A Divine Mess

This may sound horribly unromantic, but I can’t even remember the first time I met my husband.  He’s just always kind of been there, like your parents.  I do however remember my first impression of him in general.  He was old…and grumpy.  Now, please understand, to an insecure and giggly 14 year old he was just one of those 19 year old guys who seemed to be there with the sole purpose of saying no to anything fun.  You see, I was a counselor in training at Miracle Mountain Ranch, and he was an apprentice.  Not only was he in a college program, but he was also in charge of us, and that, by default, made him a kill joy.

Between this first impression and getting to know him later lay many years of vague memories.  He was many people to me: my friend’s older friend, my cousin’s crush, and by now he was on staff, which made him even more distant.  But there was something about him that intrigued me.  By now I had become an apprentice in that same college program, and as staff, he served as an advisor to one of my fellow classmates.  My intimidation of him turned to admiration, not only as he lead us through work projects and horsemanship classes, but more so when he would share of his personal walk with the Lord Jesus Christ.  He was far from perfect. In fact, he’d done a good job making lots of mistakes.  But I think that is what softened my heart toward him when he would share his testimony.  It wasn’t a dictation of all that he was accomplishing and learning, but instead, a narrative of God’s immeasurable grace despite his fallibility and shortcomings.  

Then I began to notice it.  I was surrounded by girls who admired him, and it started to bother me.  Others were trying to play matchmaker for him and I began feeling sorry for his plight. Through many circumstances that year, including a devastating car wreck that my parents were in, we saw each other in a myriad of ways that we couldn’t have anticipated.  I saw a man willing to sacrifice and serve total strangers as he would bring students to my parent’s house to help with different projects.  He saw a young lady who had always wanted to be in the program prepare to give it all up to take care of her parents physical needs.  We saw each other sick, cold, frustrated, and discouraged.  We saw it all publicly, but took it all in privately.  

But here is where our story gets crazy.  Our parents saw the spouse that God wanted for us long before we did.  My dad admired Matt greatly, and would drive over an hour just for a “visit”.  His parents had worked with me in our Wilderness Camp program and began inquiring after me when he would talk with them.  

He called my house one night when I was home on Christmas break, and my heart leapt in a way that I had not anticipated.  I was starting to like him, and I didn’t want to.  I had given up this whole relationship thing.  I was burned too many times to try again so soon, and besides, he was staff, and I was sure I would be in so much trouble!  One day I worked up the nerve (and stupidity) to march up to his apartment, knock on the door, and tell him that I was struggling with feelings concerning him.  My imagined response from him was to be one of shock, embarrassment, and telling me that I needed to go talk to my advisor and work through my ill placed affections.  Instead, I was met by a look of surprise that immediately responded by reciprocating his admiration.  We were in so much trouble.  The distraction of relationships was frowned upon, but we soon found that God had paved the way for that as well.  I think the staff had seen our growing interest long before we had, and in the following months we began courting while I was still in the program.  

We had no real idea what a courtship was supposed to look like, so we made it up as we went, but because we were both at the Ranch we just spent a lot of time together.  Soon our hearts were turned toward marriage and the real struggle began.  Both of us had come out of many unhealthy relationships and had brought a lot of bad habits and experiences with us.  We found affirmation in our physical affection and sought times to be apart from the crowd.  Even though I screached into my wedding day with my virginity intact, we had compromised in so many ways and pushed so many lines that we were now shrouded in a robe of guilt and hypocrisy.  If I could have anticipated how hard this would have hit us in our ability to trust each other later, I may have had the fortitude to be stronger.  May have, but I doubt it.  We had done the very thing we wanted to avoid, hurting each other.  

Of course, this revelation did not occur to us until years into our wedded bliss, when I would question his love for me, or his ability to make wise choices.  I was so afraid of being “found out” for who we really were, flawed people.  We felt like hypocrites serving in a ministry, one that preached on purity.  But slowly, God began to heal our hearts.  Ironically, around year three we found ourselves attending a couples counseling group with the intention that we would be learning how to counsel others.  We were duped!  These workshops wanted us to talk about OUR issues!  This was not what we had bargained for!  

But God…

I love that phrase, especially where it is found in scripture.  We were a mess… but God.  We are undeserving… but God.  We will fall again… but God!  God began to show me that my issues were not with my inability to trust Matt, but in my refusal to trust Him!  What if Matt makes a foolish decision?  God is still God.  What if Matt doesn’t meet my needs?  Only God is truly capable of that.  My insecurity caused me to want to elevate Matt to the status of God, and then I flung onto him a myriad of needs that only God is truly able to fill.  I still wrestle with fear and insecurity, and I’m sure I will as long as I’m on this side of heaven, but I’m learning to let Matt off the hook.   

There was a time in recent years when I was feeling angry at what I felt I had a right to; a man who could look at me and see the needs of my heart, who knew my fatigue, fear, and anger. I longed to be longed for, pursued, sought after.  Matt is a wonderful man, but he is just a man.  I needed more affirmed that any human could fulfill and I found myself standing in a worship service staring at a cross in the corner that was all lit up for Christmas.  It was then that the Lord asked me, When did the cross stop being enough?  When did knowing that someone else had ALREADY died for me no longer matter?!?  He seeks me, pursues me, hears me, and knows the deepest aches of my heart.  He lets me ramble despite how irrational I may be at the time, and more than anything else, He DELIGHTS in me.  Me.  This hot mess.  He delights in me.  

If I had to pick one word to describe our marriage it would be “grace”.  When we walk in the gratefulness that we have been given more than we deserve, we are at peace.  Our marriage is far from perfect, and life is constantly bringing new stress and trials with it, but I am freer now more than ever to just enjoy my husband,  because I see his love as a gift I don’t deserve, not a right I’ve earned.  We laugh together, cry together, and fail together.  We are both messes, but he is mine and I am his, and I couldn’t ask for a better person to journey with than the beautiful soul that I’ve been entrusted with.  So here’s to many more years of exercising God’s grace.    


Cox Small

Matt and Jenni Cox have been on staff at Miracle Mountain Ranch Missions since 1992, where Matt now serves as the Executive Director.  They speak, teach, and act as advisors for summer camp, retreats, and the School of Discipleship.

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How I Knew I Wanted to Marry You

I was working at an orphanage in Namibia, Africa when our story began. Ron Ward, the director of Camp Berea was looking for a food service manager, he was given my name by a previous employer, and he emailed offering me a job. I didn’t want to work in a kitchen again but I needed the money and the Camp was on a beautiful Lake. My first day at Berea I was given a tour by Luke Ward, and I took note of the fact that he was the boss’s son and not bad looking either! Luke was no longer working at Berea so it was a few months before we connected again when he came back to work.

I was the kitchen manager and he was hired as my assistant, but having grown up working at Berea every time I turned around he was telling me a better way to do something. It was both infuriating and admirable. We worked together all day and had fallen into spending most of our free time together too. One day as a practical joke on Luke’s Dad we devised a plan to pretend that we had eloped. It was payback for when Ron let me believe that I would be stuck running the Berea kitchen alone after my assistant left, purposely not telling me he had hired Luke.

Luke says, “I still remember the exact scene: you were cleaning out the tilt skillet and I was running through scenarios, you were all quiet. I knew we couldn’t really persuade my Dad that we had eloped; I had to convince you to date me first to give credibility to our story. I knew if I could get you to date me, I could convince you to marry me. And I did”.

When Luke asked me to date him I said yes and then I cried. I knew I had found a man that was godly, and good, one who would love me deeply; but that loving him back would take my life in a very different direction than I had dreamed of. I remained torn right up until the day we got married between my desire to go back to Africa and work with horses and kids, versus my growing love for Luke. In the midst of my indecision, I knew absolutely that we would always be friends if we got married, no matter where we went in life, or how little we had in common. I was uncertain about almost every aspect of our future together but I knew we could always be friends.

Luke says, “There were two definitive points during our time working together in Berea, when I knew I wanted to marry you, the first was when I heard about your work at the orphanage in Africa, I knew you’d be a really good mom. The second was while we were working together, before you went back to Africa, I remember you laughing at one of my stupid jokes, and I knew I wanted to marry you. I had written a list of the qualities I wanted in a woman and you pretty much summed it up. I didn’t want someone who was just a Christian; I wanted someone who was actively in a relationship with God. I was looking for a woman who was kind, generous, beautiful, adventuresome and funny. I remember when I wrote my list I was trying to list qualities that are important, not just important to me but important.”

Once we were dating Luke’s mom, a wonderful and godly woman, tried to persuade me not to marry him on numerous occasions, and my mom said the same things to us. “He doesn’t know what he wants to do in life yet, you two are very different, what about your plans to go to Africa again…..” We knew they were right, and we spent hours talking about ways to blend our interests and never got anywhere. We decided to take it slow and after working together at Berea for 6 months I went back to Namibia for the winter. We emailed back and forth sharing our everyday stories and discussing a future together. We talked once on the phone, I sat on the banks of the Zambezi River watching the sun go down, while Luke was frying 1,000 pancakes watching the sun come up over Newfound Lake. My heart sang to hear his voice, and broke at the thought of leaving this place.

When my work visa was up in April I came home, and by October we were sitting together in a hammock by the Lake talking about eloping. Luke asked me to marry him on top of Cardigan Mountain and we eloped the next day standing on a ledge on Newfound Lake.

We didn’t tell anyone we were married for 6 months, I moved to NH and no one even knew we lived together. When our families found out they were angry at being deceived, and heartbroken over missing our wedding. Luke and I honestly thought no one would really care, we are still wondering how we could have been so stupid! We were eventually forgiven and had a casual reception, thank God for loving families!

Over the years God has given me more purpose and joy raising a family with Luke, than I ever had pursuing my dreams alone. Luke has been a tangible illustration of my Heavenly Father’s love for me in a way I never imagined. Marriage has been the hardest, most incredible thing I have ever poured my heart into. I set aside my dream of returning to Africa and wasn’t even sure I still wanted to go, then one day not long ago Luke said, “I have held on to your dreams for you, even when you gave up on them. Let’s go to Africa.”  And one day we will, together.

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A Long & Winding Love Story

We met years before I ever remember him.  It seems like he gradually came into my life, and then suddenly he was there, integrated, and had been there for ages.  He was four years younger than I was, and so the husband-hunting section of my brain didn’t even register him as an option.

He attended the youth group that I had graduated from and was volunteering with as a leader.  Because he didn’t have a car, my family often picked him up and drove him home from church events.  He spent the night on our couch, and I would sit up late at night with him and my siblings, talking about God and life and anything else that came to mind.

I grew to appreciate his perspective.  I liked the way that his mind worked, and the conclusions he came to.  I enjoyed the easy banter we had.  I knew that I was excited to see what God ended up doing in his life.

And then, one day, we were watching a movie with the youth group.  There must have been at least 20 people stuffed into a small living room.  We ended up squished on the couch together.  And suddenly, I realized that he had muscles.  Like, manly manly musicles.  And they were very attractive.  This sudden flip shocked me.

Over the next months, I repremanded myself for being attracted to an 18 year old.  But I had had plenty of crushes in the past, and so I decided that this would pass like the others did.

It didn’t pass.

One night, he was staying on our couch, and my siblings had gone to bed.  He reached over and held my hand.  At 22, it was the first time in my life that someone had held my hand.  He told me that he liked me, and I admitted to liking him too.  Looking back, it seems like such a middle school scenario.

We decided that we wanted to date.  He was my first real boyfriend, my first real kiss.  He holds just about every milestone in my life as my first and only.

But our age difference created tension with my family.  My parents had concerns about our relationship, and I felt caught between respect for them and the excitement of this budding love with someone I truly wanted to be with.  I desperately wanted them to love him the way I did.  This underlying tension continued for years, and it has taken time and prayer to heal the rifts that it caused.

We found encouragement other places, with mentors at church and Christian friends who encouraged us in our faith.  We spent most of our time together volunteering at youth events.  A few years into our relationship, we both knew that we wanted to get married.  But though we were in a much better place with my family, they still felt that we weren’t in a good place for marriage yet.  It was starting to become obvious that we needed to get married or break up, the relationship felt stuck with no good resolution.  We decided that we needed to separate.

I felt that it was the right decision, even though it was incredibly painful at the time.  I decided to take my brother up on an offer to visit him in Guam, and a few months after our breakup, I was flying to the other side of the planet for 6 months.  We had decided that if either of us felt God’s leading with another person, that we were free to pursue it.

The entire time that I was in Guam, he kept in touch with me.  Even without the romantic aspect of our relationship, our hearts were interconnected as friends.  I spent a lot of time praying about other young men that I was meeting, but God seemed suspiciously silent on the issue.

When I finally came home from my travels, I had concluded that some decisions God leaves up to us.  I needed to be able to choose a path that my life would go down, and be confident in it.  I had spent too much time fearing that I would miss God’s perfect will for my life, and it was causing me to second guess everything that I did.

We slowly started spending time together again, going out in groups and seeing each other periodically.  We had decided that if we were going to be together again, we would be engaged and get married quickly.  So we really just needed to decide the time frame for that before we moved forward.

One Sunday afternoon, stopping by his apartment on my way home from a quick trip to New York, he proposed to me out of the blue, and I said yes.  We were married less than 3 months later on a hot July day amidst family and friends.

I still find myself wishing that our love story was prettier.  That we had made different choices, that it wasn’t so discouraging and painful in places.  I have seen other couples who progressed neatly from milestone to milestone, but for us it was a dark and twisty road to where we are now.  I have also struggled feeling that we don’t “fit” together well.  Our personalities, physical appearance, and upbringing are very different.  At one point we were told that we looked wrong together, and my mind fixates on that at times.  As a teen I remember visualizing my husband, and it is hard to tear down that hypothetical ideal and embrace the flesh and blood man that God gave me.

Regardless, God has always been faithful to us.  Every year that passes, I learn more about how to rely on God and how to love and respect my husband.  He is the man that I needed in so many ways, and I am so grateful to walk through this life at his side.

I think that my advice to young women would be to trust God enough to let go of what they want so desperately.  We know, deep in our hearts, what the right thing is to do.  But it is easy to convince your love-struck mind to ignore God’s prompting.  There may also be a time in your life when you just have to choose a path and move forward, and I would encourage you to do that confidently.  Know that God’s will for your life is to trust and obey him, but sometimes he leaves the choices of where and who we end up with to us.

This So Isn’t Me – Battling Anxiety

I have been after Macy to write a guest post for almost a year now.  There is something about the way she shares her heart that always convicts and encourages me, and I was excited to share that with all of you.  What she ended up sending is a collection of snapshots into her battle with anxiety, and I believe that God will use her struggles to give those of us in similar places hope.  I pray that you will be encouraged by her heart!

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I’m not sure how to pull these thoughts together with an introductory paragraph. To me, they are all connected with a common thread that I apparently can’t put to words. Let’s just introduce it as a collection of snapshots into my battle with anxiety.

Last year, Joe told me that he has had to relearn how to be married to me. This was after we had one of our biggest fights to date. It had to do with me sharing a creative idea with him privately and him sharing the idea with others and running with it before I’d had a chance to speak up. He argued that I had never before cared about taking credit for an idea, preferring to remain nameless. And he was right– but It wasn’t so much about the recognition. It was more about the ownership of my participation in the world around me. My tendency is to mesh. To blend. To let things pass by me, through me, even. This all stems from fear, of course. Of being misunderstood. Of being disliked. Of being wrong. But I am learning to spend less time trying to perfectly portray myself to people and more time just getting in there showing up and learning and contributing. That’s where vulnerability happens. That’s where connections are made. That’s what has the power to break that enormous barrier between me and others that I feel I have been timidly tapping on my whole life, afraid of calling too much attention.

I told a friend a while back that anxiety, to me, feels like I’m trying to navigate through life with someone screaming continuously inside my head. The screaming isn’t even words, just constant “white noise” muddying up my ability to be completely present in whatever it is I’m doing. I still haven’t figured out how to turn the noise off completely but I am learning to dial back the static and focus on the life going on around me.  My comfort zones are tiny spaces, with the white noise bouncing off the walls and amplifying 1000x over. But I think if I can break that barrier, just shatter it and live in bigger spaces, maybe that noise will actually have some space to dissipate into.

I was recently bawling my eyes out because I felt so incredibly inadequate to do a certain thing. I couldn’t see why I had been trusted with it in the first place. Joe asked me “Macy, are you solving more problems than you are creating? Then you’re good.” That really hit me hard.  I am never never never going to get to a place where I do it perfectly. No matter what “it” is. I think I was trying to maintain a perfect record by doing nothing at all, but what an unfulfilling life that ended up being.

I’ve been pushing myself super hard lately– working full time on evening shift, giving up some of the social life I feel like I only just built, taking on a leadership role in the piano hub @ my church. We are in major debt payoff/house savings mode, I’m going to the gym regularly (mostly haha), and we’re hoping for a baby for too many years in a row now. It all feels like chaos a lot of the time and I crave a giant pause button.

I have found myself saying so much lately “I don’t feel like myself!!” “This so isn’t me!!” as I am forced to do things less than perfectly and not be able to hide it or dwell on it. I think “I’m not a speeder. I’m not ever late. I’m not insensitive. I’m not careless. I’m not unorganized. I’m not unprepared!!” But, I am those things. I am human and flawed, but I used to avoid pressure to keep those flaws from surfacing. What’s coming to the surface now is a whole lot of ugly and broken and I’m doing my best to take it apart & let it be rebuilt better, and it has been super cool to realize I am surrounded by beautiful people who are okay with my awkward unfinished parts.

Because taking credit for my own ideas, and actively contributing to things that I am passionate about despite being afraid, and connecting with a variety of people on a regular basis, and finding my way through the fog, and yelling over the static…. well, those things “so aren’t me!” either. But I am discovering that yes, indeed, they are.

 

Actually Becoming The Happy Wife of A Human Husband

 

The title of this blog came from an oft-repeated threat to write a book called “How To Be The Happy Wife Of A Human Husband”. I began making that threat after it dawned on me that it’s typical to vent about a husband’s failings while excusing our own weaknesses. This behavior is not limited to the husband/wife sphere, either — we all do it.

I got married later in life, so there were lots of years with human room mates. Being the oldest of 5 meant my family life was pretty full of humans, too. Four human children have become adults who make their own choices — choices I do not control. (In all honesty, I never had the power to control their choices.)

On top of the aggravation of humans in my house, humans share the road with me as I drive and they post irritating stuff on social media. I go to church with humans. Humans all around, and they all act human. How do we stay “happy” when there are all these humans bothering us?

I am human, too. Maybe this blog should be called “Happy Human Among Human Humans” or something similar.

The thing is, we all cut ourselves some slack and think our own aggravating qualities are not so bad. There is deception in our hearts, according to Proverbs 21:2. We all think we are right, or we have good reasons for whatever wrong we do.

I am blind to my own faults — a good example is the piles of “stuff” I plan on sorting someday. I have many piles of stuff. One of Dave’s first gifts to me as a new wife was a blue basket to put my piles of stuff in. One basket, however large, won’t hold all my procrastination piles. Did his helpfulness change my pile habit? A little, but they are still there in the corners of my life because they don’t bother me like they bother him.

Here’s the thing — he gives me grace about my pile habit. Should I give him grace about his irritating habits? Yes, because not only does Dave give me grace, but God forgives me for far more serious sins than procrastination. When I realize all I am forgiven for, the natural response is thankfulness followed by forgiving others. It’s like that parable of the servant in Matthew 18 — we need our eyes opened to how much we have been forgiven.

When I choose to forgive as God has forgiven me, I am free to be happy with imperfect things and people. I can be a happy wife of a human husband, or a happy co-worker who works with humans, or whatever life throws at me.

Our daily lives are where our theology is tested. Truth is always true, but we don’t always believe the truth and it shows. My reactions to the people around me show me what I actually believe. This is humbling because I often have a disconnect between what I “believe” and how I react.

Recognizing my consistent failures helps me see myself accurately — I am human. I fail. Because I am human and I fail, I have to accept others as human failures just like me but our failures cost us more than we like to think about.

Jesus points out in his famous Sermon on the Mount that our natural tendencies have horrible results if we let them grow to fruition. Sibling rivalry, for instance, is the same basic attitude as murder. That’s harsh! But it’s true and we all do it.

We all need forgiveness, we all need grace, we all need the good news that God loves us enough to do something about the condition of our hearts. The cost of my self-centered insistence on my own way was death. Not death as an arbitrary punishment by an egotistical deity but death because it’s the natural consequence of my choices.

Jesus chose to leave his position as God and become human — like us — so that he could be a substitute for us and take that consequence on himself. I don’t understand how that all worked, but this changed everything. Do some research on the historical evidence for Jesus and the resurrection and it’s hard to ignore.

So what do we have? A resurrected Savior who provides forgiveness for me. He gives grace, so I can extend that forgiveness to the human who shares my life. That makes me a happy wife of a human husband.

 

 

 

 

Don’t Wait to Get Caught

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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”

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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.