~ T ~
~ T ~
Romance. The word practically dances out of your mouth, when you say it, like a sweet lover’s invitation. The definition of it makes hearts skip beats. Heads spin. Reason and common sense all but disappear in the wind, when it strikes. And it does. Out of the clear blue sky, sometimes, when we least expect it, that little ‘rush’ that makes us crazy about someone, and all we want is to be with them….
So we’ve set aside this day, February 14, as a time to celebrate love and romance. A time to acknowledge our significant other, and show them how much we love and appreciate them. And that’s all good, in and of itself.
But for the singles–whether never married, divorced or widowed–Valentine’s Day is yet another reminder of the segregation they often feel. (For this post I will focus on the unmarried who have been molested.) I think of it more the past few years because I have the honour of sitting with singles each week listening to their hearts, their stories, and their dreams. And the one dream many, if not most, express is the desire for marriage and companionship. Rightfully so. Who wants to be lonely?
As we work together through the pain of past abuses, or current ones, we unravel many beliefs victims hold about themselves, about God, about the opposite gender and about sexuality and marriage. Almost always, if not always, there is guilt about the whole thing of desiring marriage. And, in particular, the desire for intimacy and love. Sexual love.
I’m not of the ‘free for all’ mindset, where you grab a lover for the day, to feel good about yourself. If that’s you, it isn’t my business, but the people I work with are trying to wait until marriage, and that is what I encourage, so I write unapologetically from that perspective. My reasons are not to be a party pooper, but honouring God’s plan as well as personal awareness of damage done emotionally and psychologically with multiple partners. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone.
In sitting with Christian young adults and working through difficult past stories, or current struggles, at some point I usually ask if they desire marriage–because not all do, believe it or not, but if they do I want to bless that desire and pray with them. Answers range from enthusiastic affirmative responses (though rarely) to a cautious, “Yeah… Is that okay?”
Keep in mind that I spend pretty much 7 days a week talking about sexuality, in one form or another, with a broad range of people. From clients, to bishops or preachers and their wives, to police officers and (more occasionally) medical professionals, to grandmas and grandpas, this is my world. Inevitably in talking through abuses of sex, the topic of healthy sexuality comes up and with it the many forms of sex. (One pastor’s wife asked me, “If you talk about it all the time, don’t you think about it constantly and want to have sex? Because I sure would!” Umm… ask a chocolate maker how much they crave chocolate every time they see it. Without crossing the lines to ‘TMI’, let me just say that when it is part of every day conversation, the only thing that makes me desire it is being with my beloved. So, no, talking about it doesn’t do that.) So when the topic of marriage comes up, the topic of sex is already on the table, and becomes part of the discussion.
When I ask if they desire marriage, some logically process what that would mean and conclude they wouldn’t be happy in marriage; it would be too restricting when there are so many dreams they want to fulfill and the odds being low of a marriage partner wanting to be part of that. For the majority, apart from the few who enthusiastically desire marriage and declare it boldly and without apology, we explore the cautious admission that they long for marriage.
The caution is, admittedly, due to the vulnerability of acknowledging the desire for a relationship that offers companionship, commitment, shared dreams and sexual intimacy. All of those are good, and seem good, except the desire for sexual intimacy. For some reason, in the world of Christianity, we’ve communicated the message that a desire for sexual intimacy is perverse or inappropriate, when the person desiring that intimacy is unmarried. And that’s true even if they don’t want to go there before marriage.
This seems wrong to me. In every way. Sex is a beautiful gift of intimacy between husband and wife, and to desire that intimacy should be blessed, along with a blessing on the desire to wait. We present this immaculate ‘don’t need sex and certainly don’t desire it because I’m not married’ image that is entirely unrealistic. Even Christian singles desire sex. Trust me. You’re not alone, if you are a Christian trying to wait for marriage to experience sexual intimacy, and yet have a powerful sex drive. It’s normal. It’s how God created you. And it’s beautiful and good. When God finished creating mankind, He said, “It is very good”. That includes your sexuality and your desires. We have this infatuated notion that marriage is about sex, and once we have the freedom to enjoy that intimacy without guilt or shame, knowing we are committed to that person and they committed to us, then all will be right in our world and our sexuality will be blessed by God. But it is already blessed, as a single who struggles with it and desires a marriage partner. The key is to master those drives, and bring them under God’s design, and take authority over them, rather than to be driven and mastered by the desires. I explain this to every client who struggles with sexuality.
When sharing these struggles, it is common to hear an exasperated and defeated, “I don’t know what’s wrong with me!” And the first time I say, “Nothing. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with you. Your desires are blessed by God,” they look stunned. By the time I’ve explained why it is good, most readily accept it as God’s truth–because I pull it straight out of the Bible–while others need time. I also explain how, through abuse and molestation, their sexuality was prematurely awakened and they have had, usually from a very young age, knowledge of sexuality that they shouldn’t have need to know.
When singles have, since childhood, offered sexual services–oral sex, anal sex, masturbation and much more–for teens and adults (often in church), and then suddenly try to shut down that sexuality, often harshly judged by their churches for the struggles, all while the molester is overlooked, there are serious battles to fight through. When the people they ‘serviced’ show up at church happily married and have that intimacy, often never confronted by their crimes, and the victims are left to struggle with the memories and aftermath, things feel pretty dark, pretty fast.
The one gift we can offer these victims–and it’s the least we can do–is affirming their sexuality and desires, and bless what their desires were created for; a committed, God-blessed relationship. In doing this we remove the shame unnecessarily imposed on them by sins committed against them. We bless who they are, as image bearers of our Creator. And thereby we bless God, standing in agreement with Him in saying that His design is very good.
So, today, if you are single, lonely and struggling with the heavy romance focus that is Valentine’s Day, I want to acknowledge and bless you. I bless you as a child of God, with human desires for sexual intimacy, and bless you in your struggle to master that desire. And where your sexuality was prematurely awakened, intensifying those desires and making it difficult, you need to know you are not alone, and it doesn’t make you perverted or ‘sick’. Where you are overtaken and a slave to that sexuality and long for freedom, there is help available; you don’t have to stay entrapped. God sees beyond the struggle and sees you. He sees your humanity, and it draws compassion from Him. (Psalm 103:13-14) He loves you and delights in you, and welcomes you into His presence. You are not ‘less than’, you are not unworthy. Your desires for love and intimacy are God-given, and my prayer is that God will meet your needs and grant you the desires of your heart.
~ T ~
It has become a thing of habit, posting daily, but also a thing of thinking about the forgotten ones, the rejected ones, and the abandoned ones. Like the lepers in Bible stories, the religious people of today see many victims as ‘untouchable’, fearing their stories… fearing the exposure of their own pain and hidden secrets.
While the fear is understandable, the result is that many victims feel unnecessary rejection, and those who reject them out of fear of facing their own pain, miss out on the wonder of freedom.
Other times victims are rejected is a result of the person(s) needing to protect an offender. To acknowledge the pain of the victims would require acknowledging the consequence of hidden crimes. And in these cases, the offenders miss out on the help they need, and again victims feel rejected. But in this case it is the best interest of victims for these kinds of people to stay far, far away from them. The poison they offer is deadly, and serves only to further victimize and violate the hearts of wounded people. The rejection still bites, if the victims believe it is about them, but it is a gift.
When victims tell me about people rejecting them, my instinctive first response is compassion. And on the heels of that, I explain that rejection is never about them; people are far to self-serving to reject us because of us. They reject us for their own benefit, their own comfort, or their own self-preservation. They hate us because what we stand for or represent offends something in them. They speak evil of us because they have to defend themselves. And the more vehement their attacks or rejection, the more likely it is that our stories and our voices come too close to home, and their controls are threatened.
Again, in cases where it instills fear in victims who are hiding their stories out of shame, I offer nothing but compassion and understanding. And where it is the fear of some perpetrator being exposed, or needing to acknowledge those crimes, I have compassion but all I can say is thank God they stay far away. There is grace in that.
And as for the pain of rejection, it remains for those at the receiving end, and it is hard for most not to take it personally. Especially at first. With time, experience and seeing these patterns, it’s easier to let it ‘run off’ and chalk it up to the realization that these people have issues. But until then, it is a draining experience, and one that takes time to heal from and work through.
Counteracting rejection requires intentionality. Surround yourself with at least a few good and supportive people whom you can trust. Step outside of your own pain and story; a constant and repeated reliving of it is difficult even for those who love you, and does you no good. Find a mentor or counselor who will help you work through the hurt, and help you refocus so that you recognize you are not the problem; these people have issues. And, because I write from a Christian perspective and for Christians, get grounded in your true identity and who you are in Christ. The childish or fearful responses of those around us hold little weight when we know who we are, and Whose we are.
With the love, acceptance and approval of God, the Creator of the Universe, the rejection of a few fearful, angry, bitter or selfish people pales in comparison, and their approval means nothing.
Finally, if it is a close relationship, rather than some distant judgment pronounced by judgmental people who haven’t bothered to hear your heart, take time to have a conversation. If you have wounded them, hear their hearts. If they are afraid, encourage them.
But if it is that distant heartless judgment from those ignorant ones who are hell-bent on bringing you down–and especially the religious ones who misrepresent Jesus and who have not heard your heart–just pick up your boots and keep walking. Whistle a little tune, breathe in the fresh air and let the sunshine kiss your face… and celebrate Jesus, life and hope.
It’s a good day.
~ T ~
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