[notice]Revivalist Shannon-Leigh Barry shares her wit and passion and the pursuits of her 20something heart in a monthly column that speaks to the desires of young adults in today’s Christian society. [/notice]
Last night while I was cleaning my bedroom I accidentally knocked over a candle and saw hot candle wax spill on my bedroom carpet. There was a moment where I just stood still thinking I don’t know what to do. Do I wipe it up or do I let it dry? My knowledge of carpet cleaning was at a minimum thanks to my years of growing up with allergies. Carpets were removed most of the time. I could not remove this one. Of course the first thing I thought was there goes my security deposit for my apartment and second thing was, where is my Ipad so I can search for a YouTube DIY clip for candle wax removal. To my relief there were many clips. All I needed to do was use a brown paper bag, an iron and a cloth. I managed to get the wax out and after cleaning it I realised how I could have made a big deal out of it, instead when I went looking for a solution, it got fixed and restored to its original design.
Sexual sin is similar. You stumble into it and it can feel like you dropped a bucket of paint on yourself and you are not sure how to remove it, while people are looking at you like you made a big mess. Whenever sexual sin is spoken about in the church it comes across as gossip with the soft whispers of, “He has fallen from grace or she has fallen from grace”. That’s the dumbest line I have ever heard, because grace is a gift freely given by Jesus and just because someone makes a mistake it doesn’t mean grace has left their lives. Jesus certainly didn’t. What it could mean is they have lost favour (grace) with man because even Jesus grew in favour (grace) with both man and God. So when we say someone has “fallen” we are actually saying they have disappointed us and we have lost trust in them, and that is true to an extent. It can also sound condemning. It would mean that their sin (sexual sin) is greater than the sin in your life because we choose to put levels on sin like a ranking system.
I believe that people can come out of a lifestyle of sexual sin but it can never be fear-based. We cannot just say hashtag #staypure and expect people to even know how to do it, when before knowing the Lord that was their normal. A lifestyle change comes by the renewal of the mind and true repentance from the heart. If the church continues to just dust people off on the outside and not actually walk out their salvation with them nothing will change. People struggle with lust and porn because we don’t give room to speak about what is actually affecting us as a Church Body and generation. It is sad when I have to explain to my unsaved friends why my saved friends are pregnant at their Christian weddings. It doesn’t look very different to the world. Christianity has to look different in our lifestyles while still being relevant to the culture around us. Saying “stay pure” and not equipping people with tools to help them walk it out in their daily lives doesn’t really change their situation. Sexual sin is the only sin that is concealed on the inside and it is a sin against your own body. That means you are going against what you believe, compromising who you are and what you value for affection, desire, intimacy, all for a need that is not being met. I am not surprised when mess comes to the surface. It’s an opportunity for wholeness and healing. We can hope for no messes and live for that but we can’t be surprised by mess when we understand that people come to Christ broken.
Here are some thoughts on how to move forward after a mess:
1. Help people understand their needs and validate those needs
Someone steps into sexual sin because they have a need that is not being met. Most times it is actually an emotional need that gets perverted or distorted, so instead of them actually saying what they need, they put their body on the line and use their sexuality to get that need validated. An emotional need is a heart need and so sex is not going to fix that need. Some people have never learned to ask for what they need and could not even be aware of what their needs are. Help them in simple ways by asking questions that create self awareness. Tell them to go online and take some tests. The 5 love languages test and book is great to show the person they are designed for love and need it in different ways. When a baby is hungry it cries for food. If a 10 year old child cries for food instead of asking for food you would question the child’s development. Learning to express your needs is a developmental process that does not end when you are an adult.
2. Ask people good questions so you can get a good responses
The easiest and simplest question when you are wanting to compromise yourself sexually is to actually ask yourself whether you are lonely, tired, angry or hurting. If one of these comes up and is not addressed the person then puts themselves at risk because what they actually needed was company, sleep, to be heard and to be loved. Sex is a quick fix for getting that intimacy faster instead of actually sitting down with yourself and others, and finding out what your heart needs. Sexual sin will always come down to what is going on in your heart. Sexual sin is not the issue, it is the fruit and not the root problem. Questions get to the root with the help of the Holy Spirit and counsel.
3. Finding safe people
Safe people are much like the cloth that gets used so the wax does not make a further mess. They are not scared of the mess. They are actually capable of loving people out of their mess and helping them to build accountability around them that covers their weaknesses and empowers their strengths. The last thing the person wants to hear is how disappointed someone is in them because they are already disappointed in themselves. That conversation is needed but only to restore the relationship. Barnabus pulled Paul closer. Paul was not in sexual sin but he could be perceived as reckless to the early Church. People in sexual sin can come across as reckless and some may be but we cannot build a case on perception. Will you dare be brave enough to cover a brother when the wax is still on the carpet and walk out process with them to see them restored? This is when someone can receive inner healing, because they are not guarded anymore.
4. Developing or being part of a purity plan
Some people need a plan or someone will get pregnant before they should. Let’s be real, with social media on steroids, you are turning on the television and Facebook, and you are flooded with nudity including Kim Kardashian’s behind recently. It’s hard to guard your eyes and still be relevant in today’s society. A plan can help you keep yourself in check. Not replying to late night messages and actually telling people that can put a safety boundary up. When you are feeling vulnerable maybe it is not wise to be alone with the opposite sex or even the same sex. Whatever your issue. Go to where safety is. Does kissing really turn you on or can you actually do it in a relationship and not feel like you want to tear your clothes off? These are questions that we have to ask ourselves. I have a plan and it’s to protect my value and that’s what I am fighting for, not because I don’t trust myself. Trust has nothing to do with it. I am well aware of the fact that the flesh is weak. It even says so in the Bible. I would rather remove myself from situations which could result in me compromising my purity.
5. Understanding worth and value
The world has a way of devaluing us and devaluing our bodies. That’s why the pornography industry is booming, because value has been lost and with that, identity warped. Christ has done something great for our lives, Christ has given us an opportunity to discover who we truly are. His blood is valuable and therefore His death gives our lives value. Every time you sleep with someone, people say you give a piece of yourself away. It is true in the sense that sex can never be separated from the spirit, soul and body. That’s the beauty of it, it is designed to bond people in all parts. Part of understanding your value is by breaking the soul tie with an ex-partner. It might require prayer, even fasting, maybe it’s just a conscience decision to no longer answer that call and go running. Getting the pieces back means focusing on getting whole and emotionally healthy and not staying in a broken place. The world wants to make something cheap that was meant to be sacred. You are worth so much more than a night of guilty pleasure.
We need to start speaking about sex as a Church on the whole. Yes, it’s uncomfortable but it is is not something dirty that should be shunned. Sex was designed by God to be intimate and beautiful. If every time someone stumbles we yell, “They fell from grace” we are opening ourselves up to gossip and surely we have fallen ourselves. Can we be known as a people who fight to see the lives of people restored, made whole and accept that it comes with the responsibility of time invested, process and patience? If the call and gifts of God are irrevocable then that means God does not take away what he has placed on someone’s life therefore we should not act in God’s place and judge. Our job is to offer a solution in love that sees the person truly restored in calling, gift and relationship to the Church. It is possible.
Broken people cannot lead broken people into wholeness. Start with yourself, get whole and finish with leading a generation into your victory.