Recently, I listened to a teacher speak about God’s intent for sex. He’s a good guy, a mature Christian, who told some very nice stories about hand holding with a girl he liked in junior high. He talked about God’s hand in his marriage at age 18 and how happy he is abstinence education is taught at his kids’ school.
Some of you were unaware such people still exist. They do. Actually, there are lots of them and he was making a solid point.
However, the week before, I stood at the same podium and told the same audience that 1 in 3 American girls and 1 in 6 American boys will be sexually abused/raped before age 18. That means, statistically, six people listening had a sexual history vastly more complex than hand holding in junior high. Not to mention the people like me who, for years, thought when it came to sex and everything else, that free and unrestrained meant the same thing. (They don’t but more on that later.)
I struggle with this disparity all the time.
Working just from statistics, we know hand holding in junior high is hardly a majority experience. To ignore that fact will make lots of people smile, nod and vow to never ever bring up at church what their 20’s actually looked like – or their 10’s. When we pull on masks to fit in, we meet the literal definition of the Greek word hypokritḗs – a stage actor wearing a mask. The tragedy of it is, by hiding the conflicting or confusing parts of ourselves, we bury the exact things Jesus died to redeem.
There absolutely is a high biblical standard for sexuality – read it. We’re just so far from it, to some it sounds like crazy talk. But that’s the way culture works, and frankly, this post isn’t about defending a biblical worldview OR judging how people live. It’s about being honest with who you are, how you got there and how to let Jesus into that in a platitude-free way.
Because, standing in the temple 700 years after Isaiah predicted it, Jesus said:
“THE SPIRIT OF THE LORD IS UPON ME, BECAUSE HE ANOINTED ME TO PREACH THE GOSPEL TO THE POOR. HE HAS SENT ME TO PROCLAIM RELEASE TO THE CAPTIVES, AND RECOVERY OF SIGHT TO THE BLIND, TO SET FREE THOSE WHO ARE OPPRESSED…” Luke 4:18
Read it again: “To set free those who are oppressed” …. For whatever reason.
I know people, Christians and non, who are struggling with dirty, black secrets; ones they are sure would prompt their immediate rejection should they surface. Shame is heck of a thing, its chief and most insidious lie being: “I’m the only one.”
That’s the lie that keeps people bound up and smiling at church, but cruising the self-help section at the bookstore, wondering how much Oxcontin it would take to make the pain go away.
That exercise, my friends, is sponsored by the enemy because he knows, as long as you stay strong, with the lid on tight, he can use your shame to control you.
But are you ready for the world’s best news?
In him (Jesus) was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. John 1:4-5 NIV.
As dark and nasty as the secret is, it vanishes when the light comes on. It may light up a lot of residual dirt and garbage, but at least you can see it clearly and make a plan to clean it up. Jesus called himself, “The Light of the World,” but it only works if you switch it on.
This is such a present tense value of following Jesus, and to me the highest and best calling of the church: To be people who chose to trust him, who chose to let his light shine in every dark room – even ones we kind of prefer dark.
So, if you’re dying of secret shame, look for those people – the ones who are fine with their old cracks and bullet-holes because the light shines through them in interesting ways. Often, these people are the ones who will jump into the breach with you and keep his light shining, until you can both see the way out.
*as ever friends, my views are my own and not that of my employer.