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

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!

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.