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Sex, Part 5 (Temptation)

We all face temptations in our lives. It’s very possible there are those out there who have never been faced with strong sexual temptation. If so, email me so I know one. I’ve been thinking about this post in particular since the beginning of this sex talk. I want to have and demonstrate integrity with my friendships, so I share mostly from my own experiences.

When Benny and I started dating, my temptation to get bored and move on to another boy ended. I would no longer see a guy that was cute and think, ” I wonder what it would be like to be his girlfriend…I wonder if he’s a good kisser..etc.” Because that happened often in high school (not so much in college) I almost expected it, and when it didn’t happen, I thought that was my sign that Benny was the man for me. Still, I kept waiting for the old feelings of temptation to come. It wasn’t constant or anything, but now and then I’d think, “Wow! It’s gone. I’m free.” I know the verse in 1 Corinthians well, “So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!” I was so sure that I never would. I was a Christian after all! I wore the big “C” on my chest proudly, owned a big pink Bible and a good highlighter, and I could quote scripture fairly well. Putting it into practice was my challenge – not that I spent a lot of time dwelling on that. I didn’t see that shortly after we married, we began getting careless in tending our little “love garden”.

We moved to a new state where we didn’t have any friends. Benny worked nights and I worked days. Our financial lives were a mess before we got married and just worsened when we combined our financial ignorance. We got depressed. We fought. We threatened divorce and brick by brick began building a wall between us. My job was stressful and what made things worse was it was intertwined with our church. The things that should have been binding us together were tearing us apart. Our views of sex were so skewed, and I had begun adding more weight to the extra pounds I had already gained from my absence from sports and the loss of my virginity. We were spiraling out of control and like many disillusioned young women, I began to think I had made a mistake and married the wrong person. Surely God wanted more for my life than what Benny and I were stepping in.

Enter Satan…and Matt.
Matt was one of my boyfriends in high school. We lived a few hours away from each other, so we were “dating” as well as two 16 year-olds could long distance – lots of hours on the phone. No physical contact other than the day we met on a greyhound bus. I was traveling to a youth rally across the state. We met and “fell in love” in a matter of 3 hours. Over the next few years of my life, Matt was my lifeline to reality from the hell I was living in. We talked about everything and though he wasn’t much of a believer, I was sure I could convert him. (I don’t recommend missionary dating – it’s a farce.) When I finally got to college I sort of left Matt behind. The distance was enormous and I was meeting all of these cute college guys. But somehow Matt always seemed to pop back into my life when I most needed him. My mom was hospitalized and we thought she was going to die…Matt called. My boyfriend in college decided we should “just be friends”…Matt called. The night I lost my virginity and was an emotional train wreck, Matt called. Coincidence? I don’t think so.

I should have seen it coming. I would never cheat. I know firsthand the consequences of straying and divorce and I was never going to join that little group of statistics. Matt cared about me. He would never try to break up my marriage! That’s ridiculous! Well, as my nights were long and Benny was absent, I got lonely and bored. He was so distant and he wasn’t meeting my needs. I was ripe for the picking. Matt popped back into my life once again. My former-debate-star-boyfriend was just finishing up law school and about to get married. Seems harmless enough. We began having long phone conversations comparing our significant others and their charms and quirks. It was so gradual that I was blinded to what was coming. Our conversations took on an intimate tone as we revisited the old days. One day he told me he wanted to come and get me and bring me back to his state and make me his wife. All I had to do was say the word and he would completely change his future plans for me. Satan knew EXACTLY what to say to me and he used Matt to do it. Matt’s family was wealthy and I grew up without money…he offered me the world, telling me I would never want for anything again. (Benny and I were suffocating in our debt.) He lovingly told me that if my husband loved me_______. You fill in the blank, he probably said it. He made me feel wanted and sought after – something EVERY woman needs to feel. I had never felt so tempted in all of my life. The battle within me was raging! What should I do? I was tired of fighting. I wanted an easy life.

Twelve years later I am happily married…to Benny…the man I always wanted and needed. During my brief emotional affair, I was completely blind to my part of our struggles and blamed them all on him. I decided that since he wasn’t meeting my needs, I wouldn’t bother trying to meet his. I am incredibly grateful that I made the right choice and ended the affair though it was painful to do so since I was in deep. I am even more grateful that Matt and I were never sexually (physically) involved…though Satan arranged for that too. Don’t think for a second that just because we didn’t consummate the affair we didn’t do anything wrong. I had promised my heart to Benny and had carelessly given it away once again…old habits die hard. The affair ended as it had begun-with a phone call. I thanked him for being there for me during the most difficult moments of my life, then told him that I never wanted to speak to him again. I told him even though I loved him, I was ashamed that I had so easily given up on my marriage and that I knew deep down that Benny and I could fix things. I told him that I needed to be right with God and my husband and I couldn’t do that while I had any contact with him. What he said back to me doesn’t matter anymore. I asked him not to call me again…which he didn’t honor. I refused contact and gradually released the feelings I had developed for Matt. It was HARD!

James describes the progression of sin that we fall into. He says, “Temptation comes from the lure of our own evil desires. These evil desire lead to evil actions, and evil actions lead to death. So don’t be misled, my dear brothers and sisters”. (James 1:14-16, NLT)

I just gave you a word picture and put a face on a particular sin. I thought I was standing strong and I would not have fallen in a full frontal attack. I believed I was prepared. Satan knew the frontal attack approach wouldn’t work so he found the chink in my armor and struck me there…hard…and I fell. It was a long, painful, dirty battle, but I survived, my marriage survived, and I am restored and redeemed.

So why share all of this with you? I didn’t set out to have a series of posts about sex. It just happened and I have been feeling God pushing me along through the hard stuff. God has blessed it, and blessed people because of it. God is so good. I have received some great feedback which is nice. But more important than the “atta girl” emails and comments are the ones that expressed their own struggles with sexual sin and the gratefulness for God’s mercy on them. Christians aren’t perfect. I’ve never met one who thought they were. Most of us are too hard on ourselves and all of us are prone to sin.

When I look back over that horrible time, I can clearly see when God gave me ways of escape and I chose to ignore Him. My desires were stronger than my faith, and faith wasn’t truly my desire. Once again I want to warn about guarding your heart. It has a mind of its own sometimes and the great tempter loves that. I have firm boundaries in place now that I know that I’m not above temptation. That was quite a revelation for me. Silly, huh? So what do you think so far? Can you relate? Did you think you were above temptation too? Are you recovering from a painful past? If you have, have you used it to try to help someone else avoid your mistakes? Are you plagued by fear and the knowledge that someone may find out your little secret and harshly judge you or deem you unfit to lead? I’m no longer plagued by fear, but I have friends who are.

If you’ve known me for a long time and are just hearing these things for the first time, you’re probably shocked. I was discussing this post with a friend from camp this week and she had no idea. She was a former youth group member of ours. She said she had never suspected anything because Benny and I have such a strong marriage now. Friends, that’s another one of my points. God can bring healing and restoration to your marriage after an affair. It’s possible. We do have a strong marriage, but we had to work hard for it. I am so glad we did! It is my hope that my testimony will help or challenge someone else. I’m not ashamed to share it anymore.

I’m still putting together a resource list and will post it soon. Let me know of any you’d recommend.

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Sex is good, and fun. Sex is to be a PRIVATE thing between two MARRIED people – no less, no more. Somehow I got the message growing up that sex was dirty, and that it was something women did because they had to, and sometimes men would take it by force. But I also learned that sex was what you did with a man you had feelings for to show him you loved him, and that sex can be a weapon used to get what you want. Of course a lot of my information came from women who were watching out for me because of their own horribly abusive pasts. This got even more confusing for me when I did start experimenting with boyfriends and found that I liked what I was feeling, so how could it be a bad thing? That must mean that I am bad. I am dirty. There is something wrong with me. I’d tease boyfriends though I didn’t know it was teasing. One minute I’d want to play and the next I was overcome with guilt and felt ugly and ashamed. (There wasn’t much difference from the Christian boys I dated and the ones who weren’t.) This line of thinking got me into trouble and sunk me into depression more than once. It ruined every relationship I had up to Benny and almost ruined my marriage. We’ve been together 14 years, but it almost didn’t last past 3.

I didn’t know how to go from being told my whole life that sex was bad to thinking it was good and fun and SHOULD be with my husband. That’s messed up. Sure we talked about sex stuff in pre-marital counseling, but we lied. I wasn’t comfortable enough to talk about it then and sort of thought it would fix itself after we were married. Oh boy. Was I wrong! So what happened? How did I miss that sex is not only a good thing but it is meant to be enjoyable and provide a deeper connection to your mate? Why didn’t someone explain to me the whole “two shall become one” thing?

One of my favorite magazines is Marriage Partnership. It arrives quarterly and ALWAYS has at least one article that has to do with sex. Over my short break from this blog I went back and read the last 4 or 5 issues and was relieved (again) that I’m not the only one who has struggled with some of this stuff. One article interestingly pointed out that God intended for us to find pleasure with our mates and even went as far to explain that a penis has more than one function, but a clitoris has only one – to bring pleasure to a woman. I NEVER thought of that before. After re-reading Song of Solomon, it makes perfect sense. BTW, The first time I read that book, I was sitting in church bored out of my mind. I had a hard time stifling my giggles and my shock at something so “dirty” being in the Bible. That’s a 12-year-old girl for you! I always wondered why I had verses quoted at me all the time…and mused that none came from that book. I didn’t think any of the people in my church had read it, or they would lighten up on the whole “sexual urges are from the devil” speeches. I always wondered why God would want that book mixed in with His other Holy stuff. Thanks to other writers who have broached the topic and a Joe Beam seminar on Love, Sex, and Marriage, I’m a little wiser and a lot more comfortable talking about it. I’ve also found healing from some wonderful resources, which I’ll list in a future post.

Like every other good thing in life, satan has done his best to distort sex. He found a way to take something beautiful and precious and turn it into something cheap and sleazy. I know far too many women who can’t/won’t talk about it because of shame, abuse, fear of looking stupid or naive, among other reasons. One of the other ways satan has distorted this gift from God is by convincing thousands of believers that porn is o.k. if it is viewed with your mate. WHAT??? I will go toe to toe with anyone who would argue for that case. Porn is NEVER o.k. It too is a distortion of what God intended. This applies to singles as well. Any form of porn will lead you down a path you don’t want to go…whether it be pictures, videos, or the hot and steamy love scenes in romance novels. Yeah, I have a problem with those too. It’s soft porn and takes your mind to places that aren’t pleasing to God.

I know a man who is a fill-in minister and he thinks there is nothing wrong with looking as long as he doesn’t act on it. I’m telling you, this destructive path has ended ministry careers of a few friends of mine. It has also ended marriages of people close to me. If you are a believer, you are a target and not immune from this issue. See it for what it really is, and turn away from it. If you love someone who struggles with sexual sin, love and pray them through it and help them find the help they need if they are willing. It’s not always that easy though, is it?

I’ve mentioned XXXchurch on my blog before. They call themselves the #1 Christian porn site and that offends a lot of people. (I’m not one of them.) Their mission is to unveil the deception and pain that porn plays in a lot of lives of men and women alike. They offer a free internet accountability service to anyone who is interested. It’s an accountability report that you can sign up for and once a month you and 1 or more of your accountability partners (that you choose) receives an email listing of all the sites visited from your computer. Even blogs show up as questionable sites, especially blogs like mine with post titles like “Sex, Sex, Sex”. (HaHa) The two guys who started this ministry are Craig Gross and Mike Foster. Their documentary is called, “Missionary Positions” and says on the cover, “Doing the work of the Lord isn’t always easy…But their faith is hardcore!” These guys have been through a lot on their mission to help and bring healing to the masses that are gripped by this “porno plague”. They are funny and witty, and determined to follow God’s call for them in this ministry. They get hate mail from people in the porn industry as well as Christians. They have been spit at and called horrible names by Christian protestors at a porn festival. That makes me as angry as the time I passed by a church and saw people (including children) holding picket signs that said, “God hates Fags”. They have a t-shirt that says, “Jesus Loves Porn Stars”. If you think about it, He does. He died for them too. They are not beyond His reach. They are no more sinful than we (long-time believers) are, we just don’t like to think about it that way with our “sin hierarchy”. I hope you’ll check out their website and pray for them as they stand in the gap for people who struggle with sexual sin.

Next post: Temptation – My story

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Sex, Part 3

You got to read some of my pet peeves in my first Sex post. It irritates me that my children see lots of flesh when we’re standing in line to pay for our groceries. I’m concerned for my boys because they don’t need those images in their minds or the consequences that could follow, and my girl because I don’t want her to grow up comparing herself to those airbrushed, perfect bodies.

I told the story in this blog post about the day I went to buy my son a calendar. There right next to Spiderman and Strawberry Shortcake was a Playboy Calendar and the swimsuit models of Sports Illustrated. Yeah I know what sport was being illustrated! I asked the manager to move them and she seemed irritated when I told her I thought it was irresponsible of the store in their placing those particular calendars down low and mixed in with calendars for children and teens. She told me she’d check into it, and I finished my shopping. Right before I left the store, she found me and smilingly told me that the general manager was moving the calendars at that moment and thanked me for giving my input. I could have just stormed out of the store and boycotted Borders and wasted precious time and energy convincing others to do the same. I could have been shocked at a secular store doing secular things and shrugged it off as them being heathens. I could have done a lot of things, but I chose to confront the problem and politely ask for it to be rectified. I was polite and right in my concerns. I didn’t expect them not to sell that stuff in their store, but I did expect them to use common sense and not market flesh to children. That’s not just a “Christian thing” you know. Evidently the manager didn’t know about the shelf stocker’s particular placement of the calendars and agreed they should be moved. Even if they had decided not to move them, I felt better because I didn’t remain silent on the issue. I got good results for not being a jerk…this time. 😉

I’ve moved stuff like that myself, and I’ve turned magazines around so the cover faces the back of the rack, but I think that saying something to the person in charge of that stuff is more effective because of the awareness it brings. Even if I’m the first person to say something, they know that sort of thing is not o.k. with everybody who sees it. God gave me a voice and courage to use it so I can bring about change in my world. Sounds official doesn’t it? 😉 He expects me to use it in love…that’s the key. Would the Borders manager have been spurred on to action if I had been a jerk to her? I think she saw me as a concerned parent and it made her think. Maybe she even wondered how she would have felt trying to protect little eyes from stuff like that. Maybe she was all about customer satisfaction and didn’t give me a second thought. I have no idea.

A few weeks ago, Benny took the kids to a health and fitness expo downtown. Max got to arm wrestle with the world champion arm wrestler. It was a cool day for them. When they got back to the car, there was a flyer under the windshield wiper advertising for a gentlemen’s club. Max asked Benny what it was for and Benny explained to him that it was a place where men go to look at women’s bodies, and that it made God sad. They had a short discussion about it and the seed was planted. I’m sure those conversations will continue, but right now his six year old mind doesn’t get it yet. He thinks that stuff is gross, and I pray that he holds that thought for life. It’s during those in-the-moment discussions I think our kids will learn about sexual purity.

How much damage has been done by adults that told their kids, “We’ll talk about it when you’re older” because they were too uncomfortable or didn’t know what to say? When kids ask, we better have an answer for them or they will get the answer from someone else; someone who might not have their best interest at heart. I learned “the ways of the world” the hard way. I won’t let my kids leave my home unprepared to face what they will confront. We just need to figure out how to tell them this stuff in an age appropriate way. Unfortunately, six is not too young in today’s world. I protect them from what I can, and I’m honest when they ask questions. It’s a start.

One last thing before I move on to adults tomorrow…

I read a funny story about a little boy who was at the doctor’s office with his mom. He was getting a physical done, and the Dr. had to check his privates. As soon as he touched him, the little boy yelled, “I’m going to tell an adult!” the doctor was shocked and the mother was embarrassed as she tried to explain to her son that it was o.k. and the doctor wasn’t going to hurt him. She said she was glad later that the lesson she had taught her son had sunk in. This story was only funny to me because it wasn’t me. I don’t want you or I to miss the point. Remaining silent on the sex issue is dangerous. We need to teach our kids that no one is allowed to see or touch their private parts…adults or other children. Don’t give me any of that crap about kids experimenting being harmless. Curiosity is normal, I get that, but there are kids touched by adults they trust, and some kids don’t know that it’s wrong…especially if they’ve never been told that it is. Kids that are touched themselves tend to touch other kids…see the cycle? Sexual abuse is nothing to be taken lightly. These things happen in some “Christian” homes too. Do you think Satan is not trying to work there?

Sexual abuse has been a generational sin in my family. I’m breaking that cycle of abuse. ALL of my aunts and uncles were abused, and my mom’s abuse effected how I was raised. Everything that I know and have experienced is effecting how I’m raising my own children. Talking with my mom about these things has been difficult, and she has been the best mom that she can be to me. I’m grateful for her openness. The abuse has continued into my generation, but it doesn’t have to go any further. Sometimes it’s hard for me to know how and when it is appropriate to talk about these things with my kids because they are so young. I haven’t had the luxury of it not coming to us from the outside like the instances I’ve already mentioned. My goal is to do the best I can to protect them and teach them a Godly lifestyle while living among those who don’t necessarily live that way whether they call themselves Christians or not. As a follower of Christ, we are not out of Satan’s reach, and he will test us, tempt us, and slaughter us or our witness when he gets the chance. This is too important of an issue for us to remain silent.

Next post: Sex is good…adults and temptation…and www.XXXchurch.com

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