Tag Archives: Sexuality

What’s Broken

I’ve asserted for the past several days that broken sexuality came into our world as a result of the fall.  While I certainly don’t intend to backpedal on that point, I think there is more to why sexuality is so broken in our culture than the fall itself.  It’s a perpetuation of the prevailing attitudes that resulted in the fall;  attitudes we are all prone to, whether we admit it or not.

We see something, we begin to desire it, and we think we’re entitled to have it.

Eve saw the “tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise” and she just had to eat its fruit.  After all, why would God withhold something good from her?

This rationalization is ever-present when I’m being tempted, and it is exactly where we get ourselves into trouble when we talk about sexuality and sexual expression.  In our culture (and even in the Church), committed relationships, marriage, and sex are not just good, they are often thought to be the be-all-and-end-all.  It is suddenly necessary for good health to express yourself sexually.

Now, committed relationships, marriage and sex are all good and I believe they are gifts from God, but they are not gifts He gives to everyone.  They’re not even gifts He gives everyone who desires them.  He certainly hasn’t given them to me yet.

God must be withholding from me.  Right?  And since He’s withholding something good, I have the right to go outside of His design in order to satisfy my desires.  Right?

First of all, God does not withhold good things “from those who walk uprightly” (Psalm 84:11).  Secondly, although I do not think I’m wrong to desire any of these things, my desires never trump God’s clearly declared will for me.  First John 2:16 says, “All that is in the world – the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, the pride of life – is not of the Father, but is of the world.” When what I desire becomes paramount to God’s will, it becomes lust, and lust and the things lust brings about are not of God, and are not good.

We don’t like to be dependent.

One thing that struck me about Matthew Vines’ testimony was that at the end, he expressed that gay people were not broken, and how hurtful it is to refer to them as such.  On one hand, if he’s referring to Christians, he’s right: redeemed gay people should identify with Christ and the healing and restoration He brings, and other believers should encourage them in that identity.

On the other hand, we are all broken people living in a broken world.  We all sin and fall short of the glory of God, and it is only because of Christ that we can have fellowship with Him at all.  We are none of us perfect; none of us has arrived.  While we can have tremendous victory in Christ, we still need, we still lack on this earth.  We can’t deal with our own imperfections, let alone the imperfections of others. And I think that deep in our hearts, we all know this, even if we never say it out loud.

I think we need to start saying it out loud more: “Look, I struggle with ______________.” Humbly admit our imperfections, graciously accept the imperfections of others when they are confessed to us.  If we don’t cultivate an atmosphere of openness and brokenness about sin (even “little” sins), we cultivate atmospheres of pride and no accountability for sin.  That is how we start accepting sin as somehow less offensive to God, in our own lives, and in the lives of others.

Of course, some people in the Church do not want accountability – we’ve hardened ourselves to it.  Being held accountable is now thought of as spiritual abuse, or an authoritarian church culture. (“Who are YOU to be all up in my business?”)   We can’t make them accountable.  I can’t make you accountable.

I can make myself accountable.  I can seek out accountability.  I can be honest about my struggles, allow people to lovingly correct me, pray over me, and encourage me.

This has been a challenging topic to think about and write, and I’m sure it’s a challenging topic to read.  I wanted to say these things, want to be clear about where I stand.  I want to be balanced: loving and truthful.  If you’ve read all of it, I want to thank you for sticking with me on a controversial and emotional subject.  I don’t normally write about things like this, because I’d rather let people think what they think what they want and I think what I want and we all just leave each other alone.  Unfortunately, I can’t do that anymore.  Gotta’ get real.

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Victory and Redemption

Today is where the subject of broken sexuality gets sticky.  Like, really sticky.  I know what I believe about this topic, but I also know what others (on both sides of the debate) believe. Like everything else I write about, I want to handle this with grace and compassion AND truth and authority.

I believe broken sexuality was introduced to the world because of the fall, like every other form of brokenness.  (Examples of broken sexuality can include, but are not limited to sexual abuse of children, rape, adultery, sexual immorality, homosexuality, feminism, manosphere, viewing pornography, and masturbation in that they fall outside of God’s original design for sexual relationships being shared between one man and one woman).  We know that sin produces a distance from God, and I think rampant broken sexuality in our culture is the direct result of our collective distance from God as human beings.

After the fall, God introduced the law to His people, the Israelites.  The law can be viewed as God’s code of expected behavior for His people, and it contains MANY laws concerning sexual conduct. I believe the purpose of the law was to keep His people close to Him.  The problem was that nobody could obey the entire law, and they were stuck in a cycle of punishment and animal sacrifice.  Keeping the law was impossible for broken people. So God sent His Son, Jesus to bear the punishment for the sin of the human race.  He was perfect in that He did not sin and was able to keep God’s law perfectly.  His death and resurrection opened the door to a relationship with God for broken people who accept His work on their behalf: it was a redemptive act, an act of buying back, or restoring something to its intended position. Not only that, but  Jesus took away the power and the penalty of sin for those who believe in Him (1 Corinthians 15:54-57).

How does this good news about Jesus apply to the broken sexuality we see all around us?

Let me be clear: as a believer in Jesus Christ as my Savior from sin, I am not sinless.  Not even close.  However, I am no longer obligated, or enslaved to sin (see Romans 6, I truly cannot pick one verse from that chapter).  Since I am a believer, I have the guidance and help of the Holy Spirit (John 14:16-17, 16:7-11), I have the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16) and His indwelling presence (Galatians 2:20), and I have at my disposal everything needed for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3).

This means as a believing single woman, I do not have to seek to satisfy my sexual needs outside of a covenant relationship, although I may be tempted to.  It means that a Christian lesbian does not have to enter a relationship (committed or otherwise) with another woman, although she may struggle with same sex attraction. It means that a Christian man married to a woman who for whatever reason is not meeting his sexual needs does not have to take his needs to another woman, although he may be tempted to.

You see, temptation is not a sin.  It is when we act on our temptation that we sin.  Acting on temptation is usually a result of either dwelling too much on the temptation or trying to deal with it ourselves.  We need to go to God with our temptation!  I think there are places and situations that make us more vulnerable to temptation, and we should know our own triggers and avoid them, but temptation is going to come whether we make ourselves vulnerable or not. The good news is we can have victory over temptation because of the resources we have in Christ.

Knowing Jesus has changed A LOT in my life over the course of MANY years, but nothing has changed about the fact that I am a sexual being and that I desire sexual intimacy. (Too much information?)  I pray (pretty much every day, haha) for God to bring me a husband or to minimize this desire.  Two years in, He hasn’t answered either prayer in the affirmative, and He’s certainly not obligated to any time in the future.  I talk to God in great detail about this desire, and even if He never satisfies it the way I want it satisfied, it still will have drawn me closer to and made me far more dependent on Him.  In no way am I to take this matter into my own hands.

And so I have to come back to homosexuality for a minute.  I don’t think homosexuality is any more broken or sinful than any other expression of fallen sexuality.  I really don’t.  (If I did think of one on my list as most broken, it would undoubtedly be sexual abuse of children, but I can’t say authoritatively that God sees that the way I do).

I hear many stories in evangelical Christianity of homosexuals coming to Christ, and how He transforms their sexuality, and I love hearing those stories.  I think, however, as evangelical Christians, we need to acknowledge that this is not every gay person’s testimony. Some gay people come to Christ, and still deal day in and day out with same sex attraction, and because of this, they may fall into sin. Some people were Christians before they realized/acknowledged they struggled with same sex attraction and/or homosexual expression.

These people have my sympathy and compassion, but I cannot condone homosexual marriages or relationships, just as I cannot condone a pornography or masturbation habit, sexual immorality, or adultery. All of these things fall outside of God’s original design for sexuality, regardless of where our feelings, desires, or temptations lie.  It goes back to my earlier point: no matter how much we surrender to God, sometimes He does not take our desires away.  It’s not because He is okay with us acting on our desires, but because not acting on our desires draws us closer to Him, makes us depend on Him in times of great weakness.

I want to tell you and I want to tell myself that hey, it’s okay:  God doesn’t really expect us to live according to His standards for sexuality.  He doesn’t really think we can, because we’re all just broken people anyway.  But that wouldn’t be truthful, because He is clear that in Him we have everything we need. We cannot sacrifice His standards for our feelings, desires, or temptations.

I acknowledge it is not easy; in fact, most days, it’s very hard.  I acknowledge that these are legitimate struggles, not to be squashed down and ignored.  I get it, and I’m with you (all of you) on this journey.  I want us all to have safe people with whom to talk and pray about our sexual brokenness, people who won’t make us feel bad about ourselves, but I also acknowledge that in God’s presence is the safest place to be in this struggle.

If you’re a believer in Jesus as Savior from sin, your identity is not founded in brokenness anymore, it’s founded in redemption and victory.  God wants to use your brokenness for His glory, and don’t ever let anyone trick you into thinking He can’t or He won’t.  And God gives you everything you need for victory over sin; just haul those feelings, desires and temptations before Him every single time, and great things will happen.

 

 

 

 

 

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We’re All Broken

Yesterday I posed a question: What are some examples of broken or fallen sexuality you see in our culture today? (Read: how is sexuality misused or has fallen away from God’s design since the fall?)

This is a question I’ve been pondering lately because of two things: a news article about a child sex offender and the testimony of a gay Christian man.

I read this article two days ago: “John Burbine, 50, was arrested in September 2012, and faces 100 criminal counts related to sexual assault of children, ranging in age from 8 days to 3-1/2 years, to whom he gained access through his wife’s unlicensed day-care business” (MSN).  To be sure, this is disturbing by itself, but I was most unsettled by this comment from his lawyer: “His inability to conform his desires, or his behavior, is all oriented towards sex, and so what we said is: ‘What about treatment?’ We would put forth a bilateral orchiectomy.”  That’s right, this man cannot change his desires, which in turn affect his behavior, and so his lawyer has proposed castration in order to lessen his prison time.  I was disgusted by this man’s excuse that he simply can’t rewire his desires, his refusal to take responsibility for his own actions.  What kind of pervert desires children sexually?

But what I think produced the most turmoil within me was the fact that I use this argument frequently when speaking on behalf of gay people, particularly those gay people within the church: they cannot help what they are attracted to.  And I use this argument because I know I cannot help what I am attracted to (speaking on a purely physical level here).  I don’t remember a time when I sat down and had a conversation with myself where I said, “Okay, Lydia, you are attracted to men, and not just any men, but men who exhibit these physical qualities.”  Some girls look at what physically attracts me, and they raise their eyebrows, because it’s not the same as what attracts them.

For a separate research project, later that evening I began to do some research on testimonies of Christians who struggle or have struggled with same sex attraction, and I came across Matthew Vines’ testimony and exegesis on Bible passages concerning homosexuality.  Although I disagree greatly with his interpretation of the New Testament passages, I greatly sympathize with his struggle as a gay man in the Church.  Well, I say I sympathize, but I’m reasonably certain I can’t even begin to imagine, although I’m trying to – I really am.

In his argument, he brings up the term “broken sexuality,” and by it I believe he refers to what evangelical Christians see as anything outside of God’s design before sin entered the world; that is, anything outside of the one-man-one-woman sexual design.  Even the most sympathetic evangelical Christian sees homosexuality as broken or fallen sexuality – sexuality directly related to the entrance of sin into the world, a fact that causes Mr. Vines and other gay brothers and sisters in Christ a great deal of pain.  Understandably so: none of us like to acknowledge the brokenness and fallenness in ourselves.

I would agree with the prevailing evangelical Christian view that homosexuality is one example of broken or fallen sexuality, but it is not the only example of broken or fallen sexuality, nor would I say it is the most broken or most fallen example.  I think that to some degree or another, all of us have something broken in our sexuality, and none of us are 100% living out God’s intended design.

So what are some other examples of broken or fallen sexuality?  And you know what, yesterday I asked about our culture, but I’m going to narrow it down to the Church.

  • Sexual abuse of children.  Something is broken or fallen in a person who sexually abuses a child.
  • Rape.  Something is broken or fallen in a person who sexually forces themselves on another.
  • Adultery.  Something is broken or fallen in people who fulfill their sexual desires outside of their covenant relationship with their spouses and God.
  • Feminism and the Manosphere.  Something is broken or fallen in people who think it is their role to dominate in a relationship.

It’s not exclusive to gay people: brokenness and fallenness exist in all of us.

So what is the answer?  Stick with me and you’ll find out!

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I Want To Have a Conversation

I want to have a conversation.

It’s about something I feel we either oversimplify or mischaracterize or ignore altogether in Evangelical Christendom. It’s making evangelical Christians (with whom I mostly identify) woefully unprepared not just to engage the lost, but to address the issue with brothers and sisters in Christ who struggle with it.  I think as believers in general and evangelical Christians we ought to be informed about the issue especially as it relates to the Church, and compassionate towards those who struggle with it, especially other believers AND we need to balance our information and compassion with the truth and authority of God’s Word.

I don’t want to be the one to facilitate this conversation.  I am afraid it will end up into little more than a debate, with each side painting the other with some pretty broad strokes.  It’s a passion-fueled topic no matter where you find yourself along its spectrum.  And I feel unqualified.

And yet, I want to have this conversation.  I can’t write a post like I did yesterday and announce that I’m sick of the arguments over things that don’t matter, while completely ignoring the things that do.

Y’all, I want to talk about sexuality as it relates to the fall; broken, or fallen sexuality. I primarily want to talk about it with evangelical Christians, but anyone is welcome to weigh in with their thoughts.  This conversation will be heavily moderated. I won’t hesitate to remove broad generalizations and less than gracious comments/responses.  I want to have a productive conversation here.

So here is my question for today: What are some examples of broken or fallen sexuality you see in our culture today? (read: how is sexuality misused or has fallen away from God’s design since the fall?) Feel free to comment on whatever comes to mind! (But, you know, do it in a way that complies with my guidelines above).

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Framework: Dating and Courtship Models

The Traditional Courtship Model

When I refer to the “Traditional” courtship model, I don’t mean that it is necessarily normal, and I certainly don’t mean that it is somehow better or more Scriptural than any other brand of courtship.  I do mean that it is the model I was raised in and that many of the people I grew up with were raised in. However, even among us, I use the term “traditional” very loosely, because there are varying degrees at which it plays out.

At its most basic, this model teaches that the father is the keeper and protector of his daughter’s heart until she marries, at which time those duties are passed to her husband.  For this reason, any young man (or maybe old man, I don’t know) expressing interest in the daughter must be sent to the father. The father ascertains the man’s suitability for his daughter on the basis of maturity – spiritual, emotional, physical. If he passes the father’s inspection, and the daughter agrees, the man and  the daughter get to know each other within predetermined (by the father and sometimes the couple) boundaries. Again, it can work a little differently depending on the family or even the daughter.

I have been blessed to see my two older sisters have successful courtships and marriages based on this model. I even have a handful of friends who have courted and married. For me personally, there is something hopelessly romantic about a guy who talks to my dad about getting to know me, mostly because if you don’t know him well, talking to my dad takes courage. (And I value courage). And I certainly prefer this model to the commitmentless dating games that go on in secular relationships.

But I’m not completely sold on this model. (Shocking, I know).

My Reservations About the Traditional Courtship Model

Despite what some people believe (yes, even in my circle), the “Traditional” courtship model is not commanded in God’s Word. Trust me, I’ve been asking and looking for years. Nor can I find a shred of evidence to support the principle on which this model is based – that of the father being keeper and protector of the daughter’s heart. Don’t get me wrong. As I said earlier, I like the idea of courtship. I am so thankful to have a dad who is willing to look out for me, who desires to know who and what I am involved with, who prays with me and for me. But. The Bible is clear: I am responsible for my own heart. Proverbs 4:23 says, “Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it flow the issues of life.” The command to keep one’s heart falls to the individual, not her parents, I think for obvious reasons.

The other thing I have noticed (and it sort of goes hand in hand) is a really subtle, but harmful message being sent to some Christian young women because of the execution of this model in some circles. I was reading the courtship story of a woman from a prominent homeschooling family. She said was not equipped to discern God’s will for a husband because of her gullibility. And I just about cried. Who gave her this view of herself? This view that she cannot be trusted to know what God’s will is for her, what is good and necessary for her? Again, please don’t take this the wrong way. I don’t think it’s the “Traditional” courtship model sending this message. I think it’s the courtship model in the hands of an enemy using a fallen race to destroy each other. Still, I think it’s an issue worth considering.

Women were created in the image of God, just as much as men. He created women for a high purpose: to be helpers and companions of men.  On top of that, I am a redeemed woman. That is the blood of Christ covers my sin just as much as it covers the sin of any man. The Holy Spirit indwells and seals me, just as much as redeemed men. And as He leads and guides, I am able to discern His will, His heart for me, what I really need. Oh sure, I make mistakes, but it’s not because I’m a woman. It’s because I’m a sinful human being.

My Personal Preference

Basically, the way I want to go about a relationship involves balancing a watched-over heart with vulnerability, getting to know a guy to see if there is marriage potential, and seeking out godly counsel and accountability for the relationship. It doesn’t necessarily involve a guy getting my dad’s permission to get to know me, or letting a guy do all of the “work”, or letting someone else set up the boundaries.

Guarding my heart and being vulnerable. In terms of relationships, this is the ultimate tight rope walk for me. On one hand, I don’t want my heart to be broken by developing an emotional attachment before anything official happens, and on the other hand, I want to be the kind of girl who is approachable and vulnerable with any godly man who wants to pursue me.

I think for women it is important to know our emotional triggers so we can better watch what is going on in our hearts. There is nothing I like or respect more than when a guy takes the time to draw me out, or to ask for and listen to my opinion on something. Since it means so much to me, I have to be careful not to make more of his consideration than it actually is. If I end up developing feelings for or an attraction to him because of this trigger, I know I’m in dangerous territory. Not because my feelings are bad (because I typically am attracted to good things), but because these feelings can quickly develop into lust for me – where I get possessive and protective of someone who isn’t mine. The other option I have is being aware of my feelings, bringing them before God whenever they arise, and resting that if He thinks this is a good thing, He can make it happen, or otherwise take care of my feelings.

My other struggle is that I’m sort of unapproachable. I’m not intentionally this way, I’m just quiet until I’m comfortable. I’ve been praying about being more approachable in general, and last week, God convicted me to smile more. So simple.  I’m also not very good about initiating vulnerability. I will share when I’m asked, but I typically don’t volunteer information. Sometimes, I’m pretty self-centered and don’t think of other people’s needs to be vulnerable. Availability is important.

The objective of marriage. For the record, I do want to get married. I believe that someday I will be married. If I didn’t want to get married, and I wasn’t ready to be married, I wouldn’t be interested in being in a relationship right now.

So what does an objective of marriage mean to me? It means that throughout the relationship, we will get to know each other within the context of, “Could I be married for the rest of my life to this person?” If yes, we will go from there. If no, the purpose of the relationship has been fulfilled and we can hopefully move away from it amicably. Obviously, a lot of prayer will go into it.

Godly counsel and accountability. I want to have an open relationship. Not just openness between the guy and I, but an openness that makes people feel comfortable giving us advice and keeping us accountable. These people include parents. I think our parents typically know us well, and can offer insights that our feelings may be blocking. And older siblings who have been there before. And other couples who have relationship experience. Proverbs says, “In the multitude of counselors there is safety.” And I believe that.

And this is the approach I will use when discussing dating and relationships from this point forward on my blog.

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Framework: Authority

I look at authority this way.

I ultimately answer to God, and will someday give an account to Him of what I have done (or not done, as the case may be), as will all believers.

In this life, however, God has provided me with an authority structure in the form of my parents. Mostly they just provide counsel, but occasionally, they will tell me what to do.

I am an adult. I do not like being told what to do. Furthermore, I do not have to do what I’m told.

But, when my parents tell (not advise) me to do something, I generally do it. I don’t always like it, but I try to listen to and respect my parents.  When I get married, the authority will be transferred from my parents to my husband. My husband will then have the final word. And I’m sure there will be times when I don’t like it, but I will listen to and respect my husband.

This is why I had to talk about perceptions of gender. To an egalitarian, what I just described sounds oppressive, even abusive. To someone within patriarchy, what I just said was disrespectful, and I should get off the computer and learn to keep house. It might not even sound great to your run-of-the-mill complementarian.

Here’s the thing. As believers, we are all called to submission.

I submit first to God. I recognize His Sovereignty and I long more than anything to do His will. He has placed me with my parents on purpose. If I ever get married, He will have orchestrated that as well. When I disagree with what my parents tell me to do, I commit that situation to God. I ask Him to either change their hearts, or change mine, knowing that if He chose to, He could change my circumstances in a heartbeat.  If He doesn’t change anything, I accept that this is where He wants me to be.

I say all of this because the authority I am under has determined the relationship model I will follow.

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Framework: Gender

Since I’m going to be talking about romantic relationships a lot on this blog, I think it is important to address the different perceptions of gender that exist among Christians as a sort of framework for future posts, and where I come in on that debate. To be clear, I don’t think one’s perception of gender is a salvational issue, but how I view gender has certainly informed the views I’ve developed regarding romantic relationships. Since this is not a salvational issue, I don’t expect you to go away questioning your faith because you disagree with me, nor will I question my faith because I disagree with you.

I have been exposed to three views concerning gender in Christianity: egalitarianism, patriarchy, and complementarianism. According to Theopedia, egalitarianism ” is a movement based on the theological view that not only are all people equal before God in their personhood, but there are no gender-based limitations of what functions or roles each can fulfill in the home, the church, and the society.” Conversely, complementarianism “is the theological view that although men and women are created equal in their being and personhood, they are created to complement each other via different roles and responsibilities as manifested in marriage, family life, religious leadership, and elsewhere” (Theopedia). It is harder to nail down a definition for patriarchy (in other places known as Biblical patriarchy). Wikipedia says patriarchy “sees the father as the head of the home, and responsible for the conduct of his family,” and I think that is fairly accurate. I would add that traditionally in patriarchy, the woman’s place and purpose are in the home.

All three of these belief systems are more like spectrums: people vary in degrees of liberalism and conservatism in all of them. Because of this, there are fringe groups between egalitarianism and complementarianism and between complementarianism and patriarchy. (But never between egalitarianism and patriarchy – they are pretty much opposed).

I was raised on the borderline of complementarianism and patriarchy, but as I’ve developed my own convictions about gender, I am squarely complementarian.

Unlike egalitarians, I do not believe that God created males and females to fulfill the same roles in life. As a woman, my fundamental design is different from that of a man – physical, emotional, spiritual – and therefore my purpose is also different. My purpose may include anything God has laid on my heart to do, but rest assured, God does not call anyone to do anything outside of His revealed will (the Bible).

Unlike those within patriarchy, I do not believe I am a lesser being because I am a woman, more susceptible to temptation and sin and thus incapable of making  my own decisions. Granted, I have made bad decisions in my life, but that’s not because I’m a woman; it’s because I’m human. Nor do I believe my father or future husband will be held accountable for my faith. I have the same access to God as any man and am responsible for my own response to Christ’s salvation and following Him.

What does any of this have to do with romantic relationships? The way we look at God’s design for gender will inevitably determine how we look at authority. How we look at authority will determine how we look at potential mates.

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