d been seeking for over a year. The answer as to what was making my spirit feel so incredibly heavy.

lifting the fog1

I, Heather, had been sexually abused by a boyfriend in college. 

I wish I could go into the depths of all that transpired leading up to that moment and all that took place immediately in the moments after, but I will save that for another post. What I can say is this: God had seen this cancer in me for years. A cancer that I somehow never saw. And because He loved me, He had, for the past year, slowly been drawing that cancer to the surface so that I could be healed from it and become closer to Him.

I’ve been back in therapy for a while. Painful, beautiful, agonizing and glorious therapy. One thing my counselor said to me in my first session was that this abuse would one day not be the thing I fear, but a foundation on which I stand. Today ladies, is that day.

So few women/people ever speak on the journey of healing from abuse. The ones that do only find the ability to do so after years removed from the pain of the process. I can understand why. But what if someone invited others to walk with them AS they journeyed along this path? Could there be power in that for others? Could you, dear girl, maybe find the courage to face the cancer living inside your own soul? Could you, along with me begin to realize that the journey is not something to fear but rather a foundation to build upon?

I want you to come along with me as I hold hands with my abuse and learn how what the enemy intended for evil, God intends for good. His good, and my own. I can’t promise you my journey will be easy or pain free. But I can tell you it will be honest, and hopefully, it will show you that you are not alone and that our God…wow…that He is so very very good.

To continue following my story, please head to our sister page A Girl In Progress .There I will be posting regularly the road I am traveling, and hopefully, one you’ll walk alongside me in.

Faith, God, Identity, Redemption, Relationships, Sex, Spiritual Life

Sex Talk

November 15, 2013

Hi girls! You may remember me from the spring when I had the opportunity to share these posts with you or when my one of my best friends shared his perspective on our story here.

There is a lot of catching up to do and as much as it would be easier for me to do that catching up here in this post…God has put it on my heart to share something else on a much deeper, much more vulnerable level with you. So to get the quick update you can go to my blog www.thehandynanny.com.

The boy who was/is my dear friend…also now holds the title of my husband.

Husband.

Goodness that word still sounds strange. We got married on October 20 under a beautiful old tree surrounded by close family and friends.

That’s not what I want to talk with you about here though.

Deep breath.

Ok. This is way out of my comfort zone so to make it easier I have a cup of coffee sitting next to me, fall leaves outside the window beside me and I’m pretending you are sitting here in front of me…one on one…face to face for this conversation.  I do much better in the “one on one” situations than the “throwing my personal life out to the world for anyone to read” situations.  I’m going to share in complete honesty with you because you deserve it and because I have spent my life fighting for something, standing on something that seems to be lost, cheapened, and criticized. It has made my heart ache for years and has left me on my face, beaten down many times…I want to make sure you hear me loud and clear that you are NOT alone. You, who are making a choice, making a covenant, holding a precious gift, and standing boldly against the world.

 YOU are not alone.

 I was 13 when I made the commitment to save myself for marriage, and to be honest, it was the cool, Christian thing to do at the time. My parents had us read all the “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” books and bought us each a ring at the age of 13…so we went with it.  Don’t get me wrong, I wanted to make the decision, but as a 13 year old I hadn’t really thought about the weight of all that. I hadn’t dabbled in anything, hadn’t been faced with anything, and didn’t know what I was getting myself into.  All my friends were standing with me and I thought it would be a breeze.  Flash forward only a few months… a large percentage of my friends had already seemed to forget about the symbolic ring on their finger. I was eventually left standing alone…a few stragglers still holding on stood here and there around me.   I often thank God for making me strong willed and competitive because that is a huge part of why I never gave into the pressures and the “normalcy” around me, but there was also something else that always resonated in my heart…if God says it’s worth the wait, then I am going to wait.  Please don’t hear this as prideful…again it was mostly due to my competitive strong spirit of wanting to go against the norm.

Flash forward to me meeting Matt.  You know our story of striving to be friends first. Not putting labels and pressures on and allowing God to write the story the way He wanted to write it.  When we did realize (before we fell in love) that God had marriage in the plans for us, we discussed what that would mean before that day. We both felt convicted about saving our first kiss for our wedding day.  Now I’ll be honest here…Matt was not my first kiss ever. I have a chapter in my high school life where I was weak and dated a couple guys…not necessarily a proud time of my life, but I learned some hard lessons about standing against peer pressure and being willing to let them go, knowing we weren’t getting married.

Ok. Back to us.

So we committed to not kiss until our wedding day. We honestly didn’t think it was that big of deal. We just loved the idea of the pastor saying “you may now kiss your bride”, and Matt being able to take his bride and kiss her for the first time.  What we did not expect was attack. Attack from all sides. We were criticized by Christians, of all people, and it began a really tough journey for the two of us. In the last 8 months I’ve learned that if we faced attack on convictions and standards at the age of 26 then young girls, teens,  and college age girls (and guys) were going to be facing a lot more in this season of our society.

So again, I am here to tell you, You are not alone.

In the last year Matt and I have laid everything…and I mean EVERYTHING out on the table. Part of that is our personalities…we are both kind of “take it or leave it, 100% all in” people and we weren’t willing to play games or pretend to be anyone but ourselves with each other.  This meant lots and lots of long, sometimes all night conversations. These conversations weren’t always fun either. It took a lot of wrestling, a lot of growth, and a lot of questioning where we were both at. It meant walking with each other in our darkest secrets, fears, hurts, and sins. It meant our closest friends walking with us as mediators at times.   We were spiritually attacked in many ways and there were times that it felt like we wouldn’t be able to keep our heads above water.

(I’m sure by now you’re already thinking…”why in the world would I choose this path?”…just wait)

We fought together. We battled together. It was a year of being vulnerable and really really getting to know each other. Instead of making out on the couch for hours, we were spending hours talking about our dreams, fears and questions about faith. We were living life together. Instead of being concerned about what the other thought of us or if I looked good enough or attractive enough, we were falling in love with the fact that we both had a passion for life and a passion for raw authenticity.

Which leads me to our wedding.

By the time we got to our wedding we had been through almost everything possible. I still cannot believe what was somehow packed into a year. We had touched on every subject and torn each of those subjects apart so we both knew exactly where the other stood…even if it wasn’t exactly on the same side.   I didn’t doubt his love for me because without the physical involved, without me always looking or acting my best, he was there. In times when attack was upon us…we stood together. There were times I was literally on my face weeping and he would hold me with all my mascara and snot running down my face. That’s love.  We stood in the trenches together. There were days where love was a choice. There will be days when love is a choice.

Our wedding day held a lot of weight for us.  It was truly a celebration. It was a start of a new chapter. A victory of sorts. A relief. The moment of feeling like your whole life of fighting for lost standards was finally being rewarded and sealed.

And girls…That first kiss was worth it. It will forever be my most treasured photo because it holds a journey of battling against society’s opinion.

Now for the real, raw, honesty.

Sex.

When people ask me how married life is I kind of have to laugh because it really doesn’t feel that different other than I no longer have the stress of couch surfing.  The only thing we added to our relationship was a title, and we were given God’s permission to break physical boundaries.   I can’t tell you how many guys and girls Matt and I have talked to, Christian girls, who have said they would never date or marry a guy who hasn’t already had sex…who hasn’t had “practice”.   This breaks my heart. And sadly…the sticker, rose, and other analogies don’t work anymore. You don’t need cheesy analogies or tacky stories to try to convince you to stand on something that no one else seems to be standing on.

So instead I’ll give you personal experience.

Sex isn’t what you think.

It isn’t what you see in movies. It’s not like the porn you secretly watch. It isn’t some light fluffy moment.  It’s heavy. It’s spiritual. It’s weighted. It’s emotional. And it can be beautiful when done within the realms it was created for.

It also isn’t what marriage is centered around. If you are trying to fulfill a need to be loved with the physical…you will always come up empty…even in marriage. It’s important, don’t hear me wrong, but it’s just an aspect of the entire relationship. It’s just a component of a much bigger picture.

I had heard every horror story in the book leading up to my wedding. And I’m a very private, modest person so it was safe to say I had some fears. But I’ll tell you this…when you have truly wrestled with life together, when you’ve laid everything on the table, when you’ve had open communication, and when you truly love someone and they love you back…then when you get married and you get the gift of adding the physical into your relationship…it can be a lot easier than people say it is.

We put zero expectations or pressures on ourselves or each other going into our honeymoon. We just decided that it would happen when it would happen. We didn’t want to force anything because of everybody else’s stories or experiences.  It would have taken us a really long time to “get it right” had one or both of us had sex before marriage. There would have been so much more pressure and expectation…so much more baggage and questioning. I would have felt so much more self conscious and terrified.  We had the beauty of experiencing it together for the first time. A gift that should be unique to a husband and wife. I didn’t want to marry someone who was a pro due to past experience…Sex is an added gift to marriage. It isn’t the foundation. It’s an aspect of marriage. It’s something you get to figure out together. You have your whole lives ahead of you. You get to laugh together in awkward moments and know that you are fully accepted through it all.  It’s something that I’m still working through; working through the emotions and weight that it holds. The great thing about that is I’m allowed to, I can take the time to, I can have my husband walk with me through those emotions, and there is zero shame, zero guilt, zero regret in it.   To be fully known, to be fully exposed, every flaw laid out in the open in front of your spouse and be met with the most loving, gentle gaze…was more of a spiritual, emotional experience than it was physical. I wrote in my journal that week that for the first time I felt I could grasp and understand the description of laying fully exposed at Christ’s feet, every flaw exposed, and being met with gentleness, grace and wrapped up in loving arms.

It was worth every second of waiting. Not because it’s some out-of-this-world experience, but because it is the one thing you get to share with just your spouse. It’s a spiritual, physical, emotional union that cannot even be explained.

I know you each have to make your own choice. I also know we live in a world where that is not the popular choice, sadly, even within our Christian society. I know that it is not talked about in a healthy way and you either hear that it is a shameful act and not to be mentioned or done…or you hear it thrown around like it’s nothing. It’s cheap.

You are not cheap. You are worth the wait. You have a gift you can offer your future spouse that no one else can. And it is not a shameful thing. It’s a beautiful gift God created for a husband and wife. It is perfect within the boundaries of marriage.

In Song of Songs 2:6-7 it says:

“His left arm is under my head, and his right arm embraces me. Daughters of Jerusalem, I charge you by the gazelles and by the does of the field: Do not arouse or awaken love until it so desires. “

Did you see that? Do not awaken love until it so desires.

Don’t open the door. Don’t tempt it. Don’t let lust be mistaken for love.

So for those of you who are standing on a covenant with God or those of you deciding from this point on even if you’ve made mistakes, you are choosing to make a new covenant…those of you taking a stand…you are not alone. Hear this as encouragement. Hear this as someone cheering you on as you run through this journey. Be courageous and face the battle head on. Because it is a precious gift.

K&MKelsey lives in Nashville with her new husband Matt, and are currently traveling and serving together on The Story Tour. Check out The Story Tour to attend a show here.

Forgiveness, Relationships, Sex

By God’s Grace

March 15, 2013

After reading many of your comments, I felt the need to address a few things.  I feel there are a few things that may bring encouragement to the way you view yourself and the way you view your future in regards to marriage.  It breaks my heart to see where some of you have been, where some of you are standing now, and where some of you see only certain outcomes that you feel you may or may not deserve.

I would first like to address sex before marriage not as another post, but as a point to entitlement.  God calls us to “save ourselves” for the person we marry and to not get involved physically with another man before so.  It is something precious, sacred, and a seal for the covenant of marriage.  I believe that God asks us to wait for our benefit.  Not to keep us from something amazing, but to keep us from heartache and pain.   So, I would first like to address those who have done this and who have remained pure for the sake of the covenant.  You may feel entitled to finding someone who has done the same, am I right?  In your mind you may come to expect and think  that you deserve someone who has saved himself for you.  However, this is wrong.  Now hear me out, it is not wrong to desire that.  Of course you would want someone who has saved themselves for you physically and has saved their body only for you!  Of course!  I think that is good and I think that is ultimately what God wants.  However, when we come to find ourselves not just desiring, but deserving and feeling entitled to such a thing then that’s where the rub begins.  It is only by the grace of God that you have not found yourself giving into sexual sin.  We are all sinners.  We all make mistakes.  And any good that we do and any obedience that we have done is by God’s grace and mercy.  Therefore we deserve nothing and we are entitled to nothing.  God told Hosea to marry a prostitute.  Do you think that’s what Hosea desired?  Heck no.  But it was through their relationship that God showed His redemption and mercy.  We are called to forgive.  We are called to love.  And we are called to humble ourselves with gratitude that God has protected you from falling into sexual immorality before marriage.  It is by God’s grace alone.

Now to those of you who have already given in to sexual sin.  It is not too late.  You have not ruined your chances to marry a godly man who honors and lives for the Lord.  You can repent and in all honesty your slate will be wiped clean.  No speck of it anywhere in your record.  And there is the beautiful thing about forgiveness, those who have been forgiven much, love much.  There are amazing men out there who will look at you only as God looks at you!  Clean.  No blemish.  A bride to be won.  Run to the feet of Jesus.  I have a dear dear friend who gave herself to a man before she was married.  Through growing in her relationship with the Lord she found that what she had been doing was wrong.  Through tears of remorse she fell to the feet of Jesus and repented only to find that she was forgiven immensely.  She was made new.  A few years later she met the man she was going to marry.  He was the worship pastor at his church, good looking, God honoring, amazing man full of life.  She felt like she didn’t deserve him.  But when he had heard of her past and saw the woman she was now, he wept with her and forgave her and gladly with all his heart married her.  Sex under the covenant was as if it was the first time.  He loved her like Christ loved the church.  And you can experience that as well.  So I urge you, instead of feeling sorry for yourself, instead of wallowing in shame and despair, look to God, see His forgiveness, and believe that He makes you new.  A godly marriage is possible for you because of the amazing love and grace of Him who loves you most.

I would also like to address those who have been hurt by parents who have gotten divorced and have found themselves doubting marriage and doubting commitment.  I know that some of you have been in a battle your whole life.  A battle where you watch those who raise you fight, yell, hurt each other, ignore each other, and take it out on other people, maybe even yourself.  I know that it is possible for you to have a long line of divorces within your family and you think that it’s inevitable that the same will happen to you.  I have news for you!!  It DOESN’T HAVE TO BE THAT WAY FOR YOU!!!!!  I don’t know the reasons for your parent’s marriage or other’s marriages falling apart.  Some may think they have good reasons, most likely it was all selfish reasons.  But, do you trust in your circumstances to dictate the rest of your life?  Or do you trust in the Almighty God who created us humans to dictate the rest of your life??  Do you place your future in the palm of your parent’s hands?  Or do you place your future in the palm of God’s hands and trust that He loves you, He cares about your life, He cares about your marriage and He is a God of miracles who can save any marriage??   There is far less divorce in marriages that contain two individuals who don’t live together before they’re married and both love God and live a life reflecting Him.  If you both are God fearing people, than no matter what challenges you face, no matter what heartaches lurk, you can overcome them because you have a God who moves hearts even when you can’t.  You can’t control what your husband will do, but God can.  And if He loves God… then don’t you think God will give him wisdom on how to best serve you and love you?  And vice versa.  I know it can be scary to step into something you have only seen fall apart.  But I ask you to find marriages that have lasted.  Find other people you have seen make it work, and dwell on those.  I ask you to look into the Bible and find what God has to say about it.  And I promise you, it’s a beautiful thing.

I pray that as you begin to pray about your future spouse (because it’s a good thing to do) that you would not feel as though you deserve any specific thing or are entitled to any certain type of person.  But that you would lay your desires at His feet and be open to what God has in store.  I pray that you find just how much you are forgiven and live accordingly.  I pray that you would see all that God has done for you and trust that He is working within you, making you new, and preparing you for a beautiful adventure around the bend.  I pray that you would be grateful; that you would live full of life, without shame, and with excitement in your heart for the beauty He has made you to be.  I pray that your heart would be bent towards our Savior and not focused on the what ifs.  Remember just how much you are loved in spite of your mistakes and walk with hope in the God who loves you.

Identity, Relationships, Sex

Cool Your Jets and Embrace Your Role

October 3, 2012

Boundaries in dating?
That’s really difficult to say.
Search the Bible.
It’s completely devoid of dating advice.
Why?
Well, because people didn’t date in Bible times.
They did a little something called “arranged marriages.”
I know, petrifying right?
Yeah, I used to think so too,
until I thought about how many people bring baggage and pain into marriage
because of their past dating relationships.
One thing you can say about arranged marriages,
you don’t usually have to figure out “how far is too far?” in your friendships.
Kind of wish I had gone that route with my wife.
I mean, do you know anyone who says,
“Man, I really wish I had hooked up with more people before I got married.
I feel like I really missed out?”
Of course not.
And you know, if you think about it,
don’t you think that on some level, dating is cultivating a spirit of divorce in our culture?
Think about it.
You get to know each other, get somewhat physical,
and then once you get bored of them or find out something you don’t like,
you jump ship.
Divorce.
Terror.
Insecurity abounds.
How in the world do you expect to grow trust and have intimacy blossom between you and your significant other
when you’re constantly worried that the other person will leave at the drop of a hat?
I’m not saying that you should have an arranged marriage,
but I am saying that covenant precedes intimacy.  Not the other way around.
It seems to me, that a good rule of thumb for boundaries in dating would be,
what will I be comfortable telling my spouse I did with another person before we were married.
After all, if they’re not your spouse, then they’re someone else’s.
And if you’re pretty sure they’re going to be your spouse someday, why not wait till they are?
As a father, I think I’ve adopted a really good policy for my daughters in the future.
I heard this statement in a movie once, and I think it’s a wonderful rule to follow.
The gentlemen that’s about to leave with my daughter, I’ll simply remind him that he can do anything he’d like with my daughter,
but whatever he does to her, I’m going to do to him.
Haha.

You also might find the history of the phrase “dating” interesting.
The term was coined in the late 1800’s, and was used to describe a liaison between a man and a prostitute.
At that time, if a single woman was seen out and about with any male who she wasn’t related to,
it was assumed she was a prostitute.
And if you were a lady at that time, and you wanted a suitor to court you,
he would have had to jump on his horse and come visit you at your house, with all your family hanging on the scene.
But once the automobile was invented, men started picking up the lady they were interested in, and taking her off wherever they pleased.
Interestingly enough,
Since that time, abortion, divorce, STD’s and homosexuality have all risen at an exponential rate.
Whatever you want to say about boundaries, I’ll just say that we are commanded in Ephesians 5,
that since we are God’s beloved children, there should not even be a hint of sexual immorality named among us.
In the greek, sexual immorality is simply defined as “sex with anyone you are not married to.”
So then, because we are loved infinitely, overwhelmingly and undeservingly by Christ,
we ought to have a certain level of patience and self-control about us.
We don’t need to run to the arms of whatever lover fancies us at the moment,
because we have been loved in a way that no person will ever be able to come close to.
Therefore, there ought not be even a hint of promiscuity in us.
Not even a hint.
That means, when you’re asking “how far is too far?”
A better question might be, “Am I sexually aroused?”
According to Ephesians, that’s too far.
Why?
Because you are loved.
Because you’ve experienced Christ’s covenantal love,
and once you’ve had that, it ruins you for the cheap and easy versions of love the world tries to sell to us.

Listen here ladies,
you might think that the more boundaries you create, the less likely it will be that you’ll get a man.
That’s sort of true and sort of false.
Yes.
If you are guarded, and “walled up,” there is a whole group of males who will quickly lose interest.
But I cannot stress this next point enough…
THOSE ARE THE GUYS YOU DON”T WANT ANYWAYS!!!!!!
I mean, don’t you want to be pursued?
Don’t you want to be fought for?
Won over?
I can tell you as a guy,
half the reason I ran hard after my wife was because she was one of the few
ladies that played hard to get.
And deep in the heart of every man, is a desire to fight.
Guys love a fight.
And there are few better fights in this life than the fight to win a woman’s heart.
Problem is,
so many girls are so desperate for love they don’t even give guys the chance to fight for them.
And consequently, they keep ending up with guys
who hook up with them and then quickly move on.
That’s because that man needs a battle, whether he realizes it or not.
And if you don’t make him work for it,
he’s gonna keep searching.

This comes as quite a shock in a time and culture where every magazine in the grocery aisle instructs you otherwise.
“How to Get Your Man.” is usually plastered across some front page in some form or fashion.
“Win Him Over.” “Be in Control.” I’ve read all kinds of stuff while tossing some mac & cheese on the little magic conveyer belt.
I swear though, if I have to see “100 Hot Sex Tips,” in neon pink lettering one more time, I’m gonna hit somebody.
It’s here where everything gets screwed up.
Women are taking the God-given role of the man away from him.
Not that it’s entirely their fault, but you can definitely sense a growing confusion between the sexes these days.
There seems to be such a desire for us to see each other as equal,
that it has caused us to reject any idea of particular roles or inherent responsibilities we might possess.
But of course, confusion ensues.
Who asks out who?
Who makes the first move?
Who calls who?
Who cares?
Well, in Ephesians 5, we’re told that in a marriage relationship, the man represents Christ, and the woman represents the church.
The man alludes to the pursuer.  The instigator.  The fire-starter. The covenant maker.
The woman is the reciprocator.  The receiver.  The responder.
And it’s been my experience, that there’s something really beautiful cultivated when men and women walk in those roles toward one another.
You may disagree with me here, but one thing you have to admit is that every woman wants to be wanted.
Every man wants to win a prize.
So, why not at least give that God-given role a try?
Have you ever tried laying low, and waiting for the guy to come to you?
Could it be that your “go get em” attitude has actually scared away your potential mates, because
he’s been given a desire from God to be the initiator?

Listen.
Believe that you are loved.
Believe that you are a prize.
A treasure.
Believe that you are worth fighting for.
Christ died for you while you were yet a sinner,
and because of that sacrifice, He has bestowed a worth on you, that you could have never
given yourself. Until another man sees you as worth sacrificing for, don’t give him an inch.
To love is to sacrifice.
To truly love is to give all.
And until there is a promise in place, to share all of your life with another,
I would argue, No real exchange of love can commence.

For some further reading on Boundaries Within Marriage,
check out my friend Sammy’s Blog:
http://www.sammyadebiyi.com/

Identity, Relationships, Sex

How Far is Too Far?

September 27, 2012

All week long I have been waking up every morning with a question.  What on earth do I write this week in regards to sex??  What haven’t we covered?  What is it that God wants me to say?  A few things came to mind but my head kept going back to a question that was asked a few weeks ago.  How far is too far in a dating relationship?

Ugh.  I am reluctantly writing this post on how to stay sexually pure while dating.  Why am I reluctant?  Because I was just so darn bad at it!  I’ll be honest, I am not the girl you want to model your dating life after.  I messed up A LOT.  So I come to you with lessons I have learned and regrets that I hope to keep you from.  I was not the girl who kept my kisses only for my husband, although I wish I was.  I am not the girl who only dated one guy and then married him, although I wish I was. and I am not the girl that met this amazing godly man and then courted him in groups of people.  However, I am the girl, who had feelings just like you, who was so full of passion and love and wanted to be close to someone who I cared so much about that I sacrificed my values.  I was the girl who dated more than one guy and gave pieces of my heart to each one.  I was the girl who made out with someone else’s ‘someday husband’ and didn’t really give it much thought.  I lived selfishly and in the moment, rather than guarded and wise.  I was foolish.  So to all those who are foolishly “in love” and to all those who want to be “in love” I bring you words of caution and words of lessons learned in hopes that you will not have the regrets I had.

Let me just tell you what I have come to find when it comes to sexual relations with a dating partner.  I have come to see that sex is a slippery slope.  A very steep slope I might add.  Our bodies were made to go all the way.  We were not made to stop my friends, and that’s probably why Paul so desperately tells us to flee sexual immorality.  (1 Cor. 6:18)   That literally is the only way to keep us from falling head first into sexual sin.  Run!  Coming from experience, it is practically impossible to try a little hugging, and then a little kissing and it remain there.  It always leads to more because that is how God intended it for marriage.  We try to step foot on the slope, and we think we are invincible to the dangers that lurk… but we will always fall.  So, looking back if you were to ask me how far is too far?  I would have stopped at holding hands.  I couldn’t handle any more than that… call it passion, call it love, call it lust… I was weak and I wish I would have listened to the small whispers of conviction when I had the chance to run.

In high school I was so wrapped up in my current boyfriend that I didn’t really give much thought to the scripture 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 which says- “” Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God?  You are not your own, for you were bought with a price.  So glorify God in your body.”  Maybe I would have thought about it more if I was actually reading the Bible on a consistent basis.  However, the Word of God took a back shelf whenever I was in a relationship.  I encourage you to stay in the Word daily if you decide to date.  It will strengthen your desire to glorify God in all you do.  I, however, did not glorify God with my body.  I gave my body away.  Still, here I am shaking my head wondering how on earth I am supposed to continue writing this.  Because I get it!   I totally remember dating.  I remember how it felt to really care about someone and feel like it was so right to be physical with that person. I remember how much I wanted to show that person my love through physical touch.   I remember what if felt like to see that person as my world and I would do anything for them.  I did know it was wrong but at the same time it didn’t feel so wrong.  I was acting out of love if you would call it that.  So as someone who made boundaries and usually broke them… I understand.  I understand how you feel and the longings you have and don’t blame you.  I don’t even judge you if you have broken the boundaries you made.  Heck, I don’t judge you if you didn’t even make any boundaries in the first place because you’re too lovesick to make them.  I’ve been there, and I get it.  BUT!  If you were to ask me if I regret any of it, my answer to you would be a big fat YES!  Why?  Because I lost pieces of me physically and emotionally to each one of those guys and I gave something away that wasn’t even mine to give away.  I also took something that wasn’t for me to take.  And when the relationships ended I was left with more pain than I was ever intended to feel.  I was left feeling a divorce rather than just watching a brother in Christ walk down a different path that God called him too.  I was left confused, hurt, and questioning who I even was.  I was left with looking into my husband’s tear filled eyes when I told him all that I had done.  I had forgotten that I was bought with a price and that I belonged to someone else.  I had forgotten that through the death of Jesus I was made holy.  ( Col. 1:21-22, 1 Cor. 3:17, 1 Peter 1:16)  I didn’t think about the fact that I belonged to a divine power and was considered sacred.   And forgot that I was set apart for a beautiful purpose.  Which leads me to my next point, the most beautiful point, which my friend Jen so perfectly put in a recent comment.  And so I will steal her words.  😉

What if we changed our perspective from asking the question ‘How far is too far’ to the question’ How holy can I be?’  You see I made many physical boundaries in my dating relationships and I just kept breaking them.  And all I was left with was guilt.  But I wonder what would have happened if I turned my eyes from the lines that shouldn’t be crossed to the eyes of Jesus.  I wonder what would have happened if my goal wasn’t to just remain a virgin but my goal was to grow in holiness.  To just see how much I could get to know God and just how close I could see His face.  I wonder what would have happened if I realized that I was totally set apart for a purpose and I was considered sacred.  You know what I think would have happened?  I think I would have still failed at times… but I think I would have chosen Jesus over my boyfriend more times than I did… and would have experienced a little more holiness than guilt the next day.  I wish I would have experienced less kissing and more peace.  There were those very few times that I obeyed that still small voice that told me it was wrong.. and I felt more alive.  I felt holy.  There is not one kiss that I don’t regret before my husband.  I would take it all back and would have replaced those kisses and make out sessions with dancing, laughing, praying, worshiping, singing at the top of my lungs with a heart that knew who she was. That Kelly, all those years ago, was meant to live life fully and with a non-crippling joy rather than torn and anxious and filled with guilt. That Kelly was meant to be made holy and sacred and at peace and didn’t even know it.  Do you know it?

I know you were probably hoping for a list of Do’s and Don’ts.  I know you were probably wanting me to sit here and tell you all the guide lines on how to remain pure with your boyfriend.  I don’t have a list and a set of boundaries for you to follow, but what I do have to offer you is this- be who you were made to be.  You were made to be Holy and Sacred.  Don’t deceive yourself into thinking that you have the strength to step out onto the slope and not fall.  We were made to fall with the right person, in the right time, under the purest of covenants.  When it’s not the right person, you not only are harming yourself, but you are hurting your brother in Christ.  Learn from my past mistakes… It’s not worth it.  Don’t place yourself in any situation that will cause you to stumble.  Flee.. and then fly.

“Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” Eph. 5:14

Faith, Forgiveness, God, Redemption, Sex, Spiritual Life

Next Steps

September 25, 2012

Wow….what a month, right? Going into it, I really feel neither Kelly nor I had any idea where God would take it and just how much He would move not only in the hearts of some of you, but Kelly and I as well. It has been quite the adventure to say the least. We’ve covered, generally speaking, most everything we could think of that would allow you to embrace your own sin nature in the arena of sexual temptation. Our desire was that you would find hope, and most of all, the face of Jesus smiling upon you. I know, however, there are still some of you who may be left with some unresolved emotions. Thoughts like…”where do I go from here?” or “what now?” could be the common ones that could arise and are very valid to feel.

I am not a big believer in any type of twelve step model method that people relate back to our Christian life. No where in scripture has God ever said, follow this procedure and all will be well in your world. In reality, some might argue that he heads in the complete opposite direction. I mean look at some of the things he says..” Follow me” “You will suffer for my name” Kind of a stark contradiction, right? So honestly, I have really wanted to stray from a lot of the questions that have been asked as to “how do we do such and such?” when it comes to sexual sin not wanting to get into a list of do’s and don’ts that point us to our own validation and not our Father’s. But I get it. I get that some of you need a bit more direction than what we may have given you. So here is what I am going to do. Below is a list. A list of things that I believe scripture tells us is essential in our battle over sin. This list is by no means a cure to the problem and definitely not a guarantee that if followed all will be well in the world. Consider it a guide if you will. A guide that my hope is will continue to remind you of your desperate need for a Savior and your complete inability to ever overcome these battles on your own. Let’s dive in:

 

NEXT STEPS: 

1. CONFESSION: Now we have already discussed the need for confession right here before on the blog, but let’s take another look at it again in the context sexual sin. This step HAS to be the first step before anything else can ever take take place. That is why James 5:16 says “Confess your sins one to another SO THAT you may be healed.” It doesn’t say,ladies, that you can start working at behaving better then confess when things are cool and all will still be well. Nope, confession comes first. Why? Because confession brings sin into the light and before the throne of God. Confession is admitting our need for salvation and showing ourselves, the world, and Jesus our undeniable inability to do it on our own.

What does confession look like, you might ask? I can’t really say. What I can tell you is what it does NOT look like. Confession is not anonymous. Confession is not meant to be done by email, text, or via “unspoken” prayer request. Confession is not about making you feel comfortable at all. In fact, if you don’t feel any sense of discomfort when confessing, then you aren’t doing it right. The night I told Jeff all about my past was a horrible night. I anguished over it for days, lost sleep, and cried through most of it. It hurt. It was supposed to hurt. I had wounded the heart of Christ and those I loved, and there is nothing comfortable and safe in admitting that. And that is what confession is supposed to be. It is one of the pure acts of total self-denial and utter humility before God and someone else. But it is also the one thing that allows you to remove the weight you are carrying off of your shoulders, into the light, taking away it’s power over you. This is why the enemy wants us to be so terrified of doing it girls. If we confess our sons to someone, he loses. And he hates to lose.

If you are truly serious about overcoming your battle with lust, sex, pornography, masturbation, or sexual abuse…it all begins with confession. It means finding that trusted friend or pastor or family member or even a counselor and speaking OUT LOUD that which is plaguing you. And then it is taking hope in the words of 1 John 1:9 that if and when we do confess our sins “He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us form all unrighteousness.” It will hurt girls, I can guarantee that. But the hope is…forgiveness and redemption wait on the other side.

2. ACCOUNTABILITY: Listen to the command in Galatians 6:1-2; “Brothers,if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness..Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” It is our duty as sisters in Christ to not only love each other for the fallen sinners we are, but to also come alongside in love and walk with you as we traverse the deep waters of our sin. This is why accountability is so vital. It provides us with a companion who can be there to lean on and encourage us, reminding us once again that we are not able to defeat our sin on our own. Accountability can come in many forms and fashions. With Kelly and I, it entails a lot of checking in with each other through out the week and asking the status of our hearts with the Lord. With my husband, it’s having monthly coffee meetings with the man who mentors him. With some it is a weekly phone call or meal with that person to talk about how things are going. Accountability can take on any shape you need it to be. The main thing, however, to take note of in this passage is the phrase “you who are spiritual.” This is important when looking for someone to hold you accountable. I know some of you may have a friend who also struggles with masturbation or whatever it is you are battling and you think it’d be great for you two to hold each other accountable. Nope. You both are transgressor, and you both therefore need someone who is spiritual (or should I say mature..grounded in their walk) to be that accountability person for you. Even look at Alcoholics Anonymous. They don’t have the alcoholics check in with the other alcoholics, they have a recovering addict who has been clean and sober to be the voice of comfort and accountability. This means again, finding a preferably older and trusted pastor, youth leader, mentor, counselor or family member to talk to and be that safe place for you.

3. SACRIFICE: Giving up any sin will automatically come with some sort of sacrifice, mainly giving up the sin itself. But to truly overcome the sin, there often is a lot of other smaller sacrifices along the way. Takes Lori who shared her struggled with pornography and masturbation. She admitted that she now has to give up watching certain things because she knows they could thrust her back into a tempting situation. We must flee and give up anything that can be a road block to healing and freedom. For some of you, this may mean getting rid of your computer or having someone put up firewalls and internet blockers for you. It may mean not hanging out with a certain crowd or going to certain places knowing they’d be triggers for you. And for some of you…it may mean dumping that guy, even though he may be a Christian because you two have fallen into sexual sin and once you go down that path..no matter how hard you try, you can NEVER go back.

4. SEE HIM: Ultimately, it all comes down to seeing Christ. Seeing him for who he truly is and what he has done to make you his. 1 John 3:1 “See what kind of love the Father has given to us that we should be called children of God; and so we are.” We can confess, have accountability, sacrifice everything…but if we do not SEE Christ and what we mean to him, none of it matters. This love that Christ has for you is ferocious. It is relentless and fierce. It stood at the gateway to hell without fear or trepidation and won the battle for your soul. This love, it is the most important thing there is about you and when you see that..it changes everything. Listen to this:

“So much of our lives as Christians is spent in futile doubt, weak questionings, and apathetic, self-serving strategies. In part, we fail in our war for purity because we spend too much time meditating on ourselves, our work, our growth. We have little hope for change because our hope is grounded in ourselves, in how we’re doing, in whether God is proving his love by granting us every trifling desire or delivering us from heartbreaking trial. We’ve been deceived into believing his love is passe’, something we’ve already comprehended. It bores us. See him. See what your adoption cost him. See his commitment to his family, to you. Steep your soul in the warmth of his desire to have you for his own, and after you have done that, pursue the purity that is a mark of this fierce love.” -Elyse Fitzpatrick

Girls, I pray that you would come to know the love of Jesus and that it would destroy you. That you would be broken to your core, ravished by the consuming power that his love brings. And then I pray that you would take that love, embracing it with all that is within you, and that you would fight. God has allowed us the privilege to open the door for you. To show you that you are not alone and that there is a name to your sin. But now, now is your turn. May you go forth in his grace and pursue confession, finding accountability along the way, while having joy in your sacrifice and hope in seeing Him and his tremendous love for you.

Body Image, Fear, Forgiveness, Redemption, Sex, Suffering

Sexually Abused

September 20, 2012

A beautiful thing about this blog is that it reaches into your personal space.  It can sit with you in your bedroom and speak to you when I physically cannot.  It can reach to your secret places within and bring a spark of hope.  I wish that I could see each one of you face to face, sit in your home, and just talk.  Cry.  And confess.  That, however, is not a reality… so it brings me such joy in knowing that words on a page can reach you right where you are and bring life to dead places.  I know that there are some of you who have been sexually abused.  Some of you have named it so, and some of you may not have really known it for what it was.  My dear friend Jenna has been a victim of this evil act and she has come out on the other side shinning with the love of Christ.  My hope for you is that you too will find life again, and I know her words will be enlightening and encouraging to those who have suffered such great pain.  It’s sensitive and it’s real.

Jenna’s Story

DisclaimerWhenever talking about the nature of sexual abuse we are walking on sacred ground.  This topic brings to bear a weightiness that asks your heart to be examined. One word that I have become familiar with is self-care… if you are already in an unstable place it might not be helpful for you to continue reading.  Ask yourself the question, “What does self-care look like for me right now?” It may be that you go call a friend and share your heart with them, it might look like sitting outside with your favorite book and a cup of tea or coffee, or it might be that you continuing to read on. As your eyes take in line by line what is held on your screen, you may realize for the first time that you were sexually abused. Many people go their entire lives without ever naming their abuse.  Mostly because they had no idea that when their childhood friend convinced them to  get naked and play a “game,” they were being sexually abused.  People assume that if they were “compliant” or didn’t stop “it” from happening that they too are responsible. It’s about the narrative of the story and how you came to the place where your sexuality was first marked– for better or for worse. And for those of you who come to find that you were sexually abused or for those of you who already know that you were sexually abused, but never opened yourself up to engage the harm committed against you, there is hope. One of the most profound things I ever learned in Graduate School was that Christ had to stand at the footsteps of hell before he could ever be resurrected. Out of suffering comes life, but you must first allow God to take you to those places of darkness so he can restore what was taken from you.  So breathe… this might hurt.

 
I write as a survivor of sexual abuse, I write as a someone who, as a little girl, suffered greatly at the hands of my abusers, and I write as a woman who returned to her memories of past abuse- to heal the little me that was left in a pool of fragmented confusion, contempt toward my body, and a distrust of men, woman and God- and invited God as well as my counselor into those places of torment to help me redefine my understanding of the traumatic events that occurred and to deepen my understanding of who I am as one who has been forgiven and one who forgives.  And this process, it took me years to walk through; and at times I still reenter my darkness so God can continue to bring more healing to the places where love was lost.
In order to talk about sexual abuse, it must first be defined:
Sexual abuse is any contact or interaction (visual, verbal, or psychological) between a child/adolescent and an adult when the child/adolescent is being used for the sexual stimulation of the perpetrator or any other person.   Sexual abuse may be committed by a person under the age of eighteen when that person is significantly older than the victim or when the perpetrator is in a position of power and control over the victimized child/adolescent. When the sexual abuse is perpetrated by an adult or older child who is a blood or legal relative, it constitutes incest, or intrafamilial sexual abuse. – Dr. Dan Allender The Wounded Heart
 
Sexual abuse ranges on a spectrum of least severe, to severe, to most severe. The level of trauma that occurs is due to a number of different factors including the relationship to the perpetrator, the severity of the intrusion, use of violence, age of the perpetrator, and the duration of the abuse.  No matter how a person was violated the point that needs to be acknowledged is that sexual abuse is damaging. And be aware that one of Satan’s tactics against your soul is to obscure the subtleties of sexual abuse and have you deny the impact that the abuse had on your heart. It is true, however, that a person whose dad used them as a surrogate spouse (confidant, ally, intimate friend) will experience less trauma than a person who was raped by her brother. To deconstruct more specifically the severity of abuse, I will use portions of my story to give examples, starting with Least Severe.
Least Severe. I had a teacher in High School who would playfully say things to me with a smile on his face like, “Sometimes I can’t even look at you because you remind me so much of my ex-wife, and she is a beautiful woman.” Statements like this create confusion. Something about his comment felt good, it was a compliment? But this compliment was laced with a tone of desire and disgust.  The complex underlying messages were, “You are so dangerous that I must look away,” and “I had sex with a beautiful woman who looks just like you.” He compared me, a fifteen year old girl, to his adult former wife. This man was my teacher, he was in a position of authority over me. At the time, his words didn’t seem all that harmful especially because there was a thread of kindness that awakened my adolescent heart, yet his desire for me had been perverted and crossed the boundaries of a teacher student relationship.  Unknowingly, deceit and betrayal had occurred, but as time went on the nuances of the abuse increased and became more overt. A few weeks later my parents sat me down in our living room to discuss what was going on with me and this teacher.  Again, confusion warped my perception of reality. I felt shocked, a sense of shame and rage aggressively turned inside of me. My parents shared that this teacher confronted the Principal and explained that I was inappropriate with him, that he would see me in the hallways and I would be dressed fine, but when I would show up to his classroom my clothing was more revealing. Do you see it? Do you hear the setup? In the interactions we had he had approached me, yet I was the one that was named as the seducer.  I finished my semester in his class with my head down and a sense of contempt both toward myself and toward him.  Three years later, as a senior and never interacting with this teacher again, I was walking in the hallway and I saw his face.  He was moving directly toward me, he looked at me and said, “I just have to tell you, you are one of the most, if not the most, beautiful girl in the entire school.”  I smiled and said, “Thank you.”  That compliment was direct, straight forward, and at the very onset felt nice.  But then his words dropped down inside my soul and anger filled my lungs and I wanted to scream at him. And I wanted to cry.  I had been falsely accused. For three years I bore the weight of responsibility for his desire toward me. And in that moment he revealed what was in his heart all along, he was attracted me and he used his position of power to control and manipulate the circumstances. He shamed me for what he feared most within himself.
Again this story of Sexual Abuse is on the spectrum of least severe, I was never touched by my teacher, He never specifically said anything sexual in nature, but there was psychological component to this abuse that subtly and sexually violated the teacher/student boundary.  He never should have invited me into his personal struggle with my likeness to his beautiful ex-wife and he should have gotten help for what he was feeling toward me rather than blaming me for his desire. And the Principal as well as my parents should have addressed the situation differently.  Had they been more curious, had they asked more questions my heart would have been defended and I would not have been the bearer of his shame.
When I think about my history of sexual abuse, this memory is not what comes to mind.  It is easy for me to dismiss this story as merely a shameful memory. It is easy for me to think that this exchange had no lasting affect on my heart, but the truth is his betrayal was damaging.  Had this been my only experience of abuse, I might have reacted differently and the betrayal would have seemed far greater or maybe not, but there were marks that raged war on my soul long before this experience ever took place which the enemy used to further deepen my wounds. I absorbed the word dangerous and agreed that my beauty made people hurt me. I also questioned the role I played, not only in that abusive experience, but also in other experiences where I was previously sexually abused.  I wondered if every time that I was sexually abused if the abuse was my fault, I blamed myself for momentarily enjoying his attraction to me, and I blamed myself for being the seducer.  So to minimize this experience, I would be aligning with Satan, the one who disguises himself as the angel of light, and I would fail to see how I colluded with darkness and agreed with my abusers.
Severe. When I was twelve… my older sister met an attractive guy on our family vacation.  A few months later he stayed the night at our house on his way to massage therapy school in Hawaii. That night he had given my sister a massage while we were all in the family room. Soon after, everyone began to go to bed until it was just the two of us sitting on the couch watching TV. He then asked me if I wanted a massage too.  I turned my back toward him, as a yes to his question, and he began gently rubbing my shoulders and talking.  Talking about how much he cared for my sister… how amazing Hawaii is— essentially he was telling me to relax.  All of a sudden I began to question, as his hands wondered off my back, if what he was doing was still part of the massage. Confusion.  My thoughts were, “But he likes my sister and is talking about his feelings for her… he couldn’t possibly be trying to do something with me. I don’t understand what’s going on.  Is this how they give massages in Hawaii?”   His ability to confuse and manipulate was brilliant. As his touch continued to progress it became more violent. The pain became unbearable and I abruptly stood up. Told him I was tired. Turned off the television and walked up stairs to my bedroom. He followed behind.  When I grabbed the handle of my bedroom door he whispered, “Hey, give me a hug goodnight.”  I turned toward him, still confused as to what just happened, and opened my arms.  When we hugged he softly spoke in my ear, “That’s why you’re such a slut—because you don’t know how to say no.”
It took me six months to go through this traumatic story in therapy.  When I imagined myself back in my twelve year old body I was embarrassed and ashamed to tell the end of what happened that night. I believed that I wanted this guy to abuse me because I didn’t leave sooner.  I thought if I was able to stand up and walk away then why did I stay till the pain of his touch became too painful? I was only twelve; of course I wanted to feel cared for by this older guy.  It would have taken an act of God or my parents to walk down the stairs to pull me away from this man.  For a moment I wanted to be in his arms, so I took his blame as truth. However, when I got to the end of this story again in therapy, truth broke through.  I realized I did say no! I did stand up and I walked away! My anger had been misplaced for years toward myself and toward men, but never directed to the one who abused and marked me.
One of the most difficult things about sexual abuse that I’ve had acknowledge within my own my life is… No matter how harmful the abuse, how prolonged the abuse how gentle or violent the abuse… over the course of your life you will cause yourself more harm than the harm that was originally committed against you.
Repenting of the harm I caused myself and grieving the truth of what happened brought me much freedom. It moved me from a place of violence toward my body to a sense of kindness toward my heart. And there is something about this kindness that invites ourselves to be reconciled back to Christ.  When we experience the sweetness of reconciliation, of this returning home to a loving God who embraces all of who we are, it allows us to offer this forgiveness, this love, to those who have harmed us. Nothing disarms evil more than the act of extending forgiveness to a person who did nothing to deserve it.  This is why the love of God is so powerful. This Love can touch places inside of us that cruelty never could.  And sometimes cruelty is more preferable because this Love, God’s love, disarms us and calls us to surrender. To surrender the ways that we have protected ourselves, and deadened our hearts, in order to never again be hurt. Ephesians 4:32 says, “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another as Christ for gave you.”  And may you know, forgiveness is a process.  It may take years until you are ready to forgive, but getting to that place requires a willingness to reawaken your heart so that it may beat tenderly once again.
 But when anything is exposed by light, it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light, Therefore it says,
                                         Awake, O sleeper,
                                         and arise from the dead
                                         and Christ will shine on you. -Ephesians 5:13-14
Most Severe. When I was fourteen, I was raped.  The day before I moved from California to Florida was one of the worst days of my life.  California bore the marks of much pain and loss in my life and Florida… Florida was going to provide the glorious back drop of a new hope. But my hope shattered and burned to the ground before me. Part of my heart died that day when I was forced into powerlessness and betrayal.
I imagine you have questions like, “if God is Love then how can he allow such horrific things to happen to his children?” Or something like that. What I do know is, fourteen years later I have the privilege of sharing portions of my life with you because what evil intends for harm, God uses for good.  Whatever your story is, whatever the burdens you may carry, Christ has the power to resuscitate your deadened heart and breathe life back into your lungs so that you may laugh, play, delight and love once again.

When we allow our experience, no matter how big or small, to fester deep within the depths of our heart, in a portion we think is “safe.” Where space and time is allowed to convince us that it was either lesser than we believed at the time, or what happened is better left in the dark, we invite fear to root itself.  And fear…..changes everything.  Fear is one of the most destructive strongholds one can posess.  If we allow fear to take hold of us, the abundant life we were created for is held hostage.  Held hostage by us, because now that fear is a factor… every decision we will make from this point on will be filtered consciously or unconsciously through it.  How we relate to others, how we interact in everyday life. People and things we allow or do not allow in our lives can all be products of the fear of truth.  Fear festers into shame, guilt, self-doubt, which then morphs into self-hatred and if continued to be locked up almost always instantaneously changes our perspective of God.  When we allow ourselves to only process through this tremendous life hurt by ourselves we are susceptible to accepting lies as truth.  We can quickly lose sight of the truth that
God is a loving God, who “CARES” for His children.
God knows you…personally.  He’s not accusing you of anything, he is not angry with you for what happened… he wants to give you his mercy.  When allowed to penetrate the heart there is peace in understanding that God already knows your heart.

Psalms139:1-5
O Lord, you have searched me and known me!
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
you discern my thoughts from afar.
You search out my path and my lying down
and are acquainted with all my ways.
Even before a word is on my tongue,
behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.
You hem me in, behind and before,
and lay your hand upon me.
God is a refuge for those who have been offended, not someone to fear.  He offers us a safe place.
Psalms 9:9 The LORD also will be a refuge for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble.

Psalm 27:1 The LORD is my light and my salvation—whom shall I fear?
The LORD is the stronghold of my life. And yet, there are a number of accusations that we can make against our Father God, out of confusion… but fear keeps us from going to the very source that is our only source of freedom.
The process of healing… though it may sound simple for something that feels so complex
  • Pray. Invite God into your situation and ask him to search your heart and reveal to you the healing work he wants to do in your life… have a conversation with him, journal what’s on your heart and wait, listen for the Holy Spirit’s response
  • Read the Bible. Hebrews 4:12-13 says, “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.”  Allow the word of God to bring a sense of awe and wonder to your life.  When we’re curious and we look for our questions in scripture it brings back to a place where we can locate God.
  • Surround yourself in community. Whether that’s in a group counseling setting with others who are going through the same thing as you, joining a church, inviting your safe friends to converse with you about what you’re holding in your heart, etc.  Ask others if they know of places for you to get help. (One book I would strongly recommend is The Wounded Heart and The Wounded Heart Workbook both by Dr. Dan Allender
  • For those of you who have experienced sexual abuse I strongly encourage you to seek Counseling with someone who specializes in sexual abuse! I went to counseling for three years and it was the best gift I could have ever given myself!

When you begin to put language to the unsayable… when you name that which you had no names for, you open your heart up to a God who has been graciously awaiting for your return. By returning to the past and putting words to the suffering you survived… you get to reorient your future from death to Life from despair to Hope. And in these moments when you illuminate the darkness you create the space for the Kingdom of God to come to the earth and transform your life. 

I wish I could take language
And fold it like cool, moist rags.
I would lay words on your forehead.
I would wrap words on your wrists.
“There, there,” my words would say-
Or something better.
I would ask them to murmur,
“Hush” and “Shh, shh, it’s all right.”
I would ask them to hold you all night.
I wish I could take language
And daub and soothe and cool
Where fever blisters and burns,
Where fever turns yourself against you.
I wish I could take language
And heal the words that were the wounds
You have no names for.
Words For It
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 Julia Cameron