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Porn: The Quiet Anesthesia

I cannot count the number of worship services I’ve stood through unmoved. Others around me would be weeping, dancing, or shouting their passionate cries to the Lord while I stood in the midst of it wishing I felt something.

Anything.

The Catechism states that the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever, but most of the time, if I’m honest, there has been little to no enjoyment of Him. In fact, in the midst of my addiction to pornography, there was often no enjoyment of anything at all.

I’ve been thinking about this post for a while, and how exactly I want to say this. Because what I have found to be one of the absolute worst effects of porn is that it numbs me to reality. To the good and the bad. It files down the sharpened points of agony when suffering comes into my life, but it also curtails the heights of joy when there is reason to rejoice.

I feel like men and women turn to porn because something is lacking in their lives. They want to escape the bad and painful bits, but end up escaping the good too.

Sometimes it would be so that I could not enjoy sunsets
or hikes in the mountains
or board games with friends
or sitting by the sea
or any of the small things that simply enrich our lives
because my mind was elsewhere.

It was as if the volume was turned down on reality.

It’s similar to the way C.S. Lewis described grief:

“At other times it feels like being mildly drunk or concussed. There is a sort of invisible blanket between the world and me. I find it hard to take in what anyone says. Or perhaps, hard to want to take it in. It is so uninteresting.”

I didn’t cry for seven years.

Not because I resisted it by any means. The tears just never came. My wells were empty. My emotions had evaporated.

I even wonder, in the throes of my addiction, if a family member or dear friend were to die, if I would have cried. Or if I’d be the one at the funeral, sitting stoically silent, my face dry as the western plains.

Addiction is that powerful.

Even a ‘non-chemical’ addiction such as pornography has the ability to rewire our brains to the extent that we don’t feel. (And of course, any learned person knows that there are plenty of neuro-chemicals involved in a pornography addiction.)

In David’s great psalm of repentance after he had committed adultery with Bathsheba, Psalm 51, he continually calls for God to return and awaken emotion within him. He prays, “Let me hear joy and gladness…Restore to me the joy of your salvation.” Part of repentance is returning to a delight in the Lord; it is also mourning the places we have grieved Him.

When I look at the person of Jesus, I see the polar opposite of numbness. I see someone who was entirely alive to His emotions, the full spectrum. I see a man who wept at the passing of his dear friend. In the Christian world, I often hear the verse thrown around as a bit of trivia: Do you know the shortest verse in the Bible? 

Jesus wept.

Do we ever take time to think about the implications of these two words?

God wept.

God…..cries.

If we are to be like Jesus, then we are to be alive to our emotions.

Seeking to escape the hard times and numb the pain is not what God wants in us. The enemy may lure us in with the promise of a pain-free life, but what ends up happening is reality becomes dimmed.

To be like God is to embrace the reality around us with the emotions He has wired into us, not to escape it. I picture Jesus on the mountain, crying out to the Father for guidance. I see Him in the temple courts, fiery with rage at injustice. And there He is in the garden, nervous and terrified of the suffering He is about to go through.

And as He hangs on the cross, shattered and dying, He is offered a drink to ease the pain. This cocktail was designed to reduce the agony of those suffering torture, so they could slip into death with some amount of comfort.

But He turned it down.

Jesus refused to partake in anything that would reduce His experience, the good and the bad, in life and in death.

Saint Irenaeus said that “the glory of God is man fully alive.”

Jesus was fully alive. From the moment he emerged from Mary’s womb til’ the blood dripped from His toes onto the dirt beneath the cross, I see a man who embraced every ounce of His life, and continues to from His place on high.

To embrace pornography is to escape life.

So let us cling to Jesus. Let us cling to the One who gives to each of us life, and life to the fullest.

e

A version of this article appeared on Ethan’s Blog on February 29, 2016. Used by permission.


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I’m Ethan & I love Jesus as much as my little heart allows. I’m an artist, traveler, and the Lord often speaks to me in poems. I’m a personal trainer, youth pastor and photographer. I graduated from Moody and now live in Colorado. Come check out my blog at www.ethanrenoe.com.

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We Were Sexual Before We Were Sinful

This blog post was adapted from Episode 2 of our podcast, DriveTime.

You and I have been written into a wonderful story. God’s story is one that includes Creation, Fall, Redemption, and Restoration. However, our conversations surrounding sex usually only focus on the second and third parts of the story, Fall and Redemption. 

If we only engage these two parts, we see ourselves and others first and foremost as sinners, and the central focus is on our state of sinfulness and our acts of sin. Our job then becomes primarily about cleaning and fixing individuals, and our goal becomes modifying behavior rather than changing the heart, which ultimately leads to repentance. If we do not experience a change of heart, then the gospel of Jesus Christ becomes nothing more than rules and regulations. 

Another unfortunate side-effect of telling this partial version of God’s story is the fact that it can cause us to only see sex as sinful, and not a gift to be celebrated within God’s grand design for sex, as the sex-maker.    

However, if we instead engage in the whole story, starting in Creation, we see people (and ourselves) as first and foremost created in the image of God. This means all people have innate, Godlike beauty and dignity because they all, in their own unique way, reenact something of their Creator.

Putting the image of God before anything else places greater emphasis on truths about who we are and who were are created to be. At this point, we are able to see in this beautiful sphere of life that sex is to be protected within the place it was intended, marriage. 

One more food for thought. We’ll call it the dessert. The reason we start with Creation is that this is the point where sex first enters the picture. We were sexual before we were sinful! So what we do with it matters.

For too long, the model given to us has been built more on rules and regulations than walking with integrity. When our goal becomes primarily waiting and holding onto our virginity, we can easily choose to not include Jesus – which means we do it on our own strength. 

The model in scripture places Jesus at the center, and our lives revolve around Him. This is what makes living with sexual integrity – waiting – possible! Jesus is the one person that can make us whole, and taking hold of true life happens when we walk in obedience to Him.

DriveTime is a tool for you as a parent to get equipped, so you can better engage the world your son or daughter inhabits.

Check out further discussions around us being sexual before we were sinful on our podcast, DriveTime. Available now where ever you get your podcasts.

Jason Soucinek is the Executive Director and founder of Project Six19. Dedicated to talking honestly about matters of sex, sexuality and relationships. Jason has spent more than a decade engaging audiences of all ages and backgrounds.

Walt Mueller is the founder and President of the Center for Parent/Youth Understanding and has been working with young people and families for over 35 years.

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Setting The Stage For Talking About Sexual Integrity With Your Kids

This blog post was adapted from Episode 2 of Project Six19’s podcast, DriveTime.

This generation is going to have to wait longer than any other if they choose to follow God’s standards for sex. For almost two thousand years young people only waited one or two years from the time of puberty (physical changes communicating readiness to create life) until they married. Today, because of nutrition and other factors, the onset of puberty is generally younger and most young adults are waiting until their late 20’s to marry. This means that if they are going to follow God’s standards for sex they might wait as long as 15 years (or more) from the time their body is ready for sex until they marry. 

That is a long time! 

This is why our message must resonate in ways that transcend rules and boundaries. Unfortunately, terms like purity and abstinence can be ripe with analogies that, if we are not careful, can cause harm. For example, Elizabeth Smart, the young woman who was kidnapped and held captive for nine months in 2002 near her home in Salt Lake City, UT, offered a similar thought, “I remember in school one time, I had a teacher who was talking about, well… about abstinence. And she said, ‘Imagine that you’re a stick of gum, and when you engage in sex, that’s like getting chewed. And then if you do that lots of times, you’re going to become an old piece of gum, and who’s going to want you after that?’ For me, I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m that chewed up piece of gum. Nobody re-chews a piece of gum. You throw it away.’” Metaphors make a difference. They communicate meaning and significance; therefore, we must be careful in how they are used. Ms. Smart’s response to the abstinence and purity message rejects the following reality: 

God is concerned with the heart. 

Virginity, if not spoken of in the appropriate context, can be a source of pride rather than an opportunity to glorify the Creator. Virginity, as a stand-alone virtue, is not the opposite of sexual promiscuity – sexual integrity is.

Sexual integrity requires something more than self-willed behavior; it requires turning to the Lord with all our hearts and being empowered by the Holy Spirit to obey. Our identity in scripture is not found in our good works (like saving our virginity), but in the One in whom we find TRUE life, Jesus Christ. If we make a mistake (sin), our identity is not stolen from us because this identity is not based on what we do, but what has already been done.

There are always several challenges to talking about sexual integrity, but here are four thoughts to remember as you prepare to share with your children:

Recognize the truth found in Scripture

This is not a topic from which God hides. Over and over again Scripture highlights four key aspects about sex. First, we are meant for relationship with our Creator and with others (in that order). Second, we need to recognize that God is the sex maker. He created this wonderful act. Third, God gave us our sexual desire. That is why we need to talk about this with our youth – we are all sexually tempted. Finally, God created a time and place for us to enjoy sex; in marriage. This is repeated over and over again in Scripture (e.g. Genesis, Proverbs, Hebrews, and the list goes on). 

Your voice DOES matter

Study after study shows that it’s not a teens peers who have the most in influence in their life. It’s YOU! Although that is not always what we hear or think, a parent’s voice is the most important. Sometimes we can underestimate the influence our voice has in a teen’s life because of the rolling of the eyes or their turning away while we are talking. However, what you say and how you live matters! Use your words and actions wisely because your kids are watching and listening. 

Talking about sex doesn’t need to be a BIG talk

Discussing sexual integrity is more of a process than a confrontation. Remember that many of your children’s expectations surrounding sex will come from many of the other values you communicate every single day. Making sure your kids know you care and are there to answer any questions they might have will encourage them to approach you when they do have questions about sex. It is inevitable that your kids will hear from some other kid about sex. So, you need to be constantly talking with your kids and help separate fact from fiction. Which leads to our last thought…

You need to become the authority for all conversations surrounding sex in your child’s life!

Put another way – you need to be google to your kids. This means getting to your kids first. Your kids are going to hear about sex at some point. It’s important you talk to them early and tell them the truth – BEFORE they receive information from other places. This starts at a young age by identifying anatomy the same way they will learn in school. This continues all the way through the adolescent years.

DriveTime is a tool for you as a parent to get equipped, so you can better engage the world your son or daughter inhabits.

Check out further discussions around ‘Setting The Stage for Talking About Sexual Integrity With Your Kids’ on our podcast, DriveTime. Available now where ever you get your podcasts.

Walt Mueller is the founder and President of the Center for Parent/Youth Understanding and has been working with young people and families for over 35 years.

Jason Soucinek is the Executive Director and founder of Project Six19. Dedicated to talking honestly about matters of sex, sexuality and relationships. Jason has spent more than a decade engaging audiences of all ages and backgrounds.

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Foundations For Discussing Biblical Sexuality In Your Home

This blog post was adapted from Episode 1 of Project Six19’s podcast, DriveTime.

One of the most difficult conversations that can happen in the home is on the topic of sex and sexuality. But it doesn’t need to be this way.

Unfortunately, it has been shown through several studies that the more religious a family is, the less likely they are to talk about sex and share their own values. This simply shouldn’t be the reality, but it is. 

So where do you start?

The Apostle Paul’s words in I Corinthians 6:18 (NIV), “Flee from sexual immorality,” conjure in my mind images of a person running out of and away from a burning building in an effort to not only avoid danger, but to save their own life. These are timely words for today’s children and teens. Too many are staying in the sexual inferno as the building (or their emotional, relational, physical, and spiritual health) burns to the ground. But we must do more than tell them to “RUN!” We must tell them why. Kids should avoid premarital sexual activity not because we said so, but because there are several good reasons to do so. Scripture also gives us many tools.

The overarching story of scripture tells us a ton about God’s grand design for sex as the sex-maker. Creation, Fall, Redemption, and Restoration all hold important truths about sex. Did you know we were sexual before we were sinful? Remember Genesis 1 and 2, which Jesus speaks to later, comes before Genesis 3 when sin becomes a reality. 

When we start with Genesis 1 and 2 we find God’s beautiful intent for sex. We learn about unity and oneness. We also learn about desire and pleasure. We cannot deny or forget that sexual desire and curiosity is a good thing that we should expect to exist in all humanity. God is the sexual gift giver, and we are the recipients of this good and wonderful gift.  Sadly, the church has failed miserably to communicate this reality. Failing to see how our sexuality was made by God right at the start, woven in and through us, and given to us as a gift for our flourishing. We not only fail to communicate good theology, but our silence and uneasiness with things sexual communicates a horribly flawed theology of our sexuality which leaves young and old alike scrambling to figure out how to understand and live out these powerful drives and desires. 

Our silence communicates that sex and sexuality is shameful.

God’s gift of sexuality is meant to bring glory to Him and not distract or take away from Him. I think God’s story reveals His desire for sex to be unifying and bring oneness like we read in Genesis 2:24 “the two will become one flesh”.  We also know that sex is more than just physical. It is about the mind, body, and soul coming together in such a way that we are known. In Genesis 4:1, it says “Adam knew Eve”. Notice that it doesn’t say Adam had sex with Eve. Rather it says he knew her. Being known is a part of sex and this can only truly happen in the act of marriage.

Teens who are sexually active often feel used. We shouldn’t be surprised at the emptiness that follows a premarital sexual encounter or the ending of a long-term relationship. God created intercourse to serve as a total expression of the lifelong commitment of marital love between one man and one woman. Take away the lifelong part, the commitment, or the love, and sex becomes empty, cheap, and purely mechanical. 

This is why marriage is shared as the place where we are to practice, experiment, and engage in the act of sex. Over and over again scripture points to marriage being the place where sex takes place. And why? Because it is for our protection. Only in marriage can we truly be known. It is a place that allows the beautiful force of sex to be fully expressed. Pleasure…procreation…and desire can all be expressed freely.

Finally, we must recognize all people are horribly broken. Our sexuality is broken too. Yes, we need a robust and realistic theology of sin. When we understand human depravity, we will not be surprised by revelations of sexual sin. Perhaps even more important, a robust and realistic theology of sin should leave us looking inward with great fear and trembling. It will also prepare us for the time that our children make mistakes and we choose to not parent out of anger but rather go after their heart. We must be helping our children…and ourselves…to constantly be cultivating a relationship with Jesus Christ and this comes from knowledge of the bigger story in which we all live.

DriveTime is a tool for you as a parent to get equipped, so you can better engage the world your son or daughter inhabits.

Check out further discussions around ‘Raising Up Youth Who Believe in Sexual Integrity’ on our podcast, DriveTime. Available now where ever you get your podcasts, or right here:

Walt Mueller is the founder and President of the Center for Parent/Youth Understanding and has been working with young people and families for over 35 years.

Jason Soucinek is the Executive Director and founder of Project Six19. Dedicated to talking honestly about matters of sex, sexuality and relationships. Jason has spent more than a decade engaging audiences of all ages and backgrounds.


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3 WAYS TO KEEP YOUR KID FROM BECOMING A TEEN PARENT

Of all the dreams we have for our children, becoming teen parents isn’t one of them.

In today’s highly sexualized culture where teen moms get their own TV shows and sex tapes are the road to fame, how do we help our children navigate a different path?

Here are three tips for you as a parent to implement today that will go a long way towards helping your child make healthy decisions about sex and relationships.

Admit You Don’t Know Everything

As parents, it can be intimidating to talk to our kids about sex, dating and relationships because we fear we don’t know enough to be able to answer all their questions.

Here’s a little secret: your kids don’t expect you to know anything, so already you’re ahead of the game.

When your child asks you a question about sex that you don’t have an answer for, consider it a great opportunity to find those answers together, teaching your son or daughter how to discern good sources from the less reputable or even dangerous. By admitting that we at times don’t have all the answers, we actually make ourselves more approachable.

Talk!

Having mentioned sex to your kids once or twice is not sufficient. You know from experience that anything you want to teach them has to be reiterated and reinforced over and over and over again. Your values about healthy dating and relationships need to be spoken often, from a number of angles.

Gone are the days of “The Talk” where you started with the birds and the bees and ended with, “Just say no.” The most effective, and enjoyable, way of communicating with your kids is going to be through the multiple conversationsyou have on the way to the grocery store, while watching TV, after school, or during one-on-one parent/child outings.

Use the teachable moments around you (thank you Hollywood and Facebook) to effortlessly start a conversation that fits right in with where your kids are at and what is most relevant in their lives.

Eight out of 10 teens say they would have an easier time avoiding early sexual activity and teen pregnancy if they could have more open, honest conversations about these topics with their parents.

Be encouraged. Your kids want for you to discuss sex with themand they need for you to, so don’t be afraid to take the first halting steps.

Perfect the Art of Listening

Once your kids realize this is a conversation that you’re open to discussing with them, chances are they’ll actually start talking. It may be a flood of words, some timid steps towards broaching the subject, or just the occasional comment when they come up for air from their iPhone.

At some point, every child is going to ask a question or make a statement that is going to shock you.

This is your moment, Mom and/or Dad.

Internally, you are allowed to have a mini heart attack. “Did my child really just say that?” They may be testing you to see how you’ll react or asking simply because they’re are curious and don’t know who else to ask.

How you respond will determine whether or not they come to you again in the future to talk about sex.

Read that carefully. You have one chance to respond in a way that communicates that you are a safe placefor your son or daughter to bring their questions, that you are sincere when you say they can talk to you about anything. Your body language, your tone of voice, and of course your words, will all have an impact.

When your child starts opening up, put away your cell phone, listen with your whole body, and get ready for some eye-opening, heart-racing conversations.

If you need a little help along the way, I’ve written a book called The Sex Talk: A Survival Guide for Parents, that will give you a more in-depth look at what you should be covering and how you can talk about healthy dating and sexuality in a way that will actually stick. Consider it your primer to mastering the sex talk.


A native of Spokane, Joanna (Repsold) Hyatt has spoken to thousands of teens on healthy relationships and sexuality and has authored The Sex Talk: A Survival Guide for Parents. She is currently the Director of Strategic Partnerships at Live Action, a national non-profit that educates on abortion and the humanity of the pre-born.

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Killing Prince Charming And Cinderella

At the risk of incurring the wrath of Disney, and every little girl who has grown up loving Princess stories, I think it’s time we adults take a drastic step:

We need to kill off Prince Charming and Cinderella.

I’ll admit my own little girl will be growing up watching every Disney classic I can get my hands on. She’ll probably play with dolls, hold imaginary tea parties with her dad, and wear princess dresses until I have to peel them off of her.

The problem isn’t with the princess stories or the dreams and fantasies they inspire when we’re young. Those stories are meant to teach us lessons of valor, chivalry, the struggle to find a love worth fighting for, and how to discern between the real princess and the witch masked by a spell.

The problem is that while we’ve stopped playing dress-up with dolls and plastic swords, we’re still living in a land of make-believe and fantasy.

As we grow up, we replace the Disney movies with Hollywood romance movies that continue to reinforce the message that love must be perfect in order to be real. If you’re not instantly swept off your feet, madly in love every day, and skipping through life with a gorgeous specimen of a human being beside you, then you simply haven’t found ‘it.’

We expect to marry Prince Charming or Cinderella in all their Disney perfection, looking for a spouse that can be our soul mate, our perfect match, the answer to all of our problem.

When we encounter struggle in the relationship, have to face conflict or are asked to be vulnerable, we instead cut and run. It’s uncomfortable showing our imperfections and we certainly don’t want to be reminded that other people are imperfect.

Rather than kill off our expectation of Prince Charming or Cinderella in the hopes of finding a real relationship, we hold on tight to our fairy tale, bemoaning that all the “good ones” have already been taken.

The irony is that we’re also incredibly skeptical. 

We’ve watched so many marriages fall apart that we struggle to fully believe ours could be different, that we don’t have to live the same storyline as our parents. We wonder how we’ll ever find love in this broken world.

Could it be that our impossible expectations are a means of protecting ourselves, a defense mechanism designed to keep us from having to face our fear of a failed relationship?

We decide it’s better to never have loved at all than to have loved and lost. We want so desperately to find that life-long partner, to experience marriage at its best, but can’t shake the fear of enduring marriage at its worst, of waking up next to someone one day a little less excited than when we first met them.

Relationships, especially marriage, go through cycles. Some days are better than others, some more exciting, more joyful, more full of romance. Others are filled with the monotony of life, with battling together and against one another, of overcoming disappointment and letting go of expectations.

The good is made better and the bad less bitter when we’re able to share it with someone. Even if that someone is as imperfect and confused as we are.

It’s time to dump Prince Charming and Cinderella in order to find the authentic, gloriously difficult, life-changing love we seek.

It’s time to let go of what we think we want for what we need. 

The stunning reality is that in doing so, we usually find ourselves living a story better than anything Hollywood could have written.

A version of this post originally appeared on Joanna’s Blog on June 5th, 2013. Used by permission.


A native of Spokane, Joanna (Repsold) Hyatt has spoken to thousands of teens on healthy relationships and sexuality and has authored The Sex Talk: A Survival Guide for Parents. She is currently the Director of Strategic Partnerships at Live Action, a national non-profit that educates on abortion and the humanity of the pre-born.

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Treating Your Heart Like Precious Cargo

As a post-grad, I spent a couple of years in cubicle world working at an insurance agency. My first position there was as their front desk receptionist, and it was my job to transfer calls and manage the mail room. One day, while putting together the Second Day Air UPS envelopes, I missed inserting the address sleeve into the clear plastic cover of one of the packages. A few days later, an agent in our office asked me to track that particular package, and the blood drained from my face when I realized that the shipping barcode had never been generated. Come to find out, it was extremely precious cargo. Inside the destination-less envelope was an annuity check for six figures. Without a timely arrival, the agent lost the client and the hefty commission on the account. To this day, I still feel a hint of that pit in my stomach when I think about that mistake that didn’t just affect me, but someone else’s livelihood!

I say all this because I think that a lot of dating relationships resemble that envelope. You’ve been dating for a little while, but no actual intention has been established. And yet, the more time you spend together, the more the physical side of the relationship escalates. In essence, the plane has taken off before the flight path has been confirmed. I think most Christians would agree that boyfriends don’t get marriage privileges (at least in theory), but I submit to you that friends and dates shouldn’t get boyfriend privileges, either.

True pursuit acknowledges the preciousness of what’s being pursued and is careful to match the pace of a relationship with the definitions. Are you friends who happen to like each other? Great! Don’t let your “friend” treat you like a girlfriend until he’s made that public commitment. Are you dating and “figuring things out”? Awesome! Don’t be pressured to give in to any kind of intimacy that doesn’t belong in that stage. You run the risk of being strung along in a relationship that begins to resemble a cardboard container that doesn’t value its contents.

Now, here’s where gray areas emerge and you need help from the Holy Spirit. What are good physical boundaries for dating? I can’t decide that for you. And I can’t do justice to the subject in a short blog post. But, I will say that it shouldn’t be anything you’d regret if the relationship doesn’t end up going anywhere, and it needs to be firmly established with accountability long before Mr. Potential shows up. Don’t decide as you go, because I guarantee that you will underestimate the power of the cloudy, smoky rave that parties in your frontal cortex at the onset of a blossoming relationship.

Some of you ladies have already sensed the truth in what I’m about to say through personal experience. One of the most devastating realizations for a woman is when she knows she’s being pursued more for her body than for her heart. Because deep down, all anyone wants is to be fully known and then fully loved. And if someone simply doesn’t see the value in pursuing what’s on the inside, we feel reduced to any other cheap envelope without a unique tracking number.  I have friends who are pre-marital counselors and they have said that 90% of the time, when couples come to them with relational difficulties, it always stems from pushing the physical boundaries too far early on in their relationship.

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Disclaimer:God’s grace covers past relationships and even ones you are currently in. It’s never too late to stand up for your value and set new boundaries. If your lines force an exit, good riddance! He’s not where he needs to be to pursue you in love and protect you in truth. If you feel like, after setting those boundaries, he’s always looking for ways to cross them, you need to think and pray seriously about your next steps. I believe that each stage in any relationship is a training ground for the next. And respect is a muscle. If he doesn’t flex it now, how will that lack of cardio show up in future situations when the stakes are higher?

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At the end of the day, you, my friend, are a daughter of the King of the Universe. You were bought with a price much greater than 6 figures- the price of His Son, Jesus. And you are clothed in His righteousness so that you won’t step back in the mud but instead, see clearly the path of real, God-honoring, Kingdom work. I truly believe that if you recognize your worth as His image-bearer and your position in his reign, you wouldn’t need to read this article or learn from the tough pill of regret. You would have everything you need to make wise dating decisions.

Love,

R


A version of this post originally appeared on Not Singled Out on December 16, 2018. Used by permission.

Rachelle Windham – I am a redeemed follower of Jesus Christ, and I desire to spend my time on earth using any gifts, passions, strengths, and even weaknesses to serve Him. I am especially passionate about Biblical singleness, discipling younger women, seeing God’s power and creativity in studying His world, and approaching each new season of life with Christ in a sense of ADVENTURE! You can find more of her writing at: www.notsingledout.com.

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What The Church Gets Wrong About Singleness and Marriage

This article was originally posted at Relevant

Church can be a tough place for single people. Most Christians don’t realize it, unless they’re single, but if you step back and look at our Christian culture, you’ll see that we elevate marriage. In some cases, we idolize it. We see a beautiful girl and we say, “What a catch!” We see a handsome man and say, “He’ll sure make a wonderful spouse someday.”

If they’re still not married by the age of 30, we think something’s wrong, or perhaps they’re too picky. “Why aren’t they married yet?” This is code for: Something must be wrong with you. If you were living out your full potential and making all the right choices, you’d be married by now.

Parents especially can put undue (and unbiblical) pressure on their kids if they don’t get married and have kids. You have to wonder whether parents are actually thinking about what’s best for their kids, or just wanting what’s best for themselves—i.e. grandkids.

Singleness is rarely viewed in positive light in American Christianity, even though it’s extolled in the New Testament.

Singleness in the Bible

In the Old Testament, most people got married, had kids and passed on their inheritance to their children, who in turn passed it on to their children. Laws were even set up to ensure that one’s family name was passed on through a male heir (Deuteronomy 25:5-10, Ruth 4:7). It was assumed that people would get married and start a family. It wasn’t a sin not to. But it was sort of expected.

Things changed in the New Testament, however. Jesus reconfigured the Old Testament’s emphasis on family when he recognized all Christians as brothers and sisters: “Who are my mother and my brothers?” Jesus asked. “Whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother” (Mark 3:33, 35; Matthew 12:48-50). After Peter praises himself for leaving everything, Jesus responds:

Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and bothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands. (Mark 10:29-30)

Discipleship might cost you your family. Yet becoming a disciple means you gain a new family of believers who are your brothers and sisters and mothers and fathers in Christ.

Jesus considers all believers—not just married folk—to be family. We’re not kind of like a family. We are family.

The apostle Paul almost downplays marriage in light of the beautiful prospect of singleness. “If you do marry, you have not sinned … Yet those who marry will have worldly troubles, and I would spare you that” (1 Corinthians 7:28). Marriage isn’t wrong, but Paul clearly preferred the single life. “He who marries his betrothed does well, and he who refrains from marriage will do even better” (1 Corinthians 7:38).

And, of course, John the Baptist and Jesus were unmarried men of marital age—a shocking sight to a first-century Jewish world. Perhaps they were just picky. If they could just pray a little harder, God would bless them with a fine woman.

Singleness in the American Evangelical Church

I wonder if the American evangelical church has it all backward. Instead of viewing singleness as a pitiful stage to get through on your way to married life, we should elevate and honor the single people in our midst as those who, in Paul’s words, “will do even better.”

Much of this anti-singleness message saturates the air of our churches, sometimes with words, other times with actions. The message is usually it is subtle and unintended. But single people hear it loud and clear: You’re incomplete until you get married and have at least two kids. (But if you have more than four, then people think you’re weird again.)

Just ask any post-college single person at your church how they feel. Ask them if they feel like they are valued, honored, respected, loved and invited into the lives and homes of other families of the church. Ask them if they are ever made to feel incomplete by off-handed comments (“Why aren’t you married yet?”) or sermon illustrations that always draw from parenting. Ask them how they felt on the weekend that the church was away at Family Camp.

The fact is, marriage is a small blip in our existence. We’re all born single and called to steward our singleness for the first 20-30 years of our life. Many people will be called out of singleness and into marriage and then called to steward their marriage to the glory of God. But us married folks will be single again, in this life, whether through divorce or death of our spouse. And then we’ll spend eternity with God as single persons once again.

But we won’t actually be single. We’ll be one with our Creator; married, if you will, to God.

Some Christians have bought into the cultural narrative that you can’t really thrive unless you’re married and having lots and lots of sex. But Christianity doesn’t teach this. Christians can live without sex, but we can’t live without love and intimacy. And there’s a difference. Human flourishing doesn’t depend on marriage and it certainly doesn’t depend on sex.

Marriage brings with it its own temptations and trials, frustration and other problems that married people don’t often admit. To think that marriage will end your loneliness and take care of your sexual frustrations is a myth. Many married people wish they weren’t and the “majority of people struggling with sexual addictions and compulsive online habits are married men.”

The fact is that we are relationally and sexually messed up. And only Jesus, not marriage, can fix that. Jesus—the one who was single and the embodiment of human flourishing and joy.


A version of this post originally appeared on the Center For Faith, Sexuality, and Gender blog on October 24, 2018. Used by permission.

Preston

Dr. Preston Sprinkle has authored several books, including the New York Times bestselling Erasing Hell(with Francis Chan; 2011), Fight; A Christian Case for Nonviolence(David C. Cook, 2013), Paul and Judaism Revisited(IVP, 2013),  Charis: God’s Scandalous Grace for Us(David C. Cook, 2014), and the recently released People to Be Loved: Why Homosexuality is Not Just an Issue(Zondervan, 2015), and the newest Grace//Truth 1.0: Five Conversations Every Thoughtful Christian Should Have About Faith, Sexuality & Gender (2017). Dr. Sprinkle also hosts a daily radio program titled: “Theology in the Raw?” and frequently speaks at various venues including college chapels, churches, music festivals, youth camps, family camps, and anywhere else where people desire to hear relevant Bible teaching. Preston has been married to Chrissy for 15 years and together they have 4 children.

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Why Christians Need to Think about Polyamory

I often get asked, “what’s the next discussion that Christians need to have about sexuality and gender?” My immediate answer is: “polyamory,” though the morality of sex with robotsis a close second.

Polyamory is often confused with polygamy, but they are actually quite different. For one, polygamy is a type of marriagewhile polyamory is not necessarily marital. Also, Polygamy almost always entails a man taking more than one wife, while polyamory is much more egalitarian. “Polyamory is open to any mixture of numbers and genders so it is just as common for a man to be in a relationship with several women as it is for a woman to be in lovewith several men,” writes Mike Hatcher.

Polyamory is also different from swinging or open relationships, though these do overlap. Open relationships are polyamorous, but not every polyamorous relationship is an open relationship. Sex and relationship therapist Renee Divine says: “An open relationship is one where one or both partners have a desire for sexualrelationships outside of each other, and polyamory is about having intimate, lovingrelationships with multiple people.” And that’s the key. Polyamory is not just about sex. It includes love, romance, and emotional commitment between more than 2 people.

For some Christians, polyamory seems so extreme and rare that there’s no need to talk about it. It’s wrong. It’s ridiculous. No need to defend why it’s wrong or think through pro-poly arguments. Just quote Genesis 2 and move on. But hopefully we’ve learned the hard way from our rather “late-to-the-discussion” approach with LGBTQ questions that it’s better to get ahead of the game and constructa view rather than just fall back into frantic reactive mode when the issue is in full bloom.

For other Christians, polyamory is only considered when being used in a “slippery slope” argument against same-sex relations—if we allow gay relationships, why not poly relationships? While I agree that the ethical logic used to defend same-sex relations cannot exclude poly relationships, merely using polyamory as a slippery slope argument is inadequate. We actually need to think through plural love, as it’s sometimes called, and do so in a gracious, thoughtful, and biblical manner.

Polyamory is much more common than some people think. According to one estimate“as many as 5 percent of Americans are currently in relationships involving consensual nonmonogamy” which is about the same as those who identify as LGBTQ. Another recent study, published in a peer reviewed journal, found that 1 in 5 Americans have been in a consensual non-monogamous relationship at least some point in their life. Another survey showed that nearly 70% of non-religious Americans between the ages of 24-35 believe that consensual polyamory is okay—even if it’s not theircup of tea. What about church going folks of the same age? Roughly 24% said they were fine (Regnerus, Cheap Sex, 186).

Why would anyone engage in polyamory? Doesn’t it foster jealousy? Can these relationships really last? Aren’t children who grow up in poly families bound to face relational harm? These are all valid questions, ones which have been addressedby advocates of polyamory. At least one argument says that people pursue polyamorous relationships because it’s their sexual orientation. They really have no other valid option, they say. They’re not monogamously oriented. They’re poly.

I’ll never forget watching Dan Savage, a well-known sex columnist, swat the hornet’s nest when he made the audacious claim that “poly is not an orientation.” Savage is no bastion for conservative ideals, and he himself admitsto having 9 different extra-marital affairs with his husband’s consent. This is why it was fascinating to see him get chastised for making such an outlandish statement—that polyamory is not a sexual orientation.

Is there any merit to the claim that polyamory is a sexual orientation? It all depends on our understanding of sexual orientation. How do you define it? Measure it? Prove it? Disprove it? What exactly issexual orientation? (Stay tuned for a later blog on this.) It’s not as if we take a blood sample to determine whether somebody is gay, straight, or poly. Sexual orientation is much, much messier than most people realize.

Celebrities, of course, have suggested that polyamory is an orientation when they talk about monogamy being “unnatural,” or that some people are just wired for more love than one partner can provide. Pop culture isn’t the only advocate, though. Scholars are also starting to argue that polyamory should be considered a sexual orientation. As early as 2011, Ann Tweedy, Assistant Professor at Hamline University School of Law, wrote a lengthy 50-page articlein a peer reviewed journal where she argued that polyamory should be considered a sexual orientation. Tweedy writes: “polyamory shares some of the important attributes of sexual orientation as traditionally understood, so it makes conceptual sense for polyamory to be viewed as part of sexual orientation” (“Polyamory as a Sexual Orientation,” 1514).

The logic is familiar: Those who pursue polyamorous relationships can’t help it. It’s who they are. It’s how God has created them. And it would be wrong to pursue a relationship, like a monogamous one, that goes against their orientation.No, I’m not retorting to the age-old slippery slope argument (e.g. this is where gay relationships will lead). I’m simply summarizing a growing opinion expressed in both pop culture and academia.

Polyamory might be, as a Newsweek article suggested 10 years ago, “The Next Sexual Revolution.”And several of my pastor friends tell me that it’s becoming more common to have people who identify as poly asking about the church’s view on the matter and if they will be accepted and affirmed. These are not abstract questions, and yet the discussion is still young enough so that Christian pastors and leaders have some time to construct a robust, compassionate, thoughtful response to the question—“what’s your church’s stance on people who are poly?” Put more positively, we have time to construct a truly Christian vision for monogamy, if indeed that is the only truly Christian vision.

My purpose of this blog is to put this topic on your radar, not to answer all the questions that you might have. With that in view, here are a few more questions that Christian leaders should wrestle with:

What are the relevant biblical passages and themes that mandate monogamy for those who are called to marriage?

How would you respond to someone who says that Genesis 2, Matthew 19, Ephesians 5 and others are just a few “clobber passages” that are used to beat down poly people?

How do you know that “one man, one woman” statements in the Bible apply to contemporary poly relationships? Perhaps they only prohibit abusive, misogynistic polygamous relationships.

If God’s love for us is plural, and our love for (a Triune) God is plural, then why can’t human love for each other be plural?

Is polyamory a sexual orientation? Why, or why not?

And what is sexual orientation, and should it play a role in determining (or at least shaping) our sexual ethic?

Is it helpful to talk about poly people or should we talk about poly relationships? (And can you pinpoint the important difference?)

Since the Bible doesn’t explicitly condemn plural marriages that are polygamous (or does it?), could we say that monogamy is the ideal while still allowing for polyamorous relationships as less than ideal but still accepted in the church? Why, or why not?

If sexual expression is only permitted if it is faithful, consensual, and marital (which is what most Christians would say), then why can’t it be plural? That is, what is the moral logic that drives your view that monogamy is the only way? Is it just “God says so? Or is there some rationale why plural love is immoral?


A version of this post originally appeared on the Center For Faith, Sexuality, and Gender blog on June 7, 2018. Used by permission.

Preston

Dr. Preston Sprinkle has authored several books, including the New York Times bestselling Erasing Hell(with Francis Chan; 2011), Fight; A Christian Case for Nonviolence(David C. Cook, 2013), Paul and Judaism Revisited(IVP, 2013),  Charis: God’s Scandalous Grace for Us(David C. Cook, 2014), and the recently released People to Be Loved: Why Homosexuality is Not Just an Issue(Zondervan, 2015), and the newest Grace//Truth 1.0: Five Conversations Every Thoughtful Christian Should Have About Faith, Sexuality & Gender (2017). Dr. Sprinkle also hosts a daily radio program titled: “Theology in the Raw?” and frequently speaks at various venues including college chapels, churches, music festivals, youth camps, family camps, and anywhere else where people desire to hear relevant Bible teaching. Preston has been married to Chrissy for 15 years and together they have 4 children.

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Love, Love: The Intimacy Found In Singleness

This is Part Two in Nathaniel Arroyo’s blog series, “Love, Love.” Read part one here.

When God created man, He said, “It is not good for man to be alone,” and every non-married single person in the Church resounded with, “Have you forgotten about me, God?” 

Being single and Christian can summon a kaleidoscope of emotions, thoughts, and various responses (did I just hear an amen?). In this cultural moment, our craving for intimacy is posted publicly in our status updates and Instagram posts. Could it be that we’ve allowed ourselves to believe that intimacy is best found in romantic and sexual relationships? While I can elaborate more on how we’ve developed a false binary scheme of the two, I really want to tackle singleness in the next 700 words. Our cultural understanding of singleness has led to a sense of loneliness that is only remedied in the communion of Christ. 

Men and women are experiencing their first marriage, on average, between ages 27-30; this proves to be a significant departure from the median age for marriage in previous generations, when individuals would wed between the ages of 20-24. This fact alone may explain why your grandmother has been asking for great grandchildren. Christians are no exception, as this median age applies to those within the Church as well. For this reason, we have far more singles in the Church than at any other time in history. And while I don’t think it’s safe to call the rise of this median age a problem, I do think it proposes a different challenge for Christian singles. Love is harder to find today, and it begs the question worth answering: 

Is “true love” available for singles? 

Whether you’re single, dating, married, celibate, or “it’s complicated,” I hope you find solace and Christ in the following words. 

Singleness isn’t a curse. 

In fact, it’s a gift to receive joyfully. As reluctant I was to write the previous sentence, I can’t help but trust that it is true. Many grow up with the notion that marriage is the epitome of the Christian lifestyle; it’s the Creme Brûlée of Christian delicacies. I did not grow up in a Christian household, yet, growing up, there was an agreed notion in the air that marriage was one most substantial relationships to enter into. To find “the one” was to live your best life. Ideally, the dream would play out like this: the two of us would get married, teasingly argue about the number of kids we were to have and what their names would be, and drive off into every sunset we could find. This would be the relationship in which true love is found. This is where love would be enough. All I needed to do was endure my singleness.

How I wish that I understood sooner that singleness is a gift. There is real intimacy available to us singles that brings lasting joy and satisfaction; and it’s found in Jesus. Yes, the classic Sunday School answer is the remedy to loneliness (notice how I didn’t say singleness), but it’s far more in-depth than proclaiming Jesus as your boyfriend at your local Galentines. When I say Jesus is the pathway to intimacy, we need to understand what it means to bravely enter into a relationship with Him and what He offers. 

When we enter into a relationship with Jesus, we enter into a relationship with True Love. God is love. Jesus is God. The logic follows. Yet, despite having a theological understanding of who God is and how He relates to us, we still find ourselves wrestling with loneliness. Our craving for intimacy still feels starved when we don’t experience physical acts of love. Tim Keller exposes our desire for intimacy in his book, “The Meaning Of Marriage:”

“To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God. It is what we need more than anything. It liberates us from pretense, humbles us out of our self-righteousness, and fortifies us for any difficulty life can throw at us.”

Trusting Keller’s wisdom, then, means being fully knownand truly lovedis already a reality because Jesus created you and He died for you.

I love how David, the Psalmist, puts it, “For it was You who created my inward parts; You knit me together in my mother’s womb.” God knows you. Your hands, feet, the curvature of your nose, the roundness of your shoulders, the hue of your iris — He knitted you together in your mother’s womb. You are fully known, and His love extends just as deep. John, one of Jesus’s apostles, records Jesus’s words as His imminent death is around the corner, and Jesus says this, “…Love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, that someone would lay down his life for his friends.” Jesus laid down His life for you. In bringing to fulfillment the redemption story, Jesus valued His relationship with you to the extent that He would do anything to make that relationship permanent… even if it meant giving up His own life.   

There is nothing that can separate you from His love. Jesus is committed to you. He was purposefully single because of you. Jesus, our Bridegroom, looks at His bride, we the Church, and He marvels at her because He is the perfect husband. He did not commit to an earthly wife during His ministry. He sought union with us. He invited us to be one in Him just like in marriage when two flesh become one. His lack of an earthly marital status hinged upon His covenant relationship with His Bride. 

Whether you like it or not, Christian, you have a husband, companion, helper, redeemer, lover, and savior in Jesus. There will be a day when you face your Bridegroom face-to-face. You are looking forward to, yet, mysteriously already in, the most intimate relationship you will ever experience.


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Nathaniel Arroyo is a poet, photographer, and coffee aficionado located in Spokane, Washington. Being from Chicago, IL, he has a passion for the Church’s engagement with culture through mediums of art, community, and rich theology. He attended Moody Bible Institute – Spokane and studied Biblical Exposition.

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Porn is Not Just a Man’s Problem

You may or may not hear this often, but women struggle with porn.

Over the past few years, there has been a new wave of what some have called “mommy porn” across the world of entertainment with films as controversial as 50 Shades of Grey and as mainstream as Magic Mike XXL.

No matter what you call it, the truth is that this kind of entertainment is definitely not just geared toward “moms,” but rather, women in general. It’s a type of entertainment that’s typically loaded with sexual innuendo, scantily clad men and, in some cases, explicit sex scenes.

But the truth is, this type of over-sexualized entertainment is not just found in recent blockbusters, it’s been slowly seeping into popular books, television shows and even commercials for quite some time now.

What bothers me the most about this new movement is how little attention it seems to be receiving. In fact, we often sit back and take it in without even batting an eye. While I’m happy to say that the objectification of women is finally beginning to gain some attention and push back in our society, it seems that we’ve neglected the other side to the story. Women struggle with porn, too.

Even the Church at large has had a role in the double-standard by pushing sermons, messages and ministries encouraging men to deal with their lust, porn and sexual immorality.

But what about women?

Women Struggle With Porn

We often view porn and lust as a man’s issue, so we don’t typically challenge women as much about the things they think about and the ways they entertain themselves.

Whether man or woman, as human beings, we are all wired with natural emotions and a sexual appetite that can become unhealthy if we continue to feed it with junk. It’s important that we remember that lust is not just a male problem, and start realizing how our culture has played a role in this important conversation.

Women Struggle With Lust

While I can’t deny that men and women perceive and process the world differently, when we focus the entirety of the conversation about porn and lust on men, we not only ignore, but also isolate the many women who are also struggling. By making light of female lust issues we actually enable and encourage the problem instead of offering a place for help.

According an article by the American Psychological Association, various studies report that porn use ranges all the way up to 99 percent among men and up to 86 percent among women. The difference is much less than we tend to talk about.

I had a personal realization of this truth when I received a barrage of emails from women stuck in porn addiction after an article I posted on my blogabout the subject.

Maybe it’s time to recognize that we’re all prone to get lost in sin, yet we’re all given the opportunity to walk in freedom.

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“Protect Your Eyes” vs. “Explore Your Sensuality”

Often, we challenge men to protect their eyes all the while encouraging women to explore their sexuality and sensuality. We tend to “scold” and even look down on men who struggle with porn use and addiction, while women are praised for being “in tune” with their sexuality.

And stranger still, some of the same women who are offended at the thought of their spouses watching porn are just as quick to run out with their girlfriends to watch the latest sex-themed film or book club for that racy novel. It’s time to challenge one another to a higher standard, starting with looking inward and working to remove even a “hint of sexual immorality or any kind of impurity” from our own hearts and lives.

Objectifying Men

True, women tend to be objectified far more than men in our society. But that doesn’t justify objectifying men. Objectifying men is just as degrading and detrimental to our society as men objectifying women. As a society, we are quick to get up in arms when women are used as sexual objects in films and in marketing, and rightly so. It’s devastating to fearfully and wonderfully made, complex and capable human beings reduced to the shell of their bodies.

But shouldn’t it be just as devastating when we see it happening to both genders? If we’re honest with ourselves, we’ll see that we tend to feel differently from one gender to another. It would do us all well to take a second look at our definition of “equality” and then apply that to the entertainment we allow ourselves to consume, learning to respect both genders in the process.

God’s Call to Holiness Has to Do With Each and Every One of Us

When we categorize sin into “gender specific” categories, we miss the mark. As children of God, we’re called to reflect Christ in the best way that we can—whether we happen to be male or female. Together, we portray to the world a clearer picture of who He is.

Whether we’re talking about lust, sexual struggles, or any other sin, let’s remember that the call to holiness applies to all. We shouldn’t shame one another about issues like porn—after all, the cure for any sort of sin is not shaming, it’s Christ—but we should talk about these issues with both genders. Because women struggle with porn, too. But too many of them are struggling alone.

Let’s challenge, encourage, and support one another in the Body of Christ as we take inventory of the things we’re allowing to enter our minds and influence our hearts.

How do you control your sex drive while you’re single? Check out the latest episode of the Love + Relationships Podcastwhere I answer this exact question!

A version of this post originally appeared on True Love Dates on September 20th, 2018. Used by permission.


Debra Fileta is a Professional Counselor, national speaker, relationship expert, and author of True Love Dates: Your Indispensable Guide to Finding the Love of Your Life, and Choosing Marriage: Why It Has To Start With We > Me where she writes candidly about love, sex, dating, relationships, and marriage. You may also recognize her voice from her 200+ articles at Relevant Magazine, Crosswalk.com, and all over the web! She’s the creator of this True Love Dates Blog, reaching millions of people with the message that healthy people make healthy relationships!  Connect with her on Facebook or Twitter or book a session with her today!

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Porn: The Hidden Self

“And you’re wondering why you felt like you weren’t good enough?” my friend Dave said. “You were literally conditioned to think that way!”

I had just finished telling Dave about an exercise I had been doing for a class on addiction in which I created a timeline of my life. In doing so, I realized that there was a lot of rejection in my younger years. Prior to college, nearly every girl I had been interested in either dumped me after a few weeks, or flat out rejected me from the start.

I hardly dated anyone after that.

It has taken me a while to freely admit it, but one of the deepest roots of my addiction to pornography has been this feeling that I’m not good enough for a real woman.

You see, in middle and high school, I was not the oxen of a man you see today. I was not the “Shirtless Wonder.”

I was a nerd.

A geek.

Whatever label you want to stick on the kid that moved a couple times, went to three high schools and two middle schools, and had a collection of 500 comic books. The kid who had every detail about Middle Earth memorized and longed to become Batman (truth be told, that’s part of the reason I started working out…I guess comic books were good for something.)

After a number of failed relationships (or whatever you call two 9thgraders going to a movie), I came to think that the problem was me. That I was the undesirable one.

So I worked to change it.

I chopped my Beatles-era haircut and hit the weights. I bought nicer clothes and dropped the Star Wars t-shirts. I did everything I could think of to change people’s perception of me into a man who was worthy of dating. The problem with these things is that they do nothing to heal the wounded heart of a man.

Dr. Dan Allender saysthat men today are broken hearted. “Not broken hearted as in sad or full of grief,” he writes. “Instead, we are broken into fragmented selves that are unable to do much other than posture and pretend we are someone whom we know we are not.”

At an early age, my heart was broken into a dozen different pieces. Some of these pieces ventured to the identity of a nerd while others worked at getting into better physical shape. Some tried to earn value in artistry, while other fragments delighted in being the class clown.

All of these “identities” were only parts of a shield, though. Like a turtle shell I could tuck into whenever someone looked my way, while the Real Ethan, the weird, eccentric, tender-hearted self stayed safe inside.

John Eldredge echoed this sentiment when he wrote,

This is every man’s deepest fear: to be exposed, to be found out, to be discovered as an impostor, and not really a man…We are hiding, every last one of us. Well aware that we, too, are not what we were meant to be, desperately afraid of exposure, terrified of being seen for what we are and are not, we have run off into the bushes. We hide in our office, at the gym, behind the newspaper and mostly behind our personality.

The sad thing is, most of us go on living like this and wondering why we feel so severed from our realself. Why there is no peace inside us. Why we feel splintered into so many pieces. Social media doesn’t help because we can look any way we want online.

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I maintained the charade for many many years until recently when I decided to do the tough work of examining myself and taking a good, hard, honest look in the mirror. It was like pulling a hermit crab from his protective shell: It was ugly and it snapped and fought like hell against being exposed, because the work of healing is not easy.

Several years ago, I was on the bus in Chicago with a Moody student who was an acquaintance of mine. He began sharing what the Lord was teaching him in that season, and the only part I remember was one line: “The Lord is teaching me that it’s okay to be weak, to be broken.”

I don’t think I’ve ever had so much respect for another human being in my life.

It’s as if he was standing before me as the bus tilted and rocked, holding his palms open to me saying Look, this is me. I’m not that cool. I’m hurt and broken. But God’s cool with that, and I’m learning to be cool with it too.

So I’m attempting to become like that too. It’s incredibly hard for a man to admit that he is weak and broken, but I think that is the first step in healing.

Because women don’t fall in love with how many pounds you can put up on the bench, or that sweet new shirt from H&M. They can’t even love the jokes you make or the intelligence stored in the folds of your brain.

People love other people, not the things they try to wrap around themselves as a disguise.

Learning this is hard, because ever since we got the boot from the Garden of Eden, we’ve been trying to cover ourselves up, trying to look better than we actually are.

Underneath all the fancy fig leaves and one-liners, we are all pretty ugly and weak, but that doesn’t mean we’re unworthy of love. God doesn’t stop chasing you because you woke up with bedhead, or you can’t curl a 5 pounder.

It’s hard to examine myself and see that there are a lot of things I don’t like about myself. But it’s even harder to accept that despite them, God still loves me. And hopefully, there’s a woman out there who will too. But living with a splintered heart and trying to be a dozen men at once is exhausting and will keep us returning to the fire hydrant of porn to try to nourish our broken heart.

My friend Michael Cusick points out that the word “integrity” comes from the word “integer,” meaning whole. A person of integrity is a whole person, not a shapeshifter who modifies themselves to fit the scene.

So may we be a people who give up disguising ourselves and trying to be more impressive than we are.

May we seek wholeness, root ourselves in quietness and peace and know ourselves as we are known by God, recognizing that God loves the weak and the broken; He lifts up those who are low. (Psalm 145)

“But [Jesus] said to me, My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in my weaknesses…For when I am weak, then I am strong.” -2 Corinthians 12:9-10

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A version of this article appeared on Ethan’s Blog on September 21st, 2016. Used by permission.


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I’m Ethan & I love Jesus as much as my little heart allows. I’m an artist, traveler, and the Lord often speaks to me in poems. I’m a personal trainer, youth pastor and photographer. I graduated from Moody and now live in Colorado. Come check out my blog at www.ethanrenoe.com.

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You Can Fall In Love With The Wrong Person

“I know she wanted to fall in love. I just hope she fell in love with the right guy.” 

I was looking at an acquaintance’s engagement photos on social media recently, and found myself thinking that very thought.

If you follow my blog posts or my relationship podcast, you’ll know that I’m not an fan of the philosophy that says there is “just one person” out there for each of us to marry. I don’t believe in finding “the one“, but I do believe that once you choose someone to marry – they become “the one“.

So, when I say “I hope she fell in love with the right guy”, I’m not referring to the theoretical needle-in-the-haystack. I’m not hoping that she stumbled across, “the one and only one” for her life. No, that’s not what I mean at all.

When I say that I hope she fell in love with the right guy, what I mean is that I hope she fell in love with someone who’s a right match for her life. Someone who is a goodmatch for her life.

Finding someone who is a good match for our lives is something people don’t often think about, especially in the wake of the hangover of “feeling in love”. 

But when we follow our feelings into love, we can also follow our feelings right back out of love.

There’s got to be more keeping us than feelings.

Do you believe it’s possible to fall in love with the wrong person?

I get that question thrown at me often. So, I will go ahead and wholeheartedly say, YES – I do believe it’s possible to fall in love with the wrong person. In fact, I think it happens all the time, every single day.

As a professional counselor, I work with many couples who come to me with major problems and issues that have surfaced through marriage.

They might have differences in their communication abilities, problems with how they manage conflict, deep seated issues or traumatic experiences they’ve never dealt with, personality differences, etc. But other times, there are much bigger problems. Honesty issues. Trust issues. Addictive behaviors. Character problems. Power struggles.

There are so many red flags that get ignored or shoved under the table in the name of “falling in love”. Yet if we’re actively looking for them, the red flags of marriage often trace back to the red flags in dating.

So many times, we look to chemistry to tell us what works in a marriage rather than looking at compatibility.

But when chemistry wanes, all that’s left is a lack of compatibility that brings people to the harsh reality that maybe, just maybe, they fell in love with the wrong person. That maybe, just maybe, they didn’t make the wisest marital choice when it came to finding the things that really matter in a relationship: character, connection, and compatibility.(READ MORE: 5 People You Should Never Marry).

The majority of my audience at TrueLoveDates.com are Christian singles, looking ahead at marriage. I write this article primarily for you. I want you to realize that it is possible to “fall in love” with the wrong person, and when you let feelings lead the way you will end up getting hurt every single time.

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Feelings have got to be part of the equation, but there’s got to be more than feelings. Because there’s so much more to a healthy, life-long marriagethan how we feel about someone in the moment. Take a few steps back by understanding who you are, so that you know the type of person who fits into your story from the type of person who doesn’t.

Choosing Marriage

But even as I write these words, I am fully aware that there are those of you reading this who feel like you’ve made a bad marital choice. You ignored all the red flags and warning signs, and married the “wrong person”. You committed your life to someone who wasn’t the best match for your life – worse yet, someone who wasn’t a match at all.

You rushed into love on the wave of feelings, and now the wave has crashed and you find yourself drowning in its midst.

My encouragement to you is this: even if you didn’t choose a good match, you can still become a good match. There are choices that you can make TODAY, to build a better marriage for TOMORROW. Choices to get you healthy, and move your relationship toward healthy as well. It’s possible. It’s achievable. And it’s absolutely worth the process.

I have seen God take two people, so far from my expectation of a good match, and weave their broken lives together in a remarkable way. He is the Healer of all things, and as He begins to heal you from the inside out, He can also heal your relationship. The process won’t be easy, and it won’t be without it’s fair share of work. But the outcome will be worth it.

If you’re struggling to know what makes a good match in dating or how to become a good match in marriage, pick up a copy of Choosing Marriage: Why IT Has To Start With We > Me, and start making the choices that will change your life and in turn, your love life. Because a huge part to marrying the right person, is becoming the right person.


A version of this post originally appeared on True Love Dates on December 5th, 2018. Used by permission.

DEBRA FILETA is a Licensed Professional Counselor, national speaker, relationship expert, and author of Choosing Marriage and True Love Dates. She’s also the host of the hotline style Love + Relationships Podcast. Her popular relationship advice blog, TrueLoveDates.com, reaches millions of people with the message of healthy relationships. Connect with her on FacebookInstagram, or Twitter

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6 Signs You Spend Too Much Time on Social Media

We’re becoming a digital culture. Maybe we’re already there. I’m not sure. But I am sure this presents unique challenges. The digital shift is neither good nor bad. It just is. And we must learn to navigate this shift, not use it as a scapegoat.

The problems we face today are as old as Eve. Does social media amplify them? Probably. Make them more visible? Certainly. But are they unique to our generation? Not hardly.

If you google “average time spent on social media” you will find varying answers, anywhere from 60 minutes to 9 hours a day. While these numbers are alarming – nine hours a day on social media, really? – they’re merely symptoms.

The real problems rests underneath the surface. And if we’re serious about addressing them, we must dig deeper. Social media can have an equally negative effect on the soccer mom and the college student, the one-hour-a-day user and the nine-hour-a-day user.

Using time spent as a metric is little more than a quick answer to a deeper problem. Instead, we should look at habits, behaviors and perceptions. The negative effects of social media breed particular problems.

Here are a few. If any of the following points resonate, you probably spend too much time on social media.

1. You have a nagging sense that your life is “average,” and that’s not okay.

Sensing your life is average, that’s not the toxic part. When you think “my average life is not okay” you have the origins of something toxic.

In college, several of my professors graded on a curve. This curve says a few people fall in a percentile lower than their shoe size (5 or less), a few more in a percentile higher than their oldest living relative (95 or greater), and every one else fall in the middle.

Statisticians call those in the lowest and highest percentiles “outliers.” Because outliers skew results, they normally aren’t considered in analysis.

Social media, however, is built on outliers. The worst of the worst and the best of the best are most likely to show up on your timeline. A few weeks ago, for example, my Twitter and Facebook feeds were littered with articles about some dude who killed his girlfriend, stole her car and was now at large. I remember thinking during all this that social media gives someone with evil intentions an easy way to gain international fame.

We now have a celebrity as President. Earth can’t complete a full rotation on its axis without a new story about President Trump.

If you have a nagging sense that your life isn’t special because you haven’t committed a heinous crime or received the final rose on TheBachelor, you might be spending too much time on social media.

If you have a nagging sense that your life isn’t special because you haven’t committed a heinous crime or received the final rose on TheBachelor, you might be spending too much time on social media.

Almost everyone, 99% or more, lives in the middle. And that’s quite okay.

2. You have a lot of “friends,” but you still feel lonely. 

A meaningful life needs a few necessary ingredients. Human connection is one. These connections are tiered based on intimacy. Spouse being the most intimate, then family, close friends, co-workers, and Spot, the dog who isn’t a human but is.

You don’t need every tier, but the fewer you have, the more incomplete you will feel.

If you’re doing it right, social media will undergird and strengthen relationships, from the top down. If you’re not doing it wrong, social media will amplify disconnection and loneliness.

Social media friends are mostly padding for your ego.

Social media profiles don’t determine how many friends or followers you have. Those are just numbers, mostly padding for the ego. If you find yourself struggling with loneliness, ask yourself how many intimate relationships you have.

3. You can’t commit to anything because you’re afraid of missing something better. 

Several years ago, this behavior was dubbed FOMO (fear of missing out). Today, I think it’s called normal. The source of its rise? Social media.

Jill is kickin’ it on the beach. Timmy is posing with the crew on a mission trip in Africa (#blessed). Everyone seems to be killin’ this life thing but you, so says social media.

Without some inner work, constantly checking your heart and aligning your decisions with your values, you end up playing the game. Rather than embracing the life in front of you, you hold out, waiting for the next experience so you can one-up Jill and Timmy.

This game is competitive yet it has no winner. You can’t compete with your timeline, mostly because what you see is a facade.

If making decisions brings anxiety, you might spend too much time on social media.

4. You often say or do things you later regret. 

One of my favorite books of all time is Victor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning. In it, he says this, “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”

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I would let Frankl elaborate, but he’s dead. So I’ll give it a try. Regardless of situation, you have the power to choose your response. You can’t necessarily choose the circumstances (or stimulus). But you can always choose your response. The space between a situation and a response is where growth and freedom live.

Social media decreases this space, leading to high levels of sensitivity and low levels of emotional resilience.

5. You have a low tolerance for people who don’t think like you. 

Social media platforms want you to spend more time on their site, so they give you more of what you like. These platforms filter your feed based on previous likes, clicks, etc. In other words, social media pads your ego by strengthening your confirmation bias.

If you’re hardline conservative, for example, chances are your feed won’t include posts about Black Lives Matter or knocks against President Trump. If you lean left (I hate labeling people this way, but it gets the point across, so…), you won’t see posts supporting traditional marriage or travel bans on refugees.

And both sides said, “Amen.”

Yeah, except this doesn’t promote much tolerance, compassion or humility. Especially if you’re a Christian, this is bad. This is one of the greatest challenges facing our generation.

How do we find common ground and come to the table with people who think different from us?

6. You have no boundaries between personal and private moments. 

I see Christians post pics about alone time with God. While I’m not judging, I wonder about the motivation behind this? Some moments are too intimate for a timeline, too powerful to be contained in 140 characters (or less).

I fear we irreparably harm our peace and joy when every moment becomes shareworthy. Whether it’s lunch with a good friend, date night with your spouse or intimate time with God, we can’t fully embrace a moment while simultaneously trying to capture it. We also can’t embrace a moment when it’s interrupted with chirps and rings.

One of the greatest gifts you can give any one is your full attention. I suspect the most grateful, content among us understand this.

It’s your turn.

What are some signs someone spends too much time on social media?


A version of this post originally appeared on Bayside Blog on March 25, 2017. Used by permission.

Frank Powell-

Frank is a freelance writer and speaker living in Birmingham, Alabama with his wife and three kids. His goal is to challenge status quo Christianity and push everyone (Christian or not) to see God with fresh eyes.

His content has been featured on sites like Relevant, ChurchLeaders, Catalyst, Thought Catalog, Mogul, and FaithIt. Be sure to check out his work on the Bayside Church blog at: blog.baysideonline.com.

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Why Dates Shouldn’t Be About Marriage

Ever heard the expression “date to find a mate?”

The phrase pops up every now and again Christian culture. It highlights the idea that the purpose of going on dates should be to find a spouse. This idea has been popular in Christian circles given the movements over the last twenty years that have criticized casual dating and urged singles to focus their romantic activities on marriage.

The problem is that going on dates and thinking about whether you’re going to marry the person on the other side of the table is a bad idea.

Don’t Overthink Dates

In his book How To Get A Date Worth Keeping, Dr. Henry Cloud shares a story about a woman who never seemed to get asked out on any second dates. The longer she went without a second date, the more anxious she got about it. She tried to do everything right on her first dates so the guys she saw would ask her out again. As it turned out, trying to do everything right was what she was doing wrong.

She was so worried about getting a second date that her anxiety got in the way of being relaxed and fun on her first dates. It was when she stopped worrying about getting a second date that her natural personality was able to shine through. That made her more attractive to the men she saw, which resulted in her getting second dates.

This story is a good example of how overthinking dates can quickly short-circuit your dating life. It also illustrates why thinking about marriage on dates is a bad idea. It’s usually impossible to know on an early date whether you will or won’t marry the person sitting across from you. And being preoccupied with thoughts of how far a relationship with your date could go easily distracts from getting to know your date in that moment. Not to mention how being preoccupied with a distant, possible, future marriage adds a lot of stress to going on dates. That stress can show through and make your date feel like you’re a high-strung person.

This is why it’s much better simply to enjoy a date while you’re on it and not worry about the future or marriage. Living in the moment of a date allows you to get to know your date in a much more fun and relaxed manner. And that allows both people to see each other’s natural personalities without anxiety getting in the way.

Besides, worrying about marriage on a date isn’t how to be intentional about marriage anyway.

Marriage Will Worry About Itself

In my post “How To Be Intentional (Without Even Trying,)” I talked about how it’s who you are at heart that determines whether you’re intentional about marriage, not what happens on a first date. A person who is interested in one day committing to marriage rather than in immediate self-gratification will naturally pursue dating in a way that leads toward finding a spouse. When that’s your attitude, you don’t have to worry about whether you’ll marry the person across the table. That question always answers itself with time.

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See, as you get to know a person better, you’ll naturally discover more and more whether you want to spend your life with that person. Worrying about that process of discovery doesn’t make it happen any quicker. In Matthew 6:34a, Jesus said, “don’t worry about tomorrow, because tomorrow will worry about itself.” Maybe we should reapply that principle and tell ourselves this:

Don’t worry about marriage while on a date, because marriage will worry about itself.

Be Normal

I like a passage by Jefferson Bethke in the book he coauthored with his wife Alyssa, Love That Lasts. I think Jeff summarizes well how we shouldn’t be anxious about going on dates and relax along the journey toward marriage. Jeff writes,

I don’t necessarily think you should date every person with the goal of marriage. I think that’s the problem sometimes with Christian culture, especially at Christian universities, where girls are terrified to go out for coffee with guys because the next day the whole campus will think they are getting married by the end of next week.

So quick word of advice to the fellas. Have purpose and have vision, but don’t make it weird. [It’s] just friendly conversation over a cup of coffee. Be normalare probably the best words of advice I could ever give to a guy in his twenties who wants to date.1

By ‘be normal,’ Jeff means, ‘be a person who isn’t trying to figure out if someone he or she hardly knows is his or her future spouse.’ Normal people don’t attempt something so absurd. Instead, be a person who enjoys living in the moment of having fun while getting to know someone. While it’s good for the process of dating to lead to marriage, individual dates shouldn’t be about marriage.

So the next time you head out on a date, be sure to leave the worries about marriage at home.

What do you think? Have you found it wise not to worry about marriage when going on dates? Is there a way you’ve found thinking about marriage beneficial? Please share your thoughts in the comments!

And please help others learn not to overthink their dates by sharing the post! Just use the buttons below.

1: Bethke, Jefferson & Alyssa. Love That Lasts. Nelson 2017. p. 134


A version of this post originally appeared on Justin’s blog, That Crazy Christian Romance, on September 1st, 2018. Used by permission.

Justin Megna-57

Justin Megna is the creator of That Crazy Christian Romance, a blog dedicated to sharing biblical wisdom for romance with Christian young people. He completed a BA in Pastoral Ministry at University of Valley Forge.

Get Justin’s free Christian Love Life Essentials Checklist by clicking here.

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There’s No Such Thing As “Love At First Sight”

A recent poll I did on TrueLoveDates.comrevealed that more than ⅓ of voters believed in “Love at First Sight”.

According to some of the people I’d spoken with, they knew they fell in love within a few moments of making eye contact.  Their feelings were undeniable.

The heart-fluttering, brow-sweating, stomach-knotting emotions that were simply out of their control. There was chemistry, there was connection, there was immediate attraction. They were struck by love, and there was nothing they could do to get over it.  So, how can one explain this instant connection other than saying that it’s pure love?

There’s a reality series on TV called “Married At First Sight“. And yes, it’s as crazy as it sounds…

The premise of this show is to “do-away” with the concept of modern-day dating, offering 6 individuals a chance to be paired to their “perfect match” at the altar. Psychologists and Sociologists work hard to evaluate the candidates with psychological testing, interviews, and assessments in order to match them with their most compatible counter-part.

Eventually, the “experts” pair up two individuals and they meet for the first time on their wedding day. After they get married, they have 6 weeks to live together and make their marriage work before deciding whether or not they want to stay together, or get a divorce.

Essentially, it’s a modern day arranged marriage (minus the option for divorce, of course), and it’s an interesting premise, which is why I decided to tune-in when the show first came out.

But as the season unfolded, I couldn’t help but make some interesting observations about the three couples who participated.

What People Get Wrong About Love

For one thing, I observed that the couples who had the most “chemistry” at first sight were, ironically, the ones who ended up having the most unhealthy relationship and getting divorced in the end.

In the first episode, you watch them glance at each other and you can see the instant attraction flying off the television screen. One of the women described that initial moment as a “fairy tale” experience. In the past two seasons of the show, 3 out of 4 of the couples who had that instant experience of “love at first sight” ended up filing for a divorce only 6 short weeks after that moment. You know what that tells me? “Love at first sight” – isn’t really love, is it?

The second observation I made was that any couple who is considering whether or not to get a divorce at the 6-week mark, can’t be a couple who is really after life-long love. 

Because true love in any relationship is ONLY defined within the context of commitment.

So how can you talk about love, or even marriage, outside of that context? I have a hard time swallowing the idea of love at first sight, because by the very nature of the definition, it describes love as a feeling.

But here’s the thing you need to know about feelings: they can’t be trusted. They’re fickle, up and down, and oftentimes even deceitful. Feelings come, and just as fast, feelings go. One minute you can feel defeated by sadness, and then in a blink of an eye, happiness follows.  Confusion turns to assurance. Excitement into fear. I fully believe that feelings should influence us, but they should never lead the way.

To believe in love at first sight is essentially to let emotions take the reins, which ultimately causes confusion more than it makes a way for romance. Healthy relationships are based on so much more than feelings.

On the other hand, feelings shouldn’t be repressed or ignored.  They are meaningful, when kept in proper perspective.  They have an important place in our lives and can be a powerful influence in the choices we make.

When it comes to understanding love in it’s proper context, it’s crucial to distinguish between the feelings of love, and the actions of love.  Though we might feel the feeling of love upon first glance (which I prefer to call attraction or chemistry), those feelings are not love because they don’t display the actions of love.

And real love is something we do, not something we feel. <– TWEET IT!

You know what’s interesting? My husband, John, describes his first encounter with me as an instant attraction. He says he walked into the room and was “overwhelmingly struck” by my beauty (Yah, baby! I’ll take it!).  He says he couldn’t take his eyes off of me. Something inexplicable drew him to me.  But though his emotions were a first step toward getting to know me, they were not love in and of themselves.

Because Love is defined by what a person does, rather than simply by how they feel.

The greatest definition of love ever written is found in the pages of the Bible.The Bible reveals love as a choice that is based not entirely on feeling, but on the commitment of one person to another.  Love is giving of self with no expectation to receive- a decision made every moment of every day. It’s unconditional.

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  It does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-8).

According to this, true love is a series of actions and a pattern of choices.  But what’s even more amazing is that this definition comes from a God who took it upon himself to show us what choosing lovemeans.  He gave complete love by pursuing it as an action–to the point of sacrificing his life.

Love at first sight is never complete love, because it’s based on emotion rather than commitment; a feeling, rather than a choice. It can’t accurately represent love because it’s only the beginning.  True love is born when two people commit to offer themselves for the sake of the other person. It’s a process of growth that deepens a couple’s bond over time.

That’s exactly what happened with me and John. The instant attractionslowly grew into something more meaningful.  We chose to connect, to give, to serve and to honor one another in the friendship and relationship that formed thereafter.  We watered the seed of love by our choices.  Attraction may have opened the door- but action kept it open. And love was born. True Love. Real love. Lasting love.

Because stronger than love at first sight, is choosing love thereafter.  Every. Single. Day. 

How Important Is Physical Attractionin a Relationship? How do you know if you have healthy expectations for what physical and sexual chemistry should feel like in a dating relationship? What about in marriage? Find out in this candid conversation all about sexual and physical attraction. Click the image below to listen to this eye-opening podcast episode!

Love and Relationships Podcast

A version of this post originally appeared on True Love Dates on September 8th, 2018. Used by permission.

Ev5W1aJG

Debra Fileta is a Professional Counselor, national speaker, relationship expert, and author of True Love Dates: Your Indispensable Guide to Finding the Love of Your Life, and Choosing Marriage: Why It Has To Start With We > Me where she writes candidly about love, sex, dating, relationships, and marriage. You may also recognize her voice from her 200+ articles at Relevant Magazine, Crosswalk.com, and all over the web! She’s the creator of this True Love Dates Blog, reaching millions of people with the message that healthy people make healthy relationships!  Connect with her on Facebook or Twitter or book a session with her today!

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Marriage Matters

In her book Love Thy Body, Nancy Pearcey shares how one poll found that almost half of all millennials have given up the hope and perhaps even the desire for a monogamous relationship. Pearcey writes, “The hookup culture is unraveling the social fabric. It produces isolated, alienated adults who come together temporarily for physiological release. By repeatedly breaking up or never connecting in the first place, many people fail to learn how to form the strong, resilient bonds needed to create happy, fulfilling, long term marriages and families.” Nancy Pearcey’s words remind us that the church and family must work together to communicate God’s good and gracious plan for marriage, sex, and sexuality. The future of marriage and marriages hangs in the balance.

Have you ever taken the time to ask your kids what they think about marriage? Chances are, they think about it quite a bit differently than you did when you were their age. Today’s young people are getting married later, and getting divorced more frequently. With cohabitation increasing at breakneck speed, a growing number of young people are opting out of marriage. Because of cultural negativity about marriage, bad examples, and experiencing the brokenness of their parents’ marriage, marriage is something many kids never consider. The boundaries regarding who can marry are changing as well, with conversations, debates, and legislation all addressing the growing reality of same-sex marriages. All in all, biblical marriage – as an institution – is in decline.

Perhaps the negative old marriage clichés have stuck enough to serve as a deterrent. You remember these clichés don’t you? “Marriage is a great institution! But who wants to spend the rest of their life in an institution!?!” Or how about this one: “Marriage is a three ring circus: engagement ring, wedding ring, and suffering.”

It’s time that we send our kids a different message about the meaning of marriage. No, there aren’t any perfect marriages. The coming together of one broken person with another broken person can be pretty difficult at times. All of us married folks know that far too well. That’s certainly a realistic marriage message that we need to communicate to our kids. And while we’re together, it will at times be hard. It will be so hard, in fact, that there will be times when we feel like giving up. And, we will wonder about the decision we made to even get married in the first place. To make marriage work it takes work. Love is a commitment.

But even more important is our task to define just what marriage is. While God does indeed call and gift some to the single life, He also said that it is not good for us to be alone. God made marriage and gave it to us as a gift. It’s a good thing! God also defined the parameters for His gift of marriage. It’s to be a life-long, covenantal, monogamous, exclusive heterosexual union between one man and one woman. Our kids need us to continually engage in show and tell when it comes to marriage. We need to tell them that marriage is not some kind of human invention. Instead, God made it for us and gave it to us.

Whether you are a youth worker or parent who’s married, or single by choice or circumstance, you can and must talk to your kids about the goodness of God’s design for marriage. Our culture never stops talking to our kids about marriage. Neither should you.

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Friday Fodder… Marriage Matters For Teens

I’m not sure he’d get away with it in today’s cultural climate, but Flip Wilson had a generation of us middle school kids laughing awfully doggone hard back when he was transforming himself into his in-your-face female character,  Geraldine, on his Flip Wilson Show. 

Regardless of what you think of Wilson’s Geraldine, there was something “she” was known to say back then that’s been normalized into our thinking about love, sex, and marriage today: “Love is a feeling you feel when you’re about to feel a feeling you never felt before! Whooooo!” Back then, it made my childish self laugh. Today, those words make me shudder.

In an age that celebrates the self and encourages us to idolize and pursue the satisfaction of any and every personal desire, feelings have become something that we act on, rather than something that we should manage and even distrust. And when feelings become the foundation on which we make decisions about love, sex, and marriage. . . well. . . nothing is permanent.

Geraldine was reflecting what’s become a cultural narrative that is diametrically opposed to the biblical narrative. Yes, God has given us the gift of emotions. And, as such, we need to manage that gift to His glory in ways that corral our emotions within the boundaries of His authority, rather than vice-versa.

This week I read these powerful words from Tim Keller in his daily devotional on Proverbs, God’s Wisdom for Navigating Life: “Traditional vows don’t mention feelings at all. In marriage vows we do not merely express present love – we promise future love. We promise not to always feel loving but rather to be loving, faithful, tender, and compassionate no matter how we feel at the time. Marriage is a covenant; it requires lifelong endurance, strengthened by our vows.”

Youth workers and parents. . . we can’t speak and example this truth enough. Remember, Geraldine’s words are being preached to our kids 24/7 through the cultural script. They’ve got to be seeing and hearing something different. Geraldine used to tell us, “Don’t fight the feeling!” Well, perhaps there are times when we should.

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Pornography and Kids

One of the most difficult and humbling things I get to do is talk to kids about the cultural scourge of pornography. That’s what I’ll be doing tomorrow morning with a group of 300 kids at a camp in Massachusetts. For several days now I’ve been asking the Lord to give me knowledge, words, wisdom, and courage. It doesn’t matter that I’ve done this numerous times before. It’s always something that verges on overwhelming. It’s difficult and humbling for the simple fact that the accuser comes at me hard, whispering things like “Why would they listen to you. . . an older guy?”. . . and “What qualifies you to talk about this?”

My goal is not to impress, but rather to faithfully and obediently communicate the truth of joyfully living as sexual beings in the context of God’s story for our sexuality, as opposed to choosing to destroy our sexual flourishing by living out our sexuality according to the cultural narrative. Sadly, the cultural narrative is so pervasive and compelling that our task as parents, youth workers, and yes. . . children’s ministry workers. . . is to map out God’s liberating story for our sexuality to even the youngest of the young.

Evidence of the power of the cultural narrative can be seen in how our kids conduct and portray themselves on social media. In her book American Girls: Social Media and Secret Lives of Teenagers, Nancy Jo Sales shares what she’s learned about today’s teenagers by embedding herself (with knowledge and permission) into the lives of 13 to 19- year-old girls. One of her most alarming observations about kids is what serves to educate them about sex and sexuality. Sadly, boys and girls are defining themselves and their understanding of sexuality by what they see depicted in pornography. Our boys learn that their value lies in physicality, while for our girls value lies in sexuality. Our boys need to develop and act out a hypermasculinity, while for our girls it is a hypersexuality. Boys learn that they are to dominate, while girls learn to willingly submit. And finally, our boys learn that it is expected that they issue sexual demands, while our girls see themselves as providing a kind of sexual supply to those demands. Sadly, nothing could be farther from God’s glorious truth for the gift of sex and sexuality.

Parents, youth workers, and children’s ministry folks. . . our calling is clear. We must be diligent about teaching our kids God’s borders and boundaries for his gift of sex and sexuality.

How can we do this? Begin by assuming that all of your students, thanks to the internet and smartphones, either have or will see pornography. Assume as well that because of where they are at developmentally, many or even most will be drawn to what they see over and over again. Youth workers, push back by beginning with parents. Hold a parents’ meeting to give an overview of the changing nature of pornography and how it functions in the lives of kids. Then, take the initiative to work with parents to redefine sexuality according to God’s Word. Then all of us together must walk kids through the creation account so that they will see sexuality as a good gift from God with a purpose and a place. Continue, by helping kids see that pornography defiles not only sexuality, but individuals and families.

And finally, if you would, pray for me and all others who will be broaching this topic with kids over the coming days.

To learn more about pornography and its effects on kids, download this free resource from CPYU. And, be sure to tap into all the resources that are available for free at CPYU’s Sexual Integrity Initiative.

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Friday Fodder… How Men View Women, Etc

Here’s something to think about and talk about with each other and with your kids. It comes from Tim Keller and his devotional book, God’s Wisdom for Navigating Life: A Year of Daily Devotions in the Book of Proverbs. If you spend any time at all paying attention to and deconstructing today’s culture, Keller’s words are provocative, insightful, and appropriate.

Keller offers commentary on Proverbs 11:22. . . “Like a gold ring in a pig’s snout is a beautiful woman who shows no discretion.” Keller writes, Men especially tend to evaluate women on their looks, hence this verse’s metaphor. Today we consider how this harms everyone. It damages relationships between the genders. Women see clearly how men react to beauty and it rightly lowers their respect for men. Also, it distorts women’s self-images and lives. It is difficult for them not to overvalue thinness and shapeliness, high cheekbones and great skin. It’s a huge temptation for women to say, ‘Why should I care about my character when everyone else – men and women – is evaluating me on my looks?’

Addiction to beauty fuels the pornography industry, which confirms men in their delusion that only young and beautiful women are sexually alluring. Pornography also gives men a way to get quick sexual pleasure with out the messy, frightening work or building a real relationship with someone. Finally, many men fail to see wonderful prospective spouses – women who would be absolutely terrific partners – right under their noses. They are ‘screened out’ for not being as good-looking as the pictures in porn. The idolatry of beauty is ruining us individually and as a society.

Can you think of any other ways that our culture’s overvaluing of physical attractiveness is harmful?

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