Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Returning to the Beginning

We recently revised the book, Growing a Passionate Heart, that we use in support groups. As a part of our revisions we added a chapter about marriage. One of the resources I used was, When Two Become One, by Christopher and Rachel McCluskey. What I found in their book stirred in me a godly passion for marriage and for sexual integrity that I haven't felt before. The last few weeks I've contemplated other topics for writing, but this topic burns in my soul and won't go away.

I love the McCluskey's book for several reasons. First, it answered questions I asked long ago that never got answered, especially about sexuality. Second, they talk about Scripture, keeping it in its context, which gave new meanings to familiar Bible verses. I love when the familiar becomes so exciting that I can't get my mind off of it. Third, we live in a highly sexualized culture and I have seen and heard stories that deeply concern me and I know in my heart of hearts that just telling someone to stop or to just say, "No!" isn't enough to motivate them to do so. I also know loving God means obeying Him. Telling people that wasn't enough to make a difference in the struggles of those who deeply long for love and acceptance.

To explain what I mean requires I return to the beginning and the beginning is God and God created! He created man and woman in His own image and they were unashamedly naked. They communed in that state with the Creator and with each other. Imagine being naked, free, unashamed, and oh so happy, That indicates a tight connection with human sexuality and Biblical spirituality!

Then WHAM! Satan entered the garden, tempting them with the fruit of knowledge of good and evil. It wasn't the fruit that tripped them up, it was the promise that they would become like the Creator. But wait! Weren't they created in His image? That tells us something significant about Eve and it tells us something about ourselves. When Eve listened to the beguiling voice of the tempter, she forgot something essential; she forgot she was a woman delicately created in the image of her Creator! So she bit and then she shared a bite with the ever so silent Adam, violating the one boundary the Creator had given them. Suddenly, filled with shame, they covered themselves in an inadequate attempt to hide the guilt and the shame they were experiencing. As the Creator approached, they hid. He confronted with a question intended to invite repentance and they cast blame instead. Eve blamed the Serpent, Adam blamed Eve and then to top it off he even blamed the Creator.

Their choice changed everything. It killed them spiritually, leading to their physical death. It killed the trust and the intimacy they had with their Creator and with each other. It separated their sexuality from their spirituality as shown by their core of shame that exposed their sin and caused them to cover their nakedness. Shame, that horrible emotion that exposes the fear of truly being seen. That emotion that exposes our fear of being really known. Shame that causes us to hide and become protective of ourselves. Yet, amazingly the Creator reached out and He clothed them in animal skins, showing that He Himself would provide a sacrifice sufficient to cover their guilt. 

Now, fast forward past a bunch of sad stories of jealousy, murder, and worldwide sin and violence that lead to a judgment through a catastrophic flood and we find a barren couple, old in age, living in a culture seeped in pagan worship whose gods were fertility gods. The sacrifices given to appease the gods were virgin daughters who were sexually taken by temple priests and babies who were burned as offerings. Sexuality that was no longer used in its intended spiritual context was no longer marked with love or integrity. 

But the Creator, full of grace, called out the older barren couple, telling them to separate themselves from the culture and go to a new land. In return He would give them a child of their own. The Creator sealed His covenant with them by having the man shed his own blood by cutting away his foreskin, forever marking himself with a constant reminder of the Creator's and his covenant. They obeyed and with a few lapses in trust and an attempts to help God fulfill his promise of a child the Creator graciously reaffirmed He covenant. In the midst of their doubt and their unbelief, at just the right time, He gave the elderly couple a child of their own and they named the child Laughter! Through the covenant with the man, the Creator revealed Himself as the true God of life and of fertility. Through the covenant, He seeks to heal the fracture between human sexuality and Biblical spirituality.

Scripture makes it clear that covenant marriage is a picture of the covenant relationship Christ has with His church. Scripture also makes it clear that the Creator's plan includes sexual integrity. From the beginning sex has been a gift from the Creator. The gift serves several purposes in our lives that we have lost sight of. Sex was given to us to serve as the sealing of the covenant vows between a man and a woman. The Creator designed us with bodies that were different. His to be aroused by sight to insure pursuit of relationship and hers to be aroused by emotional intimacy requiring lifetime commitment which gives a safe place to remove masks and be emotionally and physically naked with each other. In His grace, the Creator designed us with millions of nerve ending in just the right places for sheer pleasure followed by an abundance of hormones that are released as a couple fully gives of themselves to each another that causes a couple to bond in joyful connection. The more frequently they participate in the act, the closer they will be. Who can find fault with a beautiful plan like that?

My heart grieves that we are living in such a sexualized culture that we are removing the bond between our sexuality and our spirituality and the bond that should exist between a couple who is committed for life. Pornography is rampant, selfish, and addicting and in no way reflects the relationship between the Creator and His church. Rather than being loved and cared for in homes where marriages reflect the Creator, many children are growing up in homes broken by sin, selfishness, violence, perversion, and some are even being sacrificed to the Evil One through sexual abuse as they are raped before they even start school.

The statistics are not much different for believers. In this day of "free sex" we are destroying the part of us that is supposed to bond with another person. If a girl has sex with twenty people before she is married, the only way she can disconnect is to disassociate from the bonding hormonal process. I remember many years ago that girls who had sex and then broke up were crushed by the break up. Now, they hook up instead, claiming it is less complicated. It is not just young people doing this, it is people of all ages. Yet, everyone is still seeking something they can't find.

When are we, as believers, going to rise up and teach our sons to be sexually pure? When are we going to challenge them on their sense of entitlement of sex for a date? When are we going to teach them that to mistreat a young woman who says, "No," is abusive and wrong on so many levels? When are we going to challenge them on a double standard that rakes Miley over the coals and allows the older young man who was twerking with her off the hook? We are we going to teach our sons to look at the young women in their lives as creations of the Creator, as daughters of the King of kings, as potential spouses to be protected and whose precious virginity to be preserved? When are we going to teach them that they have no right to even ask a girl to have sex outside of marriage? When are we going to quit saying "boys will be boys" and "men will be men? If we believe that the Creator God is infinitely wise, then surly we know guys are not simply victims to their raging hormonal bodies. It is time for us to teach our young men to quit abusing and using young women. When will we explain to them that one out of four young women has already been abused and to not respect her and show her honor will forever put him in the class with those who previously abused her and will deepen the gaping wounds in her already broken heart.

When are we, as believers, going to rise up and teach our daughters to be modest? And I don't mean frumpy clothing, hiding beautiful young bodies behind sweatshirts and bulky sweaters. I am talking about instilling in them a dignity and God-confidence that commands respect and proper treatment and a willingness to walk away from all that is not holy. A dignity that would never entice a young man to lust or enter a sexual relationship before marriage just so she can feel a false sense of security. When are we going to teach our daughters that their bodies were bought with the blood of Christ and they are not their own to give away outside of marriage? When are we going to teach them their identity comes in being the daughter of the King of kings, fully loved and accepted, not in a false acceptance that comes by trying to hold on to a young man by giving up their virtue to a demanding date who doesn't deserve it? 

So, we live in a highly sexualized culture that is supposed to be advanced, but wants what it wants when it wants it. And as a result depression and anxiety and suicide are rampant. Babies are being savagely sucked out of their moms' wombs. Sexual abuse is growing in numbers along with incidences of kidnapping and sex trafficking. And STD's are leaving couples infertile. And at then end of the day people are still lonely, disconnected, and discontented as they keep looking for something that never ever satisfies.

What if what we all want in our heart of hearts is what the Creator created us for and is continually calling us back to--real love symbolized by a blood stained cross and hands scared by the nails that pierced them? What if Intimacy with the Creator Himself is what truly feeds the deepest parts of our hearts and teaches us to love with a love that is long lasting, committed, fulfilling, and binding through integrity and appropriate sexual acts in their proper context.

I wonder what would happen if we, one by one, turn back to what the Creator has called us. I wonder what would happen if we begin to live it and model something our young people will want with all of their being--to know the Creator and to be fully known by Him so that they are safe enough and strong enough and loved enough that they can choose to love another with all that they are, not the fractured parts of themselves that their sin is killing. What if we refuse to let our children be prematurely awakened sexually so obedience to the Creator's plan is doable, feels right, and offers deep soul connection and satisfaction. What if, just what if God was right all along?

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Several years ago I realized that I often sped through my Scripture reading and gave it little thought. Yet, when I had meaningful conversations with friends or family members I replayed them over and over in my head. One day it occurred to me, that if I thought more about what God says in his word that I would not only know more about Him, but I would come to know Him in a personal way. I would know more about His thoughts, His character, His intentions, His passions, and His actions. So, I began to take one verse at a time and think on it and then journal about it. At the time I was served as a volunteer in youth ministry and shared my “Thoughts on God” with those girls. For a while I have been rewriting and posting them on this blog. I have realized when I am in the Word or move through my day focusing on God's presence that I have wonderful opportunities to Meet God in the Everyday. The Everyday can include storms, blessings, hard things, scary things, exciting things...just any where, anyplace, any time. I hope that you will be able to engage with what I write with both your head and your heart. I also hope you will be challenged to love, trust, and know the God of the Scriptures. It is my prayer that as you read you will experience Him at a deeper level and share pieces of your journey in the comments. It is my desire that we form a safe community of believers who pursue the God who loves us radically, eternally, and without reserve. As a precious pastor once told me, "Don't forget, Wendy, God is Good!" I find myself compelled by His Goodness and His Love to share so others can know Him through all the ups and downs of life. Please feel free to dialogue back and to share how each passage impacts you. If if there is a passage you would like me to write on or if you would like to be a guest blogger, please let me know. I am just learning to navigate this blog and appreciate the kind comments you have made in the past...I promise I will even try to respond if you leave a note. If you are blessed please share the blog with friends!