Don’t Wait to Get Caught

dontwait

In today’s world, we see Christian leaders fall into sexual sin all the time.  Each time a name comes to light, it becomes more and more obvious that Satan has a huge foothold in this area.  And if sexual sin is this common in our leadership, it has to be rampant throughout churches everywhere.

What I believe is at the root of this problem is a fear of confession and a lack of trust that God’s way is better than our own way.  I believe this is the root of the problem because it was the root of the problem for me.  I also believe that the church needs examples of confession and accountability.  We need stories of people who choose God over their temptations on a regular basis.  We need to be reminded of what we believe and why we follow Christ.  And so, to that end, I’d like to tell you my story.

I was introduced to pornography at a young age and instantly, something inside of me woke up that I have not been able to put back to sleep.  You may have heard of people who take one drink and are addicted to alcohol, well, I took one look and I was addicted to sex.  My addiction went unchecked for almost 10 years, escalating to include masturbation and cybersex.

At the same time, I was growing up in a Christian home and building a relationship with God.  I desperately hated these urges that I was not able to control.  I was disgusted at my body’s reaction to things that my heart knew were damaging, both to me and to the other people involved.  I educated myself about the realities of the sexual exploitation industry, trying to convince my mind that this was a horrible thing.  I wanted God to magically heal me and take the temptation away, and I prayed for that constantly.

When I read verses like Colossians 1:22 “..to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation..” those words made me cringe.  I related to passages like Jeremiah 2, Ezekiel 16 and Hosea.  I was the child bride who rejected her husband and went out to seek sex like a whore.

But that was all on the inside.  That happened in the dark and behind closed doors and in my cleared browser history.  In my visible life, I held a position as youth representative on the church board.  I was a trusted member of the youth group leadership team.  I led the drama team in our church and started a worship band.  I led two lives, and I had conditioned my heart and mind to accept this.  Sin had an iron grip on my heart, and Satan whispered to me that only men struggled with porn, that I would be humiliated if I ever was found out.  It was only when the Holy Spirit got through my defenses that I cried out to God.

When I was 17, I gave myself the ultimatum to either get help or get out of leadership in my church.  That fall, I entered an intensive discipleship program where I confessed my secret sin issues and got the accountability that I needed.  I hoped that after the big confession that I would be healed, but that isn’t the way God worked for me.

Even with the help of my advisers and close friends, I had a decade of sin with roots that had grown deep into my life and habits that had to be unlearned.  I needed regular and intrusive accountability to maintain a clear conscience for years, but the peace of living without the fear of exposure over my head, of knowing that I am forgiven and that my life is open to God’s prompting and plan, it is the best feeling I have ever experienced.

It has been another decade since I finally confessed and got help.  There have been times when I failed, times when I backed away from accountability and ended up justifying small indulgences.  But God used the decision that I made in my junior year of high school to build a foundation for repentance and pave the way back to a clean conscience.  Just as it is easier to continue in sin after you have done it once, it is easier to confess and repent once you build that pattern into your life.

My prayers for miraculous healing were not answered.  Instead, I was given enough grace to take each step that was put before me.  God’s way has drawn me ever slowly closer to his heart through the years.  And because of this decade of learning to discipline my mind, I am softer when he convicts me.. I am stronger when he challenges me.. I am braver when he asks me to change.  It is both the mystery of his grace and the daily walk in his will that have worked the miracle in my life.

As a body of believers, many of us have lost the discipline of confession.  We are so afraid that we are alone in these temptations, and so afraid of the disgust that we see slung around on social media when a sinner is caught.  But if we confess our sins he is faithful and just.  He will forgive us from our sins.  Don’t wait to be caught; give yourself up.  Turn yourself in.  You have the choice of wallowing in your invisible dirt or walking into glorious freedom.  I bet you would be surprised who all has been wallowing beside you.

I was meant to be holy in his sight.  Without blemish.  Free from accusation.  Should someone point the finger at me and name my sins, I do not need to cringe.  Satan doesn’t hold anything over me that has not already been confessed and forgiven.  As the song says, sin’s curse has lost its grip on me.

If you are reading this, please do one of three things:  

If the Holy Spirit is convicting you of sin right now, tell a trusted friend that you need to talk to them.  Even just setting the appointment is a huge step on the road to confession and freedom.

If you have dealt with secret sin in your past and are now experiencing freedom in Christ, share your story with someone.  The church needs examples of how to deal with their sin, and you can contribute to that cause.

And if you are not in a place that you feel able to do either of those things, please pray.  Pray for yourself and for others to have the courage to give themselves up and finally be free.  Pray for God to give us all the grace to triumph over seemingly impossible trials and that we would trust that his way is truly better than our way.

Contentment in Brokenness: Sexual Impurity and the “Good Christian Girl”

photo-1429280064633-adb9d2bea577

Women seem to have so many things to hide: zits, wrinkles, gray hair; mood swings, anxiety, depression; exhaustion from working overtime or caring for a sick loved one or staying up all night with a collicky baby; we desperately try to hide anything that shows our imperfections or weakness. We’re often ashamed of our weakness, but perhaps most hidden and shameful of all are all of the sexual impurities that have left their marks on our bodies and our souls.

I was seventeen and naively confident in my sexual activity. Only, I wasn’t really that confident, but the older man abusing me at the time tried to make me think that I was. I carried the secret of my shame for the next two years, even after he was long gone and Christ had become King of my heart.

I kept silent out of a twisted concern for the man who had taken advantage of me, but also out of fear that my new Christian sisters would label me a freak and a sinner and an outcast. “Good Christian girls don’t do those things,” Satan whispered, “and they certainly don’t talk about them.”

Don’t we all believe these lies? That we are alone in our suffering, abnormal in our struggles, and despicable in our secret sins? That we’re ruined, unlovable, and unforgivable? I know I believed them, and still do sometimes. But the truth is that there is nothing new under the sun (Ecclesiastes 1) and “no temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man” (1 Corinthians 10:13). And the even better news is that our God is not a God who can’t relate to our suffering and struggles: “He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:3); and “we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15).

How gloriously wrong I turned out to be about these lies! My sisters loved me MORE, not less, when I broke down and spilled the secret that had been poisoning my heart. They spoke the truth of the gospel to me: “You have been redeemed! You are a new creation! You are the bride of Christ!” And what a beautiful truth it is, that Christ suffered and died and rose to new life that I may die to myself and be made alive in Him. Even the confusion over that man’s sin and my own sin in it is covered by grace, much to my constant relief.

So why are so many women, especially Christian women, still hiding? Partly because of the stigma that “good Christian girls” (whoever they are) need to be pure in every way APART from God’s grace; that they need to be whole BEFORE they come to the cross.

But the cross is for broken people: the sinners, the abused, the outcasts; the girls with zits and wrinkles and anxiety and depression and every kind of weakness or temptation. And if the cross is for people like that, then I am content to be broken that He may restore me to new life, made whole only by His indomitable grace.

*If you have been physically or sexually abused, the No More website (http://nomore.org/need-immediate-help/) has helpful resources and hotlines.  I also urge you to find a trusted Christian friend or mentor to talk to. Feel free to contact me, as well, at christianc@dm.org.

**If you are wrestling with your own sexual sin that is controlling your life, check out Harvest USA (http://www.harvestusa.org/), a Christian organization aimed at caring for sexually broken people in Jesus’ name.

Seasons of Life

I became a Christian at 20, was sexually active & sporadically engaged at the time, and struggled with the whole celibacy idea for years. Not a struggle of intellect or conviction; a struggle of awakened desires that would not go back to sleep once I chose to be chaste!

I kept putting my desires to be married on the altar, & there are lots of tears in that statement. I asked God not to allow me to be married until I could be a real “helpmeet” and He kept closing the door to marriage in my pleading face for 10 years.

Now, I have been married for 25 years and can share a couple of points–

Both states, married or single, are referred to as “gifts” by Jesus. All gifts are given for the benefit of the Body of Christ and are not necessarily for the rest of your stay on earth. People die all the time, and that will include you or a spouse and could happen today. (Excellent motivation, by the way, to appreciate what God gives you every moment.)

Both states, married or single, require being dead to self and alive to Christ. If you aren’t struggling with something being put on the altar, you aren’t sharing His suffering or growing in His grace. Your sin nature is not compatible with anyone else’s and marriage does not mean constant fulfillment.

Both states, married or single, are actually temporary because there is only one marriage in Heaven, that of Christ & His Bride… which includes you if you choose.

Both states, married or single, are dim reflections of eternity and are going to be baffling with times of blindness. This means you walk by faith and not by sight.

Learning to be content in whatever state you are in requires knowing God & His Word, which is true theology. Only truth sets us free, and He is Truth.

Theology isn’t an intellectual exercise, it is knowing God & interacting with Him–“God-Logic”, that which makes sense (ology=the study of) because of God (theos=God). The hidden choices you make in response to Him every day are where you serve, married or single.

leaky pipes & little foxes

e2e0c3c84e0df0083690b2f4742ea928 copy

A marriage in our church has just fallen apart…it probably was getting emptier and emptier for a long time and the masks just couldn’t stay pasted anymore.

This is tragic, not just for the family but for our church. How can this amount of pain come together every Sunday and during the week without being addressed by someone? One answer; they are good fakers. (My thought on that; faking happiness is no substitute for the real thing and a dangerous game that brings agony.) Another answer; they thought that pretending things were ok would make them ok. That’s like ignoring a malignant tumor, hoping it will go away. Sadly, a third reason would be that when people like me say, “how are you?” we are so programmed into hearing, “I’m fine” that we don’t actually pay attention.

A common criticism of Christianity is the hypocrisy people see…but I see hypocrisy in all of us. I do not think it’s a religious thing but a human thing. I think it bothers people more in “church” settings because each of us genuinely needs there to be a place where we are accepted & even loved despite who we really are….and each of us genuinely needs that sense of belonging in a bigger sphere than our homes. If we have it at home we usually don’t appreciate it at all or even think of it any more than we think about plumbing.

A recurring problem in my own marriage is my feeling like I’m just “part of the plumbing” in Dave’s life; that he takes me for granted & doesn’t appreciate me. The problem comes, not from being taken for granted, but from my attitude about being taken for granted. If I am playing the wrong tape in my head, having conversations with Dave that only exist in my brain, I set us up for problems because he wasn’t actually part of the conversation in my head…and I start reacting to the “head-Dave” instead of my real human husband.

Solomon (in his Song) has some good ideas on this: he talks about the little foxes that run through a vineyard taking bites off the grapes–a little here, a little there. If you don’t catch the little foxes, you end up with a devastated vineyard after time from something that did not seem important at the time.

In another part of his Song, he paints a word-picture of a lover coming to his love, “open to me, open to me, my love” “I have just washed my feet, how can I get them dirty again? I have just put off my dress, how can I put it on again?” So the lover leaves, and the bride wakes up & starts looking for her lover & gets hurt.

A recent advice columnist asked for input from men in why they cheated on their wives. The main theme I saw in their answers was this… “my wife doesn’t respond to me”. Not a physical response, an emotional one, in most letters. I’m not in any way excusing a cheating husband; I am pointing out a human trait we all share.

Forgiveness is a theological thing…I think of theology as God (theo) logic; that which only makes sense because of God. The more I understand His forgiveness for me, the more I am able to open to my mate when I am hurt by his human shortcomings. My ability to respond to anyone is based on my current selfishness. If I am focused on how I feel I am NOT being “dead to self and alive to Christ” and am blind to what He is asking me to do in His strength.

Real Christianity is lived moment by moment in the battlefield of my mind and revealed in the actions & words I choose. The victories I have over the little foxes and leaky pipes in my life don’t seem important or worth the cost but looking back I can see the damage I have allowed by ignoring His prompting to deal with something I thought trivial.

an old letter to my daughter….

anoldletter

Hi babe–I’m not sure I ever finished this & sent it to you! Sorry ’bout that….since I want to use it for the Famine study with the girls, I’m finishing it & sending it to you & sharing it with them, too.

It’s also been a challenge to organize my thoughts on what God has taught me about the lust/sex thing…the hunger for satisfaction. But if I ever actually write my book about Happy Wife/Human Husband, I need to have this chapter in it. So you are giving me incentive to do what God & your dad have been suggesting I do.

As you know, I was sexually molested by a cousin while growing up. One of the confusing things for the “victim” is the awakening of desire…it does feel good & you have a lot of conflict about guilt and shame at the same time you are experiencing a strong pull to satisfy a physical hunger you never had before. It is a real trap, and part of the victimization in the sense that your body seems to be working against you. I found out later that he had been molested by another cousin and started to molest others when that cousin moved away…HIS physical urges being too powerful for him to deal with alone. So I wonder where the line between victim-molester really is…but it doesn’t negate our responsibility for our actions.

In the Song of Solomon, we are repeatedly warned not to “awaken my love before she pleases”. I believe this is a reference to the passions….we are not to be sexually active in thought & heart until it is appropriate to be sexually active physically. This is why modesty is an issue…not just clothing, but thought & behavior. You can be incredibly immodest and completely covered up…it is easy to entice with glances & smiles. It is why we are told to guard our hearts….the books we read, the things we watch, the friendships we cultivate. At the end of the book, Solomon talks of a little sister…and the need to be a wall rather than a door. If you want an intensely satisfying sexual life with your future husband, YOU MUST BE A WALLED GARDEN with only one way in–marriage.

The result of my being a “door” was like having a broken cistern in my heart. I had all kinds of hunger & thirst for attention & affection but no way to keep my bucket full. I was like that verse in Proverbs 27:7, “A sated man loathes honey, but to a famished man any bitter thing is sweet.” In the margin below that verse I wrote this years ago–“If I am not content in His love, I’ll be tempted to “be content” filling the gap with food, attention, fantasy–and if He has not already filled me, those comparatively bitter things are sweet. But if I’m content in Him I will not idolize.”

(I love having a Bible that has stuff written in it from years past–it reminds me of what He has brought me through & of His faithfulness to us. I need those reminders so often! Don’t be afraid to write in your Bible.)

Being sexually active in fantasy & action seemed to be satisfying a hunger that I had for my daddy’s attention. You never knew your grandfather, but he was quite a character. He had some real handicaps–one was the belief that you don’t face problems, you walk away from them. He’d be very affectionate at times, then turn his back & say “I don’t love you anymore, I’m mad at you” & go to sleep on the couch. He wasn’t around much.

You know how you need to feel connected to your dad, and how you hunger for his love. Being “just a man” and living in the fallen world, he can’t meet all your longings for his love. I think the reason we have that “Daddy Hunger” is that we really hunger for God the Father’s love & He planned that we’d be able to understand His love by being first loved by a daddy. Our sinfulness messed up God’s plan generations ago and we all have problems because of it.

Right now there are a growing number of teens having plastic surgery because they feel so ugly the way God made them. The size of their breasts or nose has ruined their perceived potential for being happy…they hunger for a satisfaction that they think will come in being attractive in a narrowly described way. It is a tragedy because satisfaction doesn’t work like that…one of my roommates had a sister who owned a top modeling agency & Sheree said that the people in the top modeling circles are the unhappiest, most insecure people she’d ever seen. All “beautiful”, all unhappy.

No matter what you are in life, you will have “hunger pangs”–unfulfilled desires. It is easy to think that something you don’t have will satisfy you, but what actually happens is more like a meal; it fills you up for a short time. If you’re eating junk then you will be full for a short time but not get any benefit from it…it will cause harm. It really is like that verse in Proverbs: if you learn to be content with God, your life is full even when you have nothing. If you are starving for God, you eat & eat & eat all the world has to offer & keep getting hungry again because nothing the world has satisfies forever even though it tastes sweet at the time.

You’d wanted to know what verses God has used in my life as a single woman. The most helpful passage for me has been Isaiah 54. The word-picture in the beginning of the chapter is that of a solitary woman making her tent more secure by stretching it out & hammering in the pegs. She’s making a TEMPORARY dwelling more secure by digging in deeper where she’s at. Here’s my take on this–

1. Get a larger perspective on your life–we live in a tent; our mansion is in heaven.
2. Make your tent secure by putting energy into what you have to do today…
–what are your responsibilities?–do them well. (Matthew 24:45)
–who do you live with?–learn how to connect with them. (Isaiah 58:7)

–what is God teaching you today?–write it down! (Psalm 19:7-11)

The last thing I want to share with you in this letter is another part of Isaiah 54. There are times when you are SO desparately starved for love that you see the world through a blur of tears. After the tent thing, God talks of a wife rejected, forsaken and grieved in spirit. In verse 11, He says this–

“O afflicted one, storm-tossed, and not comforted,
Behold, I will set your stones in antimony,
And your foundations I will lay in sapphires.
Moreover, I will make your balltlements of rubies,
And your gates of crystal,
And your entire wall of precious stones.
And all your sons will be taught of the Lord;

And the well-being of your sons will be great.”

Ties in kind of cool with the walled garden thing out of Song of Solomon, huh? I have clung to that promise over the years, seeing the words run together as I wept. There are times when you will be storm-tossed & find no comfort. We live in a fallen world, one that has pain in every direction. We cannot escape the reality of sin & it’s effect on us. That’s why Jesus came.

Last year, I wrote on the margin of Isaiah 54:11–“God keeps His promise made in these verses to me as a single woman-now married w/4 kids who are dedicated to Him 4/15/04”

My point is not that you may someday be a happily married mother of children. There have been times in my married life that I have felt storm-tossed and afflicted…other times when I have been so deep in the pit of despair I could not see any light. But through all that time, God has been faithful, like the sun that shines all the time even when you cannot see it because of where you are on earth.

If you are reading His Word & thinking about it, praying for wisdom and writing your thoughts, you will feed your spirit.

If you are obeying His command & laying down your life to follow Jesus in meeting other people’s needs, you will feed your soul.

Like your tag line says, “you don’t HAVE a soul, you ARE a soul–you HAVE a body.” God knows you have physical needs, He made your body. He commands us to feed the hungry, to satisfy our spouses & be exhilarated in marriage. It’s just temporary, though, to help us understand eternal things. When you are hungry for something, attention from a guy, for instance, ask yourself what the big picture is & what God is teaching you.


Well, I’m out of time. I hope this helps a little–

love you much–Mom