Sexuality: the Plan, the Problem, and the Promise
Just this week, I received two emails from individuals who are on opposite sides of the sin of adultery. One person is trying to salvage her marriage after an affair which won’t seem to end, and another confessed to being on the verge of choosing an adulterous relationship and (coincidentally) stumbled on my blog. Their emails have blessed and humbled me in ways I am unable to describe.
Their stories are why I continue to blog.
The church my husband and I attend is quite large, much larger than the one we came from, and for the most part, I am unknown. It is a very freeing experience. About a month ago I attended a woman’s retreat and I was blessed to have made a couple of new friends. It won’t come as a surprise to those who know me that I shared some of the journey my husband and I are on.
After the retreat I became Facebook friends with three of the women, knowing that being FB friends meant they might see my blog. I decided that I was okay with that. I have opened myself up to people around the globe, how different could it be to open myself up to people with whom I worship, study, and serve?
This weekend I experienced the difference.
In the latest post, Gossip, Pride and Adultery, I made mention of an awareness that I was capable of falling in the same way I had fallen before–or at least having the same temptations rise. I felt brave when I acknowledged this about myself. Like a girl with a sword, I fiercely cut the enemy down in the exact place where he would like to destroy me. There was victory in my confession. It didn’t occur to me that I may be opening the door to a level of accountability I never bargained on–or what it would feel like.
Last Sunday between church services I was talking with one of my new friends who has read and ‘Liked’ a couple of my blog posts. Our conversation was weaving through different topics. We talked about The Best Yes study we are both doing. We talked about my new job. It was in that moment she asked me a point blank question about my boundaries.
“You are fit and pretty. I would imagine there might be men coming into your work who would find you attractive. I’m sure you always try to look nice. So…how are you going to keep things from crossing a line? How are you going to let men know you are off limits?”
A couple of things happened when she asked me the question. Two things were immediate, the third came a few days later.
I realized I had a plan
She paused as she waited for my answer. There was nothing rhetorical about her question. She wanted to know my plan of action.
What would I do if a man who came into my workplace were to make it apparent that he found me attractive? How am I going to keep preferred boundaries with male coworkers?
Without hesitating, I answered her. “Eye contact.”
The outward boundaries in maintaining sexual integrity starts with eye contact. Looking back, I recollect that my own affair began with looks and glances long before anything “inappropriate” was verbalized. The outward manifestation of the inward sin started with eye contact that lasted longer than was necessary or appropriate.
The plan for purity starts with the heart. It’s internal. This is true not only for marital fidelity but for all forms of sexual purity. That being said, I can only watch over my heart–and I cannot see into the heart of the people I encounter as I am doing life. I do not know what someone else may be struggling with, and I have to navigate my actions in a polite manner which will protect both myself and my husband. If I am going to live in a world acknowledging my weaknesses, I have to change my behavior based on what I acknowledge. Merely recognizing a problem but not amending it is stupidity.
I was reminded I have a problem
As I walked away from my friend, and into the worship service at my church, I didn’t feel good at all. There was a nauseousness rising inside of me. When I listened to the first song being sung, I felt downright sick. How did I become someone who would need to be asked such an invasive and personal question? How embarrassed should I feel for the things I am revealing about myself in my blog? What do people really think about me? Is the Scarlett Letter getting bolder and brighter over time?
I spent the rest of the day pondering the conversation. I shared what had happened with my husband. When I shared what my response had been I felt embarrassed. What kind of wife has to tell her husband her plan for keeping boundaries with other men? What kind of wife shares with her husband what she has learned about the initial advances of an affair? The incident left me feeling shameful and tearful.
I crawled onto the couch with my husband, and we watched our new favorite NFL Football team win again 🙂 But, my Sunday afternoon was somber even as the sun fell behind the mountains.
Why was this call to accountability causing me to feel dirty all over again? The reason was simple: it bristles my skin to be reminded of my true weakness. It is uncomfortable to have someone hold me accountable for areas dealing with my sexuality. I would rather be held accountable for something we all struggle with.
Ask me if I am reading scripture–maybe it was a good week. Ask me about my prayer life–we all struggle with that one, right?And, by the way, did I ask you to hold me accountable? And, on a Sunday morning? I thought we Christians had certain unspoken agreements:
- After I come to you and ask for accountability, then you may ask me how I am doing. But only on the designated day that we meet at a coffeehouse for our “Time of Accountability”
- Church is not the time for making another believer feel uncomfortable. When we gather, it is for “fellowship” and your job to make sure the people you encounter feel loved and valued. The way people “feel” is of vital importance. Disrupting another believer’s time of worship by having awkward conversations may result in someone forsaking the “fellowship” of the believers altogether.
That was my attempt at sarcasm.
When a man is getting better, he understands more and more clearly the evil that’s left in him. When a man is getting worse, he understands his own badness less and less. -C.S. Lewis
I rejoiced in the promise
It didn’t happen right away. Rejoicing was pretty far away for a couple days.
I’ve learned there is no escape on these days. Any attempt to escape only prolongs the journey. It’s better to lean into it. Rather than asking God to take the burden away, we need to ask Him to refine us through the uncomfortable feelings–to let us see His heart in the matter.
It was in this time I was able to see Him, and what He wanted to show me.
I can write until the cows come home, and do you know what I will have? A bunch of blogs and cows in my home.
All the writing and blogging in the world is never going to be enough to remove the effects of my sin. The consequences of sin are things we cannot see. I cannot wipe away the effects of something that dishonors the Lord simply because I write a paragraph that makes me feel like I am wielding a sword. My past sin affects the present day confidence of the one I love. My past sin works to make me feel shame in the present. There is only one way to receive relief from sin, and it’s completely spiritual.
He will not always accuse,
nor will he harbor his anger forever;
he does not treat us as our sins deserve
or repay us according to our iniquities.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his love for those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west,
so far has he removed our transgressions from us.
The truth is, I am incredibly blessed that the Lord has seen fit to bring a woman into my life who, without us having had a conversation where I asked her to help me grow, had the wherewithal to broach a sensitive topic. We can all learn from her.
If this is to be a turning point in my life, a chance to live differently–then I have to actually live differently. I have to live with real accountability to the small things. The struggle is how to accept accountability in the area of sexuality without letting those questions diminish my self-esteem.
The way to do that comes in rejoicing over the promise that this kind of accountability has to offer.
When we seek accountability it is because we desire to achieve a goal. When we arrive at the goal, the promise on the other side invalidates all of the uncomfortable feelings we felt on the journey. Those uncomfortable feelings will have been transformed into tiny testimonies of times we clung to God’s grace. We will remember them differently without the fear of failure looming large.
Keeping an eye on the promise, without dreading an uncomfortable conversation is key.
This promise is a big deal. Quite bluntly, this promise reminds me that God has something erotic planned for me.
The word erotic has received a bit of a bum-rap over the years. We associate the word with things like, well…an affair. The thesaurus list some of its synonyms as carnal, filthy, and raunchy. Those are culture norms we’ve assigned to the word and they do not describe the true meaning of erotic. The word comes from the Greek word erōtikos, which is derived from the Greek root erōs. Eros is defined as a love with a sexual and sensual desire. God created erotic love.
Trusting God’s promise for my future means believing I will have erotic love within my marriage. The belief that I need to push down my erotic desires is a lie. The belief that this kind of sexuality can only be achieved in a way that is sinful is a tactic of the enemy.
Trusting in God is believing the path to the promise of marital erotic love is found by a woman who controls her sexuality rather than having her sexuality control her.
An accountability plan is not a punishment because I have a problem. It is a step towards the promise God has for me and my husband.