Before I start….let me get something off of my chest.
Because of the massive response of my last blog called ‘What Does Christian Sex Look Like?', I put a lot of pressure on myself to have all the answers in this next blog. I have sat down day after day, trying to figure out something profound to say….which has been an absolute nightmare.
I'm not a Christian sex expert. I'm on a journey of sexual healing. So instead of having all the answers–especially ones that I don't yet have for myself—let me set my intention up front for this blog series. I'm simply longing to break the shame of sex in a Christian world that has stayed primarily silent about it—knowing thousands who struggle.
There. I already feel better.
When I first sat down to write the second next part of my blog about Christianity and sex, I got an email from one of my dear friends who rescues kids that have been trafficked for sex. The contents of the email left tears streaming down my face in the middle of a crowded coffee shop, reading about a TODDLER (a year and a half younger than my son Moses) who was raped, severely beaten, and left for dead.
Before I write about anything else, let's stop, pray and agree for healing and restoration, and then put our money where our mouth is and DONATE to make sure this innocent victim gets the medical attention she needs to recover physically and emotionally. Amazing funds have already been raised, but she needs more surgeries and you can help. If you have a heart to partner with an organization who helps in the rehabilitation process after children have been trafficked, I can completely recommend my friend Erica Greve and the powerful work she's doing at Unlikely Heroes.
Situations like this are just evil. Pure evil. And I believe there's a strategic reason why evil attacks innocent victims with perversion in the sexual realm.
If sex can get perverted from its purest form (in any way)….it produces a monster that plagues the head and heart.
And that monster is called…
Any time you drink the kool-aid of shame, I promise, your heart will poison with bitterness….towards yourself. You will be plagued with the disease of self-hatred, believing you're unforgivable….and unlovable. And if you believe you're unforgivable and unlovable, it sure is impossible to live in intimacy with Jesus—the one who forgives and loves unconditionally.
MY FIRST SHAME:
I have faint memories where I can recall certain things about my first house—brown paneling on the walls, the feel of brown carpet between my toes, and the light of sunshine pulling me down the hallway into a bedroom decorated with yellow and green flowers. It was as if something had tethered my heart to slowly drag me like a slave towards the privacy of my bedroom, far away from the shepherding eyes of my parents. Something whispered over my shoulder that I needed to be alone. Something beckoned me into darkened closets where no one could see. Something strong and heavy assured me that I needed to keep what I was doing a secret—or my worst fear would come true.
Everyone would stop loving me—especially the Jesus I had invited into my heart that summer on the trampoline.
When you find yourself sexually awakened as a small child from unwanted encounters beyond your parents’ control, something very natural and instinctive kicks in—even though you wish it wouldn’t. After all, our physical bodies were created by God to be sexual—even if the sexual parts get turned on too early. When those premature sexual urges began to rise up in my body as early as the toddler years, it felt NATURAL to do something about them, even though at the same time, it always felt WRONG.
So how did my little head interpret this message?
SEXUAL feelings produced PLEASURE.
But PLEASURE felt WRONG.
WRONG produced feelings of SHAME.
And SHAME made me feel UNLOVABLE.
Broken down, being sexual made me feel shamefully unlovable—which is the opposite of what I was created for.
I was created for love.
Those confusing compulsions that twisted sex and shameful self-pleasure came knocking at my door before most know how to complete a compound sentence. And when my little body would experience sexual cravings too ravenous to ignore, I would run and hide behind closed doors and under covers to do something about them.
This, as we all know, is called masturbation. And church, we've GOT to start talking about the reality of it, because for those of us who have done it and searched for scriptures about it, we've discovered….the Bible doesn't address it at all. As long as we stay silent and refuse to dialogue about something that's very real—and that scores of Christians do quite frequently—they will continue to do it. But it will be done in secrecy, isolation, and bring on massive amounts of shame.
And as we all know from Adam and Eve's example in the garden, if you live in shame, you will cover yourself from being ONE with love, running and hiding from the God that you were created to be intimate with.
Love produces life. Shame covers you from love….and produces death.
Day after day I would feel sexual urges, do something about them, and experience loads of pleasure. This pleasure comforted me, especially since my heart had been broken by abuse. It helped me temporarily forget about my oceans of emotional pain. And if I'm completely honest, it was one of my favorite things to do in isolation. I loved the way my sexual body felt. I craved orgasms and sexual release, even as a little kid.
Until I finished having one.
Every time—without fail—I felt like a shameful, unlovable, disgusting blob of cow manure for having experienced intense physical pleasure. My head would lower in condemnation, I'd sometimes scream at my reflection in anger….and then as I got older, to comfort myself from the sexual shame…I'd run into the kitchen, bingeing on large amounts of food to comfort myself from the sexual shame. Then to comfort myself from the shame of the binge, I'd run and masturbate again….back and forth, over and over. (You can see how cycles of addiction are impossible to break as long as shame is involved—and if you want to learn more about how to break these cycles, I go into greater detail about this teaching in the ‘God Loves Ugly Study Guide‘).
Over the years, as this scenario repeated itself again and again on a daily basis, a very clear theme was formed in my head, but also in my physical body.
Orgasms are amazing and I love them…..in fact, I loved being intimate with myself in comfort. But it felt wrong to be intimate with myself. It felt wrong to love myself sexually. It felt sinful and dirty.
And I hated myself for it.
NOW, LET ME PAUSE HERE.
Sexual shame can come without sexual abuse, or without addiction to masturbation—as many of you commented on my last blog. Many of you have sexual shame because your bodies have never felt anything sexual.
The church's overall silence about sex leaves Christians learning about it from one primary source—mainstream media. Over the years as we all grow into developing teenagers, most of us have more and more encounters with sex that gets perverted and defiled while living in a modern Western world. I stumbled onto late night porn at a friends house as a kid, and as we all know these days, free porn is about as accessible as water. (Parents, please protect your young kids on the Internet with safe guards!). I found dirty magazines while playing outside in elementary school, and they're everywhere on newsstands these days. Saw my fair share of sex scenes on television and in movies—even with careful parents who tried to protect me…..and of course….simply went through natural hormonal puberty!
But the more sex and feeling sexual was placed in the bad category, the more I learned that bad sex turned on my body.
Until eventually, bad sex was the only thing that could turn me on.
Fast forward. I'm now a newlywed Christian. And sex and pleasure is now permissible.
All of a sudden, a ring, a few public vows, and a kiss were going to fix all my sexual problems, or so I believed. The portion of my life that had brought on so much shame and self-hatred was no longer shameful or to be hated. In fact, it was supposed to be a shameless way that I loved my husband and experienced his love for me.
But what did Christian sex look like? I didn't even know where to look or who to ask since it seemed so awkward to talk about. Were we supposed to pray beforehand, and be very composed, gentle, and slow? Surely Christians didn't do strip tease dances for their husbands (like those sinful strippers). Surely Christians didn't experiment too much with crazy positions, or scream loudly—losing themselves in the moment like they did in porn or bad movies. Surely Christians didn't have phone sex, or act kinky, or use sex toys.
Those were all the things that ‘bad Christa' had done in her head over the years. Those were all the fantasies that made me hate myself. Those were all associated with wrong and impure……and those things made me feel unforgivable, and unlovable.
For twenty-five years, sexual feelings and urges were what I HATED MOST about myself as a Christian. I DESPISED the compulsions. I LOATHED the urges and what they made me do. They made me weak, running to masturbation as a comfort. Made me dirty, and my mind would play out disgusting sexual fantasies. Made me uncontrollable, addicted to an action that I didn't understand.
Is masturbation wrong as a Christian?
Unfortunately, I need more than a blog to break that one down and cover all the holes or I'll get crucified, which I know is disappointing to many of you who are struggling with this component in secrecy and want answers. But let me tell you how I started to break free sexually, breaking the chains of all sexual shame in my own life…….
I completely removed shame from masturbation…..even when I was still addicted to it.
Is masturbation supposed to be shameful?
Absolutely, without a doubt….NO.
Shame has no place in the life of a believer—even for murderers, abusers, adulterers, fornicators, liars or cheaters.
You see, shame is a horrible motivator towards freedom, and it's NOT the conviction of the Holy Spirit. Remember, it's God's KINDNESS that brings us to repentance, not our own violent floggings–even if we deserve to be punished. (Romans 2:4) Godly sorrow produces repentance….not shame. God doesn't get any glory when you beat yourself up—even if you've actually done something that hurts you, or even those you love. (Do not hear me give permission for sin…..the Bible is very clear about this. But the Bible is also very clear about shame….and we do not have permission to live in shame as believers).
Shame pushes away…..but love draws CLOSER.
For many of you who are struggling sexually with pornography, sexual sin, or secrecy and fantasy, when you finish acting out in ways you don't want to……the shame you feel is NOT from God. For those of you in the opposite end of the spectrum, when your bodies shut down completely (like mine did) when sex was finally permissible in marriage….(by the way, this has a name. And it's called Vaginismus)……and your inability to enjoy sex brings about massive amounts of shame……this is what I want you to do.
The second I would finish struggling sexually, or feel ashamed that my body wouldn't work in my marriage bed…..when feelings of shame would try to pour on top of my head like hot lava…..
I would stop. I would sigh deeply.
I would throw back my head, close my eyes, open my heart, flinging off the FEELINGS of shame….
And like a pure and spotless bride, a daughter, and one who BELONGS in my Father's throne room, with boldness and confidence I would RUN towards the throne of grace…..yelling out to my judge…
“I CONFESS, ABBA, I WANT TO COVER MYSELF IN SHAME! I FEEL UNLOVABLE RIGHT NOW! I FEEL UNWORTHY! JUDGE ME, FATHER! JUDGE ME TO THE CORE! JUDGE ME RIGHT NOW, RIGHTEOUS JUDGE! WHAT DO YOU SAY ABOUT ME AT THIS VERY MOMENT??”
Usually with tears streaming down my face…..I would start hearing the Judge's verdict…
Alright, once again, this is entirely too long. But there is more to be said, and I will say it in the weeks ahead. For those of you who want very practical application to break shame in your life, I recently spoke a message at Living Church in Ohio on how to break this monster in your life. (I get up to preach at minute 37:00)
You will never have sexual freedom until you remove shame from your sexuality. Only LOVE transforms us, meeting us where we are, calling us into abundant life through grace and mercy. Praying for you as you begin this road of sexual freedom, if you're on it with me. Praying that we all learn how our good God gave us sex drives that are good, and that when our bodies begin to turn on and feel something sexual, we can see it as a gift that we simply long for deeper connection and intimacy.
Until next time.