9 Principles for Healthy Confrontation

When Jesus walked the earth, He had a few advantages over us. Minor things like He never sinned, for instance, so He never had to worry about hypocritically pointing out faults in others while neglecting His own. He was also God and knew the hearts of men; therefore, His assessments of people’s motives were always accurate. Undoubtedly, these advantages gave Him confidence and grace when it came to approaching a confrontation; He was neither shy nor overly harsh.

We, on the other hand, have to be told, “Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted” (Galatians 6:1). According to this standard, confrontation must never involve yelling at someone, accusing him or her of evil, venting frustration or punishing the person for failing or hurting you. We must be especially careful about not judging the motives of people. In my experience, our so-called “gift of discernment” often turns out to be suspicion in disguise, especially when we are upset with someone.

Over the years, I have learned these nine principles for practicing the art of healthy confrontation:

 

1. WHEN A PROBLEM ARISES, GET AN APPOINTMENT TO TALK TO THE PERSON AS SOON AS POSSIBLE.

Waiting too long allows the seed of bitterness to gestate. Don’t wait for anger to be your counselor. Remember, this is not about punishing the person for his or her inappropriate behavior. You are meeting with the person for his or her benefit. The goal is to help mold the person into the image of God and reconcile your relationship.

 

2. LET THE PERSON KNOW HOW HIS OR HER BEHAVIOR HAS AFFECTED YOU.

Describe in detail how the person’s actions are making you feel.

 

3. KEEP YOUR ARMOR OFF BY BEING TRANSPARENT ABOUT YOUR OWN STRUGGLES.

When a person is responding to you, listen from your heart to his (her) heart. Many people are not good at articulating their struggles, so you often have to listen beyond their words. As the person is speaking to you, don’t develop your defenses or turn the conversation into a war of words. Ask questions that unearth the root problem. What is really wrong? What kind of core problem would cause these symptoms?

 

4. ALWAYS GIVE THE PERSON THE BENEFIT OF THE DOUBT, NO MATTER HOW HE OR SHE HAS BEHAVED.

Remind yourself that the person you are having a problem with was made in the image of God and, therefore, most likely has a good heart, even though his or her behavior is negatively affecting the environment. Never think of the person as an enemy, but instead as a wayward son or daughter (father or mother). Show honor at all times. Let the person know you believe in him or her.


Remember, you only have as much influence in someone’s life as they have value for you.


 

5. ASK THE PERSON HOW YOU CAN BE PART OF THE SOLUTION.

By this time, you may have found out that you are actually part of the problem. Maybe you are King David in this situation. Has your fear, weakness or dysfunction become a seedbed for the person’s strength to be overemphasized or his or her weakness to be exposed? Have you reacted to the way you were raised or to some negative circumstances in your own life?

 

6. IF OTHER PEOPLE ARE NOT PART OF THE PROBLEM OR PART OF THE SOLUTION, IT IS NONE OF THEIR BUSINESS.

Don’t talk to other people about your offense with the person. Don’t build a case against the person by bringing up other people’s names in the conversation, saying things like, “I talked to John and Mary and they have the same problem with you.” This just makes you look like a coward and a gossip. If you do that, don’t be surprised if the person being confronted feels like he or she is a victim of a gang assault. You are not there to be someone’s attorney.

On this note, if someone comes to you to talk about a problem with someone else, tell him or her to go talk to the person, not to you. I have 550 employees who work for me at Bethel Church. Many of my team members used to come up to me and begin to tell me about a struggle they were having with another staff member. Before they got 20 seconds into their discourse, I would interrupt them and ask, “Have you talked to this person yet?”

Nine out of ten times they would say, “No!”

Then I would ask them, “What business do you have talking to me if you haven’t even talked to the person who offended you?”

It is important to remember that a person who talks to you about someone else will one day be talking to someone about you. Allowing people to complain about others creates a culture of gossip. I personally will not tolerate it at Bethel.

 

7. IF YOU REALIZE DURING THE CONVERSATION THAT YOU ARE THE PROBLEM OR A PART OF THE DILEMMA, BE QUICK TO REPENT.

Humility always leads to repentance. Don’t defend yourself; leave your weapons outside the door. If the other person is wrong, verbally forgive him or her. Forgiveness restores the standard, so the person needs to be treated as if he/she never sinned after he or she repents.

 

8. IF YOU COME TO AN IMPASSE, HAVE SOMEONE YOU BOTH EQUALLY RESPECT JOIN YOU IN ANOTHER MEETING TO HELP RESOLVE THE ISSUE.

Bringing someone into the meeting that is not respected by one of the parties will only feel like the other person’s attorney is present. But a wise person who is not emotionally attached to the conflict can bring insightful perspective that is hard to see when you are in the middle of it, and will usually help bring the necessary resolution. I can’t count the number of times I’ve had a problem with someone only to find out in a meeting with him or her that I am the problem. Having a respected third party present helped me see the truth.

 

9. LAST BUT NOT LEAST, DON’T WITHDRAW FROM THE PERSON AFTER A CONFLICT.

Make an extra effort to stay close to him or her during the healing process. This is often the difference between a long healthy relationship and a lifelong pattern of conflict.

A study was completed in the business world many years ago concerning this issue of conflict. The survey showed that when a customer had a problem with a business and the company satisfactorily solved the issue, that customer became many times more loyal to that store in the years that followed than they were before the conflict.

I believe that conflict and confrontation resolved inside the core values of the Kingdom actually strengthen our relationships. These struggles are the sign of real relationships where people feel safe to tell one another the truth in love. This creates covenant societies that bond around family values, instead of fatherless sibling rivalries where orphans vie for preeminence in the pecking order of the world’s chicken coop.

 

Originally published on krisvallotton.com.

 

KRIS VALLOTTON IS THE AUTHOR OF NUMEROUS BOOKS, CO-AUTHOR OF THE BEST SELLING SUPERNATURAL WAYS OF ROYALTY, AND IS A WELL-KNOWN INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE SPEAKER. KRIS IS THE FOUNDER AND PRESIDENT OF MORAL REVOLUTION, THE SENIOR ASSOCIATE LEADER OF BETHEL CHURCH, AND THE CO-FOUNDER OF BETHEL SCHOOL OF SUPERNATURAL MINISTRY.  HE AND HIS WIFE, KATHY, HAVE BEEN MARRIED FOR 40 YEARS AND RESIDE IN REDDING, CALIFORNIA.  THEY HAVE FOUR GROWN CHILDREN AND EIGHT GRAND CHILDREN.

 

WEBSITE: KRISVALLOTTON.COM
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The Redemption of Men

I remember when a man pummelled a woman’s head with the heaviest part of a telephone receiver in a phone box outside of Liverpool station. I remember getting out of my car down the street, screaming from a distance to save her life.

Whoever she was.

I remember him looking up, grasping from his violent breath, to see who had the audacity to interrupt him, leaving the half-conscious woman to now run after me. I remember the police being just around the corner. I remember how vivid and monstrous the sound of him beating her was – 16 years later.

Those are the trials that we define as traumatic in domestic violence, the ones people fight for years to overcome. For as much as physical abuse is the definition of evil in relationships, we seem to sideline the emotional torment, the slightly less burdensome journeys we never signed up for when he first asked us out on a date.

For the majority of us, hurt is very subtle, yet it’s startling how lasting that can be, it’s startling how bruised the heart can get with their emotional punches.

I remember being lied to. Regularly. By different boyfriends.

I’ve fought for a man who didn’t want to fight for me.

I’ve been the victim of verbal abuse, I’ve ducked away from being in a domestic violent one.

I’ve been on his mind and in his living room for a thousand hours and still he can’t decide whether he wants to date me.

I’ve been the confidante to the mistresses; I’ve been the confidante to the wives.

I’ve been the butt of their self-hating jokes.

I’ve been involuntarily part of a smear campaign so they can cover their own reputation in a mutual church community.

I’ve lost Facebook friends, I’ve been ignored in the streets, all based on the fact I decided something wasn’t right.

I’ve had to defend my right to exist with other women in his life.

It was the luxury apartment or me. And he took the apartment.

I’ve been controlled.

I’ve not been talked to for ten minutes in a car ride because he didn’t like my shoes. And I liked my shoes.

I’ve been advised to do my homework and by homework – he meant more squats.

I’ve been advised to eat more. I’ve been advised to eat less.

I’ve been told it’s between me or another girl he’s interested in – he ended up dating both.

I’ve been promised babies and weddings, with it never following through.

I’ve been flirted with to discover I was just the stop-gap girl to appeal to his own emotional needs.

I’ve been uncovered to a whole ray of people who knew my name, but I couldn’t have placed theirs.

I’ve been ditched because I wouldn’t put out. I’ve been ditched because I did put out.

I’ve been the apple of their eye in one week and a stranger to them the next.

I’ve had the biggest smile on my face when I finally found out their fickle fabrications. Yet my smile swiftly vanished when I learnt how long the lies had gone on for.

But this isn’t an invite to some pity party. This isn’t a recall on some of the poorer relationships I’ve endured.

 


This is a reality check to all those women that say that there aren’t any good men out there.


 

‘How could she start this piece of writing with her horror stories of male encounters and expect us to have hope?’ I hear you cry.

I declared it myself that there were no healthy men.

I have said that line more in my Christian days than in my atheist ones. It seemed I found more brokenness in men, who longed for God yet forgot about goodness, the problem was, I was functioning from a hopeless ache that looked for physical evidence; back-up stories that proved that men weren’t kind. After so much hurt, a back catalogue of dating misdemeanors – how could we have hope?

It’s a line that is spoken not from a bitter edge or a negative personality, but from a heart that has been hurt so much, their lens is now faded to a duller tint and it protects, it keeps out, it stops us from messing around our own hearts and disempowers the ability to be vulnerable. We think this jagged edge of pessimism will be realistic, however vulnerability is your greatest protector and hopelessness is your sharpest opponent to love.

Despite the subtle pains I’ve faced, masked in the phrase of ‘long-suffering’ there are men out there that turn all these stories into redemption, that make the rainbows finally shine through the treacherous thunder.

They are there. Once you clean your own lens.

Sometimes with purpose in your pocket, some self-love and friends that adore you, you wipe the bi-focals yourself. Other times it takes an encounter with a great man.

Here’s where the redemption arrived at my door.

I had men who complimented every detail of my dress. Choosing the very shoes the previous one hated.

I’ve been the reciprocity of his affirmation.

I’ve faced his honesty with an apologetic smile and a change of behavior.

I’ve never had to raise my voice, because he already heard me.

I trusted his next moves.

I’ve not needed half the amount of basic boundaries because the dude finally showed up with his own.

I found men who said sorry in the moment – not a year later.

I’ve had a man sacrifice money, travel, and dreams for the day, just to meet me.

I discovered men who sought advice from a small committee of healthy friends, never seeking comfort from half of a broken world.

I’ve found the mightiness in a man’s humility to tell me the truth even if it might hurt his own pride.

I’ve found men who wanted my soul over a posh duplex.

I no longer had to ask why, because his words were always followed up by action.

I’ve been loved in my complexity as well as my diversity.

I was loved in my mess so much that perfectionism jumped out of the window.

I found security in myself because he didn’t rest on my confidence – he had his own.

I’ve been asked questions, instead of be accused.

If I had a need, it was a pleasure for him to fulfill it thus I was no longer seen as a drain.

I was gently confronted with a soft tongue and a trust to resolve.

I no longer blamed myself for another person’s behaviour. For he took ownership of every step he made.

I was satisfactory to him, without using my body.

 


These are the redemptive ones. These are the mighty men, who will restore your past experiences. These are the ones who will never speak anything less than highly of you, despite their own pain of losing you.


 

I promise you: the ‘you’ who is out there wondering if there are any good men. If you did something wrong. If you’re too old. If you’re too young. If you’re not good enough. If you’re too picky. If you’re too too too…

Take off the self-questioning so you won’t question men so much. Take down the wall of protection so you don’t ooze distrust. Take up discernment to another level so that you can avoid one more horror story to the storage unit of poor experiences, and raise up the standard to encounter kind men, gentle men, men with back bones, men with justice hearts yet a teachability to always be able to say sorry and grow. We were never looking for perfection, we were looking for humility. And it had to start with us.

It was never about how good the men were out there, it was always about how much we truly believed we deserved it in the first place.

 

Originally published on www.herglassslipper.co.uk

 

CARRIE LLOYD IS AN AUTHOR AND JOURNALIST FROM THE UK, WRITING FOR GRAZIA, COMPANY MAGAZINE, HUFFINGTON POST, CHRISTIANITY MAGAZINE, MAGNIFY, ALPHA LIFE, THE DAILY MAIL AND MORE. SHE IS THE AUTHOR OF ‘THE VIRGIN MONOLOGUES (AUTHENTIC MEDIA). HER EXPERIENCES HAVE COVERED PREGNANCY CRISIS COUNSELLING, TO PASTORING YOUNG ADULTS AS AN INTERN AT BSSM IN REDDING, CALIFORNIA. HER PASSION IS FOR ABOLISHING SEX TRAFFICKING, HELPING UNLIKELY HEROES, AS WELL AS SPEAKING TO TEENAGERS AND YOUNG ADULTS ABOUT HEALTHY RELATIONSHIPS. HER BLOG ON THE TRIALS AND TRIBULATIONS OF CHRISTIAN DATING CAN BE FOUND AT WWW.HERGLASSSLIPPER.CO.UK

Top Healing & Restoration FAQ

Forgiveness is key

 

As an introduction to this FAQ, we need to discuss the importance of forgiveness in the healing and restoration process. The Bible shows us that repentance (a change of heart that leads to a change of action) and forgiveness result in restoration and healing of many kinds. If you are seeking a personal victory or freedom in any area of struggle, this is a great place to start.


 

1. WHAT IS FORGIVENESS?

 

Forgiveness is an act of mercy. It is the releasing of someone from the judgement you think they should receive because of an offense they committed (knowingly or unknowingly). When you’re forgiving an offender, you must remember this: A person doesn’t have to apologize, repent, or prove their trustworthiness to you in order for you to forgive them. It is not something they can earn from you. The gift of forgiveness is a selfless gift, and like any gift, it’s free.  For example, you did nothing to earn Jesus’ forgiveness. It was a free gift to you.

 

By no means are we saying that forgiveness won’t cost you something. In fact, it may be one of the most costly things the Lord ever asks you to do…much like the Father asking Jesus to give up His life for you.

 

Forgiveness wipes the slate clean. It says, “You are free to go. You owe me nothing. I release you.” That, in itself is incredible, but there’s more to it than just releasing your offender; forgiveness frees you as well.

 

2. WHY IS FORGIVENESS IMPORTANT?

 

No one deserves forgiveness, but it is essential we give it in order to live the life God has called us to live. There are consequences to not forgiving. When we refuse to forgive, we are standing in God’s place as judge over a situation, and we must remember, the measure that we use to judge others, God will use to judge us (Matthew 7:1-2). This is why Matthew 6:15 says that if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, your Father will not forgive you. In other words, if you judge…you set yourself up to be judged. This is why it is so important that we forgive: Without the flow of forgiveness, from us to others, we cannot receive God’s forgiveness.

 

Judgement is not the only consequence of withholding forgiveness. Unforgiveness acts likes poison in our soul and causes bitterness, anxiety, fear, anger, pain, physical illness, and broken relationships, among other things. We also know that we reap what we sow; don’t be surprised if you find yourself repeating the same actions you didn’t forgive others for. You can’t push forgiveness off until your deathbed and expect to live in joy and freedom now.

 

Forgiveness will also increase your ability to love. If you want to grow in your love walk, learn to practice forgiveness (Luke 7:47). Be quick to forgive, and keep short accounts with people.

 

3. HOW DO I FORGIVE?
WHERE SHOULD I START?

 

Any person, or thing (circumstance, culture, motive, process, etc.) that caused you pain or disappointment can be a territory in your life that needs forgiveness. Remember, forgiveness isn’t just limited to people. And it’s not just about releasing them, but finding closure for yourself. One indicator that you are free is that you don’t have a strong reaction when the person/situation crosses your mind. For example, running into them at Target no longer spikes your anxiety and interrupts the rest of your day.

 

If you know you need to forgive, or if you feel like Holy Spirit is prompting you to, you can do so by saying something like this:

“I forgive __________ for _____________. I give him/her/them/the situation the gift of forgiveness. They owe me nothing. I let it go to the foot of the cross. I give them to you, Jesus.”

Example: “I forgive Joe for ditching me on Friday night. I felt disrespected, angry, and rejected. But, I choose to forgive, bless, and release Joe, to You, Jesus. He owes me nothing. I let him go, and I receive the truth that I am loved, seen, valued, and accepted by You. What Joe did, says everything about Joe, and nothing about me. So, I give him to You, Jesus, and I trust You to lead me as Your daughter.”

Example: “I forgive myself for going too far with my girlfriend tonight. I’m disappointed with myself, I didn’t do what was right, and I didn’t lead well in our relationship. I feel the temptation to partner with guilt and shame right now, but I will choose to lean into the conviction of the Holy Spirit and not let shame and guilt be my teacher. I thank you Lord, that I am convicted about what I did. It shows that I am a son of Yours. God, please forgive me for what I did, I repent. Help my to clean up my mess with my girlfriend, and to lead her well. I also forgive myself, and forgive your Grace and mercy. Thank you Lord that your Word says that you make all things new, and I lean into that truth and that grace tonight. Amen.”

 

4. I THOUGHT I HAD FORGIVEN, BUT I KEEP GETTING TRIGGERED EVERY TIME I THINK ABOUT OR SEE MY OFFENDER. WHAT WOULD YOU SUGGEST? 

 

All of us experience times when, though we have forgiven someone, our strong feelings resurface, and we find ourselves having to forgive the same offense over, and over, and over again. If you identify with this, we would suggest you explore the following ideas:

 

1. Ask God if there is any other offense you need to forgive. There are often layers to situations, and though you may think you have fully forgiven, you may not have gotten to the root yet. There may be more resolution to be had. Ask Holy Spirit to guide you as you explore this. Simply ask, “God, why am I still hurting? Why do I feel like this still has power over me?”

 

2. Consider if you are truly forgiving from the heart, or if you are simply going through the motions. Matthew 5:4 says, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” What we have found, is that those who still feel locked up due to unforgiveness, oftentimes have not acknowledged the pain/disappointment of what actually happened to them. In other words, they haven’t let themselves really feel what happened to them. In short, if you don’t process through your pain, and acknowledge what you feel, you can’t experience freedom. In addition to forgiving with your words, we invite you to forgive with all your heart. It might be the most painful thing you do, but the Word promises you will be comforted.

 

3. If you still feel a strong emotional connection with the individual or situation, you may need to break soul ties that may have been formed. “Soul ties” is a way of referring to the physical or emotional bonds we form with the people around us. They are not all bad. In fact, God created us with the ability to bond with one another so we would have tight-knit relationships and communities. You can read more about soul ties later in question 8.

 

4. Find compassion for your offender. Ask God how He sees them and/or the situation. For example, a young man had bitter unforgiveness toward his father. When he was a child, his dad would tie him and his brothers up and beat them. As an adult, he could not forgive his dad, who should have known better than to abuse his innocent, helpless children.

 

In a counselling session, he asked God to show him the truth about his dad, to show him how He saw him at that time. God showed him a picture of his father as a helpless baby. In that moment he understood that his dad, at that time, didn’t have the ability to parent him properly– that he himself, was still a child inside. With this understanding he was able to have compassion on his dad, in all of his mess, and truly forgive him for the first time.

 

Once you can connect with compassion, you’re more able to forgive and release your offender genuinely. How do you know you’ve truly released them? The fruit of forgiveness is peace. You are able to think about that person or situation with no ill will.

 

5. You still want justice.
The truth is, some of us are born with a bigger “justice button” than others. For some, the values of right and wrong weigh more heavily than heart and intuition. If you are one of these people, we invite you to ask God for His perspective on grace, mercy, and compassion. Ask Him to remind you of the person you were before you met Him. You need to connect in humility with your own humanity; you are just as in need of grace as your offender. We all need a Savior.

 

5. DO I HAVE TO STAY IN RELATIONSHIP WITH SOMEONE WHO HAS HURT OR OTHERWISE ABUSED ME?

 

No. Forgiving does not mean that a violator is welcome back into your life. You do not have to trust him/her. Trust and forgiveness are not the same thing. You can forgive someone and choose to no longer have relationship with him/her.

 

6. I FEEL LIKE I’M STUCK IN A CYCLE OF SHAME AND GUILT. HOW DID I GET HERE?

Guilt and shame are a part of our natural moral compass. These feelings let us know that we have done wrong, or have violated our standards. These feelings, in this context, can highlight when we’ve strayed off the moral path. (Don’t lie, don’t cheat, don’t steal, don’t murder, etc. These are things that would trigger any normal person’s moral compass.) They are the part of our conscience that says, “This is wrong!”

 

With that said, guilt and shame, can keep us out of danger when we are learning the difference between right and wrong. The danger in depending on guilt and shame to be our  teacher, is that a person adapts to being motivated from the outside-in, instead of the inside-out. In short, they are externally motivated.

 

For example, their internal dialogue might sound like, “I won’t eat that entire pizza tonight, because I know I will feel guilty and ashamed afterward.” A healthy dialogue would sound like, “I am a healthy person, and a healthy person does not eat an entire pizza in one sitting.” Did you catch the difference? One is rooted in the internal identity of being a healthy person, versus the external consequence of not wanting to experience guilt and shame.

 

When it comes to our guilt and shame relating to our sexuality, our internal dialogue might sound something like: “I hate masturbating. As long as I feel guilty about it, I won’t do it again! As long as I feel ashamed of myself, I won’t feel tempted.” Or, “If I feel guilty, at least I know I still feel conviction. If I’m a child of God, I’ll feel guilty, and that’s a good thing.” In both of these cases, we embrace shame and guilt and use them as tools to tell us who we are and how to behave.

 

So, in short, you may have thought that guilt and shame were great teachers in the past, because they kept you safe. But now, you have the gift of the Holy Spirit to teach and lead you. You can now be led by love, instead of fear.

 

In a different vein, it is also worth mentioning that it is not uncommon for victims of sexual abuse to live with massive guilt and shame issues. Though they were victims, a part of them may have enjoyed a small part of their experience — the attention, the sexual experience, the secrecy — even though they hated what happened to them. These individuals live feeling greatly conflicted and/or overly responsible for what happened to them.

 

7. HOW CAN I GET FREE FROM GUILT AND SHAME?

Firstly, acknowledge that guilt and shame have been a friend and a teacher to you. Secondly, ask for God’s forgiveness, and don’t forget to forgive yourself. This simply could look like, “Lord, I acknowledge that I have let guilt and shame be a leader in my life and I repent. I ask for your forgiveness. I forgive myself. Today marks a brand new beginning. I will no longer partner with shame and guilt in my life.”

 

Remember, when you wake up tomorrow morning, you are starting anew. Don’t fall prey to the enemy’s lie that you are your old man. Forgiveness restores the standard. Jesus has forgiven you. You are moving on and God only holds you responsible for your actions today. Everything in your past is under the blood of Jesus. When you asked Him to forgive you, He took you seriously. It is finished. The enemy doesn’t get to bring it up anymore, and neither do you.

 

Thirdly, ask for a new teacher.
As we said, the Holy Spirit is with you to teach and lead you. You can now be led by love, instead of fear. So ask Him daily for help, guidance, and submit to His leadership.

 

Replace whatever lies you’re believing about your identity with the truth of who Jesus Christ is in you, and who He knows you to be. What you have done does not get to tell you who you are. Jesus does. If you believe you are bad, worthless, hopeless, or a failure, you need to begin renewing your mind to truth.

 

Let it out. There is power in getting it all out into the light. If you have gone through the above process, or are still working through your process, we encourage you to let others in. Whatever is in darkness, must come into the light if you want to be seen, known, and fully loved. Part of your healing process may be talking to a trusted friend, leader, parent or mentor about whatever it is you felt shameful or guilty about (James 5:16). There is power in confession.

 

And lastly, if your behavior is bringing on your guilt and shame, stop doing it! If you are doing something wrong, you can’t expect to get away with it without your spirit (your conscience) and God’s spirit in you reacting to it! In short, guilt and shame are a consequence of a behavior that violates who you are. If you’re tired of feeling guilty and ashamed, change your behavior!

 

8. WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN CONDEMNATION (GUILT AND SHAME) AND CONVICTION?

 

Condemnation and conviction are not the same things. We want conviction in our lives– it is the plumb line that shows us that we are in line with what is lovely, true, and faith-filled. It shows us the way to freedom. Condemnation, on the other hand, leads us into bondage and makes us feel like we deserve punishment. It is the cousin of guilt/shame, and keeps us stuck in the cycle of always trying to earn forgiveness or give recompense to God for our sin.

 

9. I WAS IN A RELATIONSHIP THAT I THOUGHT WAS LOVE AND LEADING TO MARRIAGE. I WENT TOO FAR WITH THAT PERSON, AND WE ARE NO LONGER TOGETHER. I REGRET MY CHOICE. WHAT SHOULD I DO?

 

First of all it’s important to know that your past decisions don’t have the power to tell you who you are today, or what your future relationships will look like. You made some poor choices and it hurts, but there is hope for you. You have an opportunity to choose a different path and start again… so let’s get started!

 

First and foremost, recognize that this is going to be a healing process, and probably not a healing moment. Second, be wise; know that the enemy is going to try to give you an identity based on your past mistakes…but you are not your past mistakes! This is why knowing the Word is so important (who God says you are, what God thinks about you, the reality of your forgiveness and redemption at the cross, the fullness of Christ’s power working within you, etc.).

With that said, here are a few simple things we’d recommend:

– You need to forgive yourself.

– You need to forgive, bless, and release (cut soul ties) your ex.

– You need to grieve the loss of the “dreams” you had of spending the rest of your life with your ex-boyfriend and let go of any fantasy that he’s going to come back. You need to cry it out, process through your pain, and then (bravely) get rid of everything that you’re hanging onto (letters, movie ticket stubs, pictures, memorabilia, etc) that ties you to him.

– You need to surround yourself with healthy friends to do life with – laugh, cry, make memories, go on adventures. You get the idea. Isolation will not be your friend in this season.

– You need to get spiritual mothers and fathers in your life (ie, older/wiser/loving people – doesn’t have to be your pastor).

– You need to begin renewing your mind (listen, read, watch) and feeding your spirit with life giving things. Not magazines, romance novels, movies, or music, etc.

– Figure out who you are, what you want, where you are going in life, and how you are going to make those dreams come true.

– Begin to dream about your future husband. Eventually (maybe not now) you will be able to do this and you’ll be able to do this with joy, hope, and expectation.

– Know that it’s okay to have a bad day. Give yourself grace. You are healing and being restored and that probably won’t happen in a week.

– Give yourself time to mend. You let your heart and body go places it’s never been before and so it’s going to take time for them to come back into alignment with your spirit … so be gentle on yourself.

– Ask for help and be okay with taking things one day at a time.

 

Finally, you’re going to need to figure out your WHY:

– Why did I cross those lines in the first place?

– Why did the value of my virginity become something that was up for negotiation?

– Why did I decide to let someone else violate the boundaries and standards I set for myself?

– Why did I let myself be violated?

– Why did my value decrease in my own eyes?

– Why do I think the words boyfriend and husband or girlfriend and wife mean the same thing? (They don’t, by the way.)

 

Take your time to work through the above questions. Healing is a process. Allow God to continually remind you who you are and what you are called to; He has an incredible future for you. Know that no matter what brought you to this place, you can decide how you want to live from now on.

 

10. I’VE STARTED SLEEPING WITH MY BOYFRIEND/GIRLFRIEND, BUT INSIDE, I KNOW IT’S NOT RIGHT. HOW CAN WE STOP? HOW CAN WE RESTORE OUR RELATIONSHIP?

 

Bring it into the light. Start telling people. Schedule a meeting with your pastor. Confess your sins, one to another, so that you may be healed (James 5:19).

 


“Light is silent, brings warmth, and is a necessity for life. But darkness is cold and drives us to hide behind walls of self-protection, where we are unreal, or to pretend to be more spiritually mature than we really are. One general proof of heartfelt sincerity before God and man is our openness and transparency.” – Jack Frost


 

When Adam and Eve sinned, their first response was to hide their sin from God. They were afraid. If you feel like Adam or Eve, know this: God isn’t mad at you. He’s actually longing to help you put things back together again. And it’s going to start when you bring it out into the light. You (probably) started this relationship trusting God, so you need to trust Him with this confession. We would implore you, as leaders, to be courageous, and will gently remind you that it’s going to come into the light eventually.

 

Understand this: once you bond with someone in this manner, the pull to continue is very strong. This is absolutely natural, a part of how God made you! Some couples have found that the healthiest way to go about restoring their relationship is to break up and take some time apart; in doing so they are able to work through their individual processes. Breaking up now doesn’t mean that you’re breaking up forever; you’re making a short term investment into a long-term payback.

11. MY EX AND I ARE NO LONGER TOGETHER, BUT I THINK ABOUT HIM/HER ALL THE TIME. HOW CAN I GET MY EX OUT OF MY HEAD?

 

Let’s start here: you may need to take a good, long reality check. If your relationship has been over for a while, and your ex is still a constant center of your thoughts, ask yourself, “Am I doing anything to feed this attachment?” Do you ask mutual friends how he/she is doing? Do you check in on them on Facebook or Instagram? Do you secretly hope to run into him/her at social gatherings? Do you soothe yourself with thoughts that he or she is going to come back? All of these are red flags of a soul tie, and good indicators that you are not connected with reality that it is over.

After asking yourself these questions, we’d encourage you to work through forgiveness and break soul ties, as necessary.

FORGIVE
If you feel waves of anger, bitterness, resentment, or other negative feelings toward this person, we would encourage you to work through forgiveness. This is essential to you moving forward.

The first step is to forgive the ex that hurt you and release him/her from the offenses that he/she inflicted on you. Get quiet before the Lord and ask Him to reveal any damaged area of your life that resulted from this relationship. Write a list of any incidences that come to mind. This could start like, “Lord, I release ________ from taking advantage of me. I forgive the ways she used me, dishonored me, put me in situations that devalued me. I release her from every offensive action that she has had in my life.”

 

The next thing to do is to ask the Lord for His forgiveness for your reactions to him/her. An example might be, “Jesus, please forgive me for my participation in anger, hatred, bitterness, resentment and unforgiveness in my heart. I ask you to release me for speaking and thinking malicious thoughts about her when she made me feel powerless and worthless.” Again, write down any feelings that you experienced while you were dating.

In addition, you may need to forgive yourself. Again, your conversation may sound like, “Lord, I forgive myself for getting involved with someone whom I had reservations about, but continued to pursue. I forgive myself for not having clear boundaries in place and responding with my emotions instead of my core values.”
BLESS AND RELEASE
Finally, verbally bless and release your ex. This shows that you have a repentant heart and a desire for his/her well being. “Lord I bless ______ with healthy, fulfilling relationships in the future.”

 

BREAK (UNHEALTHY) SOUL TIES
This next step may be the place to start if you have constant thoughts about or a strong emotional attachment to your ex. You can say something like this: “God, forgive me for connecting with someone who wasn’t my spouse. Forgive me for making a connection I wasn’t supposed to make. I want to be free from these soul ties, so I’m giving them to you.”

Next, you may want to address that person in your imagination (in spirit). Apologize to them and ask them for forgiveness. If necessary, specifically forgive them for anything they’ve done to hurt you. You’ll want to release anything you’ve taken from them or anything you’ve been given. Be sure that in your heart you’re ready to let go of them. At this time, you’ll say something like this:

“I break any ungodly, unhealthy soul ties between myself and __________ in Jesus’ name. I send back everything that was given to me and any piece of him/her that remains with me. I release you from any bond or connection that was made. I release you from all promises, obligations, expectations, and desires.”

If you feel prompted to be specific about anything, feel free to speak that as well. Whatever helps you to find resolve is good. Explore that with Holy Spirit’s guidance.

Finally, call back the pieces of you that were given or taken by that person. Follow the same pattern as before:

“I call back every part of me from ____________, every part of my heart, my soul, my mind, washed in the blood of Jesus. I thank you, God, for returning all aspects that were lost. I thank you for making me whole again.”

After you’ve broken each soul tie, thank God for making your soul whole again. Invite His Spirit to fill you in all areas. You may feel lighter, and some even experience a physical sensation. Be sure to take time with God so that His presence can heal you. You should feel freer than you did when you started.

DO YOU HAVE ANY UNREALIZED FEAR?
Oftentimes people fall prey to the lie that their future relationship will never measure up to their past relationship. They idealize their ex, remembering every good memory, and forgetting every bad memory; they romanticize their ex and forget why the relationship ended in the first place.

If you think this might be you, simply ask yourself, “What am I afraid of? What do I have to lose by letting go of my ex? Am I afraid to let go? Am I ready to let go?” If you’ve never thought about these questions, and you find yourself being triggered, we invite you to courageously answer them. You owe it to yourself and your future spouse to be honest. It’s time to start living.

 

12. HOW CAN I PROCESS REJECTION IN A HEALTHY WAY?

Facing fear and risking rejection is something everyone experiences in their life. Well, let us clarify: If you want to live a life of exciting adventures and exploits then you are going to have to take some risks and cross some chicken lines — probably more than once. We also understand the outcome isn’t always what we hope for!

If your latest risk ended in the sting of rejection this time around, we are sorry. Getting a no-thank you from a person of the opposite sex is never any fun. Here a few things we can suggest as you work the sting out and move on.

Forgive. Forgive whoever you need to. Forgive her/him. Forgive yourself, and don’t beat yourself up or go into introspection mode. Just because this didn’t work out the way you thought, it doesn’t mean anything about you– your value, your intelligence, your beauty. That is why you have healthy friends and family around you. Pull on their strength and encouragement right now.

Forgive God, if you need to. Sometimes we find ourselves in places of pain because we were just trying to be obedient and follow His leading. Remember, He has your best interest at heart and He wouldn’t have led you to take the risk if there wasn’t gold in there for you somewhere. Don’t blame God. You may never know until you get to heaven why He wanted you to take that risk. The bottom line is He spoke, you obeyed, and you will reap a great reward for your obedience. Period. Obedience is always rewarded with a great blessing, so don’t let the enemy lie to you and try to get you to believe otherwise.

Process through your pain. One of the worst things we see people do when they’re hurting is stuff down their pain and never address it because they are told, “time heals all wounds.” Wrong. Time doesn’t. Time makes you forget why you were hurting in the first place, but time doesn’t heal, and you want to be a healed and whole person. Do whatever you need to do to get to a place of victory.

Don’t stop risking. That’s it. Plain and simple. Don’t stop taking risks. Determine in your heart that you will be a man or woman who continues to take risks and heads the voice of the Lord, no matter what.

 

13. HOW CAN A RELATIONSHIP BE RESTORED AFTER TRUST HAS BEEN BROKEN?

There are many things that can cause trust to be broken in a relationship — disappointments (unmet expectations), misunderstandings (miscommunication), abuse (emotional, verbal, physical, sexual), unfaithfulness (flirting, porn), adultery (emotional, sexual) — just to name a few.

Very basically, trust has been broken when you feel unprotected, unsafe, or hurt and connection has been lost. In some instances, trust can be restored by a simple apology, or the clearing up of a miscommunication. In other instances, trust has been so severely broken that both parties must go through a healing process in order to restore trust and connection in their relationship.

Here are a few general guidelines to get your relationship started if you feel stuck:

If you were the one who broke trust:

Own it. Repent before the Lord. Ask for forgiveness. Begin moving forward to start rebuilding what was broken. Recognize that this season may take time and remember that your feelings are your feelings, and their feelings are their feelings. One party might be experiencing grief, loss, and deep sadness one day, and the other party might be experiencing anger and frustration. It is very important for each party not to take responsibility for how the other person feels, not to try to rush the rebuilding process, and not bring up past offenses. If both parties have truly forgiven one another and have agreed to move forward, then the offense needs to be left in the past. By this we mean, don’t keep re-opening the wound in order to punish or otherwise manipulate the other in the heat of the moment. As you do this, consistency will be built, and trust will be re-established.

If you were the one whose trust was broken:
Allow yourself to feel what you need to feel (anger, pain, sadness, disappointment, shock, embarrassment, etc.). Secondly, forgive (whether the other party apologizes or not). Third, seek the wisdom of the Holy Spirit, godly counsel within your community, and your own heart as to how to move forwardor if you even should move forward in the relationship. Be courageous; don’t let the voice of pain speak louder than love. Remember, love is patient, kind, and willing to go the extra mile.

Clearly, there are some types of offenses (abuse) that are illegal. There are other types of offenses (adultery) that carry lifelong consequences (pregnancy, STDs, job loss, etc.). Both of these should be handled Biblically, legally, wisely, and within a safe, godly community.

 

14. WHAT WOULD YOU RECOMMEND FOR SOMEONE WHO HAS BEEN RAPED OR EXPERIENCED OTHER ABUSE (PHYSICAL, SEXUAL, OR EMOTIONAL) AND NEEDS TO BEGIN THE HEALING PROCESS? 

Our team would highly recommend that any victim of abuse seek an educated, licensed, Christian counselor. In some cases, a sex therapist may be able to help as well.


11 Questions to Ask Before You Start Dating

AM I READY TO DATE?


“What are the things I can go after now as a single to prepare me for marriage? What do I need to be looking for in a future spouse?”


 We sat down as a team for 3 hours and came up with 11 questions we think would be great for you to consider before you jump into dating.

 1. Do I know who I am?

This question is one ALL of us are discovering and rediscovering on a daily basis, but as a general overview, here are things you might want to know about yourself:

I know who (whose) I am in Christ. We are sons/daughters of God through Christ. We are 100% fully loved, accepted, chosen, restored, redeemed and saved. We have everything we need and will never lack anything because we have a loving Father who gives freely to His children.

I know how to give love to others and how I need to receive love from others.
I know what I love and what makes me come alive.
I know what my core values are and practice living by them.
I know my needs and my wants.
I know my strengths and weaknesses.
I know how to dream for my future.
I am in touch with my heart (aka feelings, emotions, what my heart, mind or body needs).

2. Do I know how to communicate?

Learning and knowing how to communicate what you think, feel, and need will be one of the greatest relational skills you acquire. Since we communicate with our words, facial expressions, tone of voice, and even our body language, we must learn to become people who communicate well. When you are hurt, rejected, or disappointed you will know how to get out what you are feeling so that manipulation, guilt trips, self-pity, and sarcasm (passive-aggressiveness) will not be weapons you reach for when in conflict.

3. Do I know what my boundaries are and how to keep them?

Do you have emotional boundaries? Do you have physical boundaries? Do you have a plan to keep those boundaries in place? Are you willing to respect the boundaries of others? Knowing your limitations (and those of who you’re dating) is an avenue to “protect and preserve” an individual and/or relationship. Figure out what your boundaries are now and own them. Don’t wait to hear what your girlfriend/boyfriend’s boundaries are and then decide what yours will be.

4. Do I have a vision for my life and a plan to get there?

This question is referring to personal character and growth, dreams, and your life calling. Do you know the person you want to be? Do you know the life you want to have? What dreams do you want to live out? Do you know how to accomplish these things or where to find an answer? If there are certain things that are important to you (where you want to live, the job you want to have, how many children you want, etc) then it will make dating easier because you know the kind of life partner you need to partner with. For example, if you are a very driven person and the person you are dating is not then that could be an area of conflict down the road. We’re not saying it never works, we’re just giving you a heads up so you’re not blindsided once the honeymoon is over.

5. Do I have community in my life?

Community is a necessity in our lives. We need people to “do life with.” It’s through relationships that we are held accountable, challenged, experience love, and subsequently grow. We need most (if not all) of the relational roles filled in our lives. Here are some things to ask yourself about your community:

Do I have people in my life that know me and I know them? (moms/dads/mentors, brothers/sisters/peers, church fellowship, small groups, home church family, etc)
Am I intentional about who I am doing life with? (Are there people in my life who love me and challenge me?)
Am I believed in, encouraged and guided to answers? Do I ask for feedback and correction?
Do I know how to ask for help?
Do we know how to have fun with each other? Do we laugh and have adventures together?

6. What does my relationship with Jesus look like?

Do I know Him intimately?  Have you accepted Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior? If you haven’t, would you like to? If you have, how are you growing in that relationship? Do you spend time with Jesus? Do you believe He speaks to you? Do you listen for what He has to say? Are you in dialogue with Him and doing life with Him on a daily basis? How does He speak to you?

7. Do I have a teachable spirit and can I humbly receive feedback (even when it hurts)?

This question might be easy to answer now, but think back to times people have confronted you about how you affect them, a room, or a group of people. How did you respond? Even though it’s difficult, being a “teachable” person can cause your personal character to grow and your relationships to grow immensely. Humility is a necessity for growth.

8. Am I responsible and do I know how to take care of things?

Responsibility: the state or fact of being responsible, answerable, or accountable for something within one’s power, control, or management.  This one is sort of a no-brainer. Is your life in order? By life I mean, is your thought life, finances, laundry, house, schedule, etc. in order or are you a hot mess that jumps from one thing to another? Can people depend on you to do what you say you are going to do?  Do you show up on time?  Can people trust you? This is what we mean by, are you responsible?

9. Do I know how to serve? Do I practice putting other’s needs above my own?

Do you walk into a relationship and look for ways to give or do you expect everyone to serve you? Within a healthy context, serving another person is one of the highest forms of love. It can sometimes look like compromising to come to an agreement or doing something you wouldn’t normally do because it brings life/joy to another person. Many days serving looks like sacrifice. Note: Please understand that compromising your core values is not serving. Giving and serving one another within relationship is a give and take. One person should not be the only one practicing this concept.

10. Do I honor and respect people?

Honor: high respect, as for worth, merit, or rank; to show a courteous regard for. Do you know how to value other people, even when they are different from you? Showing other people kindness, value, and love is the mark of a person who looks outside of themselves, or their status, to see other people’s hearts. If someone doesn’t treat others with honor and respect, they most likely will not treat you with honor and respect. Here’s a tip: watch how they treat their waiter/waitress. Watch how they treat their parents. These things reveal a lot about a person.

11. Do I know how to forgive people and ask forgiveness? Or do I keep “short accounts?”

No one likes to be hurt, and it can be even harder to ask for forgiveness when you’re the one who did the hurting. However, forgiveness left unattended is a wide open door for bitterness to take root, causing people to disconnect spiritually/relationally from one another. Forgiveness means restoring the standard to what the relationship was meant to be before the “mistake” was made. It means letting go and not holding the “mistake” over someone’s head. Do you know how to forgive, bless, and release people when they have hurt or wronged you? Do you know how to say, “I’m sorry, I was wrong, will you forgive me?” even if you believe you’ve done nothing wrong? This is part of walking in humility, as well as seeking connection and love over being right.

These are just the tip of the iceberg when considering how to be a healthy individual/dater. We are all on a journey and none of us have life figured out but the two most important questions you will every answer in your life are:

Will I believe in Jesus and commit my life to Him?
Who will I marry and commit my life to?

Becoming a healthy individual and not settling for an unhealthy spouse will create healthy marriages that restore the standard of what family life looks like in the world today.  Let’s get to it people!

– Amanda Zentz (Intern)


My Spouse is Addicted to Porn … Help!

QUESTION


How do I move forward in my marriage? I have been married for 23 years and there has always been a third in our lives: porn! Any way he can get it, he would, and the Internet has opened up the biggest hurt. When he gets caught he is sorry, but I’ve reached breaking point.

SEX THERAPIST’S ANSWER

Being married to someone who struggles with porn is so painful – I am so sorry that this has been your experience for 23 years! But let me tell you, there is hope!

The best thing you can do to move forward in your marriage is to be in a group yourself that is for partners of sex addicts. I am not saying that your husband is a sex addict because I don’t know him, but the tools that you will learn there and the support you will receive will be helpful to you regardless.

Many wives think, “Why do I need to be in a group when it is his problem?” That is understandable. But as you unfortunately know, his problem really has affected you. And you have been affected for a really long time.

What we are finding out is that spouses of sex addicts frequently have PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) just like the soldiers coming home from a war zone. The spouse has been traumatized and needs to get help to heal. The checking behaviors and hypervigilance that we used to label codependence we now are seeing as related to trauma and feeling unsafe – when the trauma is dealt with, those behaviors stop. So for many years, spouses felt like they got either overlooked and all the focus was on the addict or they got blamed as having their own addiction and were co-addicts.

Getting help for yourself will get you in a place of strength where you are more empowered to make good decisions for yourself and for your marriage. You are the only one that you can change – if you could have changed your husband, I’m betting you would have done that long ago!

So really the only thing you can do is to work on yourself and getting yourself in a place of strength. If there is not a group in your area for spouses of sex addicts, then join an online one. There are multiple ones available. I would also suggest a couple of books:

Shattered Vows by Debra Laaser

Mending a Shattered Heart by Carnes

Your Sexually Addicted Spouse by Steffens and Means

There are many others out there but these are the ones I usually recommend first. I pray that your husband will get the help he needs to get well. But whatever happens, you can do what you need to do to help yourself move forward.

It is not easy but it is so worth it!


My Mess Becomes a Message


A positive pregnancy test? My heart sank. How could this be? I was only seventeen. I just wanted it to disappear. Fear flooded my entire being. They promised I would be okay. They assured me they could “help.” They promised it would not ‘hurt’. Little did I know that this decision would ‘hurt’ for the remainder of my life. Isolated and filled with shame in that dark, cold clinic, I chose to have an abortion. That would be the last time my heart would smile for ten years. As I walked out of that clinic, I not only left my child there; I left pieces of my soul and spirit.

The next ten years were filled with complete self-destruction: addiction, manipulation, deceit, multiple men, domestic violence, and even a stint in jail. I hated myself. I felt completely unworthy. At the bottom of the pit, in sheer desperation, I begged God to rescue me. I was so broken and battered, I knew that only God could help.

God did far more than respond to the cry of my heart. He clothed me in unconditional love. His arms protected me. He proved to be trustworthy. He began teaching me about His plans and destiny for my life. It seemed too good to be true.

However, I still could not bring abortion to the foot of the cross. It seemed unforgiveable. Finally, with tears streaming down my face, I fell before Him. I poured out my deep remorse for choosing to abort my child. All He could do was cry with me. I could tangibly feel His heart breaking ‘with’ mine. In this precious moment, He allowed me to see what my child could look like, and that she was sitting in His lap.

Only God could turn my mess into a message, allowing me to minister to post-abortive women and bringing His hope to an area so filled with shame and hopelessness. It is such an honor!

– Sheridan, 32, Texas, US


Redemptive Love in Redding

FINDING FREEDOM FROM PAIN


 I was born to a single teen mom. My dad left three months into the pregnancy leaving my mom was devastated. She cried all the time and as a result, I felt abandoned by my father and a burden to my Mom. I hated my parents for sleeping together because I felt like my conception was an accident.

Later on, my mom married another man and had two other children. My step father was abusive, and when I was four, my mom left him and began working two jobs to support her three children. Working long hours, my mom often left us with our aunt and uncle. The next two years of my life were a living nightmare. My uncle would watch porn at night and at five years old, I was exposed to pornography. Something inside me felt uncomfortable and slimed, so I asked him to turn it off. Instead of turning it off, he sat me down on his lap in front of the TV screen while he touched me. As far as I can remember this was the only time, but it was enough to damage me. I felt violated by my uncle and forgotten by mom.

Shortly after, I started masturbating. It was my drug to numb the pain. I did it everyday. I couldn’t stop. At age ten I realized what I was doing was wrong and that I needed to stop. At fifteen I turned to romance novels in place of masturbation to escape. I felt empty and lost and at sixteen started cutting myself. I never did it with the intention of committing suicide (although the thought had crossed my mind) but I did want to die so that the pain would stop. I’d fantasize about losing my virginity but never did. I’m so grateful. To this day I have something to give my future husband on our honeymoon night.


“I felt violated and forgotten. I started masturbating to numb the pain. I did it everyday. I couldn’t stop.”


Then we moved to Redding to attend Bethel Church and my life has never been the same. I found Moral Revolution, wonderful Godly women to help me, and hope. I read Moral Revolution and wanted to weep. For a long time I was told and shown that sex was nothing more than just a pleasurable thing; that guys were nothing more than abusive perverts and girls were mere objects. That children were worthless. This was my normal. But here was a book that told me sex was good and God had been the one that created it! The revelation that sex wasn’t defiling hit me like a brick.

God showed me that there were good guys in the world. I have developed amazing male friends that love me for who I am and not what I can give them. My mom had remarried when I was ten and I was finally creating a good, strong, and healthy relationship with someone I could finally call dad. Finally, I had self worth. I no longer felt like an accident, a burden, lost, or like any of the other pathetic lies the devil kept telling me. I finally forgave everyone who hurt me and became open with my addictions.

I thank God for his amazing love. For the hope He brings and the joy I now have. One day I will marry a man who’ll love me, fight for me, and protect me. He will have a heart of gold and be be a champion. I am not perfect and I still have a lot to work through. But the girl I was at thirteen is not the same girl that I am at 17.

God is so good! He’s so so good to me!

Anonymous, Redding, CA


Giving God Control

TRADING SHAME FOR JOY


From an early age, sex became an interesting and a secret desire. It wasn’t until I was in middle school that it became a daily struggle in my life. I began masturbating every night and it always led to shameful feelings. It led me to feel like I wasn’t worth very much and I couldn’t ever be anyone special. I was so shy that I could never raise my hand in class. I didn’t have very many friends. And I wouldn’t desire an intimate relationship with God because I felt so dirty. I grew up in church and I felt like such a liar when I sat on the pew every morning.

Sexual desires completely controlled my mind and how I expressed myself. It got so bad that I couldn’t even sit in class without thinking sexual thoughts. It wasn’t just a thought that popped into my head, I would intentionally do it. I would go to church camp and awesome things would happen, but I wouldn’t fully commit to God. I played tug-o-war with the Man who intentionally died on the cross for me. I thought that I was the only one who masturbated. In fact, I didn’t even know there was even a word for what I was doing. Nobody ever told me and I was hurting myself and the people around me every day! I was depressed, I was hurting, I was shameful, I was fake, and I had no idea of what God’s love was and how He could completely transform me beyond my belief.


“I would go to church camp and awesome things would happen, but I wouldn’t fully commit with God. I played tug-o-war with the Man who died on the cross for me.”


It was right before spring break in my 8th grade year that I decided to give up the life I was living. I was going on a missions trip with my church and I had recently been digging into the Bible more. I felt like it was time to start living a different life. Little did I know what was in store for me. God knew and now that I look back, He was helping me through it all. After the missions trip, our whole youth group began reading a book about sex, dating, and relationships. The book, thank God, approached the topic of masturbation. It was then that I realized I wasn’t the only one, and now I knew there was actually a word for it! I was and am so thankful that somebody was brave enough to write about such a touchy issue.

Since then I am a completely different person, not just because I gave up masturbating, but because I gave God complete control of my life. I am a new person in Christ. God has helped me so much. He has taken away my shame and hurt and I am responding to the calling He has on my life. I am so grateful that I can wake up each day with the joy He has put in my heart, rather than the shame of what I did when no one was looking last night. I am now a Junior in high school I can gladly and thankfully say I have been free since the 8th grade! Thank you Jesus for lifting me up out of the place of darkness that I was in. Thank you for healing my heart and enabling me to find identity in You and not finding identity in my past. Thank you Jesus!

Stephen, 16, Colorado


Embracing My Heart, My Feelings, My Desires

THE AUTHOR OF MY HEART


Most of my life, I have attempted to control, stifle, and sometimes completely disown my desires. Unfortunately, when dealing with sexual desire and longing for intimacy, I was unaware that they could be expressed in a healthy way. More often than not, I would try to fool myself into thinking that I didn’t really have those desires, or that they were from the devil and I should try to rebuke them. If I was attracted to a woman or noticed that she had a nice body, instead of being able to simply admit, “She is pretty and there’s something I see in her that I’m attracted to,” I would deny the feelings of attraction in the guise of “staying pure.”

I discovered that we are not powerful enough to deny the desires God has created in us from coming to fruition, and if we go too long with ignoring them, they will come out one way or another. The longer I denied my natural sexual desires, the stronger and more uncontrollable my urges got, and after labeling these desires as bad, the only way for them to surface were through perverse versions of the beautiful desires God had planted in me. Without a healthy way to express my sexuality and longing for intimacy, I turned to placating these desires with masturbation and pornography. Of course, this never came close to touching the desires God had put in me and left me feeling more wanting than before, with a huge side of guilt and shame.


“I would try to fool myself into thinking that I didn’t have those desires, or that they were from the devil and I should rebuke them. I denied my feelings in the guise of staying pure.”


It wasn’t until God dealt with my shame that I was able to fully embrace my desires. Through a series of events, I was able to lay all my shame before the Lord — all of my shortcomings, failures, disappointments, everything. After I exposed all of myself to Him, His response blew me off my feet. I felt Him looking at me with kind eyes. I was so shocked to see such genuine love, and even the sense that He missed me and had been waiting for me. There wasn’t any look of disappointment or disgust, which I had thought I would surely find. He showed me that no matter how big a hole I dug or how bad I messed things up, His love is greater and He will always be there eagerly awaiting my return.

With the shame gone, I was able to talk with God about my desires. When I saw a woman I was physically attracted to, I was able to admit it and talk to God about it. It was revolutionary for my life. Instead of hiding some of the deepest longings of my heart from God, I was able to invite Him in and He began teaching me! He showed me how He had handcrafted my heart and placed every hope and longing I’ve ever felt inside it. He told me that the pain and emptiness I had been feeling was meant to be there, because He would not let any of His children continue on in life missing the gifts He had prepared for them. He wouldn’t take away the pain because the pain was an indicator that there actually was something missing that only He could help me find.


“There wasn’t any disappointment or disgust (which I thought I would surely find). He showed me that no matter how bad I messed up, His love is greater and will always be there.”


The biggest revelation that has changed my life is realizing that I can trust God with taking care of my heart. He is completely aware of my wants and needs (because He is their author) and understands how to meet them more then I could ever hope to. Now as a single person, I still experience sexual urges and even sexual frustration from time to time, but instead of hiding from the urges, I tell God, “Thank you that the desires of my heart are alive and well. I know that you made them to be 100% met. And I’m okay with waiting and being frustrated because I know where you take me will meet those needs 10 times better than anything I can do on my own. So, Father, I completely trust you. Continue to teach me about what you have put inside of me.”

Brendon, 25, California


Rebuilding a Relationship

PUTTING THINGS INTO REVERSE


About three and a half years ago, a sequence of events began that would ultimately change my life forever. About that time, I was living with my girlfriend who, in all honesty, I hooked up with in a one night stand. We both grew up in church and knew that how we were living was wrong, but we wanted it to work so we made up every excuse we could to make it seem okay.

Fast-forward to today. We are still together, we are madly in love with each other, and even greater, we are insanely in love with God. We have huge hearts to help others transform their relationships to allow God to be at the center. How did all of this happen? God. Only God could pour out enough grace in our relationship to completely transform it to one of purity, honor, and covenant.


“Only God could pour out enough grace in our relationship to transform it into one of purity, honor and covenant.”


We allowed God to basically put our relationship in reverse and then slowly rebuild it, all the while changing our beliefs and mindsets. This isn’t an easy process, especially when couples stay together like Libby and I did. We moved out and became physically pure with each other, which meant no sex, no foreplay, and during certain time periods, no kissing and no hand-holding. During this time God taught me that I needed to know myself before I could attempt to understand someone else. I had Libby in my “God spot.” I looked to her for everything— joy, happiness, value, confirmation, and even guidance. I had to come to the understanding that only God can be in the God spot. I had to learn what it meant to have an identity as a son to God.

— John, 23, Florida