Intimacy develops the most human part of our brain

Ugly,

beautiful,

scary,

venomous,

natural,

kind?

The way we respond to and share our perceptions of different things, deeply affects the way we relate, and ultimately allows our neocortex to take control of or reptilian brains and allow us to become intimate.

God made humans as the epitome of his creation, with mental capacities to love and be loved at a level that no other existing creature can experience. Part of this experience is our ability to mind map our own minds, and the minds of those around us. We do this all the time, but maximising the implications of this process is a beautiful thing.

Just as we considered our responses to the snake (above). The way we feel and think about it strongly affects the way we relate to it, ourselves and others. It also affects the way others will be able to respond to us. Neuroscientists tell us that this wonderful interaction of thoughts develops our neocortex, making us most human, and most like God, out creator. Another name for this process is: intimacy.

We are called to be imitators of Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1; Ephesians 5:1-2); to walk in the same ways he walked (1 John 2:6), and to keep his commandments (John 14:15). This process intimately includes us knowing who we are; how we respond to God, ourselves, people and situations; so that we can be authentic, intimate beings. Jesus was very aware of God and himself, and knew how to respond wisely. This ability caused intimacy between Him and all those with whom He interacted. Let’s be believers that choose the same.

So often I find myself, and see many people in relationships, living superficially because they are oblivious of the beautiful process of mind mapping and becoming intimate. Simply put, mind mapping includes:

  • Being aware of my thoughts on something;
  • Allowing someone else to express what they perceive my thoughts to be;
  • Being willing to listen to a description of my thoughts from the other person without taking offence,
  • Being willing to choose a constructive way of communicating how they have described my thoughts,
  • Doing the same for the other person.

When we are able to engage in this process meaningfully, mind-mapping is healthy and fulfilling and creates intimacy. It can sound a bit complicated, but, as I said earlier, we’re all already doing it, but our lack of self-awareness, and the offence we pick up in this process is the problem, and destroys intimacy.

To describe these struggles from a different perspective. When we choose our frustrations and offence over intimacy, we are allowing our reptilian brain to win. The reptilian brain is deep within the brain and is therefore the first part of the brain to develop. It controls our instinctual, survival mechanisms like the need to eat, protect oneself from danger by either fighting or fleeing, and also the need to reproduce (http://interaction-design.org/.literature/article/our-three-brains-the-reptilian-brain [24/1/19]). The neocortex, the most human part of our brain, is the last to develop. It is highly organized and processes motor, emotional and associative information (https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/neuroscience/neocortex, 24/1/19). The neocortex develops the individual’s ability to eventually respond rationally rather than reacting irrationally to things.

Most addictive behaviours and sexually unhealthy behaviours are the result of the neocortex being disengaged, and allowing our basic instincts to rule. It’s not helpful to berate and hate ourselves for this, but we need to choose healthy interactions to allow our neocortex to rule.

So, I want to strongly encourage us to engage this process of mind mapping, so that we can create intimacy and cause our relationships to thrive. While sometimes this process can trigger strong emotions, let’s choose to grow past them (which also means acknowledge them), so that we can start enjoying life at a new level. Here’s something you can do with a close friend:

  1. Look at the picture of the snake together, and become aware of your thoughts and emotions.
  2. Allow your partner to express what they
    believe your thoughts or emotions would be concerning the picture.
  3. Respond (not react) to their perception in a meaningful way.
  4. Do the same process for your partner.

Obviously, a snake, is not a very real issue of life for many. Some other topics you might choose to grow in would be following this strategy concerning:

  • Your parents
  • Your workplaces
  • Your finances
  • (For married couples) Your sex life.

If you would like to receive further counsel, or join others in a journey to a healthy, Godly, sexual lifestyle, please see the options available to you on our website: wonderfullymade.org.za

Intimacy – a building block that keeps the spark

The first earthly experience of intimacy that a child has is when he/she is held by his/her mother, and then noticed through visual contact. This is the first form of post-natal physical and emotional intimacy. Breastfeeding is a subsequent strong factor that develops intimacy, as the child is validated physically by the closeness to his/her mum with her accepting gaze. The hormonal interchange that occurs when breastfeeding includes the release of oxytocin: the attachment hormone.

Another moment where this hormone, oxytocin, is significant, is during orgasm in the sexual cycle. It is good to know that when orgasm is experienced in a healthy covenantal context, the release of oxytocin causes the couple to bond more and more. In men, vasopressin (the equivalent hormone to oxytocin) is released to cause this bonding as well. It is a wonder that God created orgasm to be a bonding moment that mimics the same bonding that occurs between a mother and child during breastfeeding.

This closeness between a mum and her baby also includes the child being noticed. Noticing, and being noticed, are an essential parts of building a healthy sense of intimacy. This is because self-knowledge and learning to know someone else is derived from the basic need for attachment that should have been fulfilled from birth. Research also shows that a foetus will also respond to healthy intimacy within the womb (Flower 1983:11; Perry 1990:138).

All this is marvellous knowledge, and it becomes very helpful to us when people want to grow in intimacy with each other, whether it be casual or deeper friendships, dating, marriage, or growing to love others, as God intended for us. All friendships have to grow over time, and this growth is actually an issue of becoming more intimate – knowing and being known.

Firstly it is good to know that God gave every human being the capacity to become intimate and to bond. Not only does he give us the psychological, intellectual and spiritual capacity to do so, but He backs it up with hormonal interchanges that cement the bonds. Many men don’t believe they have the capacity to become intimate in a non-sexual way. This is untrue – the desire and capacity for intimacy is in every human being. It initiates love and fulfils it. It is an exciting path as we choose to believe that we can know and be known. 

Secondly, whether we had a mother/child relationship to initiate this intimacy or not, it is very good to know that this should have taken place, to understand the possible deficit we carry around our intimacy. The truth is that Father God has made a way through Jesus, to enter into any lack we may have experienced, and through His Holy Spirit, download the basic trust involved in a mother’s intimate gaze, in an instant. I have seen many people have a download of God’s intimate love poured into their being to cover all intimacy deficits. The Trinity relates through intimacy, so being caught up in this Godly relationship always brings healing and restoration that engenders a greater capacity to be intimate.

Thirdly, intimacy is all about noticing and being noticed. We are all observing and perceiving circumstances all the time, and it doesn’t take much to notice someone and validate something in them. So many married couples find their relationship becoming stale because they have forgotten to notice each other and find something new about their partner that can be celebrated. Noticing and being noticed is at the heart of discipling as well. It is when we notice the God-qualities in others and draw it out of them to meet their creator, that they start realising how loved they are and what Jesus has done for them.

Enjoy growing in intimacy with yourself, God and others today:

  1. As a result of what you have read, what intimacy deficit do you think you have? Take courage and ask God to come and fill up that void in you.
  2. As you consider your day, what is one new thing you notice about the way you have behaved, felt or thought in a healthy way? Acknowledge it and celebrate it.
  3. In your dealings with people today, consider one of your interactions and identify a healthy quality you noticed in someone else. How did you respond to it? Was there anything else you could have done to respond to the person more sincerely?
  4. What can you do or say to someone close to you to position yourself in a way that they can notice your love for them? Go for it! It might be scary, but it’s well worth it.

If you would like to receive further counsel, or join others in a journey to a healthy, Godly, sexual lifestyle, please see the options available to you on our website: wonderfullymade.org.za

The importance of intimacy

It is said that any ‘Sex and love Addiction is an Intimacy disorder’. It’s about time we started taking our intimate relationships seriously. Simply put, intimacy is ‘to know’ and ‘be known’. It is one of the most basic needs of all humanity – we all long to know ourselves, have others know us, and know others too.

The Origins of Intimacy

Before the beginning of time, the Father desired to have a family. Firstly, in the form of the trinity, and then with mankind, initially with Adam and Eve (Genesis 1:26). A significant part of this relationship included Father God’s desire to know Jesus and the Holy Spirit, and Adam and Eve, and then to be known by them in a deep and profound way. 

In 1 Corinthians 13:12, Paul writes: ‘For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face.  Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known’ (NKJV). The Apostle, Paul, is making it clear that our heavenly bodies will be known completely, and we will know others, including the trinity, in the same way. Therefore, this knowing links us to heaven and is very significant to God. This knowing is what we understand as intimacy. Being intimate (knowing and being known) separates us from animals; gives us the capacity to confront pain, and allows us to find deep meaningful relationships. Intimacy makes us part of the heavenly family and re-instates each one of us to being able to experience the intimacy that Adam and Eve would have experienced with God in Eden.

Jesus was an intimate man – He had deep relationships with many people, both men and women. In the context of Jesus’ life on earth, his encounter with Mary Magdalene who anointed his feet, was deeply intimate (Mark 14: 3 – 5). The fact that she used perfume worth a year’s wages and then wiped His feet with her hair was alarming to the onlookers, because in that time, woman only let down their hair in the spousal bedroom. Her action was honouring what she knew of Jesus, and helping others to see His majesty.

Jesus understood intimacy, but he didn’t need to sexualize it. Jesus had close relationships with his mother and John, so much so that he made sure Mary had a family and home with John, when he died on the cross (John 19:25) – in this home, she would continue to be known, and be given the opportunity to know others. In this, we see that Jesus knew that family intimacy was essential. The whole of Jesus’ life on earth reveals Him as open to share his heart and life’s blood (literally too) and open to receive, listen, affirm, validate and love those who were willing to share their heart with Him.

These origins emphasise how essential being intimate is. An inability to be intimate with oneself and others is one of the most common causes of unhealthy sexual behaviour. This lack of intimacy is possibly the most significant reason people engage in pre-marital, or casual sex that creates havoc in their lives, and the generations that follow. One of the reasons for this is that a lack of intimacy causes people to yearn so deeply for closeness that they believe sexual interaction will make up for it – in other words, they sexualise this need for closeness. 

Sex, in the right context, is one of the deepest forms of intimacy because it is a complete exposing (physically as well) of our person, with someone else. Sadly, sex can also be had with little, if any, intimacy. If there is no meaningful desire to know or be known between the couples that are having sex, it’s as good as sharing a very precious, costly secret with someone who will not value it and protect it . Too many people mix up their need to know and be known emotionally and intellectually, with sex, which can too quickly create unhealthy sexual scripts that can become addictive. Many porn addicts attest to this being at the heart of their struggle.

Intimacy needs to be developed intentionally for us to become real, authentic human beings that can love extravagantly and be loved in return. So let’s deal with this now. Take some time to:

  1. Acknowledge who you are in God’s eyes – be honest.
  2. Consider how you feel about who you are – why do you feel this way?
  3. Share your revelations of who you are with someone close to you.
  4. Allow them to respond to you.
  5. Validate the person by pointing out something you notice about them.

This process seems very simple and far removed from any sexual behaviour, but be assured that filling ourselves up with the truth of who we are, sharing it accurately with others, and then validating others, is essential to becoming sexually healthy beings.

If you would like to receive further counsel, or join others in a journey to a healthy, Godly, sexual lifestyle, please see the options available to you on our website: wonderfullymade.org.za.

Wholehearted living – it affects our sexuality

To what can I give myself completely? 

What is the legacy I’m living for?

The ever-changing consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic have forced us to re-evaluate the purpose of our existence. One of the results of this purposelessness at this time, has been a sharp rise in the amount of pornography being viewed. It makes good sense when we understand that our heart’s longings to live wholeheartedly, and for a deep, lasting impact, come from the deepest part of our being, and when touched, can cause us to become very irrational.   

The God-given longings of our human heart are strong. More specifically, the healthy fulfilment of our longings to live wholeheartedly, and to have a deep and lasting impact, is essential. Good sexual health, is one of the positive consequences of this.

Jesus speaks of the longing to live wholeheartedly when he quotes the great commandment given to Israel, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind’ (Matthew 22:37-38 [NKJV]). The use of the superlative ‘all’ three times is significant. ‘All’ means everything, without holding back: it includes sacrifice, because it seems that a life poured out for someone else releases deep satisfaction and contentment that can restore and heal. Such is the nature and the result of living wholeheartedly.

In many of Jesus’ parables, he speaks of the importance to live knowing that we will have a deep and lasting impact. He spoke of the faithfulness we show on earth being rewarded in the future, and for eternity (Luke 19: 11-26 [the ten minas], and Matthew 25:31-46 [the sheep and the goats]). Everything about God seems to imply a deep and lasting impact. Jesus’s last command for us to make disciples in Matthew 28 is testimony to the fact that the whole earth should know, love and obey Him, with an eternal purpose in mind – this is living with a deep and lasting impact.

While counselling someone struggling with porn addiction, we were able to get to the point where he realised his obsession with porn was triggered by a change in his position at work. This change had caused him to lose hope and the sense of purpose that gave his entire being meaning. To cover up the pain, he started looking at pornography, and experienced temporary relief through masturbation, followed by paralysing guilt. As we were able to identify the issue that triggered his perceived need for pornography, he was able to let God into the disappointment and have hope restored by trusting God as his provider of a fulfilling and impactful future. Pornography was merely a counterfeit fulfilment for this deeper longing. He made wise choices, was delivered from the spiritual impact of pornography, and restored many relationships in the process. He is now living a purposeful existence again – free from porn. 

Like the disappointment this client felt, many of us find ourselves in a place of insecurity because of a virus that has infiltrated our world and affected every aspect of our beings. The worthy, secure jobs and positions in life that we toiled and sacrificed for in the past, have changed. For many of us, this loss and disappointment has caused us to be half-hearted, with little excitement for our future.

There is no better time for us to realise that God has an answer for these longings, even at this time. He is the provider of all opportunities, and our destinies are wrapped up in His presence and us finding Him. Porn, or other sexually deviant behaviours, may appear to alleviate the frustrations of these longings. Let’s acknowledge these longings, faithfully approach God who gave them to us, and find healthy expressions of them, which will result in true peace and fulfilment.

Questions to ask yourself:
1. What bad habits have you found yourself engaging in in the last 6 months?

2. How has this pandemic affected your perception of what you are called to?

3. Write a ‘calling statement’, that embodies what you believe God has called you to be to the world?

4. How can you change your habits to better reflect the calling you believe God has for this time?

5. With whom are you going to share the changes you will make?

If you would like to receive further counsel, or join others in a journey to a healthy, Godly, sexual lifestyle, please see the options available to you on our website: wonderfullymade.org.za

I AM…

I AM ….. Andre, an Educator, a Caucasian male, a husband, a father, a counselor, a pastor, an exercise fanatic, a shame-breaker, a creative, an INFJ … the list can go on and on.

Why do we need to give ourselves titles and define our identities? What effect can they have on ourselves and others?

In Exodus 3, Moses had that enlightening moment with God, when he heard God speaking audibly from a burning bush. In his attempts to fathom the mission God had called him to, Moses was perplexed that he should go back to Egypt (where he was a wanted man for murder), ask Pharoah to release the Israelites (Pharoah’s cheap labour force), and gather the Israelite nation (his people that were not too accepting and embracing of him), and lead them out of Egypt. In, what I would consider sheer frustration at the thought of how he could garner the favour of Pharoah and the Israelites, Moses asks God, ‘who should I say, has sent me.’

To his surprise, God responds by saying, “I AM who I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you” (Exodus 3: 14). Moses responds obediently to God’s commission, and after some confrontations with Pharoah and regular moments of needing to assure the Israelites that God’s plan would prosper, he leads them out of Egypt. As the ‘I AM who I AM’, guided Moses and the Israelites out of Egypt in miraculous ways, one of the most significant things that happened was that they found their identity as a nation in the desert and eventually overcame and inhabited the promised land.

While counselling, I find too many people carelessly using the phrase ‘I am a/n…’. The consequences of some of these statements have been very destructive. ‘I am unwanted’, ‘I am stupid … owed … unworthy … insignificant … a genius … flawed … demon-possessed … powerful etc.’ Part of the reason for this, I believe, is because only God has the right to say He is the ‘I AM’. When we dare to make a judgement about ourselves and label ourselves I am …’, we are taking His role, and this is very dangerous. In Romans 9:19-20, the Apostle Paul says: ‘But who do you think you are to second-guess God? How could a human being moulded out of clay say to the one who molded him, ‘Why in the world did you make me this way?’ (TPT)

Paul is making it clear that when we give definitions of ourselves that oppose those of God the Father, we are denying our creator (the one who molds us). Simply put, when we do this we are acting out of rebellion, and we are living in idolatry (we place our perceptions of who we are above those of God, our maker). Most of us call ourselves things because of pain, shame, guilt, sin, and hurt that has remoulded what God intended, BUT, God’s definition of us is true, and we need to stop denying ourselves this gift – we are His beloved children in whom He is well pleased! (Matthew 3:17)

When we say ‘I am’, I believe it always needs to be in the context, or perspective, of THE ‘I AM’, and who He says we are first. If we allow our sin, pain, and their consequences to define us, we deny our true identity. All people that have experienced pain, guilt, abuse, shame or any kind of struggle (physically or emotionally) need to be carefully and compassionately cared for, but in such a way that they will always find their true God-given identity, and drop any self-imposed definitions that undermine the ‘I AM’.

This obviously has great consequences for us as we engage the world in which we live. So many new names defining gender identity have been, and are continuing to be created. Gender is one aspect of our sexuality, and research clarifies that our gender differentiation, definition and identification are formed from conception, at birth, and around 3-years-old (Lemmer, 2006: 126-134).

The ‘I AM’ is pretty clear in Genesis 1:27 that definitions around gender of being a man or woman are simple (and within each, diverse), but I fear that we have erred on idolatry and decided that we need to be the ‘I AM’, and formulate identities that are complicated, and are far removed from His simple, loving definitions. It’s no wonder we live in a world full of confusion and struggle concerning gender. We need to be careful.

The most exciting thing about seeing ourselves through the eyes of the I AM is that He reveals facets, sides, shades, textures, colours, melodies and tones that are ‘us’, that without Him, we’d miss.

Whose we are, is more important than who we believe we are. In the context of the ‘I AM’, we, like Moses, can face the trauma of facing our Egypts (circumstances that caused our past hurt, pain and slavery), the Pharoahs (ungodly authority figures in our lives), and even the Israelites (those close to us that have hurt us). God, the ‘I AM’, is more than enough. We do not need to try and redefine who we are because of our pain. Let’s rather see our pain through the perspective of the ‘I AM’. In so doing, we can completely trust His simple definitions of who we are, and find healing and freedom.

I am only the I AM’s.

Sources:

Lemmer, J.  2005. Identity and sexuality. Sexology SA. Pretoria, South Africa

Don’t be a pain – let it work for you! (2)

Don’t be a Pain – use it! (2)

Ignoring our pain will cause us to become a pain – whether it be to ourselves or those around us. Sexual pain is one of the deepest forms of pain and often results in unhealthy sexual ways or thinking that creates even further pain. In my previous blog, I spoke about embracing our pain. May you become one of those who has the courage and strength to do that.

One of the most sobering moments for me as a white South African pastor was when I attended a conference that considered the African male identity. Apart from hearing some heart-wrenching stories in which African men had experienced intense pain, I was introduced to a restoration process that has meant much to me and helped many of my clients. The conference explored a strategy of freedom through which male Africans need to progress so that they can find healing from the pain of Colonial supremacy and patriarchal domination. The suggested stages of real healing and recovery include:

  1. Identification and discovery of the depth of the wound.
  2. Identification of the consequences of the wound.
  3. Healing and recovery from the wound (Reconciliation).

In many African countries, the first stage of identifying the depth of the wound has been addressed (in South Africa the Truth and Reconciliation commission played a significant role in this). Unfortunately, the long-term consequences of the wound have often not been explored and empathised with. So, in many countries that have experienced deep pain, citizens are angry because the longed-awaited reconciliation and recovery is still not a reality. In many cases, this is because the consequences of wounds have not been understood and felt. So, the much-desired recovery and reconciliation has not been realised.

 

As a sexuality counsellor, while the conference experience was difficult, it has helped me to guide people, more effectively to find freedom from pain. I have seen the need for people to follow these three stages of recovery to find freedom from sexual trauma or pain. In order to follow this process, we need to take down our defences and allow the Holy Spirit to shine His light into our hearts so that we can be honest with our pain. This can be painful in itself, but the freedom is well worth it. So, if we follow this strategy at a personal level, it can look something like this:

Identification and discovery of the depth of the wound.

Accepting and quantifying the depth of a sexual wound is painful and needs the gentle love of the Holy Spirit to remove some of the encrusted infected scabs of unforgiveness and shame. Once clients have been able to accept this pain and meaningfully release and forgive those that may have caused it, the Spirit’s healing balm can be applied and soothing repair can begin. Forgiving others and repenting of the lies and beliefs that the victim has allowed to dominate his/her existence becomes easier now. This process is also like healing ointment flushing out the wound. This process can take a moment, days, months or years – it is delicate, but in the hands of Jesus, the True healer, no time will be wasted.

Identification of the consequences of the wound.

Like any physical wound, a scar often forms which becomes a limitation to future activities. In the same way, the scars of an emotional or spiritual wound limits our capacity and ability to engage life. Assisting clients to quantify this limitation also helps them to fully accept and embrace the new life they can now enjoy. Walking with a limp validated Jacob’s calling because it marked his fight with the angels and rooted his calling to something ‘beyond this world’. In the same way, our limitations and scars are not signs of failures, but root our calling in the redemptive power of God. God’s world is an upside world. Our limitations become His opportunities and in the same way, the consequences of our pain and wounding become His opportunity for the miraculous to be manifest. It’s not easy to count the consequences of our pain, but it is helpful to realise the redemptive gift they become in the hands of our miracle working God. God is always up for a circumstance to confound the wisdom and limitations of this world, and our acknowledgement of the consequences of our pain becomes the fertile ground for this to happen.

Healing and recovery from the wound (Reconciliation).

Only once we have allowed Jesus, the wounded, gentle healer into our wounds, and allowed Him into their consequences, can we fully find recovery and reconciliation. It is always our choice and I have had the privilege of helping many through this process.

 

Sexual wounds are often the deepest kind of wound. They also tend to have the most painful consequences. Because of this, when we allow Jesus into them, we will find an outpouring of extravagant love that will bring bucket-loads of freedom, healing, refreshing and hope. My prayer is that you can take that step towards recovery. This is using our pain!

Don’t be a pain – let it work for you!


Everyone experiences pain at some stage in their lives. Unfortunately, in the sex-negative world in which most of us have been raised, the mere suggestion of sex and sexuality can sometimes be very painful. We need to change this view, but this will have to include us identifying, quantifying, feeling and finding healing for our pain. Sexual hang-ups and addictions (especially porn addiction), are rooted in pain and we need courage to face it and find freedom.

Pain is an essential part for our existence as human beings – without it we cannot protect ourselves. Congenital analgesia is a medical condition where children are born with a genetic malfunction that causes them to not feel any pain. In some sufferers of this condition children have landed up playing sport with broken limbs; suffering septicaemia from undetected appendicitis or internal damage; chewing into the nailbed of a finger causing it to rot with the need for amputation, or struggling to distinguish between food and the tongue with ghastly results.

Just as this is the case in the physical, it is also the case for us emotionally and spiritually. If we are going to be healthy people, and enjoy healthy relationships, we need to know that pain is essential for us to know our boundaries, and how we can love.  If we do not acknowledge our pain, realise its extent, care for it and nurture it to healing, it will cause us to choose unhealthy means to make us feel better. In short, we need to claim our pain and find healing from it. Intrinsic in this process is the fact that we become human, compassionate and highly dependent on God. It gives true meaning to what Paul wrote to the Corinthians in 2 Corinthians 1:3

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.

Nowhere in scripture do we find God’s people finding any freedom by running away from their pain. On the contrary, it creates more pain and ultimate destruction. One of the definitions of addiction is: finding a comfort; a band-aid; some kind of panacea for pain. It is very rewarding to help those struggling in their sexuality to embrace their real pain and find true healing through Christ.

Many Biblical characters chose to embraced and see God redeem their pain.

  • Moses ran away from his pain (from Egypt into the wilderness), but after his burning bush experience returned to it and freed the Israelites.
  • Ruth chose to embrace the pain of moving with Naomi to a foreign land without a husband, work or protection. This choice caused her to find favour with Boaz, her Kinsman redeemer, and she became part of Jesus’ bloodline.
  • In the New Testament, Peter, who denied Jesus three times, faced this pain, and Jesus reinstating Him as the ‘rock’ on which the church would be built.

While there is no doubt that God wants to redeem every bit of pain we go through, we must not believe the lie that God is the instigator of pain. Pain is a bi-product of sin and there is no sin in God – He is love. However, because of sin (our own personal sin, that of others and the world’s sin) we experience pain so that we can know where there is disequilibrium in our lives, and pursue healing and freedom. In John 16:33, Jesus says, ‘I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.’ Pain is inevitable, but as believers we are overcomers through Jesus! Jesus suffered intense pain in Gethsemane and on the cross as He endured the pain and assault of every evil demonic force. On the cross, Jesus’ pain was very real. Without acknowledging, embracing and learning from Jesus’ pain, our freedom would be cheap. As we embrace, acknowledging, learn from, and pursue God’s healing of our pain, there is redemption and more of God’s Kingdom comes on earth as it is in heaven.

Becoming responsible with our pain by allowing God’s kind love to transform our hearts to forgive and be healed is challenging but also exciting. Healthy, positive sexuality should be the reality for everyone. If this is not your reality I trust that you will take heart and know that your pain does not have to define you – you can be healed from it – your pain can become your gain – use it!

The naked truth about Shame

God has this covered … in more ways than one.

As my husband counsels people who are burdened with shame or struggling with relational intimacy in marriage and friendships, I have pondered the issue of hiding secrets. I went to Genesis 3 to read about the first time a person felt the need to hide. I found there that God’s intention for His relationship with mankind was to be intimate without shame.  When man picked that forbidden fruit, he became self-conscious. Chapter 3 verse 7-8 says, “Then the eyes of both (Adam and Eve) were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths. And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.” ESV

 

What I noticed anew in this story, is that when they realised they had done something bad, they tried to fix it themselves. Imagine trying to sew underwear out of bits of plants!! The thought of how to do it, to make a flexible, comfortable, non-scratchy garment to cover… ‘there’. The creativity was woven into man’s framework because he was made in the image of the Trinity, but imagine the brain scrambling that went on that day to complete a garment, made entirely from organic material, before the sun went down. Is this where the idea for ‘Project Runway’ was born? Or rather, project runaway?

 

I cringe to imagine the sight of those two appearing before the loving Father with scratchy, badly made and desperately inappropriate undergarments! I imagine them tentatively creeping out into the open, wide eyed and nervously afraid in the hopes that He would not notice their ill-fitting garb. Well, that backfired!  He not only noticed, but He modeled perfect parenting. 1 – He did not laugh. 2 – He asked questions. In typical human response, man blamed woman who blamed the serpent. Shame usually leads to blame, but this is no laughing matter to God. It caused God to shed the blood of an innocent animal – the first sacrifice – to cover Adam and Eve’s shame.

 

God, the first clothing designer, took the skins of animals (Genesis 3: 21) to cover the shame of their nakedness. There is so much shame and pain and humiliation around nakedness. Bullying, mocking, teasing and crass joking about private parts has been part of the human existence since Eden, but God’s plan has always been to restore this to healthy respect, cherishing the beauty of what He created. So much so that the underwear saga is raised  again by the Psalmist who prophesies about it in Psalm 22. If you have ever been sexually abused or mocked or humiliated or bullied in front of others, go and read the lyrics of this song / Psalm and know that you are not alone or abandoned in the heart of the Real Father. This verse is acted out in human flesh hundreds of years later.

 

The Creator’s plan for intimacy without shame was so precious to him that He sacrificed another perfect and innocent being, Jesus Christ, His Only Son, The Lamb of God, more than 60 generations later. What was the Son of Man wearing on the cross? PG rated pictures and movies cannot expose the shame that Jesus took – publicly humiliated as he was dragged, half naked, through the streets and then exposed, arms wide open, naked on top of a hill during a national festival. To top it all the military guys, the men of men, jeered at Him and, without realising it, fulfilled Psalm 22, as they gambled for His underwear: vs 17b -18 “They look, they stare at me. They divide my clothing among them and cast lots for my garment.” (AMP). This garment was, no doubt, sweaty and bloody after the torture he had been through the previous day. What terrible shame! This perfectly, seamless item of clothing woven in one piece of expensive fine linen, was an ultimate and intimate indication that no shame is EVER too great to keep you out of the Father’s love.

 

In Ezekiel 44. 17-19 there was a specific instruction to the priests ministering in the inner courts of the temple. “When they enter the gates of the inner court, they shall wear linen garments….and linen undergarments around their waists. They shall have no wool near them lest they sweat. (Remember how Jesus sweated in the Garden of Gethsemane). And when they go out to the people, they shall put off the garments in which they have been ministering and lay them in the holy chambers … lest they transmit holiness to the people with their garments.” Even the garments that the Son and Priest of God wore at the cross, were significant in revealing the holiness that God makes available to me and you at this beautifully horrible exchange.

 

You were designed to be loved and accepted and protected and covered by the Creator family: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The Son took your place so you can have His. He was the ‘first fruit’ of heaven and He became the cursed fruit (cursed is the one hung on a tree) so that we could be restored to the garden and live freely in the presence of the creator God. So, walk freely in this restoration because… God has you covered.

A way out (from porn addiction)

Shame and guilt is the most common result of porn addiction. Attempts to break free are so often hampered by a focus on behavior when we’re told: ‘get rid of your smart phone’; ‘put spy-wear on your internet devices’ … and so it goes on.

While management is important, Porn addiction is just that – an addiction, and the addict behaves the way he/she does because there is so much pain in a part of their life that in the instant of it being touched, unwanted, care-less, embarrassing behavior is the consequence.

To break any addiction, we have to start with considering ‘misbeliefs’ we have about God our maker, and ourselves. Often these are created through painful experiences in life, and whenever the emotion of those experiences is touched, we are overwhelmed and we behave in a way that we sometimes don’t understand.

So if you are in this place today, start by considering your belief system. Maybe you want to check out your beliefs about fascination by answering these questions for yourself:

  •  Did God really give us a longing to be fascinated?
    • If He did not, then why are we fascinated?
    • If He did, then How has he gifted me to fulfill this longing in a wholesome way?

As you answer these questions, you might want to consider Revelations 4 in the Bible, and consider how very fascinated every living creature is in Heaven.

Now just before you finish reading – what healthy fascination did you have when you were about 6 years’ old.  Maybe you can pursue that fascination in the next two days, and  allow that to focus your attention, especially when you are tempted to look at pornography.

Next blog we’ll consider some more ‘misbeliefs’. May you know rich favor as you reroot yourself into real truth.